Finetuners are for Babies???

August 19, 2009 at 02:56 PM ·

I was watching Simon Fisher's lectures on youtube and liked some but i was really shocked to watch a well-known author and teacher say to a student "Fine tuners are for babies".

and what condescendent tone! 


Replies (33)

August 19, 2009 at 10:32 PM ·

Watching that video, he was kinda rough on her. I think fine tuners are okay to use. But I can tune well with pegs.

August 19, 2009 at 10:40 PM ·

I can't tune with my pegs :) They are much too hard to turn, and stretching my string won't help either.

August 19, 2009 at 10:50 PM ·

One of my teachers siad the same exact same thing to me before ripping my fine tuners of my violin.

August 20, 2009 at 01:53 AM ·

Writing as a luthier I can only say the Mr Fisher is totally correct..he also mentions that the weight of the adjusters will mute the sound which is correct also...I DO feel a bit sorry for the student but get the feeling that Mr F is trying to give as much accurate info in a short time as possible.....

August 20, 2009 at 01:19 AM ·

Lol then, my no 1 idol  David Oistrakh is more baby than the majority (look at his violin setup...)

It's cool that a baby plays sooooo well and was admired by sooooo many!!! 

If Oistrakh is a baby, then I'm a microscopic foetus (not even!!!) 

 Find tuners can be removed for sound issues but to say they are for babies??? Well, each one his opinion and maybe he just wanted to tell that generally "soloists" do not have all four.


August 20, 2009 at 02:35 AM ·

Thanks Melvin.

Hi Anne-Marie. You mention David Oistrach. I don't know if this is generally true, or only my experience, but I find that just about all the players I come across who either are Russian, or come from Russian teachers, tend to use metal A strings - and therefore an adjuster for the A is of course appropriate.

So I have got it into my head that metal A strings are a kind of Eastern-European phenomenon. But perhaps the Russian violinists I have come across who use metal A strings are the ONLY ones in the whole of Eastern Europe who have ever used them in modern times. I don't know - perhaps others on could confirm or deny this.

Anyhow, you made me have a look to see what Oistrach used, and the first thing I looked at was this:

If you look at 3':31" you can see clearly that he has indeed two adjusters - but certainly not four.

I generally try to talk my students out of metal A strings, though I don't know why. I rarely win the argument because their metal A strings always sound great and feel even better - really easy to play under the finger and super-responsive under the bow. Why I have never experimented with one, I don't know. Perhaps as a result of this thread I will.

As for condescending, I haven't checked the footage but since I rarely feel like that (if ever, I hope), I'm sure I didn't then either! More a question of humour, actually, but possibly lost in translation - and although I had a mike on, it was a very large hall and in projecting one's voice all kinds of unintentional communications can enter the tone.

What IS funny is that I gave a consultation lesson today, and by co-incidence I said exactly the same thing to the (17-year-old) student: four fine-tuners are for babies! They're for children whose hands are too weak to turn the pegs. Haven't had occasion to say that to anyone for ages but I did today.

Then a little after the lesson I saw this thread here on, but didn't read it. I simply thought: interesting, that's what I said to xxxxxxx only half an hour ago. Then later still, I decided to open the thread, wondering if it was my student who had written it, and discovered that she hadn't but that it was about me! And not very positive either! Oh well.


August 20, 2009 at 04:13 AM ·

For what it's worth, I too had avoided the metal A until Tamsen Beseke, inventor of the acoustifoam, suggested I try the Pirastro Chromcor metal A which proved to be a wonderful A string with not only a strong tone but also a beautiful one. I have not felt the need to use a fine tuner on it. I only use the traditional fine tuner for the E. I have felt it was necessary to let the younger students use fine tuners on all four strings but generally it has been the Wittner tailpiece with the built in tuners (that are not as heavy as the invidual metal tuners) that I have used with the younger students.

August 20, 2009 at 04:27 AM ·

Writing as a luthier I can only say the Mr Fisher is totally correct..he also mentions that the weight of the adjusters will mute the sound which is correct also...

