In the quest for perfect tone, it’s easy to overlook one small component vital to all violists: rosin. This inexpensive substance is formed from the resin of pine trees. It creates the friction needed for your bow to produce notes when pulled across the strings of your violin.
The quantity of different rosins on the market might come as a surprise. But don’t be tempted to pick the first one you find! Different types have different characteristics, and we’re going to take a look at seven of the best. Our buying guide will then help you decide which one will match your needs.
D’Addario’s Kaplan rosin comes in a choice of either light or dark. The light formula is less sticky, perfect for violins, whilst the dark offers a stronger grip. Both are made from tree resin and manufactured in New York, USA.
It’s presented in a smart black hinged case with a gold logo on the front. Attractive though it is, the case isn’t just for show.
By keeping your rosin securely enclosed, you’ll keep dust away from your case and instrument. And if you drop it, it won’t shatter everywhere.
There’s also an ingenious little dial on the bottom of the box. This allows you to turn the disc of rosin so that it wears away evenly. And it’s cleverly designed so you can do it one-handed, while you hold the bow in your other hand.
Compared to other rosin discs, this one is smaller. That means you’ll need to take a little more care as you’re applying it, so the bow doesn’t slide off. It will still last you many years, however.
We’ve heard differing reports about its resilience to heat.
Some people have found it stands up well when playing in temperatures around the 95-degree mark. Others have noted that it’s softened on days where the mercury hits 90. This could be a result of either different humidity levels or, as a natural material, simply variation between batches.
One thing to watch out for is that the case can get in the way as the rosin wears down. When it’s very low, take care or you may find your bowstrings scrape against the plastic.
When it comes to playing, the amount of dust produced by your bow will depend on how much you apply. But with this one, you’ll find you can get good tone and friction without turning your violin white.
Good tone without producing lots of dust
Secure clamshell case
Dial on the bottom of the box allows you to turn the disc for even wear
The disc is a little small
Watch out for the plastic case damaging your bow strings when the rosin gets low.
As the name suggests, Wogod’s rosin is designed to produce minimal dust. If you have a dust allergy, it’s a good choice.
This product comes in a set of two rectangular tablets and offers excellent value. The price per tablet is lower than any other rosin on our list. Each block is 2.4 inches long, 1.4 inches wide and 0.6 inches high.
This is a light rosin, so it will give a lighter feel. The packaging is simple but very effective. Two plastic strips sit along the longer sides, giving you something to hold as you apply it to your bow. A snugly fitting plastic cover sits on top to keep it safe when not in use.
We also think the rectangular shape is a good option for ease of application. You’ll find your bow wears a groove in it quickly. This means it’s easy to apply, as the groove will hold your bow in place as it slides along it. And with just a narrow strip of unused rosin either side of that groove, you won’t waste much.
Note though, that the case won’t cope with very heavy use. If it experiences a bigger impact, the rosin will probably break. If you order online, it’s wise to check that it’s intact as soon as you receive it.
As long as it isn’t dropped, it’s pretty durable. And with two blocks in each pack, you’ll get years of playing for a very modest outlay.
It’s not too sticky either, making it well suited to smaller stringed instruments like the violin. But if you prefer something that can deliver more volume, this won’t be the right choice. One option would be to buy a darker rosin for performances and keep this one for everyday use.
Low dust formula
Excellent value for money
Rectangular shape offers easy application
The case isn’t the most robust
It won’t be the right choice if you’re looking for maximum friction.
The second rosin from D’Addario to make our list, the FBA_VR200 comes in a rectangular block rather than a disc. It’s made in New York from entirely natural ingredients.
It sits in a plastic channel so you won’t get your fingers dusty as you apply it to your bow. And the compact design won’t take up a lot of room in your violin case.
The sleeve here is utilitarian cardboard. There’s nothing ostentatious about it, and it won’t give you the protection of hard-cased rosins.
Handle it with care to avoid breakages. You’ll still be able to use smaller fragments, but broken rosin can make a lot of mess. If you’re a bit of a butterfingers, it may be a wiser investment to pay a little more for a hard case.
It is rather brittle too, particularly in cooler temperatures. If you live in an area that experiences cold winters, you’ll need to take particular care.
This is a light rosin. That means it’s less sticky than dark versions, so will give a slightly quieter tone. It will work equally well on either horsehair or synthetic bows.
It’s available as either a single block, or in a pack of two. Whichever option you choose, it should last for years – as long as you don’t drop it on a hard surface!
