Possible problem with geared pegs ?

July 7, 2012 at 02:31 PM · I may have a problem with newly installed Wittner geared pegs. I have had this new violin with the geared pegs for 5 days now. I sent it down to Brisbane to have the pegs fitted and the sound post reinstalled because it fell down during transit from China.

The violin sounds great but it will not stay in tune for more than 20 minutes. I have checked the outer barrel of the pegs by making a pencil mark across the pegs and the violin peg box ; it is not moving at all so everything is okay there. The pegs were installed by a professional luthier.

So that means either the internal gearing is slipping or the tailgut is slipping. But I have had a slipping tailgut before and usually all the strings drop by an equal amount so I do not think it is the tailgut. Also , this is a Wittner tailpiece and their tailguts are usually pretty good.

Has anybody had any problem with the Wittner geared pegs ? Is there some other possibility that I have overlooked ? I am a bit reluctant to point the finger at the geared pegs as I have not heard any other complaints about them. Usually 5 days is enough for a new violin with new strings to settle down but others may have a different opinion. All comments and suggestions are welcome.

Replies (32)

July 7, 2012 at 02:50 PM · What kind of strings? Strings take different amounts of time to settle in, some just a few hours. Five days seems extreme. Did you graphite bridge and nut? If there isn't enough string wrapped around the peg, maybe the string is slipping from the peg. Just thoughts......

July 7, 2012 at 04:55 PM · how stable has your weather been?

July 7, 2012 at 05:07 PM · Yes, I can see that the Luthier has used Graphite on the usual places and there is plenty of string wrapped around the peg.

The weather is cool so things are quite stable. It is only in summer that we have violin problems here.

My violins are fitted with D'Addario Pro Arte strings. Only the violin in question is causing problems. When I fitted these strings to the other violin everything settled down in about 24 hours.

Of course, I could go ahead and replace the tailgut but I first wanted to see if there was some other possibility that I am missing.

July 7, 2012 at 05:10 PM · Once or twice I've had a little problem with new strings slipping on old polished pegs. I solved it by applying a tiny of rosin dust from my bow to the last inch or so of the winding on the peg end of the string before I wind it on the peg. Would your Wittner pegs be slippery?

July 8, 2012 at 12:01 AM · It might be worth calling the luthier tomorrow. In my experience, geared pegs stop the damned thing gong out of tune, and since it is four individual pegs it seems unlikely that the gears would fail on all 4. when I was investigating about 2 years ago, there weren't any anecdotes of it happening on even one, just a hypothetical that a gear could fail after some wear. String stretch after this long sounds weird.

July 8, 2012 at 12:25 AM · Have you over-wound the ends of the strings? I have a set of these that I have not yet tried, but one thing I do not like is the placement of the string holes. I center my holes (longitudinally) but these are well off center. That means that you have either a very sharp bend or a very "unsharp" bend in the string. Neither appeals to me but they give no instructions. I suspect the hole location is dictated by the internal construction, but I still don't like it.

One more thing, if the gears were failing I think it would be catastrophic. Is the peg head staying in position?

July 8, 2012 at 05:07 AM · I will call the luthier soon if I cannot sort this out myself.

The outside bushing of the pegs themselves are not moving ; I am sure of this.

I will unwind and rewind one of the strings and see if this makes any difference. The E strings does seems to be staying in tune which I think rules out a slipping tailgut.

Lyle : They do give instructions online using a PDF file : the string should be wound on using the 'unsharp bend'. The 'sharp bend' is not to be used. I am not sure what was done here but I will check that now.

July 8, 2012 at 05:45 AM · I have perfections, not wittner, but my luthier said to make sure I had a long enough 'tail' outside the winding. That's the only contribution I can make; I agree it seems really unlikely that all 4 would fail. Have you marked the tailgut, just to make sure its nuts aren't coming out?

July 8, 2012 at 07:16 AM · I have taken off the A string and applied some rosin to the peg winding. Now to wait and see if that string stays in tune when the others do not.

NOTE : It is worth buying the Wittner peg winder ; it does make things much easier.

Marjory : The E string seems to be staying in tune so it is unlikely to be the tailgut however I will replace that next if all else fails.

NOTE : I have just remembered that many people have commented on the annoying feature that these pegs 'click' over as you turn the gears. Mine do not click over at all ; I can neither feel them or hear them. They just turn smoothly.

July 8, 2012 at 12:25 PM · Mine don't click.

July 8, 2012 at 02:20 PM · I have Knilling perfection pegs on one of my violins and they do not click. They have worked perfectly since day one. I recommend either you give it a couple of days to make sure your strings are not stretching out, OR you call your luthier who installed them and ask for advice. It's very hard to diagnose these kinds of problems through a text discussion. As for the peg winder, probably one could rig up something similar on a cordless electric screwdriver.

