Is it OK to install fine tuners on the four strings ?

August 27, 2007 at 05:44 AM · I am an adult beginner and sometimes fine tuning my violin becomes very difficult because the pegs do not rotate smoothly. I have already tried chalk to tighten the pegs when they become loose and have tried lubricants when the pegs become sticky, but this not always does the job. Of course, one solution to this problem would be to install fine tuners on all the strings. However, I have noticed that most professional violinists use only one fine tuner precisely on the E string.

My specific question is : Are there any disadvantages in having fine tuners insatalled on the four strings ? Wouid these disadvantages explain why most violinists only use one fine tuner?

Replies (65)

August 27, 2007 at 06:11 AM · I use fine tuners on all four of my strings. The reason I hear most often against fine tuners is that it alters the length of string behind the bridge, thus adjusting the tone. For the fine tuners that are added onto the tail piece, I can see that this might possibly be a problem. However, my tail piece has the fine tuners built in, so the length of string is actually similar to what you would get with out the fine tuners. I've also heard that these tail-pieces will sometimes break, and the only way to fix it is to get a new tailpiece. Well, I've had my violin for a good number of years, and have not had any problems with the mechanism. If you look after it carefully, then it won't break.

That being said, being a beginner, I don't think you should worry as to whether or not your instrument has fine tuners or not. IF you want them, go get them. It will definately help with tuning the open strings, which is a great start for anyone.

But, I'd also like to hear from other violinists, why do you use or not use fine tuners on A, D, and G?

August 27, 2007 at 12:13 PM · One problem you can encounter if you live in an area where the humidity changes, whenever pegs are left unturned for a month or longer, they will either swell or shrink with the humidity change, and then be either frozen or popped loose. If your pegs are ill fitting, the 4 tuners may or may not be enough , I'd second the idea of the tailpiece with built in tuners. Another option would be to install some version of mechanical pegs, which would be more expensive, and I think has the downside of taking longer to change strings.

I should add that most experienced violinists are content with wood pegs that work well, ie, well fit and lubed.

August 27, 2007 at 12:40 PM · My colleague and I ask all our school students to use 4 fine tuners to speed up the whole process of tuning in groups, and because not all have great instruments. Metal strings "need" tuners in a way that synthetic don't, but with synths you can still get a half-step of more of adjustment with a tuner before you have to go back to the pegs. The tailpiece with built-in tuners is nicer-looking than all that metal hooha, and helps avoid accidentally getting gouges in the top. One thing you can also do is get some instruction at the shop or from a teacher on how to wrap the strings when using the pegs. The proper technique helps make the pegs rotate well and hold their place. Compounds of any kind gum up sooner or later. Sue

August 27, 2007 at 01:57 PM · I can understand how frustrating it can be to tune with poorly fitted pegs, or pegs that do not move reliably and predictably. I have a Whittner (spelling?) carbon fiber tailpiece with 4 fine tuners, but I still prefer to tune the A, D and G with pegs as it is easier for me to bring them in tune as I draw the bow across the strings. But, my violin has somewhat poorly fitted pegs, so I have to use the fine tuners now and then as well. I use Hill's peg compound, but my poorly-fitted pegs can still be a source fo frustration. Some day when I have my own better-quality violin I will abandon this sort of tailpiece and tune with the pegs, as is my preference.

August 27, 2007 at 02:43 PM · Hey! You should try a Harmonie tailpiece. These are somewhat expensive, but they're the best. I have one on my cello and it's totally worth the price. See link below for more information.

http://www.johnsonstring.com/cgi-bin/accessorysearch/accessorysearch.cgi

August 27, 2007 at 02:44 PM · There are a number of "integral-tuner tailpieces," Wittner, Thomastik, Akusticus, and the wooden Pusch, and Bois d'Harmonie. Of course there are also a number of no-brand types, such as come with e-bay Chinese violins.

I recommend the Bois d'Harmonie above all the others. It is available in ebony, rosewood, boxwood, and pernambuco. It is expensive, but does not spoil the tone the way the other brands may tend to.

I only started to use fine tuners on violins a few years ago after a lifetime without them (except for the E string), but the creaping arthritis of aging fingers is sometimes eased by using fine tuners for little adjustments. Also, you can do a small quick fix in the midst of an orchestra without really listeniing.

