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Is it bowing, rosing, the strings? What is my problem?
I am asking for input on a scratchy sound thag has krept up.
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cid
February 4, 2019 - 7:59 am
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Proper rosining really has me confused. My last lesson, two weeks ago, my instructor said that I am rosining too much when I told her I thought my sound was scratchy, and it is really bothersome to me because I am trying to get a nice smooth sound. She gave me her bow, she uses the same rosin that I use, and it did not sound as scratchy, and was so easy to bow with, and she played off a lot of my rosin. 

When I played her bow, the sound was so much better, as what happened the first time I played with her bow. What she did not explain, and didn’t when I took cello from her years ago, was how much rosin to use. When I use less rosin  my bow is sliding all over my strings. I have a few theories I want to pass by you people and see what you think.

  1. It is too much rosin and when I am using less, I am using too little, keep in mind, when I use less, as stated, my bow is sliding all over. Also, I am not getting much sound and it is still a bit scratchy. I think the scratchy is because it is sliding all around and hitting strings at an angle.
  2. It is my bows compared to my instructor’s? It does not matter which of my bows I use, but I have a better time with my heavy viola bows. But my instructor’s bow is lovely.
  3. It is my strings? I have my beautiful Obligato strings on my violin. I love the mellow sound, when they are not scratchy. But, I do not recall this happening when I did not have Obligatos. There were Dominants on it when I bought it. They kept getting out of tune about three weeks to a month ago, so I changed them and decided to try the wonderful mellow Obligatos. I don’t recall this issue before the string change. Maybe I have issues bowing on Obligatos? Do strings make a difference in your bow? Maybe my bows, much less expensive than my instructor’s that I had used. Could the Obligatos like her bow better? Her bow also feels so much better in my hand, but it is rather expensive. I used it on my Dominants, too, and it was lovely.

I am tempted to put the Dominants back on, but keeping that wonderful Obligato Gold E string, and seeing what happens. I get nervous with that pesky bridge when I change strings. I know I won’t get it right if it tips over. But, maybe it is worth giving it a shot? But if the Dominants keep getting out of tune, what would be the point? 

I have some inexpensive strings I could out on and try with, but are the real inexpensive strings going to cause issues like I currently have and it would cause me to think it is my rosining? 

I really want to get this rosining and scratchy bow issue and scratchy issue sorted out. Actually, I think I need to so that I can figure out more about bowing. I wish that I was not so sensitive to sounds like this. I do not have perfect pitch, but things like this really stick out to me and really,bother me when I am doing it when playing an instrument.

She told me my bowing was wonderful before this issue. Now, because I have been trying to sort this out, I am stiffening up trying to keep my bow from sliding around.

Thanks for any thoughts on the matter.

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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Irv
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February 4, 2019 - 8:20 am
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Hi @cid and others.  Please be more specific regarding your perception of “sliding all over the place.”  The utility of rosin is to provide sound, and not bow traction control across the strings.  Are you sliding with or without sound?  If with sound, the rosin is providing utility.

I would start by rubbing down the strings with a micro fiber cloth and removing stubborn clots of rosin with the edge of a credit card.  Rosin the bow only a few swipes along its extent when bowing results in deminished sound production (once or twice a week, perhaps).  Do not touch the hairs on the bow with your fingers, since skin oils will indeed provide a slippery bow that defies control.

Type of rosin is a topic upon reams have been expended.  Avoid the cheapest and do not be lured by the claims of the most expensive (gold infused and the like).

Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.  —Werner von Braun

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Experience is a difficult teacher, it gives the test first and the lesson after.

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wtw
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February 4, 2019 - 8:24 am
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Hi,

Is it a hissing sound you're hearing, like the bow gliding on the strings and not gripping them properly ?

If your teacher is saying you're rosining too much she's probably right. From here it's hard to tell. Can you tell us
- how often you rosin your bow (how many hours of playing between two rosinings),
- and how much (how many full-length swipes of the bow on the cake each time) ?

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Gordon Shumway
London, England
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February 4, 2019 - 8:58 am
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If you over-rosin the bow, you can wipe it off on a cloth. With darker, stickier rosin you can feel it still on the bow if you touch the hairs, so you know you haven't wiped it all off. I don't know if light rosin is the same.

There's a difference between the hissing you can always hear, but the audience can't, and the gritty scrunching you get when you have over-rosined the bow.

In agreement with @Irv, the cheapest rosin tends to be Chinese summer rosin (even when it pretends to be Viennese, I suspect); it's very pale and as hard as glass. Once you spend approaching $10 on any darker amber or dark rosin, there's no need to worry about your rosin. You should get a circular cake of it, and not one of those little rectangular bricks. You can then rotate it and get even wear. There's an excellent  Fiddlerman video on how to do it. Here it is: 

Andrew

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bocaholly
Boca Raton, Florida
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February 4, 2019 - 9:19 am
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Ah, our (common) eternal quest for smoother sound (most of it not having to do with rosin.)

Here are a few random experiences I've had along the way.