No, it is not the weight of the adjusters but the weight of the tailpiece.  The tailpieces made in metal are really heavy and dampen the sound but this is not true for the Harmonie tailpiece in wood with integrated finetuners

No finetuners are not for babies. There some people, likely older then young whose hands are not so strong anymore to turn the pegs, there are adults who prefer tuning in 5 seconds rather than in 5 minutes after putting a new set of string, there are performers who play outside and need to re-tune frequently and need finetuners. 

Let's remember that the goal is to be in tune. After that everyone is free to select the method they prefer to tune their violin.

Again today you said "four fine-tuners are for babies! They're for children whose hands are too weak to turn the pegs."

Sorry but i don't see the humor in this language more a mockery. Instead of using this language you could explain the disadvantages of the tailpieces in metal and ask if the violinist has any issue with turning the pegs and provide some advice. May be they never really learned to tune with the pegs. May be you have a great way to tune the pegs that would benefit your students?
But just saying "fine tuners are for babies" is not realy teaching anything.

August 20, 2009 at 07:31 AM ·

If nothing else your collegues will probably think less of you if you use four fine tuners unless you're quite elderly or arthritic or something along those lines.  For auditions that would be a disadvantage, however slight. 

In other news Simon Fischer is a member of  Amazing, the number of influential violinists that are members here seems to increase every day!

I tried a helicore A string once and found the violin sounded tinny.  Now I think I might try some other brands...

August 20, 2009 at 07:57 AM ·

I watched the Simon Fischer video clip...honestly, people here need to develop a thicker skin.  I personally didn't find his comment offensive.  But regardless, by the very nature of being violinists we face critique and criticism every single day.  From our conductors, teachers, collegues and some of the worst criticism comes from our fellow perfomers who don't hesitate to rip some musician apart on a minor issue with technique - even if they themselves can't yet play the piece in question.  And I would no more judge a player's ability (of any age) for having fine-tuners on their instrument than I would make the assumption that just because a player has an inexpensive instrument means that they don't play well.

I'm sure I've offended someone out there so I apologize in advance.  But honestly, if you can't handle the comments and criticism then get out the game because like it or not it's standard in this business. 

As for an opinion on fine tuners...I prefer my students to take them off as soon as possible and learn to use the pegs.  However, if they're using strings that need the tuners then yes we might leave several on. 


August 20, 2009 at 09:03 AM ·

I didn't see what was offensive anywhere. I probably would of kissed Simone's feet.

Though I don't want it to come to that...

I guess I am used to that from lessons anyway hah

August 20, 2009 at 10:02 AM ·

While I'm sure we can agree that four big metal fine tuners on a wood tailpiece isn't ideal in terms of sound, to completely dismiss the fine-tuning solutions that exist is foolish. The aforementioned Bois d'Harmonie piece are excellent, and I've had fine results with the Wittner composites on many instruments.

Behind that screen for the symphony audition, no one is going to care whether you have four fine tuners on that tailpiece or not. They committee WILL care if any of your open strings are even remotely out of tune. Well-fitted pegs are certainly wonderful, but there are many of us who play in environmental conditions where wood pegs don't do what they're supposed to 100% of the time. Using technology (if it can be called that, as old as it is now) like fine-tuners to solve these issues so that we can concentrate on making music rather than fussing with the hardware makes a lot of sense.

As someone mentioned to me once, "It's impressive to mow the lawn with scissors. But there are better tools."

August 20, 2009 at 10:04 AM ·

Fine tuners aren't for babies, they are for metal strings.

They don't work all that well on gut strings as they don't change the tension enough - so there's no point in having them if you use gut.

They can help with some synthetics, but you can get away without them if your pegs are well fitting.

But if you are using all metal strings, you ought to have them, because a small change in tension makes a big change in pitch, and the pegs just don't give that level of accuracy.

I used to use an old metal four adjuster Wittner tailpiece with my synthetics. because I used to play on stage with lots of hot lights which made my tuning unstable. They came in very handy to keep open strings in tune. There was no depreciation of tone. But now I use gut, I don't use adjusters on G,D, & A.


