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Rosin Ramblings


Andrew Victor
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Gentleman, I see no need for hostilities. In fact, I may be of some assistance in settling things.

Once someone has learned to perform a given task well, there is sometimes not much benefit to better statistics. Of course it is task specific, and we are after all talking about rehairing.

In contradistinction to conventional wisdom, the learning curve is often logarithmic, in as much as someone who has rehaired 1000 bows might have as much skill as someone who has rehaired 5000, because the basic skills are set in those foundational hairings, and additional skill acquisition tapers off, thus so I see no way to distinguish skill among parties here based on mere numbers.

With respect to priming, I do not use powder, and have not for some years now. I go straight to the cake, any good cake, and have no difficulty in getting the bow fully primed in a very short time. I developed a technique that greatly accelerates the process.

You could rosin a fresh bow with a cake for fifteen minutes and not have it primed. There is some kind of limiting mechanism that only allows a certain amount of rosin to be transferred from the cake to the hair in a given rosining cycle.

The secret is to rosin with only a few fast hard strokes, and play the violin with just a few long broad strokes across the strings. Then rosin again. Then play again, etc. This rapid cycling vastly improves rosin uptake from the action of driving the newly applied rosin into the hair with the strings. A freshly haired bow can be rendered ready to play in about a minute. Each complete cycle -rosin then play- is perhaps five to ten seconds, with six to twelve cycles being sufficient for the task of priming.

The reason the technique is so successful likely has something to do with the sheering action I mentioned earlier. Continuous rosining just on the cake hits a limit where no more rosin can be taken up by the hair, but pushing the rosin off the primary surface clears way for the application of new rosin on each cycle, until a sufficient quantity of total rosin is taken up.

So, no need for powder, and no need for a special rosin cake, only good technique. Problem(s) solved. :)

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With respect to priming, I do not use powder, and have not for some years now. I go straight to the cake, any good cake, and have no difficulty in getting the bow fully primed in a very short time. I developed a technique that greatly accelerates the process.

To substantiate your argument, you should have weighed the bow before, during and after each different technique.

I leave the precision of the measurements to your discretion.

-------------------

Unfortunately, no replies to my questions in Post #92

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Unfortunately, no replies to my questions in Post #92

Janito, it's probably because no one here has the answer. The Thomastic reps have said that even the string winding material makes a difference. Pitting from oxidation on aluminum windings traps rosin, and gives a different grip than other materials. I think I feel the difference with silver Ds, but I don't know whether this changes slip-stick in some measurable or observable way.

Talk to Pickering or Joe Regh about this, if you have a chance. Or maybe the Thomastik reps will be at the convention again.

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Define "the same" and I will have a go at a heuristic explanation.

I reasoned that they are not as follows:

- consider 2 archery bows, one with a loose cord and another with a taut one

- pull back each cord with a light grip

- the taut cord will slip out of the grip sooner

Translated to G and E strings, the slip-stick would have a larger amplitude for the G than the E, and perhaps this is why the vibrational transmission to the bow is greater when playing a G string.

As the setup affects the vibrational transmission to the bow, is this because it is affecting slip-stick or efficiency of energy transfer?

As the bow stick character can affect the tone of a violin, is this via alteration of the slip-stick cycle?

----------------------------

ps - I do realise that some may consider these musings to be of the same order of significance as those dealing with the origin of colour in umbilical fluff.

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It is hardly a frivolous line of inquiry, but you are labouring with explaining the questions with sufficient precision to elicit acceptable answers.

After reading your clarification, your first question should have perhaps been "During the slip/stick cycle, is the string displacement the same for the G as it is for the E?

If so, you answered your own question reasonably well. But the physics can get very complicated quickly, since not only is string tension at play, but so is string diameter and the restoring energy of torque accumulated in the string during each cycle. It would also be a much simpler affair if everyone bowed with exactly the same velocity and pressure, and if all violin strings were infinitely thin and massless, but they are all different. This is further complicated by where the bow contacts the string, since playing closer to the fingerboard will result in a different quantity of string torsion and displacement than if one plays close to the bridge.

I would like to try to answer your second question, but unfortunately, it is also lacking in sufficient clarity. Rephrasing it differently might be helpful.

--------------------------------------------------

After studying your questions again, I now think I understand them enough to provide specific answers. They are -in no particular order- somewhat yes, and somewhat yes. For elaboration, Mr. Burgess has offered sound advice.

