Quantifying Rosin Choices
I've heard a lot of folks say, "I tried a lot of different rosins and settled on ..." but that's as far as most explanations I read go.
I wonder if it's possible to find a stronger relationship between a particular rosin and its attributes as they matter to playing. I'll try:
I'm currently using Salzman #10. Salzman makes 8, 9, and 10, and 10 is supposed to be the stickiest.
Salzman 10 is the stickiest rosin I've ever used and I generally like it. My bow hair is brown/tan, I bow German, and the sticky rosin helps me, I feel, pull a louder sound out of my plywood bass than I was getting with my previous rosin, which was Kolstein all-weather.
The grabby-ness has an upside and a downside - it can be tough to start a pianissimo note. Angling the bow, so that not all the hair is in contact with the string, helps, but it does feel trickier to me than with slightly thicker rosin.
This stuff looks like Pops, I'm told, but I've never used Pops.
I tend to use harder rosin but recently I decided to try Kolstein Soft and that stuff is SOFT. The best part is that it doesn't leave any powder on your bass at all. Besides that I prefer pops as far as soft rosin goes, it works better on the higher strings, and gives warmer low notes than the Kolstein.
I'm going to insert my obligatory: there are a ton of factors and rosin is only one of them comment here. I have heard rosin referred to as "liquid technique" by some really great teachers, and not in a good way. I also like that phrase, but I'm not attempting to call myself a Joel Quarrington or Ed Tait equal or anything. With that said, here's my general take on my three rosins of choice:
Secondary disclaimer: I live in southern Ontario. Our summers usually get up to 35°C (95°F) with a relative humidity of 70% give or take. Our winters get down to -30°C (-22°F) and it gets DRY in the winter time indoors, depending on your climate control. UofT had a relative humidity of 10-15% on a good day when I was there. Climate plays a huge role in your rosin experience, which is part of the reason why I am talking about three different rosins below.
Pops: I use this mostly as an orchestra rosin, during the typical orchestra season of fall-spring. It has a nice bite/grip to it which helps make articulations pop a bit more. It has a bit of a sizzle to it in long notes that I am not crazy about. If I am playing chamber music or solo stuff, I tend to prefer something else. To me it has a little more brute force than nuance. In the summer time, especially outdoor gigs or non-air conditioned spaces, it's not that usable. I've had cakes of it turn into a runny toffee/thick molasses consistency in the car in the time it takes for me to go in and grab a coffee. Even if it isn't that hot or humid out, it's easy to over-apply this rosin.
Kolstein All Weather: My "Summer Pops". It seems to be pretty similar to Pops in the wintertime as far as grab goes. In the fall and spring when I'm transitioning between the two, It isn't as "rough around the edges" as Pops. I think it has a nicer tone for long notes as well. I also use it for chamber music year round, as I find it a nice middle ground between Pops and...
Salchow & Sons: This is a violin/viola/cello/not bass rosin. I love it for solo music. Even when I'm playing orchestra/chamber music I will occasionally go light on the Pops or Kolstein I am using and add some of this. It is a complete left turn from Bass Rosin. It sings long notes with none of the sizzle. Attack isn't as biting, but you can still get great accents. It has a nice feel to it, without that "there's a ton of rosin on this bow" that sometimes feels like it is holding you back. With that said, being in 5ths it isn't my first choice for a rosin to get my low C string moving in a hurry. It is completely possible, but it wouldn't be my first choice for big low orchestra stuff. Up in the mid-upper region of the bass though, it's fantastic.
Currently, I use less rosin than a lot of bassists I know. When I'm talking about using one for orchestra, another for chamber music, another for solo music etc. I am not applying more rosin in each situation if I'm doing all of the above in the same week. If I know I have a recital coming up though, I make sure that bow doesn't have a ton of Pops on it. I also do all of my own bow repair and rehairs and have a few different bows I use in different situations. If I really want black hair loaded with Pops in my Snakewood Max Kasper for crazy orchestra work and Live Stallion white hair in my Prochownik with nothing but Salchow on it for solo work, I can scratch that itch. Usually if I'm rehairing both and looking for radical extremes I'm avoiding practicing, which would be a much more beneficial use of my time.
Find something that works for you, and stick with it. Your technique is going to have a lot greater influence on your sound and articulation than your rosin. With that said, your perfect balance of instrument, strings, bow wood, bow hair, rosin, technique, climate etc. is going to be different from other people, and that's perfectly fine.
So you use cello rosin? I think I'm the only bass player that likes hindersine bass rosin, I tend to use a bit more that I normally would which in turn leaves some more mess on my bass but I love the sound and it's kind of bite on the higher strings. And I think it doesn't add so much volume on the G string which tends to happen to me with the kolstein I have now and pops to a lesser extent. Have you ever tried hindersine? How does it compare to different cello rosins?
