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richardz

The Rules of Rosin

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I still haven't quite figured it out.

What works for you? Every day?

I read where less is more and tried it and it seems to be true.

Also do you clean your strings after each playing session?

Any input appreciated.

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I only rosin if I sense the sound quality is deteriorating - and for me that seems to be every 2 weeks or so (I practice daily, anywhere from 15 minutes to 3 hours, depending on my work schedule, etc.).  I also don't have to dust my violin off as often that way - bonus!.  I'm a bit more anal about build-up on the strings - I hate that fuzzy sound.  I probably clean them 2-3 times a week, but it only takes a second.

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"An immoderate use of rosin is to be avoided, since the tone...grows scratchy.  A threefold application, over the hair and back again is entirely sufficient."

 

The bow hair, when used on the average for three or four hours daily, should be renewed every month.  Playing with worn out hair is exceptionally injurious, since it leads to exaggerated pressure."   — Carl Flesch

 

Lynn Hannings, who as a bassist probably never read Carl Flesch, arrived at about the same conclusion regarding the first paragraph.

 

And I am fully convinced of the importance of rehairing a lot more often than most of us do.  We are a bit like frogs in slowly heated water.  We adjust to the deterioration of the hair so we don't realize how bad it has become.  I knew one fine violinist that had his main bow rehaired every other week.

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So, who does the best re-hair job in the USA? I have seen many fellow players get their frogs messed up pretty badly and I am seriously afraid of just letting anyone touch my good bows (esp. the gold mounted ones).

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So, who are best the at bow re-hairing in the USA?  I'd like to see a list of the very top archetiers please. I have routinely seen fellow players & collectors get their frogs messed up pretty badly. By pretty badly I mean that the ferrules are irreversibly bent (if even slightly) and/or slides aren't put back properly. I am seriously afraid of just letting anyone work on my good bows (esp. the gold mounted ones).  Am I condemned to buying a new bow instead of having the existing ones potentially damaged?  HELP!

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Thank you Rue, Will and TFord...all good information that I will consider and put to use.

CCM: Perhaps you could start your own thread on that topic. Thank you.

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I rosin differently depending on the bows I'm using but on average I swipe rosin (2 swipes) once a week, maybe twice a week when I'm in serious rehearsal mode/hair is skating oddly or maybe 2 times a month if the hair is new or I'm not playing that much.  My advice is, keep the bow gripping gently and rosin moderately according to the hair's reaction on the strings, you shouldn't "hear" rosin or see it's aftermath on the fingerboard. 

 

Since I'm a lighter rosin user (both in terms of application and quality), I don't really have to clean my strings before I replace them, at most I'll clean them once/twice a month with a TINY bit of pure alcohol, I do like the feel of the bow on fresh metal and the lack of fuzziness from clean strings. It sounds "fresher", it's hard to describe LOL

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Lusitano makes a good point: Rosining differently.

 

Just as with everything else on a violin, it comes down to trying to find out what works best.  There is no perfect way to rosin, since hair is different, and so are bows, musicians, and rosin.  We could probably add to that list atmospheric conditions, the music being played, the group we're playing with.  Who knows what else.  It may be more art than science. 

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What wears out?

 

I personally don't know.  I have heard arguments that nothing wears out and hair can be cleaned and refreshed to "as good as new."  I went to one shop which asked me if I wanted new hair or if I wanted the hair cleaned.  I HAVE washed hair many times and it seems to help.  But I'm not convinced that it was as good as new, but then maybe the pros can wash better than I can.

 

But I certainly have experienced the sense or feeling that the hair is worn out, for whatever the reason, and I agree completely with Carl Flesch that it can be injurious. 

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Being a fiddler (who still tries to play Bach anyway), I had never been trained by a teacher on how to handle rosin, how often to get the bow rehaired, all that sort of stuff.  Among fiddlers, as you can imagine, I have seen ridiculous amounts of rosin and instruments that looked like a snow globe had exploded over the top of the instrument--I cannot fathom why some people don't take good care of their instruments.  I had figured out on my own that regular cleaning of the strings (especially the G, for some reason) with a bit of alcohol was a good idea, tone-wise.  I always do that before recording sessions and performances. 