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With respect to priming, I do not use powder, and have not for some years now. I go straight to the cake, any good cake, and have no difficulty in getting the bow fully primed in a very short time. I developed a technique that greatly accelerates the process.

You could rosin a fresh bow with a cake for fifteen minutes and not have it primed. There is some kind of limiting mechanism that only allows a certain amount of rosin to be transferred from the cake to the hair in a given rosining cycle.

The secret is to rosin with only a few fast hard strokes, and play the violin with just a few long broad strokes across the strings. Then rosin again. Then play again, etc. This rapid cycling vastly improves rosin uptake from the action of driving the newly applied rosin into the hair with the strings. A freshly haired bow can be rendered ready to play in about a minute. Each complete cycle -rosin then play- is perhaps five to ten seconds, with six to twelve cycles being sufficient for the task of priming.

The reason the technique is so successful likely has something to do with the sheering action I mentioned earlier. Continuous rosining just on the cake hits a limit where no more rosin can be taken up by the hair, but pushing the rosin off the primary surface clears way for the application of new rosin on each cycle, until a sufficient quantity of total rosin is taken up.

So, no need for powder, and no need for a special rosin cake, only good technique. Problem(s) solved. :)

I do want to say that probably not everyone thinks there is a problem to solve. Many (most?) people seem to use powdered rosin, and it is fast and effective.

Nonetheless, a friend who rehairs bows showed me how to start fresh hair with a standard rosin cake and without the playing cycles you use; I assumed it was common knowledge. He simply turns the bow over (tightened to a normal tension) and and puts his thumb between the stick and the hair, then rubs the cake of rosin over the hair. You can vary the tension of the hair with your thumb which allows you to use more pressure on the rosin against the hair. I assure you that you can put as much on as you want. I also find that having the rosin in my right hand and moving the rosin instead of the bow greatly enhances the feel of how well the hair is taking the rosin. You can really feel a grittiness as it starts to take (which happens very quickly). I hope I have explained this clearly enough, if not, I can take a picture.

I am absolutely not trying to get anyone to change techniques. I like this method and find it very quick and easy for the modest number of bows I need to start. It is great for a half dozen to a dozen bows, but powdered rosin is still quicker and I would probably switch if I were doing more.

BTW, any rosin will work but my friend and I both start hair with a base of a fairly soft/sticky (not sure which is more accurate) rosin. He uses Hill Dark and I use Pirastro Olive since I happen to have that handy.

I would love to try John's rosin to see how much different it is. As I mentioned before, the Baker's is about the only rosin that has seemed radically different than the rest. I haven't had a chance to try it on fresh hair yet. I suspect that it would start much easier than what have been using, but I'd still use the same technique since I like the added tactile feedback this seems to give.

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I do want to say that probably not everyone thinks there is a problem to solve. Many (most?) people seem to use powdered rosin, and it is fast and effective.

--------------------------------------------

Well now that you said it, I should inform you that the "problem" was tongue in cheek, and directed primarily at two persons in a spirited disagreement. Of course rosining a bow is not a problem. It is one of those routine tasks that can be done in more than one way, as you just amply demonstrated with your presentation. However, I just tried your friend's method, and it has at least one flaw that makes it unappealing to me.

Regardless of which hand you use to hold the cake, the thumb can pick up rosin. Admittedly, I wrote a much more harsh criticism of the method, but edited it after realizing I did the tests on bows with rosin on them already. If you do this on a well rosined bow, playing is then impossible without washing hands. However, I then tried it on a fresh bow, and things were not so bad, but for someone who is very fastidious like me, the idea has no appeal. A piece of paper can be inserted between the hair and the thumb to prevent rosin from touching the thumb, but then that is just another element that is required. I found the idea adequate, but will not be changing.

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If we can somehow get Nagyvary and Zaret involved in this discussion, along with some extraordinary pedagogical rosin available at 'bestviolins.com', and a special acoustical graph from northern Europe, the record for responses and length of subject would be shattered on this forum. :)

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Regardless of which hand you use to hold the cake, the thumb can pick up rosin. Admittedly, I wrote a much more harsh criticism of the method, but edited it after realizing I did the tests on bows with rosin on them already. If you do this on a well rosined bow, playing is then impossible without washing hands. However, I then tried it on a fresh bow, and things were not so bad, but for someone who is very fastidious like me, the idea has no appeal. A piece of paper can be inserted between the hair and the thumb to prevent rosin from touching the thumb, but then that is just another element that is required. I found the idea adequate, but will not be changing.