And although it’s considerably less expensive that D’Addario’s “premium” options, don’t let that put you off. It may be marketed at beginners, but there’s really very little difference other than the packaging and the price tag. You’ll get a pure, clean sound, and little dust.
All in all, if you’re not concerned about robust packaging, and don’t live in very cold climes, this is a solid buy. Just make sure you treat it with care to avoid needing to replace it before its time.
Available in single or double packs
Light clean tone and low dust
Won’t take up much room in your instrument case
The cardboard packaging doesn’t offer much protection
Can become brittle, particularly in colder temperatures.
If you like your music with a dash of bling, you’ll love Pirastro’s Goldflex rosin. This eye-catching product is infused with tiny flecks of gold to make it stand out from the crowd.
As you might expect, it comes with a premium price tag as a result. This is still just rosin, though – you won’t have to remortgage your house to afford it. Expect to pay about four times as much for one disc of this as for a block of standard rosin.
So the question is, does the gold actually make any difference to the sound?
Pirastro says it does. They argue that it creates a smoother playing surface and a warmer sound. Whether that’s really true or not divides those who’ve used it. But either way, it’s certainly distinctive!
The round disc sits on a generous white cloth to keep the dust away from your case and instrument. Surprisingly, though, for a rosin at this price point, the packaging is cardboard. That means you’ll need to handle it with care to avoid shattering the contents.
We’ve also heard of some issues with the disc that attaches the rosin to the cloth coming free. That’s not the end of the world, though. Gently heat the base of the rosin and you’ll be able to stick it back on the cloth. Get rid of the disc – it won’t be needed.
It’s worth noting that in dry climates, this can be rather brittle. In such environments, it will produce more dust than some other brands out there. Anyone with a dust allergy may prefer a softer rosin.
But if that’s not a concern, this is a fun product which looks great. And it will work fine in most locations.
Gold flecks for a distinctive look
Goes on smoothly
Rosin comes with a protective cloth
The cardboard packaging is disappointing for a product at this price point
Jade’s rosin is a distinctive dark green shade. And if you want something a bit different, it comes with a range of attractive packaging options. You can even get a beautiful rosin block shaped like a violin in a matching wooden case. It would make a great gift for any violinist.
There’s also an oval hinged burr walnut case, complete with classic script and an etching of the Eiffel Tower. And if you prefer something simpler, attractive round plastic pots are available individually or in sets of two to six.
Whatever packaging you choose, the rosin will be held snug and secure. It’s still brittle, so don’t expect it to survive hard impacts. But it will have enough protection to cope with everyday knocks without breaking.
The round discs can be removed from their plastic pots, and also come with a protective velvet wrap. If you choose the oval burr walnut case, the rosin stands proud from the base for easy application. It’s the same for the Stradivarius collector’s box, except that here the whole lid lifts off.
In all cases, you’ll be able to keep a firm grip of the rosin as you apply it to your bow.
This is a rosin with a long heritage. It’s been made to the same recipe for centuries at the factory in France. It will work effectively in a wide range of different temperatures. And it will stick just as well to synthetic bowstrings as to horsehair ones.
It’s categorized as a dark rosin, but it’s not as dark as some. It will last for years, though you may find it becomes more brittle over time. You’ll only need a few passes of your bow before you’re ready to play. And when you do, you won’t get excessive quantities of dust.
There’s very little not to like about this rosin. It’s considerably more expensive than some others on our list. But if you don’t mind paying for it, it works effectively and there are some great packaging options.
Range of robust and attractive packaging options
Only requires a few passes to coat your bow
Good tone without excessive quantities of dust
Can become brittle over time
Even the rosin in plain packaging is rather expensive.
At the other end of the spectrum in terms of price is this dual pack of rosin from Sound Harbor. Each rectangular block is made of pure pine resin, without anything else mixed in. And it’s a very economical buy.
Each block sits in a plastic holder. The plastic sides are taller on the longer edges. That means you can get a firm grip whilst applying it to your bow. But the plastic is lower at the shorter ends, so it won’t get in the way of your bow when the rosin wears down.
There’s also a plastic lid which fits tightly on top, so it’s fully protected from knocks.
The packaging of this light rosin doesn’t waste any space, so it will fit neatly into your violin case. And with two in a pack, you won’t have to replace it any time soon. At a bit more than the price of a posh coffee for both, this is excellent value.
It produces a good level of friction, so you’ll get a good tone. The dust levels aren’t excessive. And the rectangular block makes it easy to apply.
If you prefer a disc to maintain a level surface, though, this won’t be for you. And the tight-fitting container means there’s no room for a protective cloth.
