Rosin: The Quest Continues

Extraordinarily, in the almost 9 years that I’ve been playing the violin, I’d say that I’ve had more than 10 rosins. Considering that it take a long time for them to run out, my track record shouldn’t be that high! Over the years they’ve just magically disappeared (I lost them) or I’ve accidentally smashed them and therefore had to buy another.

For those of you that don’t know, Rosin is the sticky stuff bowed string players rub on their bows to cause the string to vibrate through friction. Without rosin, there is no sound and no sound means no music – so finding a good rosin that works for you is crucial.

My rosin experience began with a standard “student” rosin that came with my first violin. These rosins do the job however they’re usually very sticky and generate a ridiculous amount of dust. These types of rosin often create a gritty, scratchy tone which is not helpful, especially for the beginner student. Please stay away from rosin that comes complimentary  – they’re usually of poor quality. I’ve been duped into buying some really crappy rosin and it just isn’t worth the money or the heartbreak of it being rubbish.I’ve bought the rosin so you don’t have to.

Rosin in general is very affordable so it is easy to buy a better quality one instead. Throughout the years, I have bought an array of different rosins and just experimented with them. I’ve used the whole spectrum: light, dark, hard and soft. I’ve read that lighter rosins are recommended for upper stringed instruments because they tend to be harder and more dense. Personally, the rosins that I have liked and gravitated towards have been  dark so now I usually only buy dark. Saying that, I recently have been using the Gustave Bernardel rosin which is lighter in colour and I’ve been loving it. This rosin has good grip and focus on the string and most importantly it helps me create a really clear and smooth tone.

Here are a few opinions on rosins I have used:

  • Hidersine 3V Rosin  – around £3-5 – Amber. I’d say this a good rosin for the beginner. Also, this rosin is packaged in a tin which I found almost impossible to open.
  • AB Rosin – £2.50 – £5 – Dark. This is a brilliant, reliable rosin. It has good grip, doesn’t create very much dust (the dust is very fine and light)  and helps create good tone production. This rosin is for anyone from beginner to the most advanced player. If I can’t get hold of my usual Pirastro rosin, I’d opt for this one.
  • Kolstein Ultra Formulation Supreme Rosin – around £12. I haven’t used this much but it does have good grip. I’m not sure it is worth £12 but to be honest I bought it because of the gold packaging!
  • Pirastro Oliv – £8-12-  Dark. This rosin is another excellent rosin, similar to the AB. It has good grip and has a fine dust deposit. I think I lost this one pretty early on so I want to buy it again.
  • Pirastro Schwarz – Black. This is my holy grail rosin. I love it! It has everything that I look for in rosin*. The best thing is it is only £4! Click here.
  • Pirastro Goldflex- £8-16. – Light. This rosin features real gold dust to enable the
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    Pirastro Goldflex

    smooth grip. To be honest, I was attracted to the gold aspect rather than the capabilities of the rosin itself. Again, I think I lost this one on orchestra tour in Belgium so I did’t get to use it for very long.

*In rosin, I personally look for one that helps with smooth tone production, good grip but not too much and low dust creation.

You’ve probably noticed in the my list above that Pirastro is a recurring theme. Pirastro is a brand that offers a large variety of rosin of excellent quality and good price point. It is my go-to brand for rosin. There are so many rosins to choose from so if you’re unsure about which one to go with, I highly recommend Pirastro.

I’m still experimenting with rosin and I’m planning on road testing 3 more: Pirastro Evah Pirazzi Gold rosin; Pirastro Oli/Evah Pirazzi and Jade L’Opéra rosin.

 My violin teacher suggested the idea of mixing rosins (i.e. applying a few rather than just the one). I know that some luthiers use powdered rosin which is often a mixture of many different rosins. This is something that I’m currently exploring.

Finding a good rosin is a very personal aspect of string playing. For some, it’s very simple whereas for me it has been a real quest and I’m sure it’ll continue into my professional career.

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I personally buy my rosins from the following sites. They offer a variety of excellent rosins for the lowest prices online so check them out:

For more rosin reading:

http://www.thestrad.com/cpt-latests/choosing-right-rosin-instrument/

Kaplan Vivo – D’Addario Review

 

For string players at Birmingham Conservatoire, there is a weekly workshop where there are various types of musical presentations and discussions related to stringed instruments. In February of this year, two representatives from D’Addario orchestral (Tom and Lyris) did a presentation and talk about strings. In addition to delivering important information about what strings are actually made of and how they are made, they offered the chance to try a set of strings for free! I was generously sent two sets of strings: Kaplan Amo And Kaplan Vivo. Having only ever played on Thomastik Dominant and Pirastro’s Evah Pirazzi, I was so excited to try a set of new strings. As a student, my budget is often tight so I was really grateful to receive some strings as they can be quite costly – thank you very much D’Addario!

