Internally geared pegs?

January 11, 2013 at 09:26 PM · This year my G peg has declared war on me. Long story short Ive been through every product and solution you can name. Anything from candle wax to sticking the violin in the frige has already been attempted.

So I was wondering about Internally geared pegs? Most of the violinists are afraid of anything "new" even if it makes life better and will mob on it with pitch forks and flaming torches. Haha.

Can you name some brands and your experiences with these pegs? If your going to pitchfork mob me away from these pegs please list a heavy reason as to why I should continue the war with the G Peg.

Replies (49)

January 11, 2013 at 09:43 PM · It's quite possible that either your G peg or its peg-hole has worn out of shape. No amount of fiddling around with lubricants will really solve the problem.

I have no personal experience of geared pegs but I wonder if the less expensive and more straightforward option is to have the G peg re-fitted by a luthier (you'd really need a luthier to fit geared pegs anyway, despite what the ads say). The G and D should be the easiest strings to tune by peg.

I'm not against anything "new" per se. After all, micrometer tuners and tailpieces, shoulder rests, synthetic core strings, metal E strings, and chin rests were all "new" in their day, but have been generally accepted by violinists (although there are die-hards around still!) Geared pegs (of the external variety) for the cello and bass have been around for many years, for good ergonomic reasons.

January 11, 2013 at 10:07 PM · I've used Perfection Pegs for about 6 or 7 years now and can't imagine tuning without them. If you ever try them, you'll never go back to the 'old way.'

January 11, 2013 at 11:50 PM · I'm a close friend of the inventor of the Perfection Pegs as Knilling calls them or his brand "PegHeads" (the same exact product, his tend to be better installed and better made.)He put custom pegs into my viola for me and I love them! they're great. Get them from him if you can! He's located in South Carolina. Brilliant guy and a brilliant product.

January 11, 2013 at 11:50 PM ·

January 11, 2013 at 11:52 PM · I had Knilling Perfection pegs, and suggest everyone get them installed. They are amazing, and worth every penny.

January 11, 2013 at 11:57 PM · As already said, your G peg and probably others are in serious need of professional attention. That can cost a lot. Perfections, PegHeds (same but more options) and Wittners are all good but need installation by someone experienced. First step is seeing a good luthier. And for more information, there have been several threads here in the recent past.

January 12, 2013 at 12:54 AM · There have been a few discussions of the geared pegs, the main constraint to me appears to be that people don't want to devalue their instruments. I haven't read of anyone who says they don't do the job perfectly, and I speak from experience of both wittner and planetary perfection (2 different instruments) -no slip, don't use fine tuners, no pressure on the peg box when tuning and easy to change the strings, instruments tays in tune for weeks. Personally I prefer the action of the PP rather than the wittners, but my luthier preferred the wittner and so I had them installed by him on the instrument I bought from him. I have them on for 2 years.

January 12, 2013 at 01:18 AM · Geared pegs is a pretty drastic "solution" to simply replacing the peg or fixing the problem. Properly fitted pegs are a breeze to use.

If it doesn't fit right, peg "products" are not going to help.

The shape of the peghole and the peg have to be compatible.

One of the violins I bought recently had a horrible setup for the G and D strings. The violin had nice sound, A and E pegs were fine, no problems.

The G peg was too lose, kept slipping, the D too tight, wouldn't turn and "stuttered." On a hunch, I swapped them. Problem solved.

I got lucky, you probably can't solve your problem by swapping, but you could certainly get a peg that fits better or have the hole filed slightly if it's the drilling of the hole rather than the peg that's off. More often it's the peg.

January 12, 2013 at 04:13 AM · I would not describe fitting geared pegs as a 'drastic' solution and they do NOT devalue your violin. I am referring to the Wittner geared pegs which I have had on two of my violins for six months.

They should be installed by a luthier to make sure that they are seated correctly but there was no modification required to my violin and if I did not like them it would be an easy matter to go back to friction pegs. But why would you ?

I took one of my violins to China for one month and despite temperature fluctuations between minus 2 and plus 30 degrees celsius the pegs hardly required any adjustment at all. They work perfectly and I will never go back to friction pegs.

It is now summer here in the tropics and if I had friction pegs they would 'pop' out every day but the Wittners hardly need adjusting at all.

NOTE : the early Wittner geared pegs were not popular because you could feel the gears 'click' over as you turned the peg. Wittner modified the design and now the pegs turn smoothly. They have an 8.5 : 1 gear ratio so tuning is very easy. They do not have a thread on them and push into the peg box.