We have heard of some issues with it becoming dusty and brittle over time. This is likely to be exacerbated if it’s stored in very cold temperatures.
There’s very little not to like about this product, however. If you’re looking for a pure, no-frills light rosin at a great price, this should be one for your shortlist.
Excellent value for money
Well-designed plastic packaging will keep it safe from everyday knocks
Good tone without excessive levels of dust
No room in the packaging for a protective cloth
It can get brittle over time, particularly if exposed to very cold temperatures.
This rosin from French manufacturer Gustave Bernardel is medium light. It goes on smoothly and produces a great tone.
It comes in a round cake attached to a protective cloth with a disc. The cloth makes it easier to apply the rosin without getting it all over your fingers.
The whole thing sits inside a smart black suedette pouch for extra protection. The choice of a pouch for storage is a clever one. It will help cushion the impact and reduce the risk of breakage if you drop it onto a hard surface.
It’s also compact enough to fit neatly into the small compartment of your violin case.
There are just a couple of things to be aware of with this one.
The first is that, like all rosins, the performance here will depend on the climate. It’s very light. If you’re in an area with low levels of humidity, you may find it’s not as sticky as you’d like.
The second thing is that this does produce rather more dust than some other rosins out there.
Of course, you can always adjust this by applying less to your bow. But if you suffer from allergies – or simply don’t want to spend ages dusting your fingerboard after use – there may be better options out there.
It’s a little more expensive than some other products on our list, but it’s not excessive. It will cost you a little more than two cups of artisan coffee. And with the cloth and pouch included as part of the package, that’s not a bad deal.
Goes on smoothly
Produces a pleasant, warm tone
Comes in an attractive suedette pouch which gives effective protection from knocks
It’s very light, so may not be sufficiently sticky in humid climates
If you’ve read through all our reviews and still aren’t sure which rosin to buy, don’t worry! This isn’t an expensive product, and if you choose something that doesn’t suit you it’s not the end of the world. That said, there are some useful questions you can consider to help you make the right choice.
Dark vs light rosin?
Broadly speaking, rosin is divided into two different kinds, light and dark. Both are made from tree resin, the difference being the time of year at which it’s collected. Light rosin is from sap collected in the summer, whilst dark rosin is collected in wintertime.
Light rosin is generally a paler honey-gold shade. It’s harder and less sticky than dark rosin. Some people consider it to be a good choice for smaller stringed instruments, including the violin. And it will work particularly well on the higher, thinner A and E strings.
Dark rosin is more of an amber shade – with the exception of the Jade brand, which is dark green. It’s softer and stickier than its lighter counterpart. That makes it a good choice for cellos, though some violinists may prefer it too.
Note that whether dark or light, the performance of rosin can vary significantly depending on environmental factors.
In hot and humid locations, dark rosin can become too sticky. And if you’re in a cold area, light rosin can become very brittle.
Block or cake?
The next question to consider is whether you prefer your rosin in a round cake or rectangular block. Generally speaking, blocks are less expensive than cakes.
The advantage of a cake is that you can turn it easily to keep the surface level, That means you can use pretty much the whole cake, so it will last for years. The disadvantage is that it can be easy for your bow to slip as you’re applying the rosin.
With a rectangular block, on the other hand, your bow will soon wear a channel in the surface. That will keep your bow secure as you apply the rosin.
But it does mean you’ll waste a bit of it on either side of the channel. And if you’re not careful, you can catch your bowstrings between the rosin and the edge of the holder.
Rosin is very fragile stuff, so packaging is important. It is possible to heat up broken rosin and glue it together, but it’s a pain. And it will make a mess when it shatters.
So look for hard cases or pouches that will help absorb the impact of bumps and knocks.
And make sure that you’ll be able to apply the rosin easily to your bow. If you’re buying a rosin cake, look for options that are attached to protective cloths. And if you’re looking for a block, choose one that has plastic sides to help you get a grip.
Test out brands before you commit
Because of the impact climate will have on your rosin, it’s a good idea to start small. Buy a single rosin and test it before you commit to buying more.
Even a small block will last a long time. So no matter how inexpensive it is, don’t invest in a multi-pack before you’re sure it’s the one for you. You’ll either have to waste it by throwing it out, or you’ll be using it for decades, praying it will break!
Don’t be afraid to experiment. The good news is that even expensive rosins don’t cost very much. Why not try out a few and see which you feel sounds best with your instrument?
Ready to choose your rosin?
That brings us to the end of our review of seven of the best violin rosins out there. We hope we’ve helped you in the quest for perfect tone!