 The Kaplan Vivo set were the strings that I thought would be fitting for the violin that I’m using at the moment. In the coming months, I’ll be trying the Amo set on my other instrument. In this post, I’ll be frankly and honestly reviewing this sets of strings without bias.

So, D’Addario says:

“Kaplan Vivo delivers brilliance, clarity, and a robust feel for darker instruments…sets settle quickly, exhibiting a rich tonal color palette and superb bow response”.

  • Kaplan Vivo delivers brilliance, clarity, and a robust feel for darker instruments
  • Synthetic core produces a rich, powerful tone
  • Short break-in time and excellent bow response provides superb playability

For a more detailed string spec click here.

I have to say that I completely agree with everything that D’Addario claims about the strings.DSC_2235_Fotor.jpg

Firstly, I found that I could play on them practically straight away and therefore they didn’t take long to play in.  As a first impression immediately after putting the strings on, I really felt that the strings were loud, very powerful and offered excellent projection. This aspect was great for me because they really jolted me into playing louder. At times, I can be a tentative player so the strings gave me scope to explore playing with more confidence and take ownership of such a big sound. However, the powerful projection  doesn’t impede on the tone quality of the strings; on my violin they have a clear, warm, rich and resonant tone particularly at the lower end. A range of characters and colours can be achieved on the G string – I’m excited about playing Saint-Saëns Violin Concerto in B minor using these strings.

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DSC_1218At the time of my final recital (May 25th) I had had the strings on for around 2 months and for me, they still retained significant resonance, brilliance and clarity.
This is so important for me. Typically, I don’t change my strings for  quite a few months simply due to lack funds – #studentlife. I really appreciated this because I usually play on Evah Pirazzi and they can wear out and become dull quickly. Considering I’m a music student, I use my strings for daily practise sessions which  are around 2-5 hours (depending on my schedule). In addition, I have had various concerts and orchestral courses. I cannot stress enough the durability of these strings – they’re brilliant and show now signs of slowing down anytime soon. In my opinion, after tone, durability is a crucial factor in choosing good strings in order to get good value for money.

Aesthetically, I love the design and packaging. It is very sleek and professional looking. Each string comes in a sealed sleeve unlike other strings which come packaged in paper envelopes.  I like to save the packaging from my strings to store spares and old strings so I liked this feature. The silking at the ball ends is a black and silver pattern which compliments the black and grey packaging.

DSC_2218 In conclusion, I really like the Kaplan Vivo strings and they complimented my violin very well. These are the type of strings that I’d use for an important concert due to the brilliant sound  projection. If you use Evah Pirazzi, I’d say they are a good alternative. My only concern is the price point as online, they cost around £77 (depending on the retailer) and I usually buy my  usual set of strings for £60. Due to the sheer durability, I’m willing to pay the difference. Can’t wait to try the Kaplan Amo set on my other violin!

If you’re wanting to buy the strings check out these UK retailers:

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2 Violinists 1 Day

February 2nd – the day that the violin world was doubly blessed with with two violin masters: Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962) and Jascha Heifetz (1901-1987).

Both these violinists have influenced me in many ways in terms of how I want to look posture-wise when playing, the different  the styles, expression and vibrato I want to use and general musicianship. Both violinists also transcribed many famous pieces for the violin to show off the instrument and what it could do.

My first encounter with Kreisler was at around the age of 14, when my previous, previous violin teacher Dawn Price told me about Kreisler and his Viennese style and recommended that I watch some Youtube videos and get my hands on the Kreisler Collection. My eyes and ears were immediately opened to world of luscious, rich tone that Kreisler physically made and wrote in his music. I particularly love the music of the romantic and late 19th/early 20th century era of violin virtuosity and ultimate expression and Kreisler is the man who made it happen for me! I immediately wanted to play Caprice Viennois Op.2 however I started with Schon Rosmarin then progressed onto Praeludium and Allegro and Sicilienne and Rigaudon.

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Heifetz is a violinist that I’m still learning about and it was only when I started at the Purcell School that I really became acquainted with him. He has such a a distinctive sound and power that is what draw me to listen to him and watch Youtube videos. It was also at Purcell where we watched the film the Art of Violin Playing and the focus on Heifetz was what made me want to discover him more. Anyone that knows me knows that I’m a huge George Gershwin fan so naturally I love his transcriptions of some of Gershwin’s most popular pieces i.e. An American in Paris; Five Selections from Porgy & Bess.”George Gershwin was a good friend of mine. We often played together. I asked him to write a concerto for the violin but he died before he had a chance to do it”