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Dear little cellist,

What do cellists and bull riders have in common?

bull rider

The answer is rosin!

Cellists, of course, use rosin on their bows to make the horse hair stickier so that when the bow moves over the strings, it makes them vibrate. It's the vibrations that make the sound, so a new bow that has never been rosined might not make any sound at all!

Bull riders use rosin to increase their grip on their ropes. Bull riding is a rodeo (cowboy) sport that involves a rider getting on a large bull and attempting to stay on for at least 8 seconds while the animal tries to make the rider fall off.* Riders wrap their rope around the bull and tightly around one hand, trying to secure themselves to the bull. Ballet dancers also sometimes rub their shoes in powdered rosin to stop them slipping.

* Your teacher will appreciate it if you can practise for a little longer than eight seconds.


The rosin you put on your cello bow is made from resin (a sort of sticky sap) from pine trees. Some of the bark of the tree is removed and then the tree is cut so that the resin flows out.


Rosin can be different colours from light yellow through to black. Dark rosin is softer and stickier than light rosin. The larger the instrument, the softer the rosin should be. So double bass rosin is the softest and darkest and violin rosin is the lightest. That's because the horse hair on a violin or viola bow is finer than the horse hair on a cello bow and the horse hair on a double bass bow is the coarsest of all.

It's quite magical because the colour of the rosin depends on the time of year the resin was taken from the tree. If the resin is collected in winter, the rosin will be light and hard when it sets. If it is collected in summer, the rosin will be darker and softer. Sometimes gold, silver or copper is added to the resin - every rosin manufacturer has a secret recipe! If you follow this link and scroll down, you can see photos of rosin being made.