Rosin, also known as colophony, is a type of hardened resin that is a form of tree sap or gum. Over 110 types of trees from all across the world can produce this type of substance, and it is collected while the trees are alive, but the process doesn't do any damage. This process is similar to the process for getting maple syrup!
There are two types of rosin - dark and light - that instruments, including the violin and the cello, can benefit from. Lighter rosin works well with higher instruments like a violin, while the darker resin is used for darker and lower-tones instruments like a cello.
Lighter rosin is produced from trees during late winter and early spring. This lighter variation is less sticky when compared to the darker resin, which comes from trees from summer to fall. This stickiness is a result of the sap and gum softening in consistency.
Not many people know this, but rosin is the magic that allows stringed instruments to produce sound. As a string instrumentalist, you have likely experienced buying a fresh violin, for example, and not being able to hear the sound come from the strings because they are way too fresh and smooth. This is where rosin comes in.
Violin bows are slid across a string that has some friction to them, which is why the instrument is able to produce that sound.
Lighter rosin is applied to strings to create that tension with slight stickiness, and darker rosin is even more sticky in order to grip the thicker strings that lower instruments like a cello have.
Boxed rosin is the more common rosin that people use and tends to be more affordable. The boxed product usually comes in lighter colors that would be appropriate for most instruments, excluding the bass.
Cake Rosin is often more high-quality and pure but easier to break. This type usually comes in amber or darker colors and is also a great option for those who have allergic reactions to less pure products.
Gonna keep it real with you, if I saw some violin rosin sitting out I would assume it was a sweet treat and take a bite out of it pic.twitter.com/yQn7VwxzBG— Robert Komaniecki (@Komaniecki_R) October 31, 2021
This is where things can start to get a little comical in the music world. Resin has a really glossy and smooth look to it that reminds people of chocolate candy. But you don't want to try to do anything crazy, like an attempt to eat your rosin. It isn't super poisonous, but your body will not like it, and you may even throw up like this person.
A common take among string instrument teachers is that they often see their students overdoing it. Appling too much can cause buildup on your instrument and be an overall waste of time.
You will likely only need to apply it every other time you play. If you do overdo it, the simple answer is to go a week or so and allow it to come off over time. If you apply too little, you'll know because you won't hear much or anything at all coming out in terms of sound!
You may find that you want to just wipe some rosin off your instrument if you applied too much, if you've been using a stickier type, or if you're just doing routine cleaning since you don't want it to cake up on over time. It's pretty simple to wipe off with a dry cotton cloth or a microfiber cloth as long as you are gentle with the process.
You want to store your resin at the same room-temperature you want to store your instrument in. A lot of players just keep it in the case with their instrument for ease of access.
You don't want to store it somewhere really hot where it can change consistency, and you don't want it somewhere too cold because that can harden it to the point where you can't use it properly.
Rosin is more likely to fall and break before it will expire. Some say it doesn't expire at all, but others, like Arthur at My New Microphone, say that it can lose its usefulness after a couple of years, so it's good to be safe and restock every so often.
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