January 12, 2013 at 05:18 AM · I've installed Perfection Pegs and Pegheds in:

1 viola

3 cellos

6 violins including one 5-string

Chuck Herrin, the inventor of these pegs and maker of Pegheds gave me a free Perfection peg to complete the installation on my 5-string, since the sets come with only 4 pegs.

I've done all these installations myself (I have the right tools and have been around "fiddles" for 74 years) but even so I started on the $300 violin I had bought for my grown son - just to be sure I could do it right before I went to work on my own instruments.

These pegs make peg problems a thing of the past - you can even tune the E string exactly to pitch with the peg.

I still have one violin with wooden pegs, but only because the pegholes are too large for any of the geared pegs being sold - I think it was bad luthiering rather than excess wear.


January 12, 2013 at 01:57 PM · I had Perfection pegs installed in my two violins, one a five-string, over five years ago and have never regretted it. Not only are they very easy and reliable to use, they eliminated the need for fine tuners. The viola will be receiving Perfection pegs soon.

January 12, 2013 at 02:21 PM · I first started using Chuck Herin's PegHeds on a line of ergonomic violas I sell. The idea was to make life easier for people with hand problems such as arthritis. The players loved them so much that unless I am asked specifically not to install them, they are pretty much my standard setup pegs now.

These pegs look so much like ebony pegs at first glance that sometimes even I get confused, but, long story short, they are easy on the instrument, extremely durable, and in the worst case they can be removed and replaced with standard pegs. While this might require bushings every one in a while, the need for bushings is much greater when standard pegs are used. Also, if you have an old instrument that has had cracks in the peg box wall, these pegs can eliminate the need for an expensive cheek patching job because they do not create expansive pressures on the peg holes.

January 12, 2013 at 08:06 PM · Thank you everyone for your advice!

I have heard the name perfection several times before and will now head down that road. Im glad to hear violinists becoming more accepting of technology.

To the above who still suggested I attempt to fix the violin had disregarded the fact that I have already tried everything except having my luth make me a new peg box. Nothing listed above is a new option to me - Please dont feel as though I ignored you and I wont feel as though you didnt read my post :P

January 13, 2013 at 01:46 PM · There is at least one Strad with geared pegs....Elizabeth Pitcairn installed geared pegs on her Red Strad.

January 13, 2013 at 04:03 PM · For a while they were only available in plastic but now they are available with a wooden paddle.

January 17, 2013 at 07:32 PM · Sharelle Taylor,

I'd be interested to know how you like the Wittners v. the PPs after using them for two years.

January 17, 2013 at 07:41 PM · I have Pegheds by Chuck on my lovely violin :)

he has many designs in different woods and he can also make them on request.

they are 'great' :)

January 17, 2013 at 08:37 PM · to Mark: Definitely prefer the feel of the PP, they don't feel as though they have any lag in the tuning. but having said that, the wittners are on my main instrument which I use for orchestra, and it holds its tune really well and I can get it precisely in tune without any fine tuners. The E string is where I notice it most, and I could probably go back to a fine tuner on that only but it just doesn't seem worth it to me.

I am having an old violin restored soon, and will get the Peg Heads (which have the same mechanism as PP), even though I know my luthier is lothier to install them instead of Wittners.

January 17, 2013 at 09:46 PM · "To the above who still suggested I attempt to fix the violin had disregarded the fact that I have already tried everything except having my luth make me a new peg box. Nothing listed above is a new option to me - Please dont feel as though I ignored you and I wont feel as though you didnt read my post :P"

David Wood, I don't have a preference for what you end up doing, but you in fact have not "tried everything", because a GOOD luthier can make your problem G peg work every bit as well as, and probably better than your other conventional pegs.

January 17, 2013 at 11:39 PM ·

January 17, 2013 at 11:42 PM · "Most violinists are afraid of anything new or non classical like, are you?"

There well may be geared pegs that are acceptable. However, I believe them to be a complex (and unnecessary) solution to a simple problem. The simple answer is a properly fitting peg, which a good luthier ought to be able to accomplish. The violinist should, unless they are a beginner, be able to easily tune a well-fitting peg.

I'm not in principle against geared pegs if they work, I'd just prefer the simplest and most elegant solution. Needless complexity runs counter to the whole aesthetic of the elegant simplicity of the violin, which is probably at the root of the whole shoulder rest issue.

