Upright Bass Rosin
anyone playing the upright bass (and uses a bow) it can get really
confusing when it comes to choosing a good bass rosin. There are a
few 'old mainstay' (et al, reliable) rosins that work and there are
all also a lot of different rosins out there that quickly make a
player crazy trying which to decide on.
Let's go through a few basic principles of rosin and more
directly, BASS rosin. What's the difference you ask?
Bass rosin tends to be made so that the rosin is stickier/softer than it's
violin family relatives, like the violin, viola and cello. One
of the first elements in choosing the right rosin, is the climate.
A lot of the time, one brand of rosin may work well all year round.
Some climates that have super hot and humid summers and then
extremely cold and dry winters, may require a completely different
brand that will work according to the season. In other words, it's
ok to have and use two different brands of rosin depending on the
time of year or season.
We may try and dissuade a player ordering Soft Kolstein
bass rosin, during say, mid July, in Miami, Florida!!
(Same goes with the newer brand, Wiedoeft rosin.) In fact, maybe
we'd even keep this player away from the soft rosin entirely for
that climate and location. (All Weather is good then in the
summer.) Most that know about Pops rosin will quickly
admit it is pretty soft stuff. (Kolsteins Soft...is even
softer yet!) Still though some rosin recipes will actually
tolerate a bit of humidity and heat better than others. Nymans or
Carlsson tends to do ok in the summers as well. Other experienced
players, just know how it feels that day and whether to go on it
light or heavy. Putting too much bass rosin on can ruin hair
quickly. I would always advise to add rosin in small
increments. You can always add more, but it is hard to
undo too much rosin once it is the bow hair. Most of the
following bass rosins, come poured in some kind of peelable wax
paper cup or tin. (Hard rosins, say for a violin, rarely
need a cup and just come in cloth wrapping.)
Lastly, keep in mind the 'fresh' rosin is super
important for bass playing. A few years ago, one of the most
popular rosin brands decided to stamp a 'born on date' onto their
rosin. This way, (they thought) would be a great idea so that
customers walking into their town violin shop (or bass shop!) would
appreciate knowing that it was fresh. That turned out to be a
disaster for everyone because most shops do not sell a lot of bass
rosin and typically, it would just sit in their showcases for months
and months (even longer). The shops didn't like that
date, because then their customers would know how old it actually
was (or wasn't!)
We here at String Emporium sell at such incredible volumes that
we never have to worry and in most all cases, we buy directly from
the maker(s) and not a distributor. Doing it this way we have
far better chances of getting the best, most recently produced.
'Fresh' is key!
Here is a quick link to our
Top professional, recommended brands for Bass
||Pros and cons
|Pops rosin is easily the
best selling and most popular bass rosin in the world. It
comes in the unmistakable red plastic container and is
consistently good, reliable rosin. It is popular because it
often works just about everywhere.
rosin works and after you put it on, you're good almost for
the whole session, if not the whole day. It tends to stay
consistent on your bow. Cons: Be careful and don't over do
it. Just a little can go a long way. (Sometimes if you
want more "pop" on the isolated area where you are playing
(like an orchestra kind of spicatto) on the bow, it's ok
just to put a little extra on that area that it is being
played on, rather than the whole bow. This way, your hair
won't collect (un-used) rosin over time and will last
longer. Also, sensitive players think that sometimes the
Pops will 'coat' or interfere with the tone between the hair
and string. (see solo rosin) This is why some keep a bow
strictly for orchestra and one for solo work. What if you
have new hair and it gets 'glossed' over with too much
How to clean bass bow hair.
Wiedoeft rosin just came
out (in late spring, 2018) It's somewhat similar to
Kolsteins and Pops rosin. It comes in this rubber latex
Needed improvement: They should certainly
This to us, is a softer type
rosin. Nothing like a Carlsson or Nymans. It falls in
between Pop's and Kolstein Soft, with it leaning a tad
closer to the K.Soft side and feel. It grabs like crazy and
will not 'cool off' like Kolstein might. By
we mean that somtimes the Kolstein's will feel just great at
first, but then 15 minutes later, that super grab tends to
dicipate a bit. With the Wiedoeft, it stays far longer.
Also, we find that with Pop's rosin, it too stays more
consistant, without too much of a 'cool off'. While it is
early on (just came out), we would say this is not a rosin
to use in the summers in most parts of the USA. Also, with
this rosin, the old saying, "Less is More!" comes to mind.
