Rosin is the substance that a violinist uses to make the hair on the violin bow sticky. Rosin is necessary for there to be sound once the hairs of the bow are in contact with the strings. Without rosin, there is no sound. The hair on a rosined bow grips the string and pulls it to the bow, creating sound. However, since the bow continues to move while one is playing, the string snaps back to its original place.
How to apply rosin to a violin bow
- You should first tighten your bow from the knob at the bottom of the bow. The space between the bow hair and the stick should only be a pencil-width a part.
- Because the violin bow is held in the right hand, hold the rosin in your left hand to apply.
- With your bow in your right hand, glide it across the rosin in smooth normal bow strokes up and down the rosin about five to 10 times.
- Be careful not to over-rosin, this can cause a dust-like residue to expel while you are playing.
Tip: Make sure that either ends of the bow, tip and frog, are rosined more heavily than the middle part of the bow.
Types of rosin
The darker the rosin, the softer and stickier it is. While darker rosins provide a great grip on the string, they also produce a grittier sound.
Lighter, softer rosins avoid this “gritty” sound, but are more apt to expel more powder when the bow hair is in contact with the strings while playing.
A good rosin, no matter how often you play, will last for years. I, personally, have the Gustave Bernardel rosin, which has lasted me for about 8 years now and more to come.
How often you should rosin your violin bow
There is no exact answer for how often you should rosin your violin bow. This depends on a variety of things; how often one plays, the type of bow hair, the type of strings, temperature/humidity, etc.
For beginners who probably will not be playing for hours on end like a professional, I would say it wouldn’t hurt to run the bow across the rosin 2-3 times per practice session.
Knowing how to properly hold a violin bow is essential to produce a beautiful sound from your violin that is in tune. When placed on and across the strings, the bow is directs the type of sound through speed and varying degrees of pressure on the strings. In order to achieve the desired sound, a relaxed bow hold is important to keep in mind.
Practice violin bow hold without the bow
This may seem strange at first, but practicing your violin bow hold without the actual bow will help mold your fingers.
- Hold your right hand sideways. Your thumb will face left.
- Curl your fingers and thumb toward each other so that the tip of your thumb meets the tips of your two middle fingers. Allow your index finger and pinkie to follow the natural curve of your hand.
- Turn your hand and wrist 90 degrees to the left without disrupting the curved position of your fingers. Keep the wrist flat.
Practice violin bow hold with the bow
- With your right hand, hold the bow horizontally with the tip pointing to the right and the bottom, or frog, pointing toward the left.
- Place your left thumb in the frog, between the hairs and the stick. The tip of your thumb should be on the stick.
- Curve your two middle fingers on the stick, close to the first joints of both fingers. Let your middle fingers curve over the stick toward the thumb, almost touching.
- Place your index finger on the stick, curved slightly. Place a curved pinkie finger on the wood of the stick so that only the tip of your pinkie touches the stick.
Violin bow: getting a feel
- Move your arm from the elbow only and “airbow” by drawing the bow across the front of your body as if you were playing an invisible violin. Keep the wrist flat and fingers curved with each bow stroke up and down. When you are completely comfortable with this movement, it should merely feel like an extension of your arm.
This is an excellent video by violinist Pete Cooper, demonstrating how to hold a violin bow: