If you’ve just recently purchased a new viola and tried playing the instrument, you might find yourself not producing a sound. This can be frustrating and you may end up quitting. However, it’s not always about you being a beginner at playing the viola. In general, most brand new violas have violin bows with unused bow hairs. In that case, it is required to use a special accessory to help your strings vibrate and produce a sound. In short, you’ll need a rosin.
What is Rosin?
A rosin is resin in solid form, obtained from trees and is being used to create friction between the strings and bow hair. Applying rosin is necessary as unused viola bow hairs are smooth and slippery. Therefore, it won’t make a grip on your viola strings and no sound will be created.
Basically, a tree is tapped and the resin that comes down is collected as the main raw material. Combined with other ingredients such as beeswax, it is then heated and cooled before placing into molders. When the rosin has been cooled down and hardened, its ends will now be torched until smooth.
Different Types of Rosin
When a resin is collected during the late winter or early spring, it produces a lighter rosin. On the other hand, a darker rosin is produced when a resin is tapped in summer heading to fall. A darker rosin is also known as a soft rosin as lighter ones create a harder rosin. In most cases, violists and violinists use a lighter rosin while darker rosins are used for cellos and double basses.
How to Rosin Your Bow
- Tighten your viola bow. Make sure it is half an inch off the wood. Also avoid tightening it too much.
- If your rosin is new, you can break it a bit by gently tapping the rosin using the end of your bow.
- Start rosining at the lowest part of the bow, which is the frog, and work your way up to the tip. You can rub the rosin repeatedly when you’re doing it for the first time. However, doing it frequently can damage your bow hairs which can affect the tone of your viola or violin.
- Try to draw your viola bow to your instrument and see if it produces a sound. You will know that the rosin is enough if you can create a warm, rich tone and the bows can be moved easily. You can apply a few more strokes of rosin if it produces an inconsistent sound but try to avoid using too much as well.
As you rosin your viola bow, you will notice some rosin dusts that will fall off your instrument as you play. It is recommended to take it off immediately as leaving it longer could create an ugly residue on your instrument. You may use a soft cloth to wipe off the rosin dusts and do it when you’re done playing.
And just like your beloved instruments, your accessories such as the rosin should be kept properly. Store it in a cool, dry place together with your instrument as much as possible.