I very recently received a violin and am excited to start playing; however, my bow does not make sound. I googled it already but found very spotty instructions for how to rosin your bow for the first time. How do you do this, and until when? how much is too much?

3 Answers 3


This is how I do it, product of inputs from my colleagues, teachers and my own experiences:

pre-note: if the bow hair does not hold the roisin, you have either very old bow hair, or have dirty bow hair. There are products to clean it, some say plain water is the best. I use hand soap (the solid one, less chemicals the best).

#1 - put tension in the bow higher than the normal playing tension

#2 - put the tip of the bow on my knee, bow hair up, hold the other end with hand

#3 - brush the roisin in circles (not rotating the roisin, just make circles with it) and move along from one end of the bow to the other.

#4 - hold the bow as playable and gently tap/knock/hit it towards the left hand to release excess that is loose.

#5 - release bow tension to playable tension, or store in the case tension.

after-note: A teacher I had in music university told me she always puts roisin overnight, to be played day after. That way it will get a better, not too hard, grip. I tried it and agree.

  • A tip I got from my teacher was to put your thumb on the end of the frog, to stop the rosin from chipping off. Jun 17, 2017 at 14:41

For an actually newly haired bow (unlikely in your case), it may help "sanding" the rosin a bit with a knife. Actual sandpaper might get a bit messy but is also possible.

At any rate: you'll not be doing yourself a favor by using old rosin: after a few years it dries out and gets more dusty than sticky in its qualities, leading to a scratchy tone quality. Sanding off a bit of surface may rejuvenate it a bit.

Many players tend to replace their rosin, like, never. Since it's a comparatively cheap way to improve tone (it might also make sense to try different brands), that's probably not smart.

At any rate, once a bow is working well, you should only apply the amount of rosin necessary, likely not more than a light swipe back and forth per active day.

You state you are excited to play: that makes it likely that you are a beginner. You'll probably largely overestimate the amount of rosin necessary for smooth playing: a large amount of tone quality and consistency is very dependent on good technique (notice that the "natural" pressure of the bow's weight varies wildly over its length and needs to be counterbalanced by reflexive adjustments and technique). It might make sense asking an experienced player a few times whether the amount of rosin on your bow is ok.

  • +1 Welcome to the site. I've heard (and discovered to be true) that brand new rosin can be too shiny to actually transfer anything to a new bow. I used a pocket knife to rough up the surface to get more of the stuff onto the bow. Your suggestion of sandpaper would accomplish much the same, but perhaps more controlled than using a knife. Aug 9, 2014 at 8:04
  • It's not only that a new cake of rosin can be too shiny- new bow hair with no rosin on it doesn't pick up rosin easily, because the hairs are still not worn through the hard skin. Sandpaper helps because it makes rosin dust which is more easily picked up by the hair, but you don't want sandpaper grit on your bow or instrument. Use a knife or other straight edge and scrape the rosin at right angles to make rosin dust, and shovel this up with the bow hair. Once there's a bit of rosin dust on the hair you can rub the bow on the cake of rosin in the usual way. Mar 13, 2016 at 20:36

I had the same question for my bow on my double bass.

I guess the simplest answer is to try it out.

  1. Put a little rosin on your bow and play.
  2. If the bow hair does not 'stick' on the strings, it needs more; otherwise it is good to play.
  3. Put some more rosin and repeat step (1).

Just be careful not to put too much rosin on the bow. If you put too much, the bow won't slide on the strings, it will be stuck. When I put too much rosin, I usually try to wipe it out on my arm till it's good to play with.

Also, take note that if the bow is low quality, and the hair on it isn't real hair, it won't make good sound, no matter what you do -- You will be able to play with it, but you won't be able to produce good quality sound.

  • 1
    I might add "talk to your teacher about this," as there are other reasons (pressure, bow speed) which will give the beginning player trouble in clean initiation of notes. Aug 9, 2014 at 12:00

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