 

Anyway, when I got a custom-made bow from a great maker, I used the opportunity to ask about rosin, rehairing, and so on.  He gave me a nice tin of Hidersine, seemed not too anal about using some super-duper rosin, and he seemed to be in the camp of not using all that much rosin.  One thing he said was that people often get rehairs when the bow hair is just dirty, and that it can be cleaned, though he didn't explain how one cleans bow hair (I imagine a Tourte with a very sexy voice saying, "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful, use Pantene Pro-V!").  I think the theory on what "wears out" are the little micro-hairs that stick out of the sides of a strand of horsehair like barbs, and this maker seemed to imply that they get gunked up/slicked down as much as they get scraped off.  But I have no idea, myself.  Anyway, I appreciate this thread because it made me realize that my bow hair had been losing its grip a bit, and I think I need to get my bow rehaired.

 

Paul

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I should mention too that when rosining, as well as applying rosin with the cake flush with the flat surface of the bow hairs, I turn the bow to either side and apply rosin to the 'sides' of the bow hairs and even a bit on the top of them. 

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Among fiddlers, as you can imagine, I have seen ridiculous amounts of rosin and instruments that looked like a snow globe had exploded over the top of the instrument

That's so you can rosin your bow while playing, without taking your hands off the fiddle.  It's also good if you lose or drop your rosin.  :)

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I have asked several times...and never received a legitimate answer...as to why fiddlers use so much rosin and why they don't clean it off their violins...

 

I have now filed it under 'just because I can'.

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Personally—and I wanted more than anything to be a fiddler when I first started out, so this is not a put down, but meant as a compliment— I believe that the world of fiddlers is very different and certain ideas take hold. I believe the idea of leaving rosin remaining on the top is part of the lore. It adds to the sense of age of the instrument and the achievements or efforts of the player, in effect a "badge of honor." (But it's just a guess.)

Now there's an idea for a very interesting book, if there isn't one. My grandfather's bridge had been sliced down the middle (between the A and D strings (obviously not all the way down). He said some old man swore fiddles sound louder that way. One of my school orchestra teachers grew up so far from a town that getting a bow rehaired was out of the question. When there was no longer hair, he sanded the stick and played on that sanded stick. There is a wonderful world to be explored, IMO.

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...that would make for an interesting book!  YOU could write one.  I'll buy your first copy! :)

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...that would make for an interesting book!  YOU could write one.  I'll buy your first copy! :)

I'll autograph it for you, if you don't think that would lower the value.  :)

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I had heard too that the hairs have barbs that wear off and also that these barbs can get 'fouled' by the rosin.  I usually need rehairs because I lose hair rather than wear it out - I am very rough on my bows.  Many years ago I used to clean the hair.  I was instructed to use alcohol, but I can't remember who taught me.  Completely diconnect the frog, pull the hair away from the stick and wash it in a bath of alcohol, but use a cotton ball near the frog and tip to avoid getting alcohol on the stick or frog.  I do remember very good results from this, completely cleans off the rosin and any dirt, I was left with like new hair.    And a little alcohol does wonders on the strings, but cover the instruments varnish with a thick cloth before you do this.  If you do get a drop on the varnish don't touch it, use the corner of a tissue to soak up what you can and just let the rest evaporate - do not wipe! If you get build up on the isntrument, there are commercially available cleaners that will remove it with some rubbing.  A significant build-up will affect the sound as it will dampen the vibrations of the soundboard.

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My little trick for cleaning the strings without adding the element of fear of damaging the varnish...I hold the violin upside down, and come from underneath with the alcohol-on-cloth. 

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I don't use alcohol. Every time I finish playing, I clean the strings of the instrument with some iron wool. That keeps the strings free of rosin. Then I clean the instrument. 

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Thanks everyone. Yes this got me thinking too. I examined my bow hair and it was filthy. I rubbed it down with a paper towel and black soot came off it. The hair is a few months old but I play outside a bit so it must have accumulated a lot of dirt with the rosin. It sounds better but not like a new hair bow I have. I,ve tried the rubbing alcohol bath in the past and had varying results, but liked to think it works as it,s cheaper...but maybe there,s nothing like a rehair.

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"An immoderate use of rosin is to be avoided, since the tone...grows scratchy.  A threefold application, over the hair and back again is entirely sufficient."

 

The bow hair, when used on the average for three or four hours daily, should be renewed every month.  Playing with worn out hair is exceptionally injurious, since it leads to exaggerated pressure."   — Carl Flesch

 

Lynn Hannings, who as a bassist probably never read Carl Flesch, arrived at about the same conclusion regarding the first paragraph.