I don't seem to have that problem, so perhaps I do something a little different that I don't even notice.

I didn't mean to suggest this method of starting bows as an improvement over any other, simply as an observation related to the comments about cake rosin not taking well (or in limited amount) to fresh hair.

I also don't doubt that John's shop rosin takes more easily to fresh hair and will be interested to hear his thoughts on that if he decides to share them.

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Two distinct bow/rosin experiences led me to start this thread.

1st A few years ago I was trying to find a bow that sounded good everywhere on one of my cellos, which had some strange sounds near the wolf tone on the G string (even when an effective wolf eliminator was used). I found one inexpensive bow in my “collection,” one I really didn’t know I owned, don’t know for sure where it came from, and I had never used it before. But it had a good sound there. Once I found that, I loosened the hair and found it was all clumped together; obviously it had melted or been dissolved and solidified and caused the hair to form a “solid” band. I cleaned the hair up, re-rosined it and could never get it to sound so good again. None of my other “good” bows could get the right sound on that cello.

Eventually I did get a bow by a gold-medal-winning modern maker that produced the right sound on that cello (without melted rosin). But the experience has always puzzled me.

2nd For years I had a bit of a problem in ensemble music, when after about an hour of playing, my cello sound would get kind of gnarly. I went through many different brands and grades of rosin and finally settled on using Tartini (or now Andrea) symphony grade as a rosin that would get me past that one-hour hump without failing me.

I think that what is happening in this 2nd case (after reading all the inputs from other people) is that after that much playing, the rosin surface has melted (or the particle size has gotten so small) that the static and sliding friction coefficients are so close together that I find it necessary to bear down harder on the string to get the sound I’m after and this si spoiling the sound during the sliding friction phase. I don’t have the same problem when playing alone because I ehen I can here my own playing perfectly I can adjust my sound better.

I'm still working with Bakers rosins to see how they survive my labors. I like the initial sound they give very much.

It has been interesting to get all these inputs from others with experience and thoughts on the subject. Even the feuds. Thanks!

Andy

I also don't doubt that John's shop rosin takes more easily to fresh hair and will be interested to hear his thoughts on that if he decides to share them.

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I also don't doubt that John's shop rosin takes more easily to fresh hair and will be interested to hear his thoughts on that if he decides to share them.

It is just cooked a long time. It takes maybe 15 minutes to drive out volatiles. Then it continues to smoke, destructive distillation perhaps. It is very dry, but does not seem more brittle than ordinary rosin. It may be no different from the more modern special rosins, but it was much faster than the old AB I had at the time.

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Two distinct bow/rosin experiences led me to start this thread.

1st A few years ago I was trying to find a bow that sounded good everywhere on one of my cellos, which had some strange sounds near the wolf tone on the G string (even when an effective wolf eliminator was used). I found one inexpensive bow in my “collection,” one I really didn’t know I owned, don’t know for sure where it came from, and I had never used it before. But it had a good sound there. Once I found that, I loosened the hair and found it was all clumped together; obviously it had melted or been dissolved and solidified and caused the hair to form a “solid” band. I cleaned the hair up, re-rosined it and could never get it to sound so good again. None of my other “good” bows could get the right sound on that cello.

Eventually I did get a bow by a gold-medal-winning modern maker that produced the right sound on that cello (without melted rosin). But the experience has always puzzled me.

2nd For years I had a bit of a problem in ensemble music, when after about an hour of playing, my cello sound would get kind of gnarly. I went through many different brands and grades of rosin and finally settled on using Tartini (or now Andrea) symphony grade as a rosin that would get me past that one-hour hump without failing me.

I think that what is happening in this 2nd case (after reading all the inputs from other people) is that after that much playing, the rosin surface has melted (or the particle size has gotten so small) that the static and sliding friction coefficients are so close together that I find it necessary to bear down harder on the string to get the sound I’m after and this si spoiling the sound during the sliding friction phase. I don’t have the same problem when playing alone because I ehen I can here my own playing perfectly I can adjust my sound better.

I'm still working with Bakers rosins to see how they survive my labors. I like the initial sound they give very much.

It has been interesting to get all these inputs from others with experience and thoughts on the subject. Even the feuds. Thanks!

Andy

I also don't doubt that John's shop rosin takes more easily to fresh hair and will be interested to hear his thoughts on that if he decides to share them.

