December 8, 2010 at 5:13 PM
Two strings unwound themselves last night - the E and the D. A couple of days ago it was the G. Now, there's either a very active spirit about the place trying to spell something out to me using the letters G,D A an E, or... the pegs are slipping. For emotional reasons I'd like the cause to be the former but I have to admit that the latter looked more likely. Especially as last practice the G was self-flattening as I played. No wonder my intonation was all over the place!
One phone call and a short journey to the local violin repairers later and we were there to find out what could be done. A proper job would involve re-bushing but as the lady said the violin's not worth much so she'd shave the pegs and apply a little magic compound. And while I was at it, did I know that the fingerboard angle was too low meaning the bridge was cut short. The string spacing on bridge and nut are all wrong and the fiddle is destined to sound forever nasal. But apart from that everything else was OK. Apart from the bassbar, probably. Oh, and my bow is mssing a vital piece of wooden wedge at the frog end which means the hairs aren't spread sufficiently.
So, my fiddle has been fiddled with and the pegs are a lot better. I'm a little non-plussed but not surprised to hear that it's really not that good.
One wonders when presented with such a dire catalogue of failings quite how someone as cackhanded as me could even draw a recognisable tune out of her. However, the sad fact is it looks like my wallet may have to be opening very soon, unless...
As Austin Powers said, "Ouch, Baby. Very ouch."
I always have similar experiences taking the car into the shop. And, in earlier less dentally disciplined times, trips to the dentist. Trips to luthiers haven't been as eye opening/wallet cringing as yours -- though last time I went, an open seam and a fingerboard that needed replaning were discovered. Fortunately, both fixes were inexpensive and didn't leave me wondering if it was time to move onward and upward...
Sounds like you have some soul (and wallet) searching ahead of you!
"either a very active spirit about the place trying to spell something out to me using the letters G,D A and E ... "
Violin as ouija board, hm ... sounds like a dissertation topic ...
Slipping pegs – not uncommon in cold weather because the pegs and the peg box are made of different woods with different thermal expansions, so slippage is more likely. Also, strings tend to contract in length with the cold, which increases the tension, and if the pegs aren't holding like they should – voilá!
If the peg holes are worn too much and have become slightly oval, then it makes it more difficult for the pegs to hold in some positions and easier in others. Either way, it makes peg tuning less easy than it should be, and the pegs are more likely to slip in the cold. A quick fix is the luthier's magic goo; a more permanent one is to have the pegs re-bushed; and the best one, which you don't see a lot of, is the "Perfection" peg (or similar) which has internal planetary gearing so it cannot slip and is dead easy to tune, but it is the most expensive choice (the installation, which is completely reversible, should be done by a luthier). You don't need micro-tuners with this system, the peg does it all for you, including tuning a metal E easily and accurately from the peg (that always impresses the punters!). And in case you're wondering, no, I don't have the Perfection peg system – yet.
My first violin had the worst pegs on the planet, until I had the peg box re-bushed. Rick Molzer of Denver did a tremendously amazing job.
Joking apart, I do want to give a big vote for using a luthier/violin repairer. This lady knows her stuff. It was a pleasure to watch her in action - as is often the case with professionals she made it seem a breeze. And the fee was very reasonable. In my heart of hearts I always knew the violin was of a "certain" standard.
Slipping pegs – not uncommon in cold weather because the pegs and the peg box are made of different woods with different thermal expansions, so slippage is more likely.
More likely than the temperature is that cold weather means you turn on the heat, and the relative humidity plunges. So both the pegs and the pegbox shrink away from each other.
and the best one, which you don't see a lot of, is the "Perfection" peg (or similar) which has internal planetary gearing so it cannot slip and is dead easy to tune, but it is the most expensive choice (the installation, which is completely reversible, should be done by a luthier).
They do cost a fair bit (hardly a king's ransom, but it's a couple bucks). But they don't slip, and are awful handy.
With the purchase of a tool or two, you can install them yourself. It's not entirely trivial, since you do end up taking some wood out of the pegholes; they're not just drop-in. But if you're reasonably handy, and careful about it, it's not an overly difficult operation either.
I've put them in several of my violins, and haven't broken anything yet. I put up a video of the process on youtube a while back; that can give you some idea of what's involved. Of course, if you feel at all uncomfortable about doing it yourself, then you absolutely should get a luthier to do it. That's what they get paid for :)
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