- I started using a super smooth rosin (Larica Gold I in the summer and now Larica Gold II in the dryer winter.) Certainly helped. I have to re-rosin (a few seconds of short stroked everywhere and then 4-5 long strokes) after 60-90 minutes but the trade-off is OK. 

- In my quest for less irritating sound, I unfortunately got in the habit of not letting the weight of my arm allow the bow to sink into the strings. When I worked on my chinrest / shoulder rest set-up with Felix at Fiddlershop for a few sessions, he gave me some exercises to overcome this reticence. The sound was alarming but the change in technique was absolutely necessary. Whenever I repeat this exercise (basically: repeated heavy and very fast bow strokes with inordinate pressure - first on the bottom half of the bow, then on the top half, then the whole bow) my bow tracking in the following practice session is much improved... and over time as well. 

- To handle that "in-my-face" sound, I started using musicians' earplugs (Earrasers). Huge help. Our violins are "unfortunately" made to project to an audience, not to deliver a tame sound under our ear. I use the earplugs for normal practice too and am a much braver, happier camper for it. 

- Re: Bows themselves: I invested in a couple of relatively expensive bows, think along the lines of the Holstein pernambuco 3-star and the "beginner" Arcus M4. It definitely makes a difference under my ear. I spend a couple of hours a day plus orchestra practice  trying to learn to play violin. That's about 300 hours in 9 months. In 4-5 more months I'll be up to 450 hours. So I figure that the price of a Holstein 3-star will amortize at the rate of $1/day by early summer. exactlyBy the way, I brought some Holstein bows to my teacher to demo and she bought the 3-star for herself!

- Strings... Have used Evah Pirazzi green, Obligato, Warchal Brilliant Vintage and Warchal Timbre. On my violins, I find the Obligatos the grittiest under my ear... but also the darkest (most soulful) 🙂 A trade-off.

- Finally (long post, sigh) you could experiment with tension, both of the bow hair and the strings. When I had Obligatos on my Sima, I tried setting A = 432. I found that sound more pleasant but not practical for playing with others so back to A = 440 it went.

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DennisS
Long Valley, NJ/Hobe Sound, FL
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February 4, 2019 - 9:22 am
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Cid - I see that you are focused on the rosin as the likely culprit.  However, it is possible that the rosin is not the issue.  There is a chance that you might get better results if you focus on the amount of arm weight (not pressure) that you are putting on the strings.  Try to relax your shoulder, exhale, and let a little more weight bear on the bow and strings.  Try this with a simple piece of music that you know very well (something that you "own"), as opposed to some music that are a bit tentative with.  Hope this helps.

Dennis

If I don't have time for a short post, I'll write a long post - (adapted from Mark Twain)

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cid
February 4, 2019 - 3:18 pm
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Thanks, everyone, for your fast responses. I think it is more than one issue and one leads to the other.

Ok, will try to address questions. When it is going all over, it is sliding either up to the fingerboard, or down to the bridge, just sliding like the strings are icicles. Just the sound of the sliding is all that happens. No scratch at that point. My thinking is that there is not enough rosin when that happens. I rosin, go up and down 2 or three times. Then I no longer slide, but it sounds like gritty scratchy. Like it did when my instructor said I had too much rosin. I wipe it gently with a micro cloth and wipe my strings of rosin. Now it slides again. 

Now, in trying to get it to not sound gritty scratchy, I think that I am now stressing and tensing up. I noticed this morning, that my arm, wrist and fingers are not as loose as they were before my instructor said she like my bowing, and also after she said I had too much rosin. She noticed that after she pointed out she like my bowing, that I started to lose it. I am now thinking about it too much, and I am tightening up,  this is one reason why there will  never be a video posted. I wasn’t tensed up while trying to figure it out, just kept at it, but, now I am thinking about it, and that is never a good thing. Semi joke. What I mean is that when I think about something, I tend to break it down too much, all the time. 

The rosin I am using is Jade Cello/Viola/Violin J100M rosin, it is dark green. I have tried Pirastro Cellisto, Premium Holstein, Archetier P. Guillaume Bruxelles (the violin shop uses it and it was nice when I used their bows). I was really hoping the Permium Holstein would work for me because I absolutely love the case that it is in. So easy to use without touching the fingers.

My instructor uses the Jade, also, and I use it for my cello bows. I tried the others when I was trying to figure it out. Now Pirastro does recommend a specific rosin for these Pirastro Obligato strings, would that actually make a difference, or is it just a sales gimmick? I already had the Pirasteo Cellisto Rosin, so I tried it. 

To be clear, so I am not asked, I did clean the strings between trying the different rosin. I used a clean soft toothbrush, ever so gently. I do not touch my strings. 

I did do better this morning after taking a breath and just sitting with my arms hanging loosely, like I did right before my cello bowing fell into place. It helped, the sliding stopped, but the scratchy sound appeared. It is not like the sound when the bow goes across the strings at an angle when not properly being bowed. I know that sound. Plus, I was watching and did not see angled bowing. I am just doing a couple songs I have memorized.