 

And I am fully convinced of the importance of rehairing a lot more often than most of us do.  We are a bit like frogs in slowly heated water.  We adjust to the deterioration of the hair so we don't realize how bad it has become.  I knew one fine violinist that had his main bow rehaired every other week.

 

Renewing hair every month is a bit ridiculous (wood frogs aren't made to be reworked 12 times a year without sustaining damage), I get mine replaced every 6 months and could go longer without any lack of ability from the bow! Im curious as to how the person who wrote that suggestion bows because monthly rehairs means their either rubbing the hairs through sand paper or lighting the bow on fire...

 

 

What wears out?

 

 

When excessive rosin is used for a prolonged time period or the bow hairs are old and well used, the barbs on the hair as well as the hair itself becomes increasingly"clogged" with residue and the barbs go "bare" on a microscopic level and will not push sound out of a string as it should . These barbs (even though they are very resistant) create crevices which attract dirt and oils as well as rosin, they sometimes dry out or/and may flatten out with usage making the bow skid and skate without gripping optimally, this happens gradually and is what many people call "wearing" of the bow hair. Nothing lasts forever, especially under regular use, so it will need substituting.

 

Being a fiddler (who still tries to play Bach anyway), I had never been trained by a teacher on how to handle rosin, how often to get the bow rehaired, all that sort of stuff.  Among fiddlers, as you can imagine, I have seen ridiculous amounts of rosin and instruments that looked like a snow globe had exploded over the top of the instrument--I cannot fathom why some people don't take good care of their instruments.  I had figured out on my own that regular cleaning of the strings (especially the G, for some reason) with a bit of alcohol was a good idea, tone-wise.  I always do that before recording sessions and performances. 

 

Anyway, when I got a custom-made bow from a great maker, I used the opportunity to ask about rosin, rehairing, and so on.  He gave me a nice tin of Hidersine, seemed not too anal about using some super-duper rosin, and he seemed to be in the camp of not using all that much rosin.  One thing he said was that people often get rehairs when the bow hair is just dirty, and that it can be cleaned, though he didn't explain how one cleans bow hair (I imagine a Tourte with a very sexy voice saying, "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful, use Pantene Pro-V!").  I think the theory on what "wears out" are the little micro-hairs that stick out of the sides of a strand of horsehair like barbs, and this maker seemed to imply that they get gunked up/slicked down as much as they get scraped off.  But I have no idea, myself.  Anyway, I appreciate this thread because it made me realize that my bow hair had been losing its grip a bit, and I think I need to get my bow rehaired.

 

Paul

 

Some people compensate lighter bow pressure with heavier usage of rosin, other's like the bow to "stick" and grip the strings extremely well and so they use excessive rosin to help gain traction, other's like the harsher sound over rosined bows produce, some violinists use bows which are softer sounding than they want and so they cake on rosin as a means to compensate for that, other's just want more volume and plaster cakes of rosin n the hairs to try and get stronger sounds. To each his own but I don't agree with any of the above stated, I just can't stand the sound or harshness in handling that is characteristic of over rosined bows.

 

I don't use alcohol. Every time I finish playing, I clean the strings of the instrument with some iron wool. That keeps the strings free of rosin. Then I clean the instrument. 

 

You sir are extremely brave... If anyone went near my 80 dollar string sets with a hint of abrasives (any sort,shape or kind) I'd make them flat line faster than you could say "Pirastro". I would suggest you clean the strings with a softer medium and some alcohol, iron wool most certainly damages the metal lapping of the strings!...

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Renewing hair every month is a bit ridiculous (wood frogs aren't made to be reworked 12 times a year without sustaining damage), I get mine replaced every 6 months and could go longer without any lack of ability from the bow! Im curious as to how the person who wrote that suggestion bows because monthly rehairs means their either rubbing the hairs through sand paper or lighting the bow on fire...

 

 

 

I expect he bowed in a magnificent way, and so did his pupils.  Carl Flesch was not a nut, and what he writes ought to be taken with seriousness, IMO.  But certainly most of us don't follow his advice.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Flesch

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BTW, I don't know if this can be answered, but I suspect there may be a qualitative tonal/functional difference between fresh hair lightly rosined and worn hair heavily rosined (all other things being equal)?  Opinions?

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