The geared peg introduces a whiff of the factory and a dependence on one more thing the individual craftsman would be unable to do.

January 18, 2013 at 01:38 AM · It really is up to you. Someone (good) can make it work with normal pegs. It may, in your situation, be cheaper to go with the geared pegs. That was the case with the Strad that I borrow, whose pegbox had cracked for the millionth time. There was a history of repairs and patches there, and the luthier decided that yet another repair could be done, but would be costly to do properly and would crack again at some point.

The geared pegs put no stress on the pegbox, so this should be the last repair this instrument has to see in that area. And it took much less time (thus money). As for how they work, I am thrilled. These are Wittner, by the way.

January 20, 2013 at 02:11 AM · I never considered using geared pegs in the past, even tho the idea of getting rid of all fine tuners and smoothier turning pegs would make my life a bit more easy. Currently I'm very happy with my pegs on all 3 of my violins and have several sets left of nice pernambuco fittings left to use.

IMO I would only switch to geared pegs if they can make pegs that are lighter then my wooden pegs and have the same fancy heart shapes and trimmings. For now I'll stay traditional but its really up to you to decide if you want geared pegs and if they would really help you then go for it :)

January 20, 2013 at 03:52 AM · Many people are saying that a properly fitted peg should give no problems. Well, spend a few months in the tropical heat here and see how often 'properly fitted pegs' pop out with the extreme humidity and constant temperature fluctuations. Wittner geared pegs have made my violin playing so much easier !

But before you try geared pegs, have you taken it to a luthier for an opinion ? This could be an easy fix for somebody with the right skills.

January 20, 2013 at 07:03 PM · Do the geared pegs affect the tone, resonance and projection of the violin?

When I play holding the peg, I feel the vibration, which I trust is contributing the sound. Metal geared pegs may not stop this vibration.

Or, does it matter?

January 21, 2013 at 02:21 AM · Every instrument I have switched to geared pegs has had more projection, and warmer sound. Because there is no need for fine tuners, the after bridge length is more accurate, and there is less weight on the tailpiece. I'm sure there might be some vibrations that are changed near the pegs, but there is much more of a positive change to the sound every time.

January 21, 2013 at 03:54 AM · The Wittner pegs themselves are NOT made of metal. I have not noticed any change in sound or tone in either of my violins after fitting the geared pegs. Everything is the same except the tuning is much more stable.

NOTE : I did keep the Wittner tailpieces with the four inbuilt fine tuners on the violins. They are no longer necesssary and if I changed them for a standard tailpiece there might be some improvement in sound.

January 21, 2013 at 03:20 PM · A few comments on materials -- as I understand the situation (comments and especially corrections welcome of course). The internal gears of the geared pegs are made of metal. The "pegheds" brand fits a wooden head onto a metal shaft that extends from the metal-and-plastic construction of the rest of the peg. That gives you the feel and elegance of a hand-carved wooded peg with the control and sophisticated movement of the geared peg. I don't know who said Wittner pegs are not threaded but they've got to stick firmly in the hole somehow. Perhaps they are fluted or grooved where they meet the peg box instead of threaded? "Perfection" pegs are essentially PegHed movements with a plastic composite head, made and sold by Knilling. I have Knilling pegs on an old German violin and I love them. The plastic looks very good, but it's not ebony or rosewood. It's a little too perfect. Maybe that's why they call them "perfection" pegs! I play that violin very rarely but whenever I take it out of the box it's still nearly in tune, the pegs do not slip the way a conventional peg can. I know less about Wittner pegs but I gather from the discussion that they have a higher gear ratio than the Knilling or PegHeds movement. I wonder if that's a disadvantage because the ratio (5 or so?) of the Knilling peg is enough. Also you need enough motion in the string to overcome the static friction at the nut, there the string can become kind of "stuck" -- at least this is something I have observed a couple of times, or maybe I am just imagining it. I think I would have liked the clicking that someone described in the Wittner. That way you sort of know how much you're turning your peg. What annoys violinists, I think, is the idea that the motion of the peg is not completely continuous but somehow happening in discrete steps and therefore cannot be tuned absolutely perfectly. I don't know enough about the internal movement to know if that's an issue.

January 21, 2013 at 06:00 PM · I have said it before and I will say it again : The Wittner geared pegs do NOT click over as your turn them. The early models did but Wittner reacted to unfavourable feedback and changed the design. They now turn smoothly. The gear ratio is 8.5:1 and this is enough to dispense with fine tuners even on the E string.