August 27, 2007 at 04:46 PM · You might look into the Perfection pegs by Knilling. These came already installed on my violin, and they're actually really good. You'll want to have them installed by a professional, since there's some know-how involved, but if you look around, you can find the pegs, themselves, for around $60.00, and you might be looking at a similar cost for having them installed. However, they're well worth it, since you don't have to have fine tuners at all with them...not even on the E string.

It's MUCH faster to tune using just the pegs, rather than having to tune with the pegs and fine tuners together. The only real drawback to these pegs, other than their somewhat higher cost, is that they have to be glued into the peg box, which means the glue will have to be dissolved in order to remove them, should you ever decide to change to different pegs. This entails added expense in their removal. But, they're still a very reasonable option for folks who don't want big, heavy, bulky tailpieces full of fine tuners. A tailpiece without any fine tuners is lighter and freer to vibrate, which can help improve the instrument's overall sound.

August 27, 2007 at 06:02 PM · The idea of custom mechanical tuners sounds nice... probably the least invasive in terms of impacting the sound of an instrument?

A bit of harshness is gained when using thin cheap tuners, so be sure to buy quality ones. I originally purchased some cheapos from a local shop, and eventually swapped them out for heavy Wittner tuners which are made of solid steel.

I'm a bit of a construction purist, and I don't like tailpieces with built in tuners, simply because I don't have control over what tuner is installed. I'd much rather keep the original tailpiece and insert tuners of my choice. Avoid alloy or plastic tailpieces with built in tuners... eesh.

I watched someone twist and twist a fine tuner screw until there was no more thread. Be sure to do the bulk of your tuning with the pegs.

August 27, 2007 at 08:45 PM · do not like tuners-a purist maybe. Seems to choke the sound of my violin. I had ones that are integral with the tailpiece when I lived in the tropics with metal strings years ago. With nylon strings I prefer a non-tuner tailpiece with only a tiny hooked tuner for my e string. The violin sounds much more sweeter.(My thoughts)

August 27, 2007 at 06:56 PM · Hi

I have one more question not covered so far. I find that each time I use my (as yet new) violin I need to adjust the fine tuners a fraction. So little that I couldn't accurately do it using just pegs and added two more fine tuners (I had two originally).

My question is this: will pulling in the other direction each time I tune (ie each time the string is pulled toward the tailpiece) damage it more than the usual towards the pegs?

August 27, 2007 at 08:58 PM · I don't see anything wrong with you having 4 tuners. The only practical problem is that synthetic strings respond poorly due to their greater elasticity. Finer tuners work best with steel strings.

I wouldn't bother with the other types of pegs--I'd rather see you learn to tune a good old standard one eventually. Isn't 15th- century technology something?

August 27, 2007 at 09:35 PM · If you are an adult beginner, you have my blessing to install fine tuners on all four strings! I'd also do this for teenagers still learning to tune, with a 3/4 or full violin. The advantages in being able to accurately tune your violin outweigh any disadvantages.

August 27, 2007 at 09:53 PM · When we tune with pegs, there is a tendency for the bridge to be pulled towards the peg box. This will need to be corrected over time to make sure that the bridge doesn't warp. When using fine tuners, the bridge gets pulled towards the tailpiece. Again, this means the bridge needs to be straightened over time. Apart from this, there's no real damage to the strings or to the violin from using fine tuners - so long as you don't let the fine tuners get so low that they start scratching the belly of the violin.

August 27, 2007 at 11:48 PM · Your post made me laugh, Laurie!

I can get into hyper-tech-analysis as well as the next guy, so your post brought me back to reality.

For an adult beginner, why not experiment with $5 worth of add-on fine tuners?

The more expensive options can follow if needed.

August 28, 2007 at 02:57 AM · I agree with Laurie --the benefits of having fine tuners on all your strings far outweighs any disadvantages.

Whether you're a beginner or a pro, the convenience of being able to fine-tune your violin is always a good thing.

When you've progressed in your studies, you may find yourself wanting a warmer tone, especially from the lower strings. This is why some violinists don't have fine tuners on G, D, and (sometimes) A strings: by directly attaching the string to the tailpiece, more low-end vibrations are allowed to pass to the violin's body and are therefore amplified. This results in a more rich, resonant, and somewhat booming sound than if you have fine-tuners.

However, what's the use of having a violin with rich sound capability if you can't play in tune?

So, IMO, go fine-tuners all the way unless you're experienced enough that you don't need them anymore.