Especially this one,
use it sparingly
until you get a good feel for how
Nymans or Carlssons
|Why did we put these two
brands in the same box? Because they are the same exact
recipe. If there is someone out there that can 'just tell'
the difference, I will would only point to a possible
freshness date or vat. Same company, same recipe, same
rosin! I like the Carlsson because if has the nicer plastic
canister with a snap on lid. (Like the Pops has.)
||These two rosins also do
really well through out the year and also reliable, popular
rosins. They are not as soft as the Pops and there is less
risk of hair glossing. Sometimes they can 'cool off' a bit
after a break and might take a little more playing to get
them going or a little more put on.
||We sell a lot of this
stuff! It's good rosin. Just about everyone in the world
get's cold, dry wintery weather at some point of the year
and when your Pops or Carlsson/Nymans won't get it done,
perhaps the Kolstein Soft will work. Be careful with this
stuff, the softer you go, the more risk to 'glossing' the
||Again, in the cold, dry
winter, this rosin seems to really grab. We've noticed that
it's great to apply (on the stage) before you start playing.
I like to put it on just before I play the concert when I
know that I am going to be going for the next hour or
so.Don't use this in the summer and easy does it (even in
winter) especially with new bow hair. When it is only 10%
humidity and cold, this will work when no other rosin will.
|Kolstein All Weather
||Good Marketing! It's
less soft than their "Soft".
||The All Weather stuff is
just a harder rosin than Kolstein's Soft. So it is less
risky to use in hotter, more humid climates. Not so great
when it is cold and dry outside. We (players) here, like to
use this brand more the first few days after a re-hair
because the hair will have a better chance of NOT getting
too waxy or glossed over at first. Then later, after the
hair is more 'broken in', you can switch to a more softer
brand if you like.
||Leatherwood Bespoke has
a range of softness (it is super soft) to very hard: the
softest at 60% to the hardest, 20%. Meant for using just
one, or blended together with another to combine different
traits. There is a page dedicated for
Leatherwood Bass Rosin.
||This is new (June, 2019)
and the jury is still out on this rosin. It can sometimes
be difficult knowing or using just the right consistency of
any rosin or during the seasonal changes throughout the
year. So,when ordering you can choose one super hard, one
soft and then blend them together accordingly. With such a
range of hardness to soft, the possibilities and
combinations are endless.
What about age and freshness? Ok, here is where I give
our little spiel about freshness and not being a cheapskate! I can
remember when I was in (high school and college) I thought that as
long as I still had any rosin left, it was fine to use.
Because we are always trying out new bows here, I can wholeheartedly
attest that freshness is the most important key component of any of
the softer bass rosins.
Always order your new rosin from a bass specialist. Pops rosin
used to have a born date (when made) so that folks can see and know
how fresh it was. I think Pops was honest to do that, but
also, most shops didn't like that because they'd end up buying too
much or not selling it fast enough. People were checking those
dates!! The dates have now disappeared from them again.
Most of the soft (Pops, Carlsson, Nymans and Kolsteins) should be
replaced about once a year.
As a professional, I buy new rosin at least once a year.
One cake of rosin is way cheaper than a re-hair and so much easier.
You can really hear and feel the difference. For folks buying
new bows with us I will almost always insist on sending out some
kind of new and fresh rosin. Why put old, dry, scratchy rosin on a
new, good bow?
About hard rosins. You may have read (in the Pop's
Pros and Cons) about some players keeping a bow for orchestra and
another one, for strict solo playing. The orchestra bow using one of
the typical bass rosins and for the solo playing, using a harder
rosin. Violin or Cello rosins are made in a harder formula.
Anyone that has just gotten a new re-hair on their bow, can attest
that the tone is more apparent, more pure at first while the hair is
new and before a lot of the waxy bass rosin goes into the hair.
As orchestra players we want 'big', 'full' and loud. I also
want the bow to 'speak' (I want a nice 'machine gun' spicatto).
The trade off is less contact between hair and string, where the
rosin helps grab the string, it also covers the tone. For
strict solo playing, (like a Bach Cello suite), using the cello or
violin rosin, will allow the bow to be more even throughout the
whole stick. There are some definite differences between the two
types of rosins, but again, it is hard to notice if you already have
used bass rosin already on your bow and then trying out the
cello/violin rosin. Maybe the next time you get your bow
re-haired, it might be fun to try this experiment and use some cello
rosin the first couple of days. All the more reason to be
nicer to the 'upper string' people around you so that you can borrow
and try their rosin first!
Popular violin, viola and cello rosins: Bernadel
(cheap and it works), Hill light or dark. The 'darker'
rosins tend to be softer, but still very hard for a bass bow.
A great site to find these other hard rosins:
https://www.viola-strings.com/rosin.php or another site,
Get the 'dark', it will still be much harder than any other bass
rosin. Don't buy these hard rosins if you
are going to play or use your bow in an orchestra and only using one
bow. The harder rosins are not enough to make it work with the
real power that you'll need.
In general most people want and need that bass string to really
vibrate and for the bow to quickly grab the string. As with
anything, a little trial and error will help you decide which kinds
of rosin you like to use and why. While it is hard to use just
any one kind of rosin year 'round, it's fun to pick up a 2nd,
different bass rosin, for spikes in the weather seasons and whatever
the case may be or brand you choose, newer, fresher rosin will
always be better.