V.com weekend vote: How many fine tuners do you have on your tailpiece?

November 26, 2022, 2:24 PM · Why do most full-size violins have only one fine tuner on the tailpiece?

This is a question I get a lot from young students, whose smaller violins typically have four fine tuners, one for each string. The fine tuners are located on the instrument's tailpiece, and when they are wound or unwound, they change the pitch of the string only a little bit - thus "fine" tuner. The turn of a peg makes a much more radical change of pitch, and making it more difficult to "fine tune" a string with a peg.

fine tuners violin

The reason a smaller violin has fine tuners on all strings has to do with the fact that the strings are shorter, so even a little tightening or loosening of the string makes a big difference in pitch. For this reason, tuning a small violin with pegs can get ridiculous! So the small violins are better suited to fine-tuners.

When it comes to full-size violins, the E string is the most tightly-strung, so a little tightening or loosening goes a long way. That's why it requires a fine-tuner. However, the other strings have more leeway, so they can be fully tuned with pegs.

But let's admit something: this has never been easy. I personally think that it would be okay, even beneficial, for violinists to embrace new technology over the 400-year-old standard of wooden pegs that are simply jammed into a wooden hole and stay there by means of friction. Pegs slip, they are imprecise by nature - they are difficult.

To me, this means that it's okay for full-size violins to have fine-tuners on all four strings, and it's also okay to get geared pegs, such as Wittner pegs. Why? Such accommodations make tuning easier general, and they allow the violinist to bring each string to the precisely correct pitch with a lot more ease. And for those who say, "it's easy to tune the traditional way!" I'd say, yes, it's easy for someone like me to tune this way because I've been doing it for decades. But it can be a barrier for young and even intermediate students. Heck, if you have bad pegs, it just keeps creating trouble, even for a pro.

Personally - yes, I just have one fine-tuner, on my E string. I'm super happy to report, though, that two of my students bought full-size violins within the last month, and those violins simply came with geared pegs. It is SO much easier for them to tune their violins now, and to tune them with a high degree accuracy.

How many fine tuners do you have? Do you wish you had more? Or less? Do you feel it's easy to tune with pegs, or not really? Do you have geared pegs? Would you get them if you could? Do you feel it's it okay to have four fine tuners on a full-size violin? Please participate in the vote and then share your thoughts and experience with fine tuners and pegs.

Many thanks to Elise Stanley for the idea for this week's vote. If you have an idea for the Weekend Vote, please e-mail me. I welcome your ideas!

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Replies

November 26, 2022 at 08:46 PM · I find pegs easy to use, I think it depends on if the student has been shown to loosen before tightening. by loosen I mean tuning down a fraction.

November 26, 2022 at 09:12 PM · I voted based on my viola, which is my primary instrument. My viola has one fine tuner on the A string. My violin has four fine tuners.

With both instruments, I simply didn't make any changes after acquiring them. The viola had one fine tuner when I bought it, the violin had four when I inherited it.

November 26, 2022 at 09:16 PM · I voted based on my violin since this is a violin website lol. My violin (and my brother's) have four fine tuners built into a metal tailpiece. I wouldn't trade my fine tuners for anything since making really small adjustments is just so much easier with fine tuners. My viola has geared pegs plus one fine tuner. I'm not a geared peg fangirl by any means, but my viola came into my world with geared pegs so yeah. If my viola didn't come with geared pegs I would probably have gotten the tailpiece swapped for one with four fine tuners built in, especially because it's far more difficult for me to tune a viola with pegs due to the extension of my left arm.

November 26, 2022 at 10:46 PM · I four fine tuners on my viola. On my violin, I had two fine tuners (A & E), and now I have geared pegs in addition. I put the A fine tuner on before I got the geared pegs because I found it so hard to turn the A peg. Geared pegs make an enormous difference.

November 26, 2022 at 11:09 PM · I have one fine e-string tuner on my violins. I actually find working the pegs easier than working fine tuners. Also I dislike the aesthetics of 4 fine tuners on a violin. On my viola I have no fine tuners. It came with one. But I am using a plain gut a-string so I removed it. Tuning the viola is definitely more difficult. But then everything seems more difficult on the viola.

November 27, 2022 at 12:15 AM · Gear pegs (Pegheds) on my violin. Fine tuner on E string because I'm used to it. Wittner Finetune pegs on my viola. No fine tuners.

Next iteration of gear pegs needs tiny motors that connect via Bluetooth to the tuning app on one's phone.

