My last post talked about the problem of overusing rosin on our bows. Now let’s talk about what kind of rosin to buy. Did you know that almost all rosins are made by the same few manufacturers? They simply use different additives under different labels. Cheap rosins generally contain lots of impurities. Expensive rosins can have additives ranging from fish glue (makes pretty, dark green rosin) to copper and gold dusts. I went through a phase in the 1980’s when I used Liebenzeller rosin (to the tune of $30.00 a cake! Of course, that was in Los Angeles). I tried Kupfer III and Gold I in the eternal quest for the magic formula to make me the player I want to be. Rosin dust is abrasive at best, and dusts with minute metal flakes added are even more abrasive. I may not have been a better player, but I certainly did a number on my viola’s finish.
The takeaway here is to strike a balance between the cheapest and the most expensive rosins. Just buy a plain, pure rosin. Lynn Hannings, the master bow maker and restorer with whom we have studied for a decade, recommends Millant-Deroux. It’s a good, pure rosin that doesn’t cost a fortune.
What about the issue of light versus dark rosins? Light rosins have almost all impurities removed. Dark rosins tend to have more impurities, which impart a bit more “grab.” That’s why cello players tend to like dark rosins, although I know plenty of cello players who use light rosin very happily.
Bass rosins are another breed of cat entirely. Most of the players I know use Pops or Kolstein, but my advice is to talk to a bass player on this subject.
One last word…keep a clean, soft cloth in a plastic bag in your case, and wipe the rosin off your instrument and the strings every time you play. Don’t use the rosin cloth as an instrument blanket. Rosin buildup is bad for your instrument, bad for your strings, and bad for your bow hair.