The pegs are NOT threaded. They have four very fine 'ridges' running down the outside of the peg and this helps to prevent slipping. They just push in firmly to a correctly shaped peg hole.

Even some people who work in the violin shops here continue to complain that the Wittners click over as you turn them ! I don't think the company has done a very good job in getting the message out they they changed the design years ago.

January 21, 2013 at 07:31 PM · That's right, no clicking with the Wittners. As they were installed on my violin, they were glued into the pegbox.

When I tune with these, I do the same thing I've always done: go a hair over the pitch and give a slight tug on the string afterward to get rid of slack. But I don't find that the instrument sounds any different.

January 21, 2013 at 09:23 PM · Good discussion. I didn't mean to mislead with my previous post. I meant to say that I might have liked the PREVIOUS design of the Wittners because sometimes hearing or feeling a faint click gives you an acknowledgement that you are actually doing something.

With perfection pegs on my one violin I don't find that I have to tune "past" the pitch and then tug on the strings. That sounds to me like the wrong way to tune a violin, but if it works for you, fine. And I do see professionals doing it. I can tune my violin with the perfection pegs alone.

One issue about gluing the geared pegs into the peg holes is that the exterior of the peg is plastic where it meets the pegbox. Therefore you need a glue that works on both plastic and wood. And I don't think you can do that with hide glue. You might need a urethane adhesive. I've seen instructions that indicate Gorilla Glue. I'm not sure what the long-term effects of that would be but putting regular pegs in afterward could require significant reaming (to remove the notches made by the fluting on the exterior of the gear pegs -- not sure how far those flutes or ridges are raised, small fraction of a millimeter probably) and to reach the penetration depth of the adhesive.

January 21, 2013 at 10:10 PM · I don't see any reason that the pegs would be removed and replaced by traditional pegs, it makes the concern about how to do that a moot point. but that was what I was implying in first post, that the reticence about using them is due to a perceived devalue. It's more about concern if you were to sell the violin. Each player I suppose should make their own decision in that.

January 21, 2013 at 10:18 PM · Are the main difference between Wittner and Pegheads, the gear ratio and that you can push in on the Pegheads to increase the drag? Has anyone found either of these features an advantage or not?

January 22, 2013 at 12:06 AM · Both PegHeds and Knilling allow you to push in or pull out a little to change how the peg responds. I haven't found much need for that feature though. I don't know if Wittner has this feature. The gear ratio of the Knilling is quite adequate.

January 22, 2013 at 03:41 AM · There are similar but separate web sites for (1) Perfection Planetary Pegs (2) Knilling Perfection Pegs (3) Planetary Pegs. Does anyone know the differences between these brands? I'm aware that there are also Pegheads and the Wittner on the market, but the names of the above three is confusing.

January 22, 2013 at 03:42 AM · 1. The Wittners do not have to be pushed in to increase the drag when tuning. I cannot see how that would be a useful feature ; it does not seem necessary. You NEVER pull on these pegs.

2. The Wittner pegs should NOT be glued in. They are not designed to be glued in the peg holes. My Wittner geared pegs are not glued in and they show no signs of slipping at all. If I want to remove the pegs then I push firmly on the ends to push them out as per the not pull them out !

The installation instructions are here (English is in there too) :

January 22, 2013 at 08:52 AM · Jason, the last time I checked, the PegHeds had the greatest number of choices in head styles (they can install almost any wooden end you want), and had the largest number of choices in shaft diameters. The more options there are in shaft diameters, the less reaming of the pegbox is needed to fit them, and the easier it is to return to standard pegs if desired. Not that the original pegs can be re-installed, but a new set of conventional pegs can be fitted.

The Wittner were the heaviest. That's not necessarily a bad thing, just understand that changing the weight of the pegs can result in a slightly different sound. Can't say whether it will be better or worse. Depends on the fiddle, and your taste in sound.

All three work quite well, if installed correctly.

Edit: It's been mentioned that the geared pegs put no stress on the pegbox. That's not quite accurate, but I think it's fair to say that the stress will be reduced.

January 22, 2013 at 09:13 PM · Thanks Brian and David.

January 22, 2013 at 10:40 PM · Jason,

Perfections are the Knilling version of PegHeds, licensed by Chuck Herin, the inventor. When I first learned of them there was no difference except that Chuck only sold his if he installed them. Since then he has added many options as David said, such as titanium barrels and/or gears instead of aluminum and wooden heads (including your own).

