Cello Zone! Rosins I Use

“Which cello rosin do you use?”

…. is actually a question I am rarely asked!  This overlooked cake of hardened tree-goop not only allows us to bow the string*, but also plays a large part in our tone production.

I suggest that students apply a few coats of rosin (3 to 10 strokes, ΠV) before each practice session, rehearsal, & performance.  Partly for consistency, but also to avoid injury.  Without enough rosin on your bow, the hairs won’t properly grip the strings.  To compensate for the ensuing bow-slip, you will tense up and over-work your right arm; resulting in an injury similar to tennis elbow.  However, there is such a thing as over-rosining your bow.  If it’s too thickly coated, your hairs will get stuck in the string.  This results in a bow-tripping sensation much like stumbling from catching your toe on the sidewalk.  We’re looking for that Goldilocks principle: not too much, not too little – a few coats of rosin is just right.

With so many brands and prices, which one do you choose?  Thankfully, Johnson String Instrument Shop has made it easier for me to share the rosins I use via student wish lists!  Here are some recommended cello rosins for: (I) Students (II) Professionals and (III) …surprise! Percussionists.

*Without rosin the bow hairs can’t grip the string, no matter how hard you bow… it makes no sound.


Book a Cello Zone Lesson with Brian!

Live in Sun Prairie?

email Prairie Music & Arts:  info@prairiemusic.org,

cc: bgrimm@prairiemusic.org

Live on the west side of Madison?

email Monroe Street Arts Center:  info@monroestreetarts.org

cc: brian@monroestreetarts.org


Cello Rosins I Use –  For Students

Pirastro Cello Rosin

Pros:  Generally used in Spring/Summer (humid seasons); for light, fast playing.  Cuts well, can add an edge to your bow tone.  There are a lot of Pirastro rosins to choose from (almost too many…), surely one among their variety should be ample to cover the tone and grip needed for your particular strings: see here.

Cons: Heavy powdering, can irritate sinuses.  Sometimes tone is too bright and thin for classic cello repertoire.  Doesn’t grip as deeply as I need for power playing.

Still not sticky enough for you?  Buy the Pirastro Bass Rosin, it works great for cello!

Pirastro rosins have been developed and produced in Offenbach, Germany for over 200 years. Pirastro Cello Rosin is an amber color medium grade rosin specially formulated for use with cellos.


Hill Dark Rosin for Violin, Viola and Cello

Pros:  *Rosin of choice for two of my go-to luthiers!  Use as a final polishing layer in combination with other rosins; fine smooth feel with medium tone; not over-grippy.

Cons:  For a professional cellist, this rosin doesn’t grip strongly enough to stand on it’s own.  However, for students on smaller sized cellos (1/4, 1/2, 3/4, etc) it should do splendidly.

Hill Dark Rosin (green), the ultimate rosins, used by professionals worldwide. The Hill Brand rosins are wrapped in their own padded velveteen shell. This is the rosin that others strive to emulate. Used for violin, viola and cello, the amber (light) is slightly hard and has moderate powder. The dark (green) is slightly softer and grips better than the amber.


Professional Cello Rosin

Kolstein Cello Rosin

Pros: For the last decade this has been my favorite rosin!  Generally used in Fall/Winter (drier seasons); for heavy, rich playing.  More and more, I’ve been using it all year round.  The tone is complex, gorgeous.  Very grippy, results in a powerful deep sound.

Cons:  This rosin may be too sticky and coarse for some sets of lighter gauge strings.

Kolstein & Sons, Ltd. produces an outstanding rosin using their Ultra Formulation Supreme recipe. Very minimal powdering and excellent grip equate to quick response and consistent sustain for both the veteran and beginning cellist. A good rosin for players with respiratory difficulties.


Melos Baroque Cello & Bass Viol Rosin

Pros: Wow, I love this Baroque cello/viol rosin.  Though it’s made for traditional sheep gut strings, it still plays wonderfully on modern metal-core/wound strings.  Incredible glide, with even grip from fingerboard to bridge on all strings. Lighter tone than Kolstein; plays smooth; a finer grade.  It feels as if the bow hairs are melting into your string, like a hot knife through butter.  No harsh squeaking sounds on the A string.