In any case, most professional violinists that I know (even soloists!) use fine tuners on all their strings :-)

August 28, 2007 at 03:55 AM · There exists a tuning peg with hidden internal gearing (I think they call them "pegheads") which eliminate the need for fine tuners entirely. However they have to be installed professionally, and will probably run a couple hundred bucks to buy and install. But or old semi-arthritic fingers, they are perhaps worth considering.

While I wouldn't put them on my Strad, if I had a Strad to put them on, I'd give them more than a passing thought. On the other hand, if you go to gut strings you could probably do without fine tuners as well, but you'd be doing rather more tuning overall.

August 28, 2007 at 08:26 PM · Bob,

Pegheds (they're actually spelled this way) are one of the names under which the Perfection pegs are marketed, if I'm not mistaken. Knilling has the patent on that design, so I don't think another company is making a similar product that warrants the kind of expense you mentioned. If Pegheds are going for that much, look for "Perfecton pegs" instead. They're the same thing, but a lot cheaper. I hope this helps folks' pocketbooks. ;)

August 28, 2007 at 11:18 PM · Gee, Larry, somehow I overlooked your earlier post. They're exactly what I was tryong to talk about, of course. I was told that a set of four plus installation would run a couple centuries, but I didn't shop around to see if it could be done any cheaper elsewhere.

August 29, 2007 at 06:50 AM · Has anyone tried the harmonie tailpieces? They have tuners built in but are somehow more light-weight than a regular tailpiece, or so I hear...they cost around $170 so they must be good....

August 29, 2007 at 08:41 AM · The Bose are very beautiful, but despite what some think they are not reportedly better sounding than others, with the possible exception of the pernambuco model. (and even that might be hype.)

Several well-respected luthiers and repairmen I have spoken to, who have actually auditioned various tailpieces, all say that the Wittner pro is actually the best sounding overall, on the most violins. It's also the lightest, FWIW.

I'm considering a Bose harmonie anyway, just for the looks. They sure are sweet. what I REALLY want are pegheds, but I must admit I'm waiting for them to be fully accepted in the higher-end market before modding any of my fiddles, just for the resale value issue.

August 29, 2007 at 02:25 PM · "Pegheds" are produced and sold by the original inventor. "Perfection pegs" are manufactured under license by Knilling.

The original Pegheds have a bit nicer finish, offer wood as an optional material instead of just plastic, have some higher grade internal components, and are guaranteed for life (the manufacturers life, not yours).

Both work very well, but I don't have any long-term experience with either.

August 29, 2007 at 02:21 PM · one will notice that a number of russian players use two tuners (a and e). Frankly, there is SOME sense to this, since those two are on the side to the ground, and A would be the one that you are want to confirm tuning with when playing with others.

I have seen on professional who used tuners on all four strings. That was the great Australian violinist Jane Peters.

I once asked a luthier in New York about the tuner issue and he said something about 4 tuners would change the harmonics. I am not sure whether that was true, and think perhaps he just believed in the convention of one tuner.

After all these years, I prefer two on my own instruments.

However, there might be a problem with the holes in your peg box. Other things are the type of wood that the pegs are. Some types of wood compress more easily and others take up moisture more readily.

August 29, 2007 at 03:05 PM · Hmmm. Looks like I could be wrong on who holds the patent on these things. Whatever the case, I know from experience that Perfection pegs work very, VERY well. I dunno if Pegheds could be so much better that they're worth the much higher price. However, I've been hearing that the folks at Pegheds can customize their pegs to some to degree to better fit a buyer's preferences for color, head design, etc. This, of course, means even more money for the pegs, but it's at least an option not available with Perfection pegs. What you get is what you get...but what you get is still a darned good set of pegs. :)

August 29, 2007 at 03:06 PM · If you had your peg slippage/gripping problem under control I'd say yes, if not I'd say get that under wraps first. Then decided if you still want them. There are professional products out there that are cheap for the peg issue. Always try the least technology first.

August 29, 2007 at 03:47 PM · One thing no one has mentioned about using 4 fine tuners - I prefer the Bech magnetic mute, because it doesn't rattle or otherwise change the sound of the instrument when not in use. But with 4 tuners there is no room to attach the little magnet onto the tailpiece. If you're a beginner, however, you're not going to be using a mute, so I'd say "go for it!" I'd rather a beginning student learn to hear precise tuning rather than "settling" for the tuning s/he can achieve with badly fitted pegs.

