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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Is this normal? A bow question.


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.fiddlehangout.com/archive/54853

doryman - Posted - 03/02/2021:  19:52:17


I've been playing fiddle for about a 14 months now. Recently...the last couple of months or so...I've noticed something different going on with my bow (or maybe I just didn't know enough to notice this at first). When I first start playing at the beginning of the day, or after a few hours of not playing, the bow is very slick on the strings and doesn't make much sound unless I press hard and, even then, it does not sound so good. It sounds like the bow need rosin. And if I put some rosin on, it does sound better. But I worry about using too much rosin.

Now here's the thing, if I don't put any rosin on and just play, after about ten to fifteen minutes, the bow is perfect on the strings, perfect amount of grip and a great sound. Is this a thing? Does rosin sitting on the bow and/or strings have to get warmed up, worked in or, loosed up for a few minutes before it takes?

Another thing, I've had this particular bow for about eight months and I have not changed hairs (and I practice for at least a couple hours a day)...so I'm also wondering if this initial slickness I'm experiencing has something to do with worn out hairs.

Advice and thoughts?

Lonesome Fiddler - Posted - 03/02/2021:  23:19:28


For a long time, I was in an old time fiddle band with a woman who played viola in Hollywood film orchestras and her husband, who played the bass violin with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. Yeah, and once he scored me free tix to one of his Bowl performances. Whatever the general consensus may be in the Old Time scene, those two really piled the rosin on. The wife, BTW, played the fiddle when we were jamming, not the instrument she was making a living with. Were they making it so they'd be able to get through an entire symphony or recording session without re-rosining? I never got around to asking them. I just watched them rosining until the cows came home. BTW, they were good people and excellent players.

groundhogpeggy - Posted - 03/03/2021:  04:39:05


Possibly rosin build up on the strings? It can cause the same skating bow as not enough rosin, and possibly once you start playing, the build up gets onto the bow? Stab in the dark guess here.

DougBrock - Posted - 03/03/2021:  06:52:56


Resin is still a mystery to me, lol. (I’ve been playing since December, so lots to learn.) I have head that speed and pressure do heat up rosin, so maybe that's happening?



I have heard that most folks should only resin the bow every week or so. It depends on how much you play. At first I was resining every day (thinking that was normal), but my bows do seem to be happier with less resin than with more.


Edited by - DougBrock on 03/03/2021 07:03:15

ChickenMan - Posted - 03/03/2021:  06:58:22


Viola and bass are not the same as violin, just saying.

Your situation doesn't seem that weird to me as you probably over rosin your bow (like most beginners). I suggest wiping your strings once and a while. Just enough rosin is better than too much. I rarely, like once a month, rosin. In that month I also won't wipe the strings much. Occasionally I'll wipe my bow hair AND strings with a clean cloth and start over.

Flat_the_3rd_n7th - Posted - 03/03/2021:  07:40:19


I don't know about the chemistry, but I always have to warm up. I don't sound the same right out of the box as 10-15 minutes later. I always start with long bow exercises. Don't know about what's going on with your rig, but I would just treat it as 'warm-up' time.

BTW, if you are bowing too close to the bridge, it will behave as you say unless you apply more pressure and slow bow speed. Opposite for too far from the bridge.

doryman - Posted - 03/03/2021:  10:02:32


quote:

Originally posted by groundhogpeggy

Possibly rosin build up on the strings? It can cause the same skating bow as not enough rosin, and possibly once you start playing, the build up gets onto the bow? Stab in the dark guess here.






This is a good theory.  I'll try really cleaning my strings and see how that goes.  Also, "skating bow" is a good descriptor, that is exactly how it feels. 

doryman - Posted - 03/03/2021:  10:05:04


quote:

Originally posted by ChickenMan





Your situation doesn't seem that weird to me as you probably over rosin your bow (like most beginners). I suggest wiping your strings once and a while. Just enough rosin is better than too much. I rarely, like once a month, rosin. In that month I also won't wipe the strings much. Occasionally I'll wipe my bow hair AND strings with a clean cloth and start over.






I rosin my bow every day and I almost never wipe my strings!  I don't know what the hell I'm doing.  