Cons:  Have yet to find any, this stuff is near perfect in my book.

Melos Baroque Cello Bass Viol Rosin is superb for use with period instruments using gut strings. This Baroque version rosin is stickier than rosin for their modern counterparts. Melos founder Christos Sykiotis, himself a cellist, explains it this way: “The gut string sounds not easy as a metallic string. We shouldn’t press the bow in order to play so we need a stickier rosin to play easy.” Melos rosins are made in small batches from Greek pine resin and other natural ingredients.

Try a combination of their two modern cello rosins:  Melos Dark (fall/winter) & Light (spring/summer) Cello Rosin


Rosin for Percussionists

Kolstein All Weather Bass Rosin – I originally heard about Kolstein rosin a decade ago from a professional double bassist (and have loved it ever since).  This past weekend, I premiered a composition by percussionist Garrett Mendelow.  This duo piece included three sections: (i) guqin zither + pedal board, tape, singing bowls and crotales (ii) tabla and Indian cello (iii) bowed vibraphone.  We tried my Kolstein rosin on the bass bows + my Tatsuya Nakatani beach wood cello bow on the vibes.  The tone was delicious.  The vibraphone bars played smooth and spoke well.  OK percussionists, the secret is out! Get that Kolstein bass rosin, it’s even stickier than the cello version – you won’t need much.

Speaking of percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani… I had the immense pleasure of performing in his Nakatani Gong Orchestra this September.  It was hands down, one of the most unforgettable performances of my life. What a tremendous honor to learn directly from the bowed gong master himself (thanks Scott Gordon of Tone Madison for curating)!  I’ve been using one of Tatsuya’s hand made Nakatani-Kobo bows for about 3 years.  I love it.  The tone, the bite, the feel, the articulation…. his bows are incredible.  They are designed for gongs and cymbals, so I tried it on the vibraphone.  The Nakatani-Kobo bow spoke much quicker and with less pressure than a (often over tightened) double bass bow.  Percussionists, these bows are made for bowing metal, check them out.  I asked Tatsuya which rosin he prefers to use, his answer was: Pops Bass Rosin.


Alright Cello Zone studio, that’s all for today’s post.  I hope you find this helpful when selecting your next cake of rosin!  Follow the blog, like us on facebook and share with other cello friends.  Leave your comments below, what’s your favorite brand of rosin and why?

Happy Practicing!

Brian Grimm


10/21 | “Emergence” CD Release Show w/ Invisible Guy Trio (SF)

Sat, 10/21 | No Cover 630-930p @ The Mason Lounge

416 S Park St, Madison, WI

INVISIBLE GUY TRIO (SF)

BRENNAN CONNORS & STRAY PASSAGE (Mad)

↑ CD Release via setola di maiale (Italy)

Brennan Connors & Stray Passage have a new CD “Emergence” coming out this October on Italian label, setola di maile!

http://www.setoladimaiale.net/catalogue/view/SM3300

“Their sets embrace plenty of sinuous melody and conversational interplay,
but can just as easily dive into minimalism and dissonance.” ~ Tone Madison

Experimental Jazz trio Brennan Connors & Stray Passage has been performing in Madison for the past 5 years, exciting listeners with a range of sonic capabilities.  Their improvised music is directly linked to the atmosphere in the room and energy of the audience.  The listener is such a crucial element in shaping the band’s sound that they recorded this album in front of a live studio audience – expertly captured by master engineer Steve Gotcher at Audio for the Arts.  Listeners will experience a jazz trio that embraces both free and structured improvisation, original compositions, groove based experiments, and sound exploration. The breadth of a performance ranges from focused minimalism to fiery high energy music, all while maintaining a sense of narrative organization and compelling ensemble interplay.

The group is led by Brennan Connors on tenor and soprano saxophones.  Geoff Brady orchestrates drum and percussion textures, while Brian Grimm rounds out the trio bowing cello, contra-cello, and electric bass.