August 20, 2009 at 10:10 AM ·

I think that Bev makes a good point.  More importanly is one's strength of character.  Say that I'm a performer and competent to be up on the stage.  If I'm using fine tuners on all four of my strings, be they gut or whatever and someone doesn't like that arrangement they can walk out the door... Heck I'll refund there money and then some.

August 20, 2009 at 01:11 PM ·

Writing as a luthier I would suggest that the decision to use or not to use fine tuners is a matter of personal preference somewhat weighted by the conditions of the real world. There have been some fine tuners in the past, such as the type with an arm that swings down under the tailpiece, that I considered downright dangerous to the instrument. Most fine tuners intended for use with solid wood tailpieces are compromises at best, although some are more successful than others. The newer, very lightweight types with four integrated adjusters are a great improvement, and they come in enough flavors to satisfy most requirements. In any case, using a fine tuner or tuners does not necessarily reflect on the skill of the player.

The fine tuner comes into existence for a couple of reasons, 1) high-tension steel strings, 2) sticking pegs. Fine tuners may loosen and rattle, but when a player needs to tune in the middle of a hot and sticky concert and the E peg jumps and sticks, it isn't hard to see the value of fine adjusters. Also, pegs were developed long before steel strings existed, and they are not designed to make the extremely fine adjustments that a steel string requires. Just my two cents' worth.

August 20, 2009 at 01:47 PM ·

For us "oldsters" eventually a time may come when it is simply too painful to tune most wooden pegs from normal playing position. The only choices for consistently being able to tune our instruments quickly are:

1. fine tuners

2. geared pegs, such as Pegheds, Knilling Perfection Planetary Pegs, or the newer Wittner geared pegs.

Weight-wise, the Bois d'Harmonie tailpieces with 4 integral fine tuners are no heavier than most standard bare tailpieces (with a single E-tuner) - but they are expensive, actually about as expensive as the geared pegs. I have experimented with many of the integral-tuner tailpieces and found these to be the best for all the instruments I've tried them on (violins, violas, and cellos). Integral-tuner tailpieces allow the string afterlengths to be be "tuned" ; this cannot be done with fine tuners added to a standard tailpiece.

Cellists have been using 4 fine tuners since the introduction of high-quality steel strings.

Nothing beats the "thrill" of being able to use your pegs to tune a string right into a perfect fifth and hear it while you are doing it, and the geared pegs certainly provide for that -- not so the fine tuners -- which allow a more "quantized" approach to ending up in tune -- not as much fun!

Calling fine tuners "for babies," while demeaning, serves a good purpose  for encouraging young players to become more mature and independent, but I think it needs to be applied cautiously, first be sure the kids can tune their instruments at all, then worry about how they do it.

I added Bois d'Harmonie tailpieces to all my instruments about 5 years ago and later Pegheds about 2 - 3 years ago, arthritis was creeping in and I just didn't have enough "umpf" to tune those stiff pegs and then play too. W.R.T. wooden pegs, I've noticed many cellists (including Pros), who have to turn their instruments around, put down their bows, and tune their pegs with ther right hands. I've been turning pegs for 70 years and I've never had a set that remained easy to turn no matter how good it may have been at some time.

But, the argument that heavy fine tuners added to a standard tailpiece can spoil the tonal qualities of an instrument is a good one and one should be very aware of it.


September 22, 2009 at 03:18 AM ·

If fine-tuners are for babies, so is intonation.  It's nearly impossible, if at all possible, to achieve decent intonation on most pegboxes.  I borrowed a fiddle with mechanical pegs, but I consider them fine-tuners because they allowed for great precision.  I was pretty impressed with them, but they sure made string replacement a bear.

September 22, 2009 at 04:49 AM ·


not intereste din entering the debate about the language or choice of using fine tuners but with all due respect,  the following statement :

>It's nearly impossible, if at all possible, to achieve decent intonation on most pegboxes.  

is false.    I don`t think I can recall many situatons at all where I couldn`t get a violin from the lowest quality upwards in tune.  Except,  and this is where some conufision -may- have arisen where the strings are false/stretched or very old.   The sentnece in question also argues that ost orhcestral palyers cannot tune their insturments. 




