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How is Violin Rosin Made?

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned violinist, there are certain essential violin accessories that will improve your performance when playing the violin. However, no accessory is more important than violin rosin. Rosin creates friction between the bow’s horsehair (yes, it’s really made with hair from the horse’s tail) and the strings of an instrument, causing the strings to vibrate more clearly. In essence, it allows the bow to “grip” the strings. Without rosin, you won’t hear much sound at all.

There are different types of rosin, and each will produce different sound qualities. For example, using a lighter rosin might work well for a violin, but will be too light for a cello or bass. Thus, understanding how violin rosin is made will help you choose the right rosin for your instrument. 

From Resin to Rosin

violin rosin

Rosin is a solid form of resin, which is a sticky, sap-like substance that comes from trees belonging to the Pinaceae family, such as pine, fir, and cedar, or other conifers such as spruce and larch. But while sap is used in syrups and medicine, resin is used in varnishes and glazes.

Resin is collected through a process known as “tapping”, which is when sap exits the tree through a hole placed in the outer bark. Once collected, the resin is heated and purified until it becomes solid. Sometimes additional ingredients such as beeswax, turpentine, or gold flakes are added, which enhance the gripping ability of the bow and thereby the sound quality of the instrument.

There are three basic types of tree rosin – light, amber and dark. But because specific instruments require different types of rosin, not all rosin is created equally. For example, light-hued rosin is less dense and sticky and is most often used by violinists and violists. Medium and dark-hued rosins, which are softer and tackier to the touch, work better for cellists and bass players. Furthermore, each manufacturer has their own process and recipe — and closely guard their recipe as an important piece of corporate intellectual property.

Picking The Best Rosin For Your Playing Style

Trying different rosin products and experimenting with rosin/bow combinations is the best way to discover your perfect match. Speak with other string players and get their recommendations, or come into our music store in Newton and speak with our staff, most of whom are string players and teachers. We carry 16 types of rosin from some of the world’s top manufacturers and can help you find the right rosin for your instrument. 

Additional Resources

Carriage House Violins

Located in Newton, Massachusetts, Carriage House Violins is the instrument sales division of Johnson String Instrument.

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Johnson String Project

A charitable foundation whose goal is to provide high-quality instruments to children who live in under-served communities and who are participating in El-Sistema-inspired programs in Massachusetts.

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