August 30, 2007 at 06:47 PM · I play 5-string violin these days, and they don't make 5-string tailpieces w/o fine tuners. Even though I grew up playing with only one tuner, I have come to find it incredibly useful as I perform under lots of different climactic conditions, and so if a string goes slightly out of tune during a performance, I can adjust quickly...that has been really nice.

August 30, 2007 at 07:38 PM · When I bought my violin last August, a lovely clear-sounding "fabulous for the price range" Romanian fiddle (Enesco Antiqued Euro-Workshop or something like that), the shop owner asked "with or without fine-tuners?" When I solicited his opinion on sound differences, he told me most of his fiddle clients leapt for the fine tuners (including professional fiddlers) but the classical violinists avoided them. When I asked why, he confessed he thought, among other things, that it was an image thing, that having four fine tuners if you were a classical musician was admitting defeat of some sorts, like training wheels.

I have to say, I would have gone with just the one fine tuner until I talked with him. (And the conversation wasn't as simplistic or cut & dry as I'm making it out to be here, and yes, he was experienced with both violins and guitars, although I don't know whether he was just an expert or an actual luthier.) And now, boy am I glad I have both options to tune with. I use my pegs enough, but I use the fine tuners constantly during my hour practice, to tweak the sound just the tiniest bit in a way I would have just ignored had I only had the pegs. Once, when I was testing out violins, I went to a shop where they'd laid out ten violins for me, which was heavenly, except I swear I spent 25% of the time with them just trying to get them perfectly in tune. Back and forth, back and forth with those pegs, trying to get it right. Really, I challenge anyone to argue that this is a good use of time for an adult beginner with limited time.

Give me fine tuners, give me a chromatic tuner to tune my open strings. Then I'll get to work and focus on what really matters in this game.

August 30, 2007 at 09:02 PM · Terez,

Amen. ;)

Though the geared pegs are still about the best option for tuning I've yet seen. But, whether it's geared pegs or fine tuners in the tailpiece, about the only reason for damning them is plain ol' elitism.

August 31, 2007 at 05:56 PM · I have perfection pegs on mine with a fine tuner on the "E". I recommend them, without hesitation. The reason for the fine tuner, my teacher requested that it be on there.

I have had some say all sorts of things about how these can damage the pegbox and are not traditional, and yada, yada, yada.

They work. They look exactly like regular pegs. They do not slip, and they are made out of materials that will last. For all the cranking on them that I've done changing strings etc., they have never given even the slightest problems. They are zero maintenance, no lubricating, etc.

The guy that invented them (Pegheds) worked at Star Music here in Columbia, SC. I think he still lives around here, but I'm not sure.

Great invention. Gotta hand it to the guy, must have been interesting making all those tiny gears like that. ;)

September 2, 2007 at 07:33 PM · I started violin 7 months ago, after 50 to 55 years of playing guitar, dobro and steel guitar. I began with a rental with 4 fine tuners and this simplified "getting down to business" both for practice and for my lessons. I recently upgraded my violin to one that has Perfection pegs. I am very pleased with both systems. If my G string is 20 cents flat and my D and A are 10 cents flat, I can tune quickly without any problems. 40 years ago I had friction pegs on a mint condition 1905 Martin 0 28 guitar. It was very difficult to tune . If it had geared pegs, I would probably have kept it and be a wealthy man today.

September 5, 2007 at 11:57 AM · I had resisted the 4 fine tuners idea up until now because of the issues with the extra weight and shortening of the string length but with the new lighter materials and non string shortening designs available I plan on having my violin fitted with one of the 4 tuner tailpieces very soon. Along with playing in the orchestra I also do bluegrass/country where often we are outside and need to be retuning almost constantly. In a set there is often next to no time between songs to tune and frequently in this genre we use open strings and double stops - no place to hide - and I think this will be a good move for me.

September 5, 2007 at 12:52 PM · >I also do bluegrass/country where often we are outside and need to be retuning almost constantly. In a set there is often next to no time between songs to tune and frequently in this genre we use open strings and double stops - no place to hide - and I think this will be a good move for me.

Yup, this fully backs up what the guy who sold me me violin told me, that all the fiddlers he sells to - professional and amateur - all use four fine tuners. And on the playing outside business, I've played my scales outdoors more in the past few months (see my blog if you want an explanation) and it sure is nice to have that fine-tuning right there, so easy to tweak, especially the A string.

September 6, 2007 at 07:30 PM · Laurie Niles: "The advantages in being able to accurately tune your violin outweigh any disadvantages."