When I encounter oversize peg holes I plug them and use the smallest Perfections. Returning to wood, such as if you want to sell the fiddle but keep the pegs, is then easy. (I never glue the Perfections in. String tension is plenty, making them very easy to remove.)

January 23, 2013 at 06:56 PM · Does replacing the regular E string fine tuner affect the violin's sound for better or worse, or (most likely) is this an unknown?

The string length and therefore, tension on the instrument would be altered dramatically. And I've noticed a couple contributors to this thread decided to use geared pegs only on their G, D and A.

January 23, 2013 at 10:08 PM · I don't have a fine tuner on my e string on my violin with gear pegs, but I did that really just to prove it was possible. Okay, it works. Now I think I'll put it back though, next time I change the string, just because i still reach for it. Kind of a creature of habit I guess.

January 24, 2013 at 12:24 AM · The after-length has the same tension as the main body of the string, irrespective of the length of the after-length, assuming that the string is able to slide easily* over the bridge. It therefore doesn't matter as far as tension is concerned whether or not there is a tuner attached to the after-length**.

There are important reasons to do with violin resonance why the after-length should not be limited by an attached tuner, which is why a Hill tuner (or similar) is designed to give the same after-length as a string that has no tuner at all at the tailpiece. Luthiers endeavor to arrange matters when setting up a violin so that the after-length is a specific fraction of the bridge-nut length that will enhance certain resonances. This effect will be largely negated by add-on tuners that are not of the Hill type.

However, an inherent disadvantage of any add-on tail-piece tuner, whether or not of the Hill type, is that it will add extra mass to the tailpiece, which will change its vibration characteristics and coupling with the rest of the vibration system.

* If the string doesn't slide easily over the bridge then over time the bridge will be pulled out of alignment, and proper contact with the table and transmission of vibrations will be compromised. The bridge may even become distorted. This is why a 3B pencil should be in every violin case.

** The tension of a vibrating string is proportional to: the square of its length, the square of the fundamental frequency, and the mass per unit length. It is assumed that the string after-length has the same physical properties as the bridge-nut length; it's usually close enough. So if the tension in the after-length is the same as in the bridge-nut length, then the only difference between the two parts of the string will be their lengths and vibrating frequencies.

January 24, 2013 at 05:07 PM · Thanks Trevor. Your information is very helpful. It will be interesting to see how my violin will respond to the E fine tuner weight removed.

Curiously,related to weight, I recently tried a gel rest on my chin rest. I wanted a little extra height to play without a shoulder rest. I was concerned the gel rest would mute the instrument, but it seem that it's had a subtle, positive effect.

As David wrote earlier, weight in the pegs could also affect sound.

We are playing a wooden bell!

January 24, 2013 at 06:43 PM · You can always easily test for the effect of added mass in the pegbox or the tailpiece by sticking a lump of Blue Tac on it and listening carefully — just don't let your luthier see you doing it ;)

Way back in my classical guitar days I discovered that catching hold of the pegbox would noticeably dampen the resonances of the guitar, likewise gripping the neck too hard. It was quite a good guitar, towards the top end, so it was probably more sensitive in this respect. A lower end model might not have shown it.

January 25, 2013 at 05:50 PM · Thanks Trevor, that would be an interesting experiment. Probably the resonance response of the material, will be a factor in addition to weight.

I'll make a switch to geared pegs sometime in the future!

January 25, 2013 at 07:27 PM · Jason, I wouldn't have thought that Blue Tac is well known for its resonance!

January 26, 2013 at 03:03 AM · I am having my local string shop order a set of the rosewood perfection pegs. I will let everyone know the result after they are installed.

January 26, 2013 at 04:22 AM · I just got a $2k violin so it's still setting in, but I'm already looking into the precision pegs as they have more than just the synthetic pegs. There are ebony and rosewood pegs in both swiss or hill style. I would probably go with a ebony hill style.

January 26, 2013 at 06:57 AM · Personally I would not get geared pegs or anything except the traditional friction pegs on my acoustic violin, but they are perfectly fitted to it so I don't have trouble tuning. Friction pegs can be easy to tune with. Just get them fitted right. Unfortunately, luthiers who think they can do it but actually can't are all over the place. In my town there are plenty of guys who call themselves luthiers and even violin makers. Not one of them is worthy of trust or business. I have to travel to Albuquerque or Salt Lake City to get anything done.

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