How To (and why?) Replace the Tailpiece of Your Violin or Viola
Written by Zlata Brouwer
Published: June 4, 2014 at 2:00 PM [UTC]
In this weeks video I’m going to teach you how to replace the tailpiece of your violin or viola. But first...
Why should you replace the tailpiece of your violin or viola?
- If your tailpiece is broken (duuuuh)
- If you want a tailpiece with four integrated finetuners.
Let’s go a little deeper into the second point. Why would you want a tailpiece with four integrated finetuners?
Perhaps your tailpiece is made of wood and you use loose fine tuners (not integrated). This means you can take the finetuners of the tailpiece and use none, one, two, three or four finetuners. Tuning is easier and faster when you have four finetuners.
If you put four loose metal finetuners on a wooden tailpiece, the tailpiece will become heavy. It’s not good for the tone of your violin to have an heavy tailpiece.
However... we want a good tone AND four finetuners. To achieve this you should consider a tailpiece made out of composite material with four integrated finetuners. I have bad experiences with Chinese made tailpieces (they break quickly and don’t tune easily), so get yourself some German quality (click here to buy what I recommend) by Wittner, a Deutsch Qualitätswerkzeug ;).
It’s not so difficult to replace the tailpiece yourself. Just follow these steps and watch the video before you start.
- Turn all the strings loose.
- Don’t remove the strings all the way.
- Remove the ball of the string from the finetuner.
- Remove the bridge.
- Wrap the strings around the neck of the violin.
- Remove the tailpiece.
- Clean your fiddle carefully (now you can reach all those places you normally can’t clean).
- Don’t shake your violin ;), so the soundpost doesn’t fall.
- Turn the finetuners of the new tailpiece all the way up.
- Place the loop on the new tailpiece.
- Measure how long the loop should be and adjust the length. Repeat this a couple of times if necessary.
- The tailpiece should never touch the soundboard.
- Put a cloth under the tailpiece, so it doesn’t damage the soundboard.
- Put one string on the tailpiece and tighten it a little.
- Make sure the winding of the string around the peg remains the same. The string shouldn’t cross itself and shouldn’t push the peg out of the peg box.
- Put the strings on the tailpiece one by one. Don’t mix ‘em up. Don’t tighten them too much in this stage.
- Put the bridge back on the violin under the strings. Make sure the position of the bridge is correct and that it stands up straight.
- Tune your violin carefully.
- The distance from the tailpiece to the bridge should be 1/6 of the vibrating string length. If it’s different, adjust the length of the loop.
- Tune regularly.
Is this useful to you? Please let me know in the comments below!
PS: Do you have questions or struggles on violin or viola playing? Post a comment below or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and I might dedicate a Violin Lounge TV episode to answering your question!
Posted on June 4, 2014 at 9:22 PM
If you use plastic or gut core strings, you don't need fine tuners. If you can't stand real pegs, or you don't want to pay for or learn to maintain pegs, then get the perfection pegs. Then you don't need all that metal down on your tailpiece.
While the built-in tuner tailpieces are a big improvement over hanging string adjusters all over your ebony, you are still quite limited in tonal adjustment whereas with a wood one you have infinite possibilities.
Or perhaps go one better and remove all the
tail piece bling? I use the Perfection Pegs
on all my violins. I have tried Wittner's version
and they always slip. If you play an intrument
that is named after a previous owner and is owned by
a corporate sponsor, just laugh at us and move along.
If you own your own violin and it will never be in a
museum, consider the geared Perfection Pegs. They
are now available with "actual wood" knobs.
@Step 8, what I always do when replacing a tailpiece, or any other activity that necessitates taking down the bridge, is to first wrap a towel or other thick cloth round the waist of the violin and hold it in place with an adjustable belt. I tighten the belt until it is firm - but obviously not so tight that you could hear creaking coming from the instrument (that's bad news!). This procedure ensures that some pressure is kept on the sound post to stop it from moving when the bridge and strings are removed. I nevertheless still keep the violin stationary and horizontal - no sense in asking for trouble.
Posted on June 5, 2014 at 2:16 AM
Occam's Razor strikes again.
Thanks for all your additions and comments. I really appreciate!
Posted on June 5, 2014 at 12:49 PM
Its advisable not to place the violin between your knees when making adjustments, like replacing strings for example, as even the lightest squeeze with your knees will take the pressure off the sound post letting it fall.
Posted on June 5, 2014 at 2:01 PM
The installation of a tailpiece should be done by a luthier or trained repair technician. The length of the tail-gut needs to be in proportion to the other measurements on the violin - it greatly effects the sound if not properly adjusted. If you have no choice, then take it to a knowledge person as soon as possible to check the adjustment. Also be careful not to grab the waist - or C-bout area of the instrument as it will move the top and cause the sound-post to come down. Having a trained professional replace your tailpiece allows, not only for proper adjustment, but also the opportunity to check other aspects of your violin/viola's setup - ie. the sound-post placement, bridge, fingerboard and other areas that effect the sound of your instrument.
Posted on June 6, 2014 at 6:19 AM
I've tried a wittner on one of my instruments that had fussy pegs. The sound to me is just not as warm as a wood tailpiece. I would suggest if you really need fine tuners, finding an ebony, boxwood, or rosewood tailpiece that has built in fine tuners. I think they look better and sound better without adding additional weight. I personally just tune with pegs on the instrument I use now except for the e. I'd be interested in trying geared pegs on an instrument someday, but I really like the carved pegs I use now and I also am EXTREMELY hesitant to have anything permanent done with my pegbox, I'd like to avoid having to get it bushed any time in the near future.
Thanks for the last comment (can’t seem to see your name unfortunately) about the sound of the Wittner tailpiece.
A Wittner tailpiece is very light and resonates well... but...
I was struggling with my own violin, which has a very big sound and very sharp response. My luthier changed my wooden (ebony) tailpiece with integrated finetuners on the A and E string to a Wittner Ultra. He said it’s easier and wooden tailpieces with integrated finetuners get broken easily, so I accepted the Wittner.
Since a year I have struggling more with the clear sound of my violin... it’s a bit too sharp en and it’s difficult to dose it. It seems that it’s troubling me more than it did in the last fifteen years I own this instrument.
Let’s say it eats 2,7 meter Steinway’s for breakfast. Most pianists have to play a little soft when accompanying a violinist... my accompanists can hardly keep up with my little monster violin.
Last year I have been thinking about and searching maybe another violin...
After reading your comment I immediately (yes, with my first morning coffee) replaced my Wittner tailpiece with the ebony one with integrated finetuners... and Eureka! My violin is still a monster, but the sharp edges are a bit off.
The Wittner works perfect with most (especially student) violins, because it resonates very well and gives modest sounding instruments a clearer sound.
After this experience I wouldn’t recommend this tailpiece with rather clear and large sounding instruments.
Thanks for sharing this. I will post this comment on my website www.violinlounge.com and am planning to make a video about the different tailpieces available on the market.
Have a nice Sunday, violinist.com peeps!
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