Q.F.T.

Taking a historical view, friction pegs evolved in the gut-string era and really don't seem quite up to the demands metal or synthetic strings. The geared peg seems like a new(ish) and elegant solution that best solves the conflicting requirements of ease, repeatability, appearance, and minimum acoustic impact... which I expect may become the widely adopted solution a few decades hence. Meanwhile, and especially for a student, four fine tuners certainly trumps zero or one. My son's Mittenwald is so equipped, and I don't think either of us would want it any other way.

Eddy

September 6, 2007 at 08:25 PM · go to your violin shop and ask for peg dope. you take the pegs off (one at a time) and u apply a little bit of the brownish peg stuff and restring it, and it should stick and also turn with ease, in a matter of minutes.

September 6, 2007 at 08:34 PM · The interesting thing is that the Harmonie fine tuner tailpieces seem to be about the same price as Perfection Pegs and don't affect the sound either.

So I think people who want fine tuning ability have two reasonable options today.

- Ray

September 9, 2007 at 09:11 PM · When I first started out on the violin some 15 years ago, I thought fine tuners were mighty cool, and had all four strings on the fine tuners.

As I grew up and ended up being an engineer, my love for the violin never faded, instead it grew deeper. But as an engineer (and a luthier specialising in violin repairs) since the last 10 years, I began developing an appreciation for the science and acoustics in the construction and setup of a violin. It is true, fine tuners are not used to allow the string length between the bridge and the tailpiece to be of a certain length, typically 55 mm or a sixth of the string length from nut to bridge, such that plucking on this short length always sounded 2 octaves above the next string. Acoustically, this is good when you are bowing on open strings and certain notes.

But at the beginning, prior to developing a matured tone, I guess what would really be more important is the ability to tune the strings easily or to keep them in tune without much hassle. Your slipping pegs could most likely be due to improperly reamed peg holes or ill-fitted pegs...nothing short of a peg reamer and properly fitted pegs could fix. Now, if only I could take a look at them for you.

Good luck!

Devon Buy

www.mgtrix.com

September 9, 2007 at 09:43 PM · I'm probably wrong again but:

I've tuned up many violins and I've never tuned 1 up where the pegs turned easily.

Always too sharp,too flat and a continuous repetition of same.

The amount of time involved is lengthy and I could'nt imagine tuning without fine tuners in public [say 20 minutes!].

I'll stick w/Wittner w/4 built-in tuners,makes playing much easier.

September 11, 2007 at 11:28 AM · fine tuners on all strings definitely make it much easier, especially if you're a beginner, make it easy for yourself for a while! :) Congratulations on taking this wonderful instument up by the way, I commend any adult that does so. Watch what strings you are using too... if they have a gut core such as olives for instance, fine tuners are often not able to be used because of issues with the strings coping with tension. Check it out with your teacher.

Cheers, and keep it up!

September 11, 2007 at 06:06 PM · Hello everyone,

I would like to thank all of you who have been giving me such a tremendous amount of good advise on this fine-tuners issue. For the time being, I will go for the Wittner tailpiece w/4 built-in tuners.

August 19, 2009 at 03:00 AM ·

For the time being, I will go for the Wittner tailpiece w/4 built-in tuners.

I had a Wittner tailpiece with the built-in tuners for the convenience of quick and accurate tuning. When i played there was always some thoughts in my mind about the sound that was not right. I feld the sound muted, constricted and the sound of the  bowing quite loud.

I changed the tailpiece to a tailpiece in wood (rosewood) and WOW the sound feels freed, airy, more powerful and projected. The sound of the bow also does not sound scratchy anymore.

As one luthier explained the wittner tailpiece with the built-in tuners is heavy and dampen the sound of the violin.

That's the good news. The drawback is that is now takes me longer to tune and less accurately. I will now look into installing a wooden tailpiece with integrated fine-tuners.  The harmonie tailpiece i have seen on JohnsonString are expensive but seems worth it as it provides the advantages of both world.

 

 

 

November 5, 2011 at 02:46 AM · You should learn how to set a sound post. Some people claim that it is an art form, but frankly, I don't think it is all that complicated. Anyway, I've taken my fiddle to top professional luthiers to have the post adjusted and inevitably, when I get home, I prefer the sound a little different so I end up tweaking it myself to get the sound I'm after. The problem is, when you are at a violin shop and get the sound post adjusted, it is hard to tell whether the sound is what you want because you are in an unfamiliar acoustic setting. Usually, violin shops have a boomy sound with all the instruments around vibrating like crazy and often with wood floors so you get lots of reverb, kind of like playing in the bathroom. What sounds best in the shop may not be what you are after when you get it into your practice room. At least, that's been my experience.