July 8, 2012 at 03:41 PM · No one's mentioned it, but you ARE pushing the pegs in, right? That changes the feel of the turning, and I"m guessing it helps lock the pegs in place, too. Just because they're mechanical, it doesn't mean you don't need to keep them pushed in at least a bit to give some friction to the mechanism.

July 8, 2012 at 05:57 PM · I don't believe pushing has anything to do with an inner-geared peg, any more than one pushes a geared guitar tuner.

July 8, 2012 at 09:09 PM · Are the strings going flat, or sharp?

I'm not familiar with geared violin pegs, but guitar geared pegs frequently have a means of adjusting the tension on the tuner - a screw that acts as an axle for the tuning gear. If our strings are going flat it might indicate insufficient tension on the gear. If they are going sharp, might mean humidity (or lack thereof) is having its way with the instrument.

Doubtless there are many other possibilities, as well.

July 8, 2012 at 09:12 PM · I've heard a few people mention these new pegs. I might not gain a lot of popularity from these new 'inventors.' Call me old-fashioned, but I think the design of the violin, and all of its parts have been pretty much perfected and figured out. These new inventions such as the 'special' bridge that someone posted about a while back here, the new 'innovative' bass bar (that a certain violin maker from Michigan has started making), or these geared pegs are in my opinion nothing more than gimmicks.

Pushing the peg in too far, I know from experience, can cause the pegbox to crack, so I wouldn't recommend doing that.

The peg and pitch of the string can be slipping due to a few factors. I think as a player who has experience using gut strings, I have found ways in limiting this from occurring. Here are a few things to try when putting on a string:

1) Make sure the string comes into contact with the side of the pegbox. The friction of the string touching the side of the pegbox will give the string extra hold.

2) When putting the string on, make sure on the first turn, to cross or mount the string over itself. This will hold it into place better.

3) Make sure to apply pencil graphite to the grooves of the fingerboard and bridge. This keeps the string from getting stuck in the grooves and helps to spread the tension of the string out more evenly.

4) Use peg compound. Hill makes a really good one. You can get it from this great place I just found based in New York City: Gostrings.com. They have much better prices for anything string instrument related compared to Shar or the other online stores.

July 8, 2012 at 09:26 PM · The Knilling pegs do not click. They turn smoothly but others on this forum have commented on the fact that the Wittner pegs do click as you turn the peg ie. you can feel the gears engage.

The Knilling pegs sometimes have to be pushed in to engage the gears but the Wittners are a different design and pushing them does nothing.

I think the geared pegs are a wonderful invention. As far as I know I am the only person to have problems with them. It may not even be the geared pegs causing all this.

The strings are going flat. The E string is stable and stays in tune.

July 8, 2012 at 09:47 PM · I agree the geared pegs are very useful. They are no more inappropriate on the violin than a chinrest, e-string tail-piece tuner, or metal/composite strings. If one is a purist who uses a Baroque set up, bare gut strings, etc., then they probably don't belong, but in the context of modern instruments they are good. My perfections don't click, don't need to be pushed in, tune in minute increments that make tail-piece tuners unnecessary and have not changed the sound of the instrument. Unless one looks very closely it's not even possible to see they are perfections, not 'normal.'

July 8, 2012 at 11:41 PM · "1) Make sure the string comes into contact with the side of the pegbox. The friction of the string touching the side of the pegbox will give the string extra hold."

Actually, most high-end repairers and restorers don't recommend that. Good-fitting pegs don't need it, and it places additional stress and wear on the pegbox wall.

July 9, 2012 at 12:24 AM · 'Actually, most high-end repairers and restorers don't recommend that. Good-fitting pegs don't need it, and it places additional stress and wear on the pegbox wall.'

That's interesting considering I got that bit of advice from a 'high-end' repairer and maker in New York City who many members of the NY Phil, Metropolitan Opera etc. go to. Putting strings on without contacting the pegbox will simply not keep them in place. I've tried both ways.

July 9, 2012 at 12:37 AM · Nate, who would that repairman be? Also, that's probably an indication that you need to have your pegs looked at.

July 9, 2012 at 12:56 AM · 'Nate, who would that repairman be? Also, that's probably an indication that you need to have your pegs looked at. '

My pegs are in great shape. You know this luthier very well...he's a bit too busy to post on Maestronet though.

July 9, 2012 at 05:42 AM · Yes, never have the strings rubbing against the pegbox.

I have just spoken to the luthier and he said that it is probably the tailgut. The E string can still stay in tune when the tailgut is slipping. However, he suggested waiting a few more days as it can take a new violin with new strings a while to settle down.