Salchow & Sons doesn't specify that their rosin is violin, viola, cello, or bass rosin. They make two different rosins, the lighter one (that I prefer) is almost exclusively tree resin, the darker one has a couple of other things in it. Rosin recipes are even more secretive than most family gingersnap recipes are. Unless you are actively involved in making it you aren't going to know what is in it, and you definitely aren't going to tell anyone. My "source" on Salchow & Sons is a former employee who used to make the rosin for them. That source claimed their rosin was mostly clarified resin and other rosin makers add much more "stuff", but that was as specific as the source would get.
Tree resin is usually the main ingredient. Different tree species are used, and which tree and what country/climate that tree grows in is even a guarded secret. Wax is common in bass rosins and softer rosins. Colour is often added, especially to darker rosins, and various fillers/additives also end up in there too. While things like wax make the rosin softer which means more of it gets on your bow, (think bass rosin) a lot of additives are marketing gimmicks Pirastro makes a rosin with gold dust in it that people say sounds amazing. Although the rosin part of it might be different than their other recipes, the gold dust itself is not going to be any more beneficial than any other impurity in the rosin. When shopping for a new rosin, "wow, gold dust" or "it must be good, it has GOLD in it!" happens, and now they have a lifetime believer.
With the exception of bass rosin, the designation of "cello rosin" or "violin rosin" or whatever is a marketing choice, more than a fact. "Cello" rosin tends to be darker and softer, "violin" rosin tends to be lighter and harder, but you can use whatever you want. There are plenty of violinists that like a stickier rosin, and plenty of cellists that like a harder one. I know a standard 2 violins, viola, cello string quartet that exclusively uses Pops rosin.
I haven't given Hidersine a fair chance recently. They make a pretty wide variety of rosins ranging from hard to soft and light to dark, and market various different lines as "violin" or "cello" etc. A lot of schools use them because of their price. They are almost universally given horrible reviews, but I am skeptical of this and assume there is a fair amount of "my high school bought this because it was cheap, so it can't be good" or "my current rosin of choice costs twice as much so it must be twice as good" happening. It is pretty easy to decide you don't like something regardless to whether or not it does what it was designed to do particularly well.
We are creatures of habit and a lot of people settle on a rosin for the rest of their career, having long since forgotten why they apparently like that one over all the others. Unless they stop doing what I want them to I am going to stick with my three rosins of choice. If you are not happy with your rosin, look for something else. Experimenting doesn't hurt, and it's one of the cheapest things that we can experiment with as bassists. On the flip side, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
In my experience I've found that although players gravitate towards a specific brand, the freshness of the rosin is more important than brand.
That said, I go back and forth between Nyman and Pops. But they gotta be fresh! After 6 months I get a new one.
I've tried lots of rosins over the years! Including some cello rosins.
I do agree that rosin "freshness" is a factor, and provided you have a very good source for procuring a fresh cake of rosin (where is the bassrosin.com crowd on this one?) you can notice a difference between it-just-arrived-yesterday and it-has-been-in-my-case-for-years rosin. This especially holds true for very soft rosins like Pops, Kolstein Soft, Oak Soft, Salzman #10, or basically anything else on the fence between a solid and a liquid. Harder and upper string rosins tend to have a longer shelf life. It has something to do with moisture content and the recipe of the rosin, but I don't have enough rosin knowledge to go into it any farther than that.
I know some people have had various success with re-melting rosins, with cutting the top layer off, keeping it in a humidor or the fridge etc. and if that works for them, then all the power to them. Freshness also has threshold of personal preference. Just like strings and rehairs, some people need fresh rosin sooner than others. While my personal "system" of replace it when I lose it, it melts in the car, or I'm in a shop that I trust to have fresh rosin works for me, it means I usually have a fresh cake every year or so. I do notice a difference between the previous cake and the new one, but it isn't enough of a difference for me to order direct from bassrosin.com every 3 months.
Peter: if you wouldn't mind, what differences do you notice between Pops and Nyman's? If you don't have a particular brand alliance but a freshness one, why those two rosins?
As someone new to Pops, the thing I like best is the ease of application. I guess I've always used harder rosins and felt like I had to really crank down when applying them.
Salzman #10 seems harder to me than Pops.
I've tried so many different brands over the years. As a performer and music teacher I have access to so many. Pops and Nyman ( or carlsson - they're so similar) have never let me down. Pops can get a bit powder-y and Nyman a bit gritty. But I go back and forth - in the summer it's usually Nyman but in the winter I use both (depends on the day). I realize that's a vague answer but it's like strings - I have a few favorite brands and alternate.
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