November 5, 2011 at 03:35 AM · Don't worry. If the violin adjuster is worth his salt, he can get it back for you. In fact you aught to play it and let him fine tune it on the spot. That way, he can get it back how you want it.

November 5, 2011 at 04:20 AM · In my experience, the violins that sound best in practice rooms tend not to sound so great in the concert hall.

Sound adjustment is best left to the professionals. In my opinion, one should avoid the urge to adjust his or her own instrument; it could potentially lead to obsession over setup and a wild goose chase for the perfect soundpost position that may end up damaging the inside of the violin quite badly.

Also, I would never trust somebody like that to be within three feet of my instrument...

November 5, 2011 at 06:20 AM · Quote from Brian: In my opinion, one should avoid the urge to adjust his or her own instrument; it could potentially lead to obsession over setup and a wild goose chase for the perfect soundpost position that may end up damaging the inside of the violin quite badly.

I must agree with Brian on this. One of the best things that ever happened to me was when I lost my post setter. Exactly as stated... obsession - wild goose chase - damage.

November 5, 2011 at 09:35 AM · "Quote from Brian: In my opinion, one should avoid the urge to adjust his or her own instrument; it could potentially lead to obsession over setup and a wild goose chase for the perfect soundpost position that may end up damaging the inside of the violin quite badly.

I must agree with Brian on this. One of the best things that ever happened to me was when I lost my post setter. Exactly as stated... obsession - wild goose chase - damage."

You could apply this statement to many other things such as - rosin - strings - chin rests - shoulder rests - well, you name it!!

When all of the time, without such wild goose chase obsessions, one could have been learning a better technique!!

November 5, 2011 at 01:33 PM · I never tried to do anything with a soundpost, but my experience with trying different strings on different instruments leads me to believe Brian hit the nail on the head.

November 5, 2011 at 02:49 PM · I use Perfection pegs too. Like Enion, I play a 5-string, and there are good reasons for using the Perfections. Quicker to tune than using tailpiece tuners, very accurate, usable on all 5 strings too. You can leave the original tailpiece untouched, and anyway, finding a 5-string integrated tailpiece is not easy.

I'd suggest caution in trying any other brand of planetary pegs. The Perfections have "infinite" tuning range (like properly fitting traditional pegs), whereas some (like the Wittner ones) are graduated. They click as they turn, so theoretically are not capable of reaching an exact pitch.

Also, some of the compostite integrated tailpieces are lighter than a trad wood one fitted with individual tuners, so that may be a consideration for tone.

November 5, 2011 at 04:22 PM · Quote Peter Charles: You could apply this statement to many other things such as - rosin - strings - chin rests - shoulder rests - well, you name it!!

When all of the time, without such wild goose chase obsessions, one could have been learning a better technique!! [Flag?]

This is very true. (apologies for off topic, after 48 reply's, perhaps Ok?) Where is the line drawn between obsession and the desire to get a fiddle/set-up/strings etc.(& all the above)that you are happy & confident with. As previously stated in another thread, over the past 2 years, I've gone thru 4 acoustics and many string sets to accomplish this. If I would have "given up" I would have fallen short.

But to agree with Peter's point, I can now concentrate on actually playing the instrument.

(Hi Jim)

November 5, 2011 at 05:39 PM · I must agree that this can especially be applied to strings... last night, another violinist in my studio and I were trying different strings on our instruments since I had just gotten a new set in the mail (Visions), and by the time we were done experimenting with strings (both the new ones and some old ones we had stored in our cases) we realized that two hours had passed and we had gotten no practicing done...

November 5, 2011 at 07:31 PM · While I do agree that some people are obsessed with getting the ideal sound out of their instruments, and there is a point of diminishing returns, I still think it can be useful to be able to set the sound post yourself. Last year my fiddle wasn't quite sounding the way I liked. I took it to two respected luthiers and neither one was able to get it back to the way I liked. I struggled with it for about 2 months before I decided to take matters into my own hands. I spent about an hour playing around with the sound post and I've been happy ever since. As for damaging the instrument, I was a LOT more careful than the luthiers. One of them was banging the sound post around and even took a little wood off the f-hole.

