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Excess Rosin on Bow

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by Steve Freides, Mar 23, 2009.

  1. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    When I have too much rosin on my strings, I try to use a rag with a bit of alcohol on it to clean the strings. (When I don't have all that handy, I just sorta scrape off the excess with my fingers.)

    What about a bow? If you get too much rosin on it, is there a way to get it off? I don't know if this has ever been the case for me as I never seem to get enough bite, but I've also been using a hard rosin and will be trying a softer one soon.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. manutabora


    Aug 14, 2007
    Iowa City, IA
    I'm a violinist so the stuff I know may not apply to bass bows, but I know people sometimes clean their bow hair with alcohol as well. Just be gentle and make sure you wipe the hair dry pretty well. When you are done, let it dry out for a while. You may have to position it so that the hair never touches the stick while it's wet, because alcohol eats away at varnish. You can do this by placing two books at a distance so that the tip of the bow can rest on one book and the frog on the other, that way the hair can just hang on the air and dry. Once it's dry, the hair may be all lumped together, so use your fingers and again, be gentle, to separate the hair.
    Above anything else, always use common sense when doing this kind of thing.
    Another thing to consider is that you may just need a rehair.
    I hope that helps :)
  3. CPike


    May 28, 2005
    Dallas, TX
    IF you decide to clean your bow in the aforementioned manner, make sure you use DENATURED alcohol, not isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol. But, honestly, I do that rarely - if one of my bows gets little use and has old rosin on it, or if the hair is still good but I want to switch rosin types - that sorta thing. It's a gloopy, tedious, smelly mess of a job. If you put too much sap on the bow just play it off, we've all been there. Just play two or three rehearsals without lathering up and keep wiping the strings down often. If you think you aren't getting enough "bite", then have another pro try your bow - it may be the hair is shot, might be your bass's setup, or it may just be your technique.

    Sometimes, constant rosining can create the "diminishing return" effect, or a feedback loop of sorts - whereby your solution starts to gradually make the original problem worse...

    Another tip, use naptha instead of alcohol to clean your strings, it's safer...

  4. Phil Rowan

    Phil Rowan Supporting Member

    Mar 2, 2005
    Brooklyn, NY
    +1 for what Chris said.

    Another good thing for for cleaning rosin off strings is very fine steel wool. If you clean them off w/ this kind of wool after every time you play, the strings will stay rosin free (at least that's been the case IME).
  5. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    Thanks, everyone. I will just take it easy w/ the rosin and let it wear off, which is what I've been doing.

  6. PocketGroove82


    Oct 18, 2006

    +1, party liquors just don't seem to get the job done. ;)
  7. anon65884001

    anon65884001 Guest

    Feb 1, 2009
    My first cello teacher told me to swing the bow if it gets too much rosin on my bow :smug:
    So i've been doing that for my cello
    Now my bass teacher didn't really talk about it
    So i just wipe it off on my friend :D
  8. thewhale


    Feb 28, 2008
    north carolina
    I think that only really works when the rosin is fresh and dusty, not caked on. Plus every time I see someone do this it looks like they're just asking for trouble.

    If rosin gets caked on the hair, just get a fine-toothed comb or brush and comb it out carefully. A *clean* toothbrush works well since the handle lets you keep the bristles free of any oils from your fingers.

    I've found anytime I clean the hair with whatever method is popular at the time (alcohol, citrisol, etc) basically ruins the hair. Sure it works for emergencies, but plan on getting a rehair within the month if you have to clean your hair with that stuff because there will be no bounce left in it.
  9. thewhale


    Feb 28, 2008
    north carolina
    Also, try to stay away from wiping the strings with your hands. Oil from your hands will get on the strings and cause dead spots where the bow won't want to speak.
  10. Basskimo


    Mar 6, 2009
    I would think that alcohol could ruin the hair. Best idea is to do what you are doing, lay off the rosin and work it off. But, depending, you should think about getting a rehair done. If you need that extra bite, and assuming you are using basic white hair, look into Salt 'n Pepper hair (mixture of white and black) or solid black. Basically the darker the hair the coarser and the more of a bite. I tend to like lighter rosins (something not like Pops haha) so the Salt n Pepper hair plus Oak rosin gives great sound and good bite. You tend to need less rosin less often too.
  11. BCAlbin


    Dec 7, 2007
    Nashville, TN
    ...but here goes.

    My college DB teacher (Henry Loew, Prin. w/ SLSO for nearly 50 years) told me to use this:
    Bon Ami 1886 Formula Cleaning Powder
    to remove excess rosin from my hair. Make sure you get the 1886 Formula as it has no detergents, just a natural, abrasive powder. And Definitely NO Comet or Borax!!!

    As a student, I used to get my hair loaded with too much Pop's in an effort to get the string moving a little easier. This was, apparently, an issue that Mr. Loew had faced with his students for many years! (LOL) He told me to get some Bon Ami powder (at the time, there was only one kind), a little water and an old toothbrush. Loosen the hair, dip the toothbrush in the water, then in the powder and gently scrub the loosened hair against a flat surface. After you've cleaned the entire length of the hair, completely rinse all of the abrasive from the hair, re-tighten it a little and leave the hair to dry. When dry, the hair is undamaged and as slick as the day it came off the horse. I've done this a couple times since my college days and have never had a problem using the powder. Sometimes the "old ways" are still the best.

    As should be expected, some may take exception to this method and that's fair. I'm only relating my personal experience on the advice of a very knowledgeable and experienced player and teacher. YMMV...

  12. CPike


    May 28, 2005
    Dallas, TX
    Interesting idea... Sure sounds a lot less messy (and stinky) than the denatured alcohol method I learned from a luthier. I think I'll give it a try before my next rehair. I hope one of our luthiers will chime in on this Bon Ami thing...
  13. a bit off the thread i read some violin site on the net awhile ago that using an old wine cork (real cork not that plastic stuff they use these days) is good for getting rosin off strings. I tried it and the rosin came off with ease and left little to no rosin on my strings
  14. Practice 4 hours a day for a week. It will wear off and powder up on the strings and then you can wipe it off with a stiff canvas cloth. The best risk free way to get it off is work it off.
  15. for getting rosin off the strings, i use my practice room key sometimes to scrape it off if it gets caked on. works great. as far as the bow, maybe you should just get a rehair. i think most people use too much rosin. i rosin my bow less than once a day (2 or 3 good swipes of pops rosin maybe 4 or 5 times a week, sometimes less) and try to wipe off my strings once or twice a day. i usually play for 5-7 hours a day when i'm preparing for a recital or audition, just to give you some perspective on playing time/rosin. if your aim is consistency, i figure maintaining a consistent amount of rosin may factor in as much as other things. as far as your bow is concerned, just play it off for a week. you can use a toothbrush to wipe out the old rosin a couple times if you need to, then start over and try using less rosin all together. or just get a rehair.

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