I’ve wanted for a long time to be a fiddler, and began serious practice this past year. I had all the obstacles common to a beginner, especially an older one, but I persevered. An unusual obstacle was our cat Pearly, who is intolerant and mildly aggressive. When the bow drew sound from the string, she appeared in a few seconds, scolding and stalking, trying to climb something that would allow an eye to eye confrontation. After I escorted her outside a few times, she began heading for the cat door at the first note. All right. I could practice in peace.
Then, a problem worse than Pearly’s criticism rose. Allergies. Ten minutes of playing would result in sneezing, sniffing, watery eyes, runny nose, and blurred vision. Rosin? I had always applied it generously (a mistake) and there was a dusty build-up under and on the neck. I tried wiping the fiddle with a clean cloth, wiping down the strings so any excess of rosin was removed. No relief.
A search online—there are multiple sources on the topic—revealed that pine resin (colophony) allergy is extremely common and can be severe and require treatment. Fortunately, there are many choices of resin, and some are hypoallergenic. On the chance I was reacting to a true allergen and not just to a dust, I ordered a rosin for the cello, recommended especially to allergy sufferers. It’s thick and doesn’t become dusty. I probably should have washed and dried the bow hair but I just wiped it down well. I cleaned the strings with a cotton cloth and a bit of rubbing alcohol. I held the violin upside down on the latter step so no alcohol touched the wood or varnish. With all clean, I rosined the bow. That first time wasn’t adequate but after the third practice, the bow drew smoothly. And, best of all, no allergy attack. None then, and none since.
I’ll never be a true fiddler but at least I can keep trying. My fiddle was a gift and has a sweet sound in the right hands. I’ve heard it a few times, when a friend tried it.
I haven’t mentioned the product I bought because I don’t want to be promoting a product here and the information is so easily available online. Here though, is the link for general information on types of rosin:
The Difference Between Dark and Amber Rosin, Heather K. Scott.