November 5, 2011 at 07:36 PM · There actually is a solution to your problems. If you're going to stick to that instrument for a few years use "Perfection pegs" they're so easy a child can do it! I myself do not use perfection pegs but I have a good enough violin to maintain pitch and I only use a fine tuner for the E'. But then again just stick with 4 fine tuners or it's going to be "a wild goose chase for set-up

November 6, 2011 at 01:29 AM · brian lee warns about wasting time chasing after sound from playing around the sound post and yet to his dismay, he spent 2 hours playing around with strings:). why? because he was curious to know.

he did not waste time; he used it in a different way, not necessarily wasteful, but possibly as useful. i don't think brian would have lost track of time for 2 hours if for ten seconds he sensed that the string trying activity was meaningless, irrelevant and uneducational.

the same can be said about sound post setting. it is perfectly ok for some to argue that they are happy to leave the adjustment to their trusted luthiers. in fact, i think most folks are better off that way considering the risk and benefit. if one is happy, status quo is pretty cool.

but there are also other circumstances as well. smiley described one. i have another.

playing around the sound post, certainly more challenging than changing strings, has been one of the most interesting things my kid and i have done on the violin. i change the location, she provides critique. we have explored all our violins in terms of how they sound like with many different sound post positions, and often, teeny weeny change in one direction or another. in this process, our ears have received training--sound discrimination, sometimes subtle, other times night and day-- that we would not be able to find elsewhere.

some people are more handy than others (perhaps less fearful). playing with the sound post definitely carries risks, such as pushing too far toward the treble side, scratching the varnish around the f holes by accident, or even wood damage. but with experience from trials and errors, the risk is lowered, as with everything else in life.

follow brian's example and experiemnt to your fancy and have fun!

November 6, 2011 at 02:46 AM · Only thing is... changing strings is something that any violinist should be able to do, whereas the proper setting of soundposts is something that requires lots of formal training.

Other thing is, we spent about twenty minutes on my violin, and an hour and a half on my friend's (because he stayed firm in his belief that the next combination he tried would be a better one).

The point I was trying to get across is that it's almost always more productive to spend those two hours practicing than it is to spend it fiddling with permutations of strings, specific soundpost positions...

You may not think you're damaging your fiddle, but you may very well be gouging the spruce top. I sure hope that these aren't historically important instruments that you're fooling around with.

Experimentation by trial and error carries significantly more risk when that error may entail permanent damage to your (or worse, someone else's) beloved instrument.

November 6, 2011 at 03:12 AM · Brian, I agree with you that it is possible to $%#$ up a good instrument. But on the other hand, it really isn't the big deal you make it out to be. For one thing, take a look inside any old violin and you will find patches all over the place. Second, some people are more than able to figure out how to do this safely. Thirdly, don't worry so much about the top. Cracking the back is much worse.

November 6, 2011 at 01:12 PM · hello tom, understand your situation.

since you are a surgeon, possibly board certified and well trained and experienced, you won't be surprised that in a room of 20 equally qualified surgeons, a few can perform hernia repair better than others, a few can do heart bypass while others cannot.

the point is, even luthiers can be hit and miss with sound post work. beyond good training and experiences, you need talent. and luck, which comes after hard work and talent.

also keep in mind that A LOT of things could have changed since your post fell. for example, the post and the bridge had once established a relationship that apparently has worked for you. a total stranger needs to be a genius to reretablish that relationship without your input, or even with your input if the process is not done exhaustively through all the permutations.

and then the psychology part which surgeons may or may not pay much attention to (just kidding).

you see, in your mind right now, you are more doubtful than not that the right sound can be ever restored. your violinist friend has failed once which affirms your suspicion.

which lucky dawg did the previous setup?

brian, i was just teasing you. as i said in that post as well, most violinists have no biz playing around with the sound post. their life is hysterical enough already...does not need the added drama or possible trauma.

and the psychology part is that violinists going onto the stage need all the edge they can find. it is very important to face the audience knowing that your violin sound post is set by the best guy you can find (even if it sucks) than by yourself (even if it is superior). you must believe in your business!

November 6, 2011 at 10:52 PM · Tom,

When you ship an instrument, it is inevitable that it will undergo some temperature and humidity changes. When the luthier gets it and sets the post, it may sound good to him in his shop at a given temperature and humidity (a lot of variables here), but when you get it back, it may not have the sound that you are used to; especially since you just changed the tail piece.

