Before we learn how to rosin a bow, let’s talk about the rosin and the horsehair of the bow.
What is rosin? Rosin is used by violinists, violists, cellists, and bassists and is rubbed on the horse hairs of the bow. Similar to how gymnasts use pool players use chalk for friction, string players use rosin because it is slightly sticky and helps the hairs can grab the string. Rosin is made of tree sap which has been cooked and solidified into a cake to rosin the bow. There are dark rosins and light rosins. Dark rosin works best to rosin the bow in dry climates and a light rosin works better for humid climates. Bass players can choose different rosins top rosin the bow for summer and winter. There are many different brands of rosin available.
What are bow hairs? The hairs on the bow are horse hairs. Just like when we get our hair cut, horses can get their hair cut. The hairs for string instrument bows come from the mane of the horse, not the tail. And the horse is not hurt at all when the hair is cut. The hairs are cleaned and bleached to an off white color. Then the hair is bundled and sent to a violin luthier who uses it for bow re-hairs and for brand now bows.
Here is an interesting video about how a bow is made. This video shows how the hairs are put on the bow:
Click here for a slow motion video of the violin bow pulling a violin string:
So now lets learn how to rosin a bow. First tighten the bow. (clockwise to tighten, counter clockwise to loosen) Cover the ferrule of the bow with the thumb to avoid hitting it and cracking your rosin when you rosin a bow.
When you rosin a bow, Start at the bottom and work your way up the bow moving the rosin in small short strokes back and forth. Press enough so that you are “scrubbing’ the rosin onto the bow with a “ch” “ch” “ch” sound. But do not push so hard that the bow might break. Keep in mind that violin bows, especially fractional sized bows are very fragile at the tip.
When there is enough rosin on the bow you will not see any shiny spots of the hairs and you will see a thin rosin powder when you play. If you rosin the bow too much then the sound will be crunchy. But if you don’t rosin the bow enough then the sound will be too light.
A bow that is brand new will not have any rosin at all on the horsehair and will actually not make any sound when playing. It is important to get enough rosin on a brand new bow. For example if you are trying bows as part of a trial program there will be no rosin on the bows when they arrive to you. Now that you have learned how to rosin a bow, you will have to take some extra time to rosin each bow before you can try them.
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