Hello fiddle players,

Experiments for determining which rosin and what bow-rosining techniques might be best to get the desired sound for Irish traditional style playing can be an adventure.

Results seem to vary depending on rosin application, age of bow hairs,  hair tightness, and styles of various bow to string contacting techniques (bow ornamentation).

 

Here are some questions:

1. Is there a particular formulation (dark or light) / manufacturer's brand of rosin that you recommend?  Just curious... does anyone actually use light rosin for summer and dark rosin for winter? Please provide a website if there is a particular place that you recommend to purchase the rosin.

2. How much / how often do you apply your rosin?  Does your playing usually result in visible rosin dust around the bridge (white powder)?

3. Do you ever try to remove excess rosin build-up off the bow's horse hairs to get a different sound!?

4. How tight do you like to make your bow hairs (pencil width more or less)?  (Of course, this may depend on humidity and temperature.)

 

Thanks for taking time to add your thoughts and preferences!

 

Best regards,

~Connie Rae Crone

 

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Connie,

 

I'm actually feeling somewhat qualified to respond here. I'm learning irish fiddle, having been a classical player for many years. I also work music retail. As far as rosin goes, the field is wide open. AB brand and Hill dark seem to work well for fiddle. Nice middle of the road stuff. If you'd like something a bit nicer, try the Bernardel. Supersensitive makes a rosin called Clarity that's hypoallergenic, so there's no dust on the strings. I like to put most of the rosin on at the tip of the bow, and use a clean rag to wipe it toward the frog, as i tend to need more grip in the upper part of the bow.

Best rosin i've found for classical is new formula Liebenzeller, but it's a bit overkill, even for most classical players.

As far as bow tension goes, it just depends on the stick. With my fiddle, i use a codabow, and the carbon fiber doesn't react to the humidity. The hair certainly will, though.

I hope that helps a bit.

 

bill.

Thanks for all of the good pointers Bill.  I know all opinions are subjective to individual style and equipment, but opinions are important.

I may begin by trying one of the dark rosins you recommended. I'm not allergic to the dust; but I had one player tell me that if I had white powder on the wood, that I was likely over-rosining the bow; he suggested that less rosin will result in a clearer resonance of the notes when played (what he thought was more appropriate for irish fiddling).  I had to agree that it did make a difference in the sound texture the strings produce; I suppose it depends what essence of sound that the fiddle player wants to achieve.

Heavier rosin towards the bow tip makes great sense.  I'll definitely try that bit of advice.  I've always applied an even coat all the way down the hairs.

I've met a few great fiddlers from New York so far, so I think you are really very lucky to live there if you like fiddling.  Such a huge fiddling tradition thrives there! I met a really cool fiddler last year at a workshop in Cincinnati for Sligo style fiddling - Tony DeMarco.  Don't let the name fool you... he is but half Irish, but his Irish half seems to go to his fiddling skills!  Another great fiddler I hope to study with next year will be Brian Conway.  His teaching is producing some really talented young players. Welcome to TradConnect and thanks again for the tips!

 ~Connie

I use Pirastro cello rosin, gives me a little more bite and allows a lighter touch without sacrificing sound. As for tightening the hair, it varies from bow to bow depending on stiffness , camber,etc.   I apply rosin as needed, which can vary also with weather, humidity,the bow,playing styles.   I get very little dust on the fiddle, but also clean it very well after each session.

Hi Barry,

Your reply to the type of bow rosin used is an innovative approach. It's a great response for this discussion! 

It's the first time I've heard of anyone using rosin made for a cello bow for fiddling, so I found it very interesting.

I played cello for one year as a child... and I still own a cello, so I'm familiar with the differences of the mechanics of the shorter, thicker bow on the low vibrating strings. I think it makes good sense to try cello rosin, it probably roughs up the horse hair a little more.  Maybe it'll help me make a wild bow ornament like Tommy Peoples :)!

Pirastro is also a popular brand of violin rosin for fiddling.  I've already asked a few professionals about what they use, and that brand is often recommended. Haven't tried it yet, but I like to constantly experiment.  So far, I've had the best luck using a light coat of dark rosin.  I haven't got a favorite brand yet.  I also tried applying a heavier coat towards the tip as Bill suggested in an earlier reply - I think it worked out nicely.

It always suprises me how the little "tricks" and subtle changes in equipment or technique can result in a very noticeable difference in sound, whether for better or worse!

Thanks for posting your advice! 

Hi there Rae;

1. Strangely, as opposed to others I know, I use dark all the time, except for those really sticky humid days where I will use light. The brand I use is Kaplan which retails for about $12.00 Canadian.  I have found that it works beautifully with my Dorfler bows, and being in a temperate climate (Thunder Bay ON Canada) using a dark exclusively seems to work.

2. I usually give my tensioned hairs a little flick near the frog, if dust flies from them I'm ready to go.  Their are those who think one needs to really "fill" the hairs, I just personally don't think I need to. I would prefer not to see a whole lot of dust on my instrument, and I have found "too much" rosin interferes with my tone.  If I feel I have too much rosin I use a terry face cloth and gently run the hairs on it to take off the excess.

3. As to the different sound question, even in "fiddle" tunes I like to hear a "clean" round tone and do remove rosin from the bow.

4.  I have found for my playing that less than half the hairs it is time for a re-hair, no matter how long it takes to get there. I acquired a 108 yr old concert trade Johan Hopf just recently and it does not like thin hairs [seems to like a full robust haired bow, unlike the player's head   ;) ] 

Take care and Best Regards;

AJ

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