Edited by - doryman on 03/03/2021 10:05:43

Lonesome Fiddler - Posted - 03/03/2021:  13:04:59


I like having a decent amount of rosin on my bow. I maybe use four or five strokes of rosin (one way strokes not back n' forth strokes) before I first pick up the fiddle that day. It's something that allows me to find good volume & tone from a stroke that is, how do I put it, just firm enough to avoid skitteryness & scratchiness.

ChickenMan - Posted - 03/03/2021:  14:51:27


quote:

Originally posted by doryman

quote:



I rosin my bow every day and I almost never wipe my strings!  I don't know what the hell I'm doing.  






I was the same way. For. Years. smiley

Snafu - Posted - 03/04/2021:  05:52:12


John,



A few questions if you don’t mind will help to get you a solution. And FWIW whiskey really is a solution that has resolved many a fiddlers dilemma!



Cleaning strings - removing the rosin build up is sometimes necessary. I do this by cutting a groove in a real cork (not the kind made from glued together bits of cork) and rub it on the strings. It gets all the rosin off without harming the string.



Strings - are you using steel or synthetic strings? Is the skipping more pronounced on one string, say the E string. What brand of strings are you using?



Rosin - Some may disagree but the rosin brand and type (light v dark) can be significant. Some rosins work best in warm, humid conditions and others best is dry air conditions. What rosin are you using?



Bow - you said it was new so I take that to mean it came to you unrosined. Correct? How did you rosin it up to use it?


Edited by - Snafu on 03/04/2021 05:54:08

The Violin Beautiful - Posted - 03/04/2021:  08:24:16


Rosin works by becoming fluid when it’s heated. When you draw your bow across the string, the friction heats the rosin just enough to make it sticky, which makes the string snap over and over to produce a tone.

When the hair is new, it takes a lot more rosin to get it going the first time. After that, the frequency of rosining depends on the amount of playing you do. It doesn’t take much to get it working well again. Over-rosining makes the bow stop working well and increases the mess.

Keep the rosin wiped off the strings, instrument, and bow. It’ll keep all of them in better working order and will save you a lot of trouble in the long run. Use only a dry cloth to clean after playing each time. Do NOT use solvents or cork—they can destroy the strings.

Make sure the bow hair is kept
clean. If you touch the hair, the oils from your hands will contaminate the hair. Once it’s oily, hair stops picking rosin up.

ChickenMan - Posted - 03/04/2021:  10:41:32


Don't use a cork. Bad advise that continues to circulate and likely won't stop anytime soon, but as Rich says, it will damage your strings, even if you can't see the damage (because it is a very tiny thin string with even tinier windings.

Snafu - Posted - 03/04/2021:  13:07:44


Using cork to get rosin build up off strings was suggested to me by a fiddle player with 40+ years of experience at a jam. I have been doing it about once per month for the last 2.5 years on my set of dominant strings. No issue what so ever. Still using them. Before that I got over 2 years out of a set of Obligato strings using the same technique. Maybe it depends on the string being used, steel v perlon core? I’m open to thoughts because good fiddle strings go for north of $50/set.

Anyway this works for me and I know of other fiddle players who use the same technique. The cork I use is real cork from the bark of a cork tree. It is very soft and squishy, like a gummy bear candy, not from a wine bottle.

doryman - Posted - 03/04/2021:  13:36:54


quote:

Originally posted by Snafu

John,



A few questions if you don’t mind will help to get you a solution. And FWIW whiskey really is a solution that has resolved many a fiddlers dilemma!



Cleaning strings - removing the rosin build up is sometimes necessary. I do this by cutting a groove in a real cork (not the kind made from glued together bits of cork) and rub it on the strings. It gets all the rosin off without harming the string.



Strings - are you using steel or synthetic strings? Is the skipping more pronounced on one string, say the E string. What brand of strings are you using?



Rosin - Some may disagree but the rosin brand and type (light v dark) can be significant. Some rosins work best in warm, humid conditions and others best is dry air conditions. What rosin are you using?



Bow - you said it was new so I take that to mean it came to you unrosined. Correct? How did you rosin it up to use it?






I have Thomastik dominant strings on one fiddle and Helicore steel strings on the other.  Warchal Amber E on both.  The issue is the same on both sets of strings and the same for strings within a set. 



