First of all, what is violin rosin?
Violin rosin is made from hardened tree sap, and is rubbed on the violin bow to give it the friction you need against the violin strings to make a good tone. Without it, no matter how hard you press down with your violin bow you will get almost no sound.
Light vs. Dark
Violin rosins come in many shades between light and dark.
Light Rosin produces a “smoother” sound. Dark Rosin produces a “bigger” sound.
Dark rosins are stickier (have more friction), so while they give you a really good grip, this can contribute to that scratchy sound beginner violinists are so famous for. Light rosins give you a lesser grip, meaning you can’t dig in quite as well, which gives you the smoother sound.
I will tell you up front that most violinists use lighter colored rosins, but it is by no means set in stone which type you should use. Ultimately it’s all about your personal playing style and preferences.
That is why I recommend trying out a lot of different rosins until you find your favorite (many are relatively cheap, under $10). Here are some of the top factors to consider when making that determination:
3 Factors to Consider When Choosing a Violin Rosin
- Humidity – Humidity makes rosin stickier than usual. This means that violinists living in more humid climates (or during more humid parts of the year) may want to consider choosing a lighter rosin to offset the extra stickiness. Conversely, those living in drier climates may want to consider darker rosin.
- Dust Tolerance – Playing the violin with the bow causes rosin dust to collect on the body of the instrument. Lighter rosin usually produces more dust, while darker, stickier rosin can be more difficult to wipe away. If you have a dust sensitivity you may want to choose a darker rosin. There are also hypoallergenic rosins available to violinists with allergic reactions to rosin.
- Packaging – This may seem nit-picky, but packaging can play a part in the long term usability of your rosin. Some beginner violin rosin comes in a rectangular wooden block. This makes it easier for beginners to apply it to the bow. However, many players get irritated by this packaging because as it is used over time, the rosin breaks apart sooner than with other packaging, rendering it useless much more quickly. So: get rosin that comes in hard packaging (to protect it from bumps during travel), preferably in a round or square shape.
These guidelines have probably given you a pretty good idea of what type of rosin may work well for you. It is a good idea to use one type for a month or more, and then switch to see if you like a second type. Keep switching like this, comparing your current favorite to a new type, and eventually you can be pretty confident you’ve found your favorite violin rosin.