It could also be the neck moving but as the height of the fingerboard above the belly has remained constant I do not think that is the cause.

July 9, 2012 at 08:58 AM · Actually the friction is ideal if there's contact between string and pegbox. The only part of my string touching the pegbox is the part on the peg. There is clearance from the nut to peg and my pegs are in excellent condition.

No offense but I'd personally rather take the advice of an esteemed New York City maker who repairs Strads and Guarneris regularly over a few Maestronet posters..

Enjoy your geared pegs!

July 9, 2012 at 09:40 AM · Maybe your pegs have not got the automatic gear box and if it's a manual one it may be stuck in neutral?

Don't forget that in Austraaaaaaalia everything works the other way around, so turn the peg towards you for tuning up ...

July 9, 2012 at 09:45 AM · [Rimshot] LOL Peter

July 9, 2012 at 10:23 AM · "No offense but I'd personally rather take the advice of an esteemed New York City maker who repairs Strads and Guarneris regularly over a few Maestronet posters.."


No offense, but I'd personally rather take the advice of people like those we have teaching at the Oberlin Restoration Workshop, over some unspecified New York "maker". We scour the world for the best of the best, and most of these people have the latest information on PREVENTING damage and deterioration, not just fixing it after it happens.

Lots of people have worked on Strads and Guarneris (including me) and that really doesn't tell you much.

Nor would I be impressed if Heifetz himself recommended winding the strings up against the pegbox wall.

"Putting strings on without contacting the pegbox will simply not keep them in place. I've tried both ways."

If we run into each other sometime, I'd be happy to help you out with that. :-)

July 9, 2012 at 02:23 PM · My feelings about winding strings on the peg so they are squeezed against the inner peg box wall can be expressed in a single word: don't! :-)

My experience with the geometric design of the instrument, and years of practical observation, have convinced me that once the string passes over the nut, it should not make contact with any part of the peg box.

Pinching the string between the peg box wall and the rest of the string wound around the peg simply deforms the outer string winding and raises the chances that the crimped winding will damage the core and cause the string to break.

During the life of the string, as it is wound further around the peg, it is compressed ever more tightly. It will try to return to its normal state, and this actually makes it harder to push in the peg. One can think of this type of situation as pushing the peg out of the peg hole.

More force will be required to seat the peg, and on an instrument with thin peg box walls or multiple bushings, the potential consequences are obvious.

July 9, 2012 at 02:52 PM · Logically, it seems highly unlikely that 3 pegs are slipping while 1 (the most highly loaded) peg isn't, and nobody else has mentioned this problem. If the neck or tailgut is moving, why would the E string not be affected? Perhaps bad or super-stretchy strings?

You could just keep tuning up every day, and after a few months SOMETHING should give. Perhaps make a marker dot on the string at the nut, and see if it migrates.

July 9, 2012 at 08:11 PM · @Nate, there is a counter-example to the notion that "the design of the violin, and all of its parts have been pretty much perfected." I think there is a lot of truth to that, but every once in a while something comes along that seems to catch on. Synthetic-core strings for example. What would most violinist be using if it were not for the polymers that chemists brought to the world several decades ago (and which keep improving)? There are some who would say gut strings are better, but do a lot of today's soloists use them?

July 10, 2012 at 02:35 PM · "They need the hole size to be adjusted for the peg. How was that done? Do they supply an accurate reamer?"

Gear pegs are sold in a range of diameters so that you can match most closely to the existing holes in the pegbox. For example the order form for "PegHeds" (from Chuck Herin) asks you for the four outside widths of the pegbox and the diameter of the largest hole. This way you only need to ream out a small amount with a standard reamer and the pegs will be cut to the right length. If your four peg holes are all of greatly differing diameter then this too can be accommodated with custom sizing. Mr. Herin provides finely detailed instructions on every step from measurement to placing your order to installation. My luthier had only done a couple of sets of gear pegs before he installed mine and he had no trouble whatsoever. Mine are Knilling. With PegHeds you can select from a variety of real wood heads on the pegs, whereas from Knilling you get the standard black nylon composite type material from which other things like tail pieces are made.

"Synthetic bow hair is not mentioned much these days." Plastic or composite violins have also not found favor among professionals. Nobody ever said that *every* new idea was good.

July 12, 2012 at 09:36 AM · It was the tailgut !

The E string started going out of tune too so I replaced the tailgut and all is fine now.

This was a brand new Wittner tailpiece so I did not think that would be the problem. I will be more suspicious in the future. All my violins will be fitted with these Wittner geared pegs. I think they are fantastic. I do not know why people do not like them.

July 12, 2012 at 02:03 PM ·

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