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Rosin: What kind, how often, & how much?

The best bow in the world still needs rosin to give it some bite! If you’ve played a stringed/bowed instrument before, you’re well on your way to understanding how much rosin a nyckelharpa bow will need. But if you’re unsure, the best thing to do is experiment. Generally start out with as little possible and work your way up- since it’s a lot easier than trying to remove it once it’s there.

What type of rosin is best for a nyckelharpa?

It may have something to do with the instrument itself, but usually it comes down to the preference of the player. There are a couple of popular brands that we recommend trying:

How often?

Most people add a little at the start of each playing session and find that it’s enough to get them through an evening of playing. It also depends on the type of rosin, and the amount left over from the previous time.

How much rosin is enough?

‘To each his own’ is the best answer. Under-rosined bows often feel slippery and hard to control. Until you get used to the amount your bow requires, test yourself to see what you like. Pick a tune and play it several times, and add a little more rosin between each break. You may even want to record yourself to see if you can hear a difference.

If you’re not happy with the sound regardless of the amount of rosin, stick with what feels most comfortable to play with — and be consistent with that amount. Eventually you’ll become accustomed to the way the bow responds to pressure and speed, and your sound will improve.

How much is too much?

Rosin can really help with getting crisp, clean tones from your harpa. But it can also make your bow bouncy and emit painfully screechy sounds. When in doubt, less is more. (If you see a white cloud when you play, then you’ve definitely got more than what’s necessary!)

Keeping rosin where it belongs

Rosin does wonders for sound, but it can hurt the finish on the nyckelharpa and even cause your strings to break down faster. Periodically wipe the instrument body under the strings carefully with a soft (dry) cloth. For strings, Sheila Morris recommends a little rubbing-alcohol on a cotton swab to clean the strings. But don’t overdo it – it really depends on how often you play!