Rosin is necessary to create crystal clear sound on the violin and other bow-stringed instruments. Without it, the bow will either have a faint sound or none at all. It is important to use quality, fresh rosin as it is essential to maintain sound on the violin.
Does violin rosin go bad or dry out? Although rosin does not usually have an expiry date on the packaging, it does eventually dry out and becomes less effective. On average, rosin can last anywhere from six months to a year and should be replaced annually.
In this article, we will look at what rosin is and why you need it, the factors that cause rosin to dry out and how to revive dry rosin.
Table Of Contents
- What Is Rosin And Why Use It?
- How To Tell When Rosin Has Gone Bad
- What Causes Rosin To Dry Out
- How To Revive Dry Rosin
What Is Rosin And Why Use It?
Rosin is made by heating pine or other conifer tree resin until it turns into a solid form. Its purpose is to grip the bow hairs with sticky, powdery residue and thus allowing the bow to easily slide along the strings creating friction and sound. Without it, there would be little to no sound produced.
There are three different types of rosin: light, amber and dark. The colour is associated with the time of year it is collected and has different properties that are beneficial to certain climates and stringed instruments.
Light rosin is hard and not as sticky as amber and dark rosin. It is a great choice for the violin as darker rosins can sometimes be too sticky for thinner gauge strings. Since violin strings are relatively thin, they do not require as much grip. Light rosin is also better suited in hot and humid climates.
Amber And Dark Rosin
Amber and dark rosins tend to be softer and stickier than light rosin, making them superb for heavier gauge stringed instruments such as the cello and bass. However, they can still be used on violin bows, though you may need to clean your strings more often. Darker rosins are great options for colder climates.
How To Tell When Rosin Has Gone Bad
Before running out to buy new rosin, it would be beneficial to know if your rosin has actually gone bad. The first notable way to tell if your rosin is no good is by its smell. Rosin can oxidize over time, causing rosin to harden and sometimes produce a rotten egg smell. If this is the case, it's time to get a new rosin cake.
However, rosin does not always have a foul smell when it goes bad. Another way to tell if you need new rosin is by running your bow along it. If a small path of dust is left on the rosin, then it is still good. If it reminds shiny and dust-free, then this is a sign that you either need a new one or should try to revive it.
Lastly, if your rosin is improperly stored or the package is damaged, the quality may not be as adequate. While it is still possible to use it, ineffective rosin may not produce your desired sound.
What Causes Rosin To Dry Out
There are a few factors that can affect the longevity of rosin and cause it to dry out.
Temperature can play a large role in the effectiveness of rosin. It requires stable temperatures in order to remain fresh. If the temperatures are too hot, it can cause rosin to get overly soft and sticky. In contrast, colder weather can harden rosin to the point where it is useless.
Similar to temperature, too high or low humidity can also affect violin rosin. In colder areas, stickier and softer rosin, such as amber or dark, can be used to help prevent the rosin from drying out. Whereas in warmer climates, light rosin would be better suited as it is naturally harder and less sticky. Despite whichever type of rosin you choose to use, proper storage is necessary to keep it fresh and limit the likeliness of effects from humidity.
This brings us to the proper storage of rosin as it goes hand in hand with temperature and humidity control. To keep rosin from being affected by the elements, consider storing it in an air-tight container, then place it within your violin case. This can help keep out excess moisture while also protecting it from getting cracked or damaged.
Different Brands & Types Of Rosin
There are many different brands and types of rosin that vary in their effectiveness based on the instrument and environment. Some brands have crafted rosins that are unaffected by extreme temperatures and humidity, such as AB Violin Rosin (link to check the price on Amazon).
Before purchasing rosin, it would be worthwhile to research various brands and types of rosin that are specifically designed to withstand the climate you are in. For example, amber or dark rosin could be better suited if you live in a cold and dry climate. They are naturally stickier and softer and therefore less likely to dry out as quickly as lighter rosin would in those conditions.
How To Revive Dry Rosin
If you find that your rosin has dried out due to environmental factors, there is a way to revive rosin and make it soft again. To do this, you will need either 50/50 rubbing alcohol and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Step 1: Place around a quarter-sized amount of alcohol-based liquid (listed above) in a Tupperware container.
Step 2: Place the rosin into the Tupperware container.
Step 3: Let the rosin soak for 12-24 hours.
Once you've let it soak, remove it from the liquid, and it should be soft enough to use. Be sure to store rosin properly to prevent it from drying out again.