David Bowie
March 17, 2008 11:57 AM   Subscribe

Bass player. Long time pizzicato, first time arco. What do I need to know about my bow, specifically regarding rosin?

I have played bass for 15+ years, with almost no formal teaching - mostly electric bass guitar.

A few months ago, I invested in an electric upright bass - which is really freakin' awesome, and has added a new dimension to my playing style.

In the spirit of exploration, I picked up an inexpensive bass bow on ebay - although I am sorely lacking some practical/technical knowledge on how to use it.

So my main question...do I *need* to rosin the bow? Will the rosin leave gunky residue on my bass strings? Any other tips or techniques would be greatly appreciated.
posted by gnutron to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Yes, you need rosin. Without it, there's no drag, and thus no sound. It will leave some dust beneath your strings, depending on the type of resin you use. Technique very much depends on whether you have a German or French bow. The former has a relatively large grip, and would be held in a kind of sideways shaka gesture. The latter is just a slightly heavier version of violin/viola/cello bows.
posted by mumkin at 12:09 PM on March 17, 2008

I'd imagine it's the same as violin, in which case, yes, rosin is essential. It gives the hairs on the bow grip, which lets them nove your strings-- beautiful sound is then hopefully produced.

I never noticed any buildup on my strings, only rosin dust appearing on the body-work, which was easy to clean up (usually did it when changing strings).
posted by Static Vagabond at 12:10 PM on March 17, 2008

nove is a technical term for move.. honest.
posted by Static Vagabond at 12:11 PM on March 17, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks mumkin! FWIW, I have a french bow.
posted by gnutron at 12:12 PM on March 17, 2008

Best answer: As others have said, yes you need rosin. Your strings will need to be wiped down from time to time as the rosin will build up on them.

Also, if this is your first experience with a bow, make sure you don't over tighten the hairs; you can crack the bow or pull the hairs loose. You will lose a hair or two from time to time, but that's no big deal.
posted by MasonDixon at 12:33 PM on March 17, 2008

I've used Pop's Rosin for years but some find it too sticky. Most pros I know these days go with Nyman.
posted by sourwookie at 12:42 PM on March 17, 2008

Best answer: By the way, Upton Bass has nice descriptions of most of the rosin they sell, which may help you to select one apropos to your (intended) playing style/conditions. Pops is an easy-to-find (but also very sticky) product. I used it long ago, because my first instructor was an adherent, but switched to Carlsson and was much more satisfied, personally. As for technique... well, try to bow perpendicular to the bridge. Go easy on the rosin: too much is bad, as you don't want the bow actually catching. You'll know when you have too much, and can burn some of it off with some heavy, aggressive playing on your E string. Golly... serious technique questions are probably best answered by an instructor or video. I assume that you're not playing classical, which is all I have experience with. It could certainly never hurt to practice long, full strokes from frog to tip and back, to be able to get nice long multi-bar tied whole notes and polished legato chops. Being able to bow inch-long runs of sixteenth notes, played entirely with the wrist (as opposed to moving your bow-arm) is also probably desirable.

Oh, and yeah, pursuant to MasonDixon's warning against overtightening, do loosen your bow when you're done playing. Not lots and lots, but enough that it's not under strong tension. Maybe just enough that the hair can come into contact with the stick, if you pinched it. It should still look like a ribbon.
posted by mumkin at 12:42 PM on March 17, 2008

Pop's will gunk-the-hell out of your strings.
posted by sourwookie at 12:43 PM on March 17, 2008

I was a Pop's guy, back when I played. It is the runniest, stickiest shit around - a little dab'l do ya, but it is anything if not effective.

And, if I remember, cheap.
posted by plaidrabbit at 1:08 PM on March 17, 2008

Pops and Carlson are the big ones, from memory.

Funny story about pops. It's very sticky. My friend took lessons with this old dude bass player named Lucas Drew who is quite well known (did a lot of editing of bass music). They lived in Florida. Lucas Drew had a thing of pops rosin on the dashboard of his car (why? I don't know). It's a blazing hot day. Anyway, he goes into a store and somehow the rosin tips over without him knowing it. He comes back. There is no rosin in the container. No rosin on the dashboard. But the radio doesn't work.

Anyway, you could call up David Gage in NY and ask for Sam and ask him for advice for rosin. He can tell you what's hip these days...they sell to all the NY orchestras, so you'll be all set. Davidgage.com
posted by sully75 at 1:20 PM on March 17, 2008

Holding the bow correctly is really important. If you can get anyone to show you how to do it right, you'll be much better off in the long run. The right grip will give you the flexibility to use the entire length of the bow while keeping it perpendicular to the strings and the power to blast it out when you need to.

And, as mumkin said, don't over-rosin. Or do - it's not harmful, and you'll know what it feels and sounds like. Too much will limit your control over the bass by catching and sticking.
posted by svolix at 1:24 PM on March 17, 2008

There are also differences among rosins - darker ones are harder, lighter ones more "runny" and sticky. The type you use is fairly dependent upon the weather and how humid your playing environment is. That said, use a few types and see which one suits you best.

Generally, after playing, it's good practice to wipe down your strings due to build up - you can feel a difference over time if you haven't, and can adversely affect the strings. If you need to do a hardcore rosin build-up removal, I suggest wiping down with very little alcohol. Then they're practically good as new.
posted by chan.caro at 1:51 PM on March 17, 2008

FWIW, I switched from Pops to Carlson back in 1995.

The only other thing that, in my scan over the answers, I feel I could contribute to this thread is to remind you to loosen your bow when you're not using it. And use real horsehair, not that synthetic stuff.
posted by billtron at 2:01 PM on March 17, 2008

As for technique... well, try to bow perpendicular to the bridge.

What the hell am I saying? Please, bow parallel to the bridge, perpendicular to the strings. It works so much better that way.
posted by mumkin at 2:47 PM on March 17, 2008

« Older Is the money supply contracting, or expanding?   |   ASP Development question: Install a printer on the... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.