November 27, 2022 at 12:36 AM · I have the standard one fine tuner, friction pegs, on all of my violins except for my picnic fiddle which I loan to students on occasion and which I have had equipped with a Thomastik four-tuner tailpiece.

During the year of zoom lessons, I was profoundly grateful for the one student who had geared pegs and found myself wishing with all my heart that all my students did. That was the worst part of online lessons – trying to help the students tune without being able to reach out and take the fiddle myself.

November 27, 2022 at 03:04 AM ·

One and ONLY one, for the E string. It's a Hill style tuner, the least heavy on my Pernambuco tail piece.

I thought about a second tuner for the A string, but my luthier advised against it. As it turned out, the Infeld Pi strings that came with a violin I had purchased from him, were so easily kept in tune, a second tuner was no longer needed.

November 27, 2022 at 07:35 PM · Like most cellists, I have been using 4-fine-tuner tailpieces since I switched to steel strings in the mid 1960s. I eventually progressed to wooden Bois d'Harmonie integral-tuner tailpieces. The tuners are made of CF composite and the total tailpiece mass is no greater than standard tailpieces of the same woods (mine are all boxwood).

Increasing tuning problems from osteoarthritis led me to "graduate" from single (E-string) fine tuners on my violins in my early 70s (none on my violas). Again, I installed Bois d'Harmonie tailpieces with (no change in sound quality). Not knowing how different woods would affect the sound I have one each ebony, rosewood, boxwood and pernambuco. The pernambuco was the only one that made a difference in tone (except on the one violin that still wears it). One of my violas also has an ebony BdH taailpiece with fine tuners. The 2nd viola has a Wittner tailpiece (with inteeral fine tuners).

It was almost 20 years ago that I learned of geared pegs and installed them on "everything." If I had known about them earlier, I could (and would) have saved a small fortune on BdH tailpieces. Only my 2nd viola has Wittner geared pegs, all my other instruments have the other type (some Herin and some Knilling).

November 27, 2022 at 08:03 PM · Back in the days before osteoarthritis started messing with my finger joints I used standard friction pegs with a fine tuner on the E-String. Then I shifted to four fine tuners, finally having geared (Perfection) pegs installed on my instrument.

I'm happy to use new technology. Heck, there was the time that I tuned my violin using an A-Tuning Fork and ear tuned. Chromatic tuners made that life easier and made tuning for the youth orchestra possible.

I know there are "purists" in the world who eschew just about everything invented after Amati and Stradivari died. I'll take the technology.

November 27, 2022 at 08:44 PM · I hate add-on metal fine tuners — they mess up string length and I feel I can hear them vibrate — but I really appreciate the carbon-fibre ones built into the tailpiece. I'd love to get geared pegs for a couple of my instruments because not every VSO has pegs that work smoothly. Even my quality viola needs peg dope or peg paste from time to time. This is why saying no fine tuners is not an option for everyone.

November 27, 2022 at 09:12 PM · Just one - the E string fine-tuner on all three fiddles. I don’t remember how many I had before I got my first 4/4-size instrument. I started using wound-gut strings at that time. So far, I’ve never wished I had more than one fine-tuner per instrument. Tuning with regular pegs is easy enough for me - no experience yet with geared pegs.

About having four tuners on a full-size instrument: I won’t do it, but it’s really up to each player. Some players like it, from what I’ve read.

I now use composite-core A-D-G and steel E in all four seasons, and they give me great pitch stability. I do make it a point to play on each of my instruments daily. I find that this - plus strict, consistent tuning at the start of a practice session - helps to keep the strings from drifting flat or sharp when the instruments are packed in their cases.

November 27, 2022 at 10:31 PM · No option for those of us with ‘broke’ violins with no fine tuners. ;)

November 27, 2022 at 10:51 PM · Several violins with 4 integral tuners, one with Wittner geared pegs.

We’ve embraced synthetic strings, don’t understand why we haven’t modernised the tuning system. It’s possibly because classical musicians live in a relatively controlled world. Practising at home or getting that A in the orchestra. Playing at ceilidhs, in sessions, pubs, bluegrass etc its so noisy that a more efficient tuning system has benefits.

November 27, 2022 at 11:04 PM · Quite Simple ~ {#15}

I have 1 fine E String Tuner which is good! All my concert fiddles have only had an E String Tuner which has worked out very well. But admittedly there is a problem associated with concert touring concerning sensitivity of the strings to sudden changes in weather when flying from one place in the US to another further away, i.e., warmed weather in LA yet flying to NYC, in very much colder weather, hoping the violin, which is completely covered inside via a violin coverlet, will not be too much affected? However, it has never occurred to me to use additional Tuners to make tuning any string or all of 4 strings easier ~ Term me 'old fashioned', but until seeing this Article, the thought to use more than 1 string Tuner has never entered my mind!