We are ecstatic and grateful to setola di maiale records in Italy for officially releasing our first album!


We’ll be joined by a fantastic drummer & friend of mine, Hamir Atwal (San Francisco), with his trio Invisible Guy.  The group features Michael Coleman on keyboard & Ben Goldberg on clarinet.  We are very glad to share our CD release show bill with another trio that explores the dynamics of free-improv in full range!

“Mr. Goldberg is a clarinetist of range and curiosity.” – The New York Times

Ben Goldberg’s Bay Area-based trio looks forward and backward at the same time, creating both nostalgic reveries and modern statements. Goldberg is known for drawing on his Jewish roots and radical versions of Klezmer music and his clarinet work is always focused with an endearing lyrical quality. Pianist Michael Coleman leaps between stride riffs and electronic splatter. Drummer Hamir Atwall provides everything from a swinging undercurrent to a clattery rush.

As a trio, Ben, Michael, and Hamir are in strict pursuit of beautiful melody. Michael Coleman says: “Melody is the knife that cuts through to truth. Then there is the importance of breath, and personal expression.” Reviewing a 2014 concert, Howard Reich of the Chicago Tribune said the group is “an unusually focused ensemble inventing a musical syntax for itself.”

From 1992, when his group New Klezmer Trio released Masks and Faces and “kicked open the door for radical experiments with Ashkenazi roots music” (SF Chronicle) to 2013’s simultaneous release of Subatomic Particle Homesick Blues (featuring Joshua Redman) and Unfold Ordinary Mind (featuring Nels Cline), which the New York Times noted for “a feeling of joyous research into the basics of polyphony and collective improvising,” clarinetist and composer Ben Goldberg has shaped a career through relentless pursuit of musical truth across many genres and styles, resulting in the Downbeat Critics’ Poll naming him the #1 Rising Star Clarinetist in both 2011 and 2013. In 2015 Ben released a recording of his songcycle Orphic Machine , sung by Carla Kihlstedt and performed by an allstar nine piece band including Nels Cline, Greg Cohen, and Ches Smith. The LA Times called Orphic Machine “knotted and occasionally spooky composition marked by dazzling interplay.” All Music Guide says “Orphic Machine is wildly ambitious and sophisticated, but also graceful, emotionally honest, and accessible. It makes the profound embraceable and, as a result, is a masterpiece.” Ben currently composes for and leads the following groups:
Unfold Ordinary Mind ; Go Home ; Ben Goldberg School ; and Ben Goldberg Trio with Greg Cohen and Kenny Wollesen.

Drummer/Percussionist Hamir Atwal is a Berklee College of Music graduate who
has taught at Music Academy International, and the Stanford Jazz Workshop. Hamir is an active endorser of DREAM Cymbals. Hamir has played with saxophonists Joe Lovano, Greg Osby, and Grant Stewart; Bassist/Producer Bill Laswell; and clarinetist Ben Goldberg.

Michael Coleman is a pianist, improviser and composer currently residing in Brooklyn, NY. He has had the pleasure of playing with many great musicians and recording with some of his favorite bands and people. Apart from leading his own groups (Beep!, CavityFang, Young Nudist), Michael has toured the world with Chris Cohen, tUnEyArDs,
Sean Hayes, Miles Kurosky and Jug Free America.


 

Cello Zone! String Recommendations

“Which strings should I get for my cello?”

It’s a common question to receive as a cello teacher and quite honestly, a difficult one to answer.  The gauge, tension, materials, and action of our strings make a significant difference in the tone and sound production of the cello.  Each instrument has a different voice, which requires experimentation in what type of string is best to use.  The same brand of strings on two different cellos will ultimately yield unique results.  “String-Brand-A” may sound excellent on my cello, but be a totally wrong for yours….  With so many brands and prices, which one do you choose?  Thankfully, Johnson String Instrument Shop has made it easier for me to share cello string combinations via student wish lists!  Here are three sets/combos of strings to get you started, in order of low to high price.

