Rosin 101: A Quick-Guide to Selecting the Perfect Fit for your Instrument.

There are a few important points to consider when rosin shopping:

Light vs. Dark

  • Light rosin is hard and less sticky. Dark rosin is soft and stickier.
  • Light rosin works best in warm, humid weather. Dark rosin works best in colder, drier weather.
  • Violin and viola tend to use light rosin while cello tends to use dark rosin, but this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule (see above point about weather)
  • Bass rosin is even softer and tackier than your standard dark rosins – see below!

Precious Metals

Metal flakes are sometimes added to rosin in order to increase its static friction, creating unique tonal qualities. Gold produces a warm, clear tone and is appropriate for all instruments. It can soften a harsh-sounding instrument. Silver creates a concentrated, bright tone. It is especially good for performance in higher positions. Best suited for the violin or viola.

Copper is the most defined of all the rosin additives. It can help make playing easier for a beginner (best for 1/2- and 3/4-size instruments). Creates a very warm, almost velvety-soft tone.


Powdering from rosin is irritating to some players. Thankfully, hypo-allergenic options are available which are clear and powder-free. Super-Sensitive Clarity rosin is a great example, and it comes in fun colors!

Bass Rosin

Bass rosin is a beast unto itself. It is dark and extremely sticky. If you are a bassist, make sure to look for a bass-specific rosin.

Applying New Rosin

Before you take something sharp to that new cake of rosin – STOP! Many string players (even seasoned ones) believe it’s necessary to scratch a new cake of rosin in order to facilitate its application. However, this makes your rosin more likely to crack, crumble, or break entirely, and encourages the unwanted buildup of rosin on the body of the instrument. If you’re having trouble getting an adequate coat of rosin on a freshly-rehaired bow, the best solution is to first apply a moderate amount of upright bass rosin. A thin layer of bass rosin, which is tackier than those for violin, viola, and cello, will allow your primary rosin to better stick to the hair. KC Strings recommends using Pop’s Bass Rosin for this task.