I'm not sure of the brand of rosin that I'm using,  in fact, I probably mix brands depending upon what rosin my daughter has taken from me after she loses hers, for the 100th time. 



I cannot recall how I first rosined the bow.  I'm pretty sure that I just rubbed some rosin on it without any thought.  It worked great for six months. 



With regards to Whiskey, for me it is a zero sum game.  It has resolved as many dilemmas as it has caused.  And I guess that's better that for some folks, so I'm not complaining. 

Snafu - Posted - 03/04/2021:  15:06:47


John,

The scientific approach is to limit the variables: since this is something that has started in the last few months the question is what is different?

I perceive it as a rosin-humidity issue since winter brings on low humidity conditions. Also some rosins don’t play nice with other formulations so mixing them might be a cause of your problem. My suggestion is to get a cake of a good rosin and use only it. D’addario Kaplan makes a cake that goes for $8.50 each. Next, I would clean the bow hairs and strings of all the current rosin (search for suggestions on methods) and reapply the new rosin.

ChickenMan - Posted - 03/04/2021:  16:40:30


From Warchal



Cleaning rosin build up (w/string close ups)



Using a cork



I used to use a cork and wiped with alcohol too. These two pages changed that. The second page is linked in the first

groundhogpeggy - Posted - 03/04/2021:  18:23:27


I find a shirt tail works great for removing rosin buildup on the strings...or if you tuck your shirt tail or are wearing a sweater, then jeans work great too. Once you see the little stripes left by the strings, you know you've got clean strings once again.

doryman - Posted - 03/04/2021:  20:18:34


So, I cleaned my strings with a simple dry cloth. There was A LOT of resin on my strings and it came right off. It did not fix the issue with the skating bow when I first start playing...but WOW do my strings and my violin sound much, much better. I honestly didn't know to start with clean strings. I thought having some rosin on there from the get go would be giving me head start!

old cowboy - Posted - 03/05/2021:  02:16:18


You can get Rosin build up on your strings and this will cause slipping of the bow. Keep a rag near by and wipe the strings regularly. I know of a man who plays professionally in an orchestra around the world and he says the same as I think, no such thing as too much rosin on the bow! I rosin every time I play. I am no expert by a long ways. But I been around bluegrass music all my life. Show me a good fiddler and I will show you rosin a flying! This same man who plays professionally says he never cleans the bow hairs!

groundhogpeggy - Posted - 03/05/2021:  04:49:11


I don't know this for a fact, but I'm guessing a lot of people use too much rosin until they finally get tired of getting it back off the strings everytime they play. It might depend on climate, what or how you play or how long you play or what kind of rosin, etc., I don't know, but in my own case I've evolved to using a lot less rosin over the years since I started playing. To me, in my limited and amateur experience...skating bow=too much rosin built up. Scooting bow=not enough rosin on the bow. Obviously not scientific terms...lol...but it you know what I mean...good...if not...sorry...lol. It's just my own experience, for whatever it's worth.

groundhogpeggy - Posted - 03/05/2021:  04:50:40


Oh and forgot to add...the most important one...gliding bow=just right.

TuneWeaver - Posted - 03/05/2021:  05:18:47


A 'skating' bow can be caused by holding the bow too tightly at the frog.



 


Edited by - TuneWeaver on 03/05/2021 05:22:51

UsuallyPickin - Posted - 03/05/2021:  05:32:38


Well ... you have touch . Which effects every aspect of bowing. It differs from fiddler to fiddler. Some rosin types do not mix well. Fiber core strings can have problems from cleaning with alcohol, steel strings don't seem to have any issues. Rosin can be overused but it is difficult to do so with a harder rosin. Opinions vary on just about everything and fiddling is no different. All any of us may do is find what works with the music we want to play and keep on keepin` on. Slainte`

doryman - Posted - 03/05/2021:  08:18:43


quote:

Originally posted by Snafu

John,



The scientific approach is to limit the variables: since this is something that has started in the last few months the question is what is different?

 








Jim,  the scientific approach also demands independent replication to reduce variance and see the signal through the noise.  So, my take on all this is that you're telling me to buy more fiddles!  I knew I wouldn't be sorry for posting my question here!

