Cover credit: Dušan Pantelić

For most years I've played the violin, I had not finished even 1 box of rosin, which was a ¥5 (~1SGD as of 2020) "Advanced Rosin" (高级松香). I have the impression that the brand was Xing Hai, after the Chinese composer who composed the music of our national anthem — but that could be wildly out of place. Anyway, with my violin, I had not developed the sensory to feel the difference rosins can make, and I didn't have access to all the different brands of rosins throughout my violin years neither.

Imagine someone, for all her adolescent years grew up with the memory that you'd look at a price range of single digits, that you can make your own rosin from pines, that one rosin will last ten years, walks into an instrument shop and says that she wants to buy a rosin.

"Sure, which type do you want?"

"Erm, there is a type?" (wondering whether the person means rosin for Erhu or the violin or the cello)

"Yah. Like do you want a dark or light rosin?"

"Aren't they all red-ish?"

"Some dark ones can be quite dark, some are lighter red, or can be gold like an amber, we also have one that's green."

"🤯 There is green rosin? what's the difference?"

"Dark rosins are mostly softer and in general more comfortable to use during cold seasons, and lighter rosins give crisper texture and are more suitable to warm weather – but that's also subject to the sound you prefer and the instrument you play..."

"So... rosins are seasonal now?"

(This conversation is imaginary)

The different touch created by different rosins on a viola is a cannot-unsee situation. Before I realized it, I started using the green-ish Jade rosin more often when I wanted to play something warm. Jade is soft like a spongy cushion on my bow hair. And when I play something that asks for more attack, I'd use the other medium-dark-ish red rosin which I managed to rob from a friend. I'm glad I did have that second rosin with me for the contrast, otherwise I would have thought the softness is in the sound signature of my instrument. That first time I became explicitly aware of the difference was an eye opening experience for me.

So I did then go to a shop and ask to buy a rosin.

"What instrument do you play?"


"Have you tried this?" (Taking out a Jade that I got from the same store as a gift to my viola purchase.)

"Yes I have tried this. Do you have something more crispy?"

The staff starts browsing his store catalogue. They have a full line-up of Cecilia rosins, for violin, viola, cello, multiplied by orchestra and solo and some other variations, "...we might not have this for viola," says the staff. "That's ok, I'll try some other one this time."

That was the story with my new rosin. Before this one, I had spent maybe a total of ¥5 on this item so I thought I had some budget, which is still in-check.

Apparently there are different genres in how people apply the rosins as well. Some people would like to spin the rosin when applying such that it doesn't form a glitch over time. Some other people specifically like the glitch.

My first violin teacher had taught me to form three glitches, or hexagonal it may look on the rosin, by using three different angles each forming a 60 degree gap from both the others. That's what I grew up with. Now I've never seen anyone doing this anymore, feels so advanced, like coming from other planet.