** All string sizes listed below are 4/4 Full Size.  If you need to order 1/2 or 3/4 size cello strings, be sure to select that option when ordering (start from this page, click below)! ⇓

Click image to go to String Size Selection Page.

Book a Cello Zone Lesson with Brian!

Live in Sun Prairie?

email Prairie Music & Arts:  info@prairiemusic.org,

cc: bgrimm@prairiemusic.org

Live on the west side of Madison?

email Monroe Street Arts Center:  info@monroestreetarts.org

cc: brian@monroestreetarts.org


 D’Addario Prelude – reliable set on a budget or backup strings

Pros:  Affordable, yet still sounds good and plays well!  I use them on my homemade electric cello (#frankencello) and I find them to be flexible and reliable.  They have stood up to some extreme playing conditions encountered during gigs.

Cons:  Not as pitch stable as Kaplans or Helicores.  The “center of pitch” feels slightly mushy… this is hard to describe and may be due to the nickel winding, which is on all strings.

Set Includes:

  • Prelude 4/4 Cello Set A, D, G & C – nickel wound / steel core: Medium

Prelude (D’Addario) – solid steel core string that is durable and not affected by temperature and humidity changes. Prelude strings have a clear, bright sound without the shrill sound of traditional steel strings, and have a quick bow response.


Brian Grimm D’Addario Kaplan-Helicore Combo

Pros: Great for multi-style playing.  Holds tuning very well.  Quick response.  Fairly loud sound production.  This has been the string combo on my concert cello from 2013 to 2017. They have proven to be suitable across many genres… however, I’m now moving on to some other brands of strings in search of a richer, mellower sound.

Cons: As the Kaplan A & D strings age, they get a bit metallic and scratchy sounding (especially in the high end).  Not as subtle as Jargar, Larsen, Pirastro strings.

Combo Set Includes:

  • Kaplan Cello A – titanium wound / steel core: Medium
  • Kaplan Cello D – nickel wound / steel core: Medium
  • Helicore Cello G & C – tungsten-silver wound / steel core: Medium

Kaplan (D’Addario) – strings offer a beautiful, rich tonal palette and superb bowing response. They provide clarity and warmth across the registers and throughout the dynamic range.

Helicore (D’Addario)  multi-strand, twisted steel core strings have a small string diameter, providing a quick bow response. Thanks to special manufacturing techniques, Helicore strings have a warm, clear sound with excellent pitch stability and longevity.


Janet Marshall (My Classical Teacher) Jagar-Larsen Combo

aka “The Denmark Combo”

Pros:  Powerful low end sound.  Beautiful rich tone.  I very much enjoyed this combo when playing Brahms and other Romantic era pieces.  Jargar has since come out with two new lines of string that I haven’t tried: Thin/dolce & Thick/forte. There isn’t a huge price jump on those and are worth trying, depending on your #soundgoals.

Cons:  Larsen strings are costly, you pay for that good sound; the C string itself is $100.  Sometimes my Jargar A & D strings would be a bit unstable & drop pitch over the course of a piece.

Combo Set Includes:

  • Jargar Cello A & D – chrome wound / steel core: Medium
  • Larsen Cello G & C – tungsten wound / steel core: Medium

Jargar – Bright, full sound, quick response. Made in Denmark, these steel core strings are favored by many solosits. Jargar strings are known for their powerful, well-balanced tone.

Larsen – Made in Denmark, Larsen strings are aimed at soloists in need of a string with projection.


Additional resources on selecting strings:


Find out more about Cello Lessons with Brian Grimm

Cellist Brian Grimm is a composer, performer and teacher based out Madison, WI.  Though Classically trained and studied in Jazz, Brian also grew up surrounded by Chinese instruments.  This has pulled him into a life passion for learning music from all around the world.  Brian’s teachers include members of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silkroad Ensemble, the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra, the WuJi Ensemble (Hong Kong), the Buselli–Wallarab Jazz Orchestra, & Sitar virtuoso Pt. Sugato Nag (India).

Click on my beard to book a Cello Zone Lesson!