September 23, 2009 at 08:46 PM ·

I need help! I removed my fine tuners today and i'm having problems with the G string.. I can't get it to be in a comfortable position so that i could turn the peg.. i need to stretch my arm and it doesn't work, it either slips or gets stuck. does anybody have any advice for me.. on how to get the peg in a good position or just anything.. how do you tune without fine tuners? I have a concert in 3 days so it would be horrible if i couldn't get my G string in tune since i'm playing solo the intro to "you raise me up"

September 23, 2009 at 08:54 PM ·

Sorry, Sarah. Apparently it's back to the nursery for you.

September 23, 2009 at 09:06 PM ·

Sarah, if you put pinkie around neck near scroll, you will gain counter- pressure to adjust the G while in playing position

September 23, 2009 at 09:57 PM ·

I had a local Russian (but has lived here in the States for a long while) tell me I should really use a fine tuner for my A.  He said the reason is because of the awkward (and potentially damaging, when you play all day) shape of the hand when you have to tune on the right side of the scroll.  You can't use other fingers to help hold it in place well at all.  G and D are easy to tune, because our thumb is on the left side of the hand when it is rotated upwards.  With A, however, it just is never comfortable.   He's said that in Russia, almost everyone does the A string, because you need to tune quickly and professionally (and especially so, since he's concertmaster of this local symphony!). 

I haven't done it yet, but I really am thinking about it.

September 23, 2009 at 11:27 PM ·

Russians do tend to use hill-style fine tuners on the A and E.  It does tend to be difficult to find A-strings that can be converted to loop ends, though - the best ones are perhaps Jargar, Zyex, and Vision Solo.

September 24, 2009 at 12:09 AM ·

Hey you must be right... my Russian teacher was categoric... I had to have 2 fine tuners (E and A)  I though it was an old style popular in the old days...  (and i know that gut strings go out of tune very fast).   But nowadays, so much soloists do just find with one on E.  I keep it on a A because I don't really care and my teachers wants me to do so. (It's not a big sacrifice... : )


September 24, 2009 at 12:36 PM ·

It stands to reason that more hardware and weight usually affects sound adversely. I also have an aesthetic problem with the look of 4 tuners, or even 2. (I have noticed a lot of Russians using a 2nd one on the A - but A.S. Mutter does, too.) Yet just one on the E, if it is a Hill style, looks elegant to me. We usually associate 4 tuners with beginners - hence, I guess, the "baby" remark.

Of course it's easier to tune with them, though they ususally work best with metal strings, which tend to sound well, metallic. But by pulling at the string to flatten it slightly, or pinching it above the fingerboard nut to sharpen it, we can come very close to the fine-tuner effect.

 A long time ago there was a similar thread where someone tried to argue that that country session players had better intonation than the likes of Perlman, because they used 4 tuners! Of course that's wrong. Let them try to play Perlman's high-wire repertoire and see how in tune they and their 4 tuners will be! Also, just because it's easier to tune with a tuner, it doesn't follow that you will play in tune after that. The open strings are only step one, and will quickly go out of tune. The rest is up to our ears and fingers. And has anyone noticed someone with the one tuner on the E play better in tune on the E? So why am I re-hashing an old argument? Well, this is, isn't it? ;-)

September 24, 2009 at 05:28 PM ·

Okay, I'm a beginner, and I have a love/hate thing with fine tuners. Love, cuz they are so easy to use. Hate, because....well, we all know why. Don't we. Yes, they make me feel like I need training wheels, and I'd like to rip them off...except they are built in and I'm not going there. And I hate the way they look for reasons beyond the baby stigma.

September 26, 2009 at 04:52 PM ·

 When I bought my new violin 2 years ago and the shop owner was taking care of the set-up, lowering the bridge and the nut a touch at my request, he asked about which tailpiece I wanted, the one w/1 tuner or four. I asked what he recommended.  "Will you be playing it as a fiddle or for classical?" he asked. I asked why that mattered. "Because every fiddler I know wants the fine tuners and classical players seem to have an issue with how that looks." 

