Rosin is the resin from conifers – usually Pine (Pinus spp), but Spruce, Fir and Larch have also been used and sometimes in combination. The sticky exudations, which contain turpentine, are tapped off the trees and after various processes become the blocks of rosin we are so familiar with. Many makers are secretive about this process with recipes extending back into history.
All rosins, therefore, are not created equal and many players have their preferred brand which works for them, the kind of music they play and the strings that they use. Whatever it is, it is an essential to get the strings vibrating!
Let’s look at the differences then:
Student or professional? Or is there something in-between?
Student type Rosins generally cost under £5 and are quite adequate for beginners. They tend to be harder and dustier, producing a grittier tone. Higher priced rosins produce the smoother, fuller sound preferred by advancing players. There are very good in-between all-purpose rosins such as Kaplan Artcraft which can be used for Cello, Viola and Violin.
Hard or Soft/Dark or light?.
Dark Rosins are generally softer and more suitable for lower strings, cooler climates and used with synthetic core or gut core strings. Lighter rosins are generally harder and more suited to steel core strings. These are, of course, generalizations because there are very many variations available and makers will often offer a rosin specific to the make of string, such as Olive/Evah Pirazzi rosin, or Obligato rosin.
Rosins in a box or with a cloth/pouch?
This makes little difference although the cheaper brands usually come in a box or a tin. Each maker has a distinctive style and packaging. Pirastro for example is sold with a solid base, cloth surrounds and packed in a box, which is very convenient to keep tucked away safely in your instrument case.
Additives Gold, Goldflex, Allergenic
Some rosins are offered with additions such as Gold or the Goldflex rosin which has Gold flecks in the cake – which produce a warmer clear tone. Non-allergic rosins contain a certain waxiness which suppresses the production of irritating dust, but they are often more difficult to apply.
Whatever Rosin you choose, it may come by experimentation to find the one that suits you best and your style of playing. Do try and change after 18 months use, as the Rosin hardens with age and can lose the characteristic formula. We also find that many players use far too much and should restrict the application to possible every third or fourth playing session. Always keep a soft cloth to wipe off excess rosin which collects on the belly of the instrument and the strings and occasionally use a good string cleaner containing alcohol to clean off embedded rosin residues.