DougD - Posted - 03/05/2021:  08:42:11


Not more fiddles - that's crazy talk! I'd take his actual advice and buy a good cake of rosin that works well in the winter. Kaplan is probably fine, and lots of people used to use Hill dark. I've also had good luck with Pirastro Oliv.

alaskafiddler - Posted - 03/05/2021:  16:28:17


Not sure about humidity, but rosin attracts particulates in the air... dust, oils, and stuff people breath out. Those particulate molecules can form a slight layer on top of rosin on strings or bow hair; interfering with good grabbing ability. A similar comparison is like how the exposed end of sticky tape roll becomes less sticky.



As well those particulates can interfere with rosin stick to the bow. One thing I read (can't recall the link)... most of us use too much rosin; when that slippage happens, the goto adding more rosin can make the issue worse in long term. It pointed out very little rosin is needed, if strings/hair kept clean.



 

alaskafiddler - Posted - 03/05/2021:  17:04:39


if I don't put any rosin on and just play, after about ten to fifteen minutes, the bow is perfect on the strings, perfect amount of grip and a great sound. Is this a thing?



The comment,  and ten to fifteen minutes gives me idea, as others mentioned, what you are noticing might have to do with warming up. Not the temperature of rosin, as that should happen quickly.



Finding or re-finding the zone; sweet spot, just right adjustments to pressure and balance; and perhaps confidence (bows slip and tone are also affected with timidness). Need bit of time to get that adjusting... esp as beginners.  With experience, that time can get quicker; but many folks still find doing some of those warm up exercises as helpful... rather than just diving in.



 

doryman - Posted - 03/07/2021:  18:53:57


quote:

Originally posted by DougD

Not more fiddles - that's crazy talk! I'd take his actual advice and buy a good cake of rosin that works well in the winter. Kaplan is probably fine, and lots of people used to use Hill dark. I've also had good luck with Pirastro Oliv.






I bought a cake of Pirastro Oliv on your recommendation.  Instant fix!  Also it sounds and plays wonderfully.  Also, I think my fiddle is louder now.  Thanks!

Snafu - Posted - 03/07/2021:  19:48:28


My fiddle from Kennedy came with a cake of Pirastro Oliv rosin and and I used it without problems for the first five years. I was hesitant to recommend it because it is kind of pricey but it performs excellently in dry and humid conditions and it is low dusting.

I put my name on the Baker rosin waiting list and after a two year wait the opportunity came up and I bought a cake of each type of Baker rosin. The Baker rosin is, in my experience, superior to the oliv. Almost no dust, not sensitive to humidity variations and excellent performance on Dominant strings and I only need to apply rosin every few weeks. The downside is bakers is very expensive but I expect 5-6 years from the cake.

DougD - Posted - 03/09/2021:  06:11:06


Glad its working for you, John. Sorry I hadn't realized it was so expensive - I haven't bought any in quite awhile. It should last a long time though.
Rosin's kind if quirky because it depends on the bow, instrument, and player's taste, but generally darker rosins do well in the winter when the humidity is low.
Funny, I have five violins, and in each case is a different brand of rosin! I would go to my luthier's shop for something else, remember I needed rosin, and buy whatever he had in stock or was keen on at the time. They all work pretty well though.

doryman - Posted - 03/09/2021:  21:23:00


quote:

Originally posted by DougD

Glad its working for you, John. Sorry I hadn't realized it was so expensive - I haven't bought any in quite awhile. It should last a long time though.

 






Not to worry Doug.  I play banjo in a gigging band and, pre-covid, I made tens of dollars every year, so I can afford to buy some fancy rosin now and again. 



 

BetteB - Posted - 04/11/2021:  18:26:31


Interesting reading all the views on rosin. Years ago when I was at a fiddle camp, the instructor (a professional and awesome fiddler) said I had too much rosin on the bow and wiped the extra onto his shorts. Since then, I try to do 1-2 swipes and let that go. And clean my strings with a dry microfiber cloth, only where the bowing takes place.

I also clean the part of the strings that meet my fingers, with a cleaner for guitar strings. That can get the oil from your fingers off that part of the strings, and open up the sound.

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