I find the idea of one Respondent here to link tuner "gear pegs needing tiny motors that connect via Bluetooth to the tuning app on one's phone" startling yet quite illuminating in that a

Violinist I respect & have read previous Replies here on this Violinist.com website, is so technologically 'clued in'!! Wow and another Humm? @Paul Deck!!! I admit, 'It's Greek to me!'

If not 'offensive' which this comment is not meant to be, I can authoritatively say that both my Iconic Violin Mentor's, Jascha Heifetz and Nathan Milstein, would never have thought of any such ideas & even though Mr. Heifetz, a keen observer of all societal change re need for electric powered cars & early on, would scowl at such ideas I'm astonished reading about here & with his great Peer & 'rival', Nathan Milstein, dismissing the ideas posed here with a wonderment look on his very puzzled face!! *And add, I think my father-1st teacher, Ralph Matesky, if on Earth in our current time, might have found this intriguing yet probably not have 100% agreed if still ASTA National President & continuing his editing/arranging of Masterworks for even his A-Z Youth Symphony Orchestras!? But not sure due to some ease for children tuning their strings if nervous prior to concert performances or the 'old' School Orchestras Contests which were often held producing fine results in pupil's wishing to win a Blue Ribbon over a vying for it other rival School Orchestra!

It seems the more we live the more 'things change' yet it has been said by Sage's throughout our History, "The more things change the more they remain the Same!" Not a Sage, I am at once enlightened having come here learning of New Ideas by those writing in Now with truly a '21st Century In Touch!' ~

Respectfully submitted Thanksgiving Weekend 2022 ~

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Elisabeth Matesky ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Fwd ~ dmg

November 28, 2022 at 01:26 AM · I have a Wittner tailpiece with 4 fine tuners. I had to make the change because my thumb has bone on bone arthritis from - you guessed it - tuning bad pegs for decades. Should have done it sooner, truly life changing ??! A student of mine has mechanical pegs which are awesome, too, just a lot more expensive.

November 28, 2022 at 04:26 AM · Miss E.M. 's reply was precisely what I would expect. A first class player with a quality ($$) violin would not want a fine tuner on anything other than the E-string. The pegs will be properly fitted and the change of string length at the after length might make a a tonal difference. Performing soloists need to be able to quickly re-tune during the rests. I have read that at the Paris Conservatory in the 19th century one of the tests was to play in tune on a deliberately de-tuned violin, probably with all gut strings.

As a third-tier player with ordinary equipment I have two violins with all steel strings and 4 tuners, and two other violins with fine tuners on A and E. The pegs on the left side of the box (D&G) are easy to tune during a short rest.

November 28, 2022 at 12:47 PM · I'm not practicing for some months now (health issues in family), but my violins are waiting for me:

My primary instrument has Wittner pegs, It was originally commissioned with four fine tuners, but later I asked for this upgrade. This violin is presently loaned to a talented student from my church.

My first violin has four fine tuners, the same as one that is loaned to me for some years now.

There is a fourth instrument, the best I ever played, but that is not (yet) mine. I took it for restoration and it got four fine tuners. I would ask for Wittner pegs if the original ones where not so beautiful and finely working.

November 29, 2022 at 03:59 PM · I have a Wittner tailpiece with four adjusters. Even with four synthetic viola strings, I like to make instant (and discreet!) adjustments when changes in temperature affect strings, woodwind and brass.

The new Wittners are made of resin, which lighter than the old aluminium models, and don't "ring". (I lined my old one with silicone mastic to avoid this.)

November 30, 2022 at 04:34 PM · I love reading about all the different solutions people have found. I also want to remind everyone of the lovely soloist Elizabeth Pitcairn, who had Wittner Fine-Tune pegs installed on her Strad! "It takes the strength of a butterfly to turn these pegs!" she said, describing how tuning the fiddle used to cause her physical stress. Read that article here.

December 2, 2022 at 10:10 AM · I presume you don't mean, how many per string? :) My violin has four fine tuners. My viola has four fine tuners. My cello has four fine tuners. One per string, of course. :) Thankfully the strings keep pitch for long enough that I don't need to use the tuning pegs too often.

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