So, I am thinking that maybe I will get the rosin recommended by Pirastro for Obligato strings (I want these strings to work because beyond the gritty scratch, I love the sound), I am thinking too hard causing me to tense up, have to pay attention to my rosining. 

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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AndrewH
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February 4, 2019 - 5:01 pm
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I've heard that at least some of the Pirastro rosins don't really match the strings they're sold for. Your mileage may vary, depending on your instrument.

Jade, both for me and for other users I know, is very smooth for a dark rosin, with the trade-off mentioned above for other smooth rosins (that have to rosin your bow again after less than two hours of playing). Don't be tempted to use extra rosin to extend that time. Excessive rosin will still sound gritty.

Because you're using a smooth rosin already, I don't think rosin is the problem at all unless you're using too much of it. I suspect the main issue is bow weight vs. bow pressure. A bow being pressed into the string from above tends to sound choked and gritty.

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HP
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February 4, 2019 - 5:02 pm
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The sliding is an indicator that your bowing technique is the problem. Your bow shouldn't slide on the strings, even if you have no rosin on the bow, if your technique is good. Could be a minor issue. My guess would be the arm weight since you play better with a heavier bow. 

'Armed with theory, practice becomes meaningful. Through practice, theory becomes fulfilled.' - Egon von Neindorff.

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cid
February 4, 2019 - 7:18 pm
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I am pretty sure that once my instructor mentioned she liked my bowing, I became self-conscious about it. She noticed in the lesson, and then mentioned that she noticed that after she mentioned it, I started having issues. I told her that always happens when something I am doing right is pointed out. There were two weeks between that lesson and the one before it, and I worked very specifically on my bowing and it became second nature. Once it was pointed out, I started thinking about it again. This happens all the time with me. 

I have spent the day redoing the same exercises I did during the two week break, and am getting better with my weight, movement, etc. It has been two weeks since my last lesson (again) because my last week’s lesson was cancelled, too. I had a lesson in Jan, the next week in Jan the lesson was cancelled. Then had the lesson where she mentioned my bowing. The next lesson (last week) was cancelled. I am supposed to have a lesson tomorrow. I hope she does not cancel, and I hope my bowing is not mentioned. Worked really hard today with it. I was full bowing slowly, tip, frog, middle bowing, the works. It is feeling better. My movements are smoother again, I am not tensing as much, still not to where I was so relaxed before because I am still thinking about it too much, but it did take me two weeks to get to the point where I lost it.

I hope it is not cancelled, but if it is, I save the money for another week, and will be able to have a week to hone it again. But, I hope we have it.

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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Irv
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February 4, 2019 - 9:25 pm
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Hi @cid and others.  Another thought.  @bocaholly has suggested in previous threads the placement of small segments of lead weight (original intent was for golf clubs) on the head end of the bow stick to bias the balance of the stick for more fluid tracking.  A short wrap of lead electronic solder or (more attractive) lead core fishing line should also work.

Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.  —Werner von Braun

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.         —Frank Zappa

Experience is a difficult teacher, it gives the test first and the lesson after.

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cid
February 4, 2019 - 10:20 pm
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@Irv  I actually have a bow that we wrapped the end with someting, copper tape maybe? I use it once in a while. It seems to not work so well for me now. If I am not back to where I was by the end of the day tomorrow, I will go back and put the little gripper things my husband made that helped before. I removed them when my bowing got more relaxed. Pretty sure it isn’t rosin, so will go back to those, if needed.

Thanks, everyone. You all helped me think it through.

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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bocaholly
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February 5, 2019 - 6:52 am
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Irv said
@bocaholly has suggested in previous threads the placement of small segments of lead weight (original intent was for golf clubs) on the head end of the bow stick to bias the balance of the stick for more fluid tracking. 

Full disclosure: I recently removed that lead tape from the tip of my 51gr CF bow. I think it did initially help me with the bouncing bow phenomenon but I figured the smart move was to learn to use it as the maker intended. Work in progress 🙂

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cid
February 5, 2019 - 6:59 am
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@bocaholly I agree with your thinking. 

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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Bella86
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February 8, 2019 - 6:31 pm
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Being a beginner that hasn't played regularily for MONTHS I don't feel like it's my place to give advice right now, BUT, I had problems with scratchy sound for a while which was too much rosin. But also, i cleaned off all dried up rosin on the strings with a coin AND went over my bowhair with a toothbrush to get most of it off and re-apply rosin. This made a huge difference too. 

But like others have pointed out and you have realized yourself, your sliding bow is probably you being very aware of your bowing. Only time i used to slide was in the very beginning when i was more focused on my left hand than what my right was doing.  But this also make me think that the scratchy is mostly you tensing up too. Crap sound is all I get these days because of the pain in my body and stress causing me to be extremely tense 24/7. Maybe you should try Alexander technique, it seem to help a lot of people. Or maybe you need to tell your teacher to stop pointing out the things you do well 😛

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Fiddlerman
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February 10, 2019 - 8:58 pm
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I don't think that I've ever suffered from too much rosin but I know that some people really don't like it. I suppose the "hiss" sound bothers some but for me, it's really nice to have no limit on the "grab" that I get when playing.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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