I loved that explanation. I'm never going to be performing concertos with orchestras or rising up to recital level. I quickly chose the four fine-tuner option, never mind that it had been my plan all along to get a "professional-looking violin," one that wouldn't "mark me as a beginner."

I'm so glad I checked in my ego at the door and left it behind. Two years later I'm deeply grateful I have an instrument with four fine-tuners. Sooooooo much easier to fine-tune to that nth degree. If I were tuning by pegs alone (which I do sometimes to make sure I can), I'd constantly be settling for "close enough."

I must say, though, I am charmed by the image of a group of 9 and 12 month olds crawling amid a jungle of violins, turning those little steel knobs. But you know what? They really are ALL the wrong size for babies. Those tiny knobs in those fat, clumsy, exploring hands? Nope. Without bright coloring and a larger size, they simply won't sustain infantile interest. So, I'm afraid I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with Mr. Fisher here.

September 26, 2009 at 06:34 PM ·


I have to say it took me forever to figure out how to put this picture here. There must be an easier way. Now I am grumpy so I have to compose my thoughts about this thread.

Deep breath....there...this is a picture of my pegheds installed on my 1846 Pierre Sylvestre violin. I have been playing the violin for over 50 years. I could tune this violin, including the E string, perfectly, without having to use fine tuners although I did use one on the E.

My luthier, after several years of discusions, convinced me to let him install geared pegs. The maker of the geared pegs (not my luthier)  took my original ebony pegs, which had been replaced by new ebony pegs years ago, and fitted the head of the original peg to the new geared peg. It gives me great pleasure to tune the violin by touching the very old ebony pegs.

These geared pegs look pretty good to me. I love them. They are exceedingly easy to use. They NEVER slip or pop loose and I am never hesitant to make very minor tuning adjustments even during a concert. My violin looks exactly like it always had (minus the e tuner), it sounds better (without the e tuner), it is much easier and faster to tune and it stays in tune; always. Even a baby could tune it. No disrespect intended toward Mr. Fischer who is one of my heros.

It amazes me how many people, including myself,  keep doing difficult and awkward things in all walks of life when there are such simple and easy solutions. The violin is hard enough to deal with without clinging to outmoded and awkward behaviors simply because of tradition.


September 26, 2009 at 11:21 PM ·

Michael - though you had difficulty, you succeeded in posting your photo. Can you share how you did it? Thanks.

September 27, 2009 at 06:24 PM ·

First, enlist your computer geek son. That's what I did :) 

Laurie, correct me if I get any of this wrong or if there is an easier way.

Understand  that your picture has to be stored on a web server somewhere; like Flikr or Photobucket or any other web server. You don't just drag and drop it in your message or copy and paste. You have to link to your photo from within your reply. When you click on the little postcard icon above where you type your reply you are prompted for the file/location. Where it asks for URL type (or copy) the location provided by Flikr or Photobucket when you acces your photo on Flickr or Photobucket. The advantage of using a service like Flikr is that any photos that you upload (store there) will always be acessible from the web.

There may be a more intuitive way to do this but that is what we came up with. I welcome any corrections or improvements to my post as I think I did it in sort of a quick and dirty way.

Many thanks to Eric, my son, who is not a member here because he plays the flute.

September 27, 2009 at 11:24 PM ·

"A long time ago there was a similar thread where someone tried to argue that that country session players had better intonation than the likes of Perlman, because they used 4 tuners!"

Ahh, yes, that would be "Allan Speers."

I remember that statement, too.

P.S. What happened to Jim Miller?  He alsways ct right through the crap and squared off with the best and wors of them. HEre is a good point he had about the geared pegs:

From Jim W. Miller
Posted on November 15, 2006 at 01:22 AM

Ah. My apologies.

You know, nothing is better than a peg really, if it's working right, just because it has no backlash. Any system of gears will have backlash, and it will get worse with wear. I'd go with pegs. This gets back to what I was saying before - it's a simple thing, but it's also a highly evolved thing. It's about as improved as it's going to get already. [Flag?]


September 27, 2009 at 11:48 PM ·

Michael - yikes! I wish I had a computer-geek son! Maybe I can adopt someone? ;-)

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