Re: Rosin and Strings

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Posted by Reed on October 29, 2000 at 15:30:52:

In Reply to: Rosin and Strings posted by John McGlothlin on October 29, 2000 at 15:00:08:

About Rosin:
Back in the 10th to 12th century people were using resin taken from fir and pine trees for painting and making watertight their wooden boats. In the mediteranian east people were also looking for better playing on stringed instruments about that time. They firstly were using sticks giving them a rough surface for striking the strings made from dryed sheep gut mostly. Later people found out to take long horse hair instead of a sinew for bowing the strings which proved to be the perfect invention however, with a layer of rosin paste to the bow hair. Only the bow hair with rosin gave the necessary contact and strings could be pushed into vibration. The endless tone from a bowed instrument inspired composers then for pieces of music never heard before.

Natural resin was and still is being collected from pine trees in autumn and terpentine oil the result of its destillation. Pieces of natural resin are put into a heated pot to evaporate water while impurities within the hot liquid resin need some time for sinking to the ground. Finally pure liquid resin can be skimmed and cooled down. French and North American pure resin has a light yellow and German pure resin a more brown colour.

In a following procedure pure resin is being heated up again, oil and other ingredients added and the liquid rosin poured out into a form to get the final cake musicians are using. This procedure is different among manufacturers and carefully treated as a secret. Therefore rosin cakes are of different quality and influence to bowing technic and to the specific sound colour of the instrument.

High quality rosin enables a perfect bowing without scratching especially if bow hair has a thin layer of rosin only.

Violinists and violists need a more dry or hard rosin, cellists a medium and double bassists a more sticky rosin in general.

Steel strings can be better played with dry or harder rosin, synthetic strings with medium and generally gut or gut wound strings with a more sticky rosin.

Moreover, experienced players prefer a more soft rosin for the studio and a harder rosin in the concert hall. Dry rosin is best in tropic and soft rosin in cold climate.

Please remove rosin from your strings, instrument and bow after your play using a soft and dry cloth. Carefully use your string cleaner - alcohol can damage your instrument's surface - and please put some string oil to cleaned plain gut strings only to keep their elasticity for their life time.

Special advise: Do not use rosin close to open fire. Dry rosin powder and rosin cakes with their alcohol components can catch fire.
With very few students and musicians rosin may cause allergic reactions by touching the cake or inhalating the dust. In case of rosin allergy there is little or no help for the suffering musician as far as we actually know. At present there are artificial resins available but which could not be used as basic material for rosin.

About Strings- Check out Bob Gollihur's bass page for links to makers, Companies, Historians, etc.

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