I have played with some of the finest players out there today and we discuss instruments, great sound post people, bridge makers, a great rehair guy. The rosin talk: "hey, can I get some rosin?" "yeah. Here:" (me and everyone present handing whatever we were given by the reps of whatever company happened to give us the free rosin earlier that day) Response: "Thanks. Let's do reh. B again".

I have never heard a top performer claim that this or that rosin is the ****. Strings, yes, we all have our opinions. Rosin? No.

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I am not that famous. I just actually play the instrument and have had the good fortune to play great chamber music with some really great people. Judging from your posts, you are a ... (can't quite find the appropriate label.)

It must be something other than I have stated about myself. Hope it is not too negative. So long as you insinuate, please give me at least a hint. Spell it backwards, or use the upper-case symbols on the number row.

By the way, I never claimed any special playing qualities for my own rosin. Just that it takes very well to new hair (in my shop.)

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I have played with some of the finest players out there today and we discuss instruments, great sound post people, bridge makers, a great rehair guy. The rosin talk: "hey, can I get some rosin?" "yeah. Here:" (me and everyone present handing whatever we were given by the reps of whatever company happened to give us the free rosin earlier that day) Response: "Thanks. Let's do reh. B again".

I have never heard a top performer claim that this or that rosin is the ****. Strings, yes, we all have our opinions. Rosin? No.

I've been playing for 70 years, and in ensembles with other people for 60 years and since I too have never had this discussion with my music mates, I don't think your comments are relevant. People whose playing is working just fine are not going to worry or talk about rosin.

It is from forums like this one (Maestronet and the ICS) that my eyes were first opened to new rosin options and having followed up on some of those options I found there was a lot more to rosin than I had ever imagined.

Andy

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I've been playing for 70 years, and in ensembles with other people for 60 years and since I too have never had this discussion with my music mates, I don't think your comments are relevant. People whose playing is working just fine are not going to worry or talk about rosin.

It is from forums like this one (Maestronet and the ICS) that my eyes were first opened to new rosin options and having followed up on some of those options I found there was a lot more to rosin than I had ever imagined.

Andy

Very interesting.

I have talked to fiddlers who claim not to recognize, much at all, the difference of quality between bows, and who are perfectly happy, after playing for many years, with their Glasser fiberglass bow...

They will declaim with exactly the same type of "inner circle knowledge", their opinion of the matter.

In fairnesss towards this type of thinking, it was many years into playing (as an amature), before I realized my own NEED for a much better quality bow, and now I am fairly well a confirmed bow quality snob.

I feel the same way about rosin, but I do understand those people who do not feel this way about it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

If the structure of the bow hair is not a significant factor, then why was synthetic hair never successful???

Maybe for the same reason that for quite a long time the "synthetic" bows (carbone fibers, glassers...) were seen as evil. Now more and more good violinists use them and are quite happy with them. It's always difficult to put conservatisms in move. I recently saw an advert about a completely artificial bow (glasser fiber and synthetic hair). Who knows if this kind of technology won't develop itself?

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While I agree that rosin is the "least influential variable", I do maintain that is indeed a variable. I don't think rosin is just simply rosin. I mean, an E string is an E string too, but who can doubt the difference between Prim and Jargar, Westminster and Hill, Gold label and Golden Spiral?

I wonder though if rosin variation is more effective as a placebo than in actual effects due to physical characteristics. Furthermore, it is interesting that so many people went crazy trying to find the last supply of Liebenzeller cakes. Perhaps it is a matter of "groupiness".

They have resumed fabrication of this rosin, so no need to go crazy anymore.... :)

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Maybe for the same reason that for quite a long time the "synthetic" bows (carbone fibers, glassers...) were seen as evil. Now more and more good violinists use them and are quite happy with them. It's always difficult to put conservatisms in move. I recently saw an advert about a completely artificial bow (glasser fiber and synthetic hair). Who knows if this kind of technology won't develop itself?

For some, they are still evil :) I have never met a carbon fiber bow I liked tonally. Of course dynamically, a few makes can be extremely good, but to my ear, they all have a sonic signature I find unappealing compared to any wood bow, particularly when played on fine violins. Maybe all those good violinists who use them do not possess a really refined ear. As a matter of trivia, are you able to name any recognizable players using carbon fiber bows for important venues? Of course the latter qualification is to mitigate the mention of plain endorsees, as it was demonstrated here not long ago that even well known players are known to succumb to the temptation of acting as an endorser of a product, without actually using it when and where it counts.

My guess is that there are very few if any big name players using CF bows, but I am emotionally prepared to be proven wrong. :)

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