Many of us know our stringed instrument needs rosin for the bow, but do we know what type we should be using? The answer isn’t exactly straight forward. There are too many types of rosin and applications, depending on your playing style and level to simply state, “Dark rosin is better than light rosin.” So what the heck should you be using, and why?
First thing’s first. You should know the difference between light and dark rosin. It’s actually made from the same stuff – purified pine tree sap – but the color depends on the time of year it was collected. Sap collected in late winter and early spring tends to be lighter or amber colored, but as weather gets warmer, the color becomes darker. Dark rosin is soft and sticky and great for low strings, but also good to use in dry or cold climates. Light rosin is harder and less sticky; it’s good for higher strings and hot or humid climates. Rosin is universal (with the exception of bass rosin) and can be used for all strings, depending on your preference, but knowing the difference can help you make the decision.
Aside from color, rosin also comes in different shapes, a cake or a block. Rosin that comes in blocks is typically inexpensive or student grade. It tends to be grittier and messier, but for a fiddler that could be just what you’re looking for. Cake rosins are preferred by experienced and classical players, as they tend to be purer and have a smoother sound.
Some rosin makers even add metals to their formula with those most commonly found being silver, gold, and copper. Silver is preferred by violinists as it is supposed to have a clearer, brighter sound, great for those high notes. These additives can weather the varnish of your instrument however, so many prefer Jade Rosin, which boats dust-free adhesion, avoiding the metallic residue that causes scratches.
It’s important to note that, while taking in all the information and opinions out there on rosin, when speaking about sound, it’s completely subjective. When choosing a rosin that’s right for you, be sure it’s the right sound and feel YOU want, and in a price range you’re comfortable with.