So, if the sound is not to your liking, are you going to ship the instrument back again? I sincerely hope you get lucky and the luthier nails it on the first try, but if it were me, I'd be ready with my sound post setter. Actually, I wouldn't have shipped the instrument in the first place. Just set the post, bump it around a little and you will be good to go. I'm actually more afraid of damaging the instrument while shipping, than damaging it while setting the sound post.

November 7, 2011 at 12:48 AM · hello tom, please get back to us on this thread later if you can so we can follow up on whether the same person (qualified luthier) can, without your presence, set the sound post in 2 different occasions to your exact liking. it will be interesting to know one way or another.

good luck and keep us posted!

November 7, 2011 at 03:12 AM · yes, I would also be interested in the outcome. My new fiddle (fresh from Romania)...back separated at the bottom after a couple of months, very dry climate here. I was very concerned about a post re-set for the glue job, as I like that post EXACTLY where it is and had a strong feeling that any post re-set would be negative. I was sooo relieved, post did not fall, no hitches with the back re-glue and sounds the same as when it went in.

I sincerely hope you get your sound back or possibly improved.

November 7, 2011 at 12:30 PM · "Hello. This luthier, Roger Stern in Ohio originally set the post and shipped it to me so I am as comfortable as one can be with the shipping and the luthier. "

Great, I hope it works out for you. Please post back (pun intended) to let us know how it goes. We are all waiting in anticipation. I think your fiddle will be fine.

November 12, 2011 at 12:40 AM · haha, good for you, tom! the patient is breathing again!! :)

November 13, 2011 at 01:47 AM · All this talk about sound posts is why I can't imagine paying $360 for a tailpiece and then not spending the extra $30-40 to have a luthier install it for me, especially on a treasured violin. One thing I think ANY luthier should be able to do is change a tail piece without dropping your sound post.

By the way, if one really loves the sound of one's violin, is it an unreasonable idea to take perhaps a thin pencil and mark the location of the sound post on the inside of the back, through the f-hole? You could draw a semicircle around the right side of it, next to the back. In fact, maybe the thing to do is to for luthiers to make a small inked grid on the back of the violin in the location of the sound post, with a spacing of perhaps 1 mm. That way the precise X and Y coordinates of the sound post can be always known and adjustments can be more quantitative. Could be done on the top too, but you'd need a mirror to see it.

November 13, 2011 at 02:16 AM · A well-fitted soundpost should not fall even if it were an amateur changing the tailpiece (like I did a couple years ago, back when I was playing on a student fiddle), unless you were to vigorously shake the violin or something.

November 13, 2011 at 02:51 AM · paul, perhaps you can mark the bottom from the f hole, but how do you mark the top side? in my unqualified experience, measuring in mm at times is not fine enough. wish there is a unit for,,um,,nudge.

brian, is it you again? :)

humidity changes the curvature of the plates thus the "tightness" of the original fit. i think even a good original fit may change with time and we often find that out when we change strings incorrectly.

November 15, 2011 at 12:25 PM · thanks tom for the interesting update. i must say the harmonie piece design looks so sleak and elegant. my kid is using a throw away 4-tuner end piece made of plastic, i think. let me know if you want to swap, ha.

are you saying that you completely take out the fine tuning apparatus of the end piece now (except the metal tubing studs)? if so, how do you fine tune then? also, doesn't the string now ride over a rather sharp edge (90 degree) over the hole meant for the fine tuning arm thingy and will that wear your string wrapping down sooner?

i tend to agree with you that change of weight/material should make a difference to a setup and it seems that in this case you can hear it...

for me and my kid it is sometimes funny. say, i would adjust the sound post in her absence. she will come home and play it, stop and look at me and say: did you move the sound post again? :)

other times, she will just play through, but i FEEL that i can hear a difference which apparently she did not detect. who knows,,,:)

November 15, 2011 at 01:27 PM · "Will wait for a trip to a city with a good Luthier."

you are in luck since i am coming to town and throwing the sound post setter in the golf bag is no biggie. just kidding, your fine violin is safe :) but i will keep an eye for local news on tv in case there is a violin sound post emergency:)

will be in port st lucie area with my kid for a tournament. just checked the weather: humidity 70-90% (for the 5 day range). violins must behave quite differently despite AC.

are there times when you pick up the violin to play and notice that the violin is heavier? :)

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