G peg slipping!

November 18, 2013 at 03:58 PM · I have a couple of issues with my G peg.

Whenever I am tuning and I am not pressing my peg in extremely hard, it quickly springs back so it is very loose. When I do press it in hard, it still loosens when I play strongly.

I am playing Zigeunerweisen right now, which has many loud, pesante notes on the G string in the first section. By the time I finish the first page (if I can stand the out-of-tune sound of the G string) the G string is between a quarter tone and a half tone too low, even if it was in tune before.

So far, I have:

-applied a thin layer of Peg Dope

-pressed the peg in as far as it can go

-checked that the string is not at a sharp angle

-made sure it was humidified with a Dampit

Has anybody else experienced this issue before?


Replies (38)

November 18, 2013 at 05:47 PM · Go to a good violin shop and either have the peg refit to a cleaned up hole or get a new peg or set of pegs. Better, harder wood that won't change with the weather or compress will make your playing easier.

November 18, 2013 at 06:05 PM · It does sound like something is wrong with the fit; either there is a worn ridge on the peg, something out of round, or some taper mismatch. Refit sounds like the right thing.

November 18, 2013 at 09:27 PM · I'm also quite sure that the peg needs a refit. But until you get a chance to have that done, a quick fix could be to add some soft blackboard chalk to the peg dope. And obviously make sure that the string is rolled up against the pegbox wall towards the peghead.

November 19, 2013 at 04:55 AM · I was always taught NOT to roll the string against the peg box wall ?

November 19, 2013 at 05:00 AM · Chalk is the important thing, most peg dope formulas tend to make the peg more slippery, not less, chalk will make it grip. Putting the peg winding up against the pegbox wall is not important to properly functioning pegs, and a lot of restorers consider it a bad idea, partly because of added friction where the string rubs against the pegbox, can even cause fine tuning problems, etc.

November 19, 2013 at 05:35 AM · Gear pegs solve these problems once and for all. I have them on my violins, they are great. Gypsy Errs will become Gypsy Airs.

November 19, 2013 at 09:47 AM · They also damage and ruin pegboxes, as they require to be glued in and holes reamed bigger than needed, all because you never learned how to use regular pegs properly in the first place.

I recently had a customer come in with pegheads he had glued in himself with way too much glue, I had to tell him there was no way to remove them short of drilling out the pegs at whatever damage to the pegbox. People have the insane idea that these pegs are permanent and will never break down or need replacement, rubbish, they've only been on the market a couple of years, no one really has any idea how long they will last, but I can guarantee you it won't be forever!!

November 19, 2013 at 10:38 AM · First take the G peg out, then clean the G peg and both peg holes with a drying solution. Apply some finely ground white chalk (using a Q tip) to the peg holes.

Lastly liberally apply this finely ground white chalk to the peg. Before attaching the G sting, work in the G peg (turning it both ways). Apply more white chalk if needed. Thread the G string and tighten it up to a sharper pitch to test its holding power. Let me know if this works.

November 19, 2013 at 11:15 AM · You still need peg compound to mix with and hold the chalk.

November 19, 2013 at 12:15 PM · The G peg is the one which is closest to the fingerboard, so maybe you could hold it in place with the thumb and first finger, and still have three fingers available to play? ;-)

November 19, 2013 at 03:08 PM · David's comment (which would apply if the player were a certain Mr Roman Kim!) reminds me that there is another possibility, one that I have personally experienced and which I haven't seen mentioned here. It is an unobvious player-generated effect, usually on the G string, and what happens is that when the player releases finger and thumb from the peg the release is not done quickly enough and the slight friction of the finger and thumb on the peg as the hand moves away from the peg can be sufficient to slightly loosen it in the peg box and cause slipping almost immediately or a few minutes into playing. If this particular problem persists then the solution is to release contact with the peg one finger at a time, thereby preventing any inadvertent pull on the peg.

Yet another possibility is temperature related. The pegs on a violin that has been in a cold room will tend to loosen – as I've found out more than once when opening the case. Solution: to re-tune and make sure the pegs are in tight enough.

Part of the broader problem of slipping pegs lies in the design of the peg box – the ones I've seen, anyway – which tends to pull the G and E pegs out of the peg box due to the direction of those strings as they leave the peg. It doesn't matter so much with the E because that is steel, tuned from the tail piece and the peg is usually put in pretty tight. A G peg that is equally tight in the box is no good to man or beast unless it is metal cored and also tuned from the tail piece.

November 19, 2013 at 08:51 PM · Stuart, you shouldn't ever force the peg into the pegbox. You can crack the pegbox or break a peg with this method.

Your problem can be anywhere from the pegbox hole needing to be rebutted, or (most likely) putting your string on the incorrect way. Part of each string should maintain contact at all times with the side of the pegbox. This adds a bit of friction giving the peg and string a nice hold.

I recommend a bit of peg compound on the tip of the peg.

November 19, 2013 at 09:09 PM · Wittner geared pegs are NOT glued and the holes are NOT made any bigger than normal. They look just like normal pegs but they never slip....best thing since sliced bread !

November 19, 2013 at 09:15 PM · Rubbish, Nate, the problem is clearly one of either a peg that just doesn't fit well enough, or a well fit peg that doesn't have the right mix of peg compound and chalk, although there are other things that act like chalk, such as jewelers rouge or even powdered rosin, and soap can be substituted for peg compound, butting the strings up against the pegbox wall is just a lazy man's solution for not getting the peg fit and peg compounds right, if you do that right there is no need to butt the strings against the pegbox wall and the pegs will fine tune easier.

November 19, 2013 at 10:33 PM · It's not rubbish Lyndon at all. I know many excellent luthiers and fine players that also install strings this way successfully. My pegs fit just fine thank you. Anyway I didn't come on here to debate you or others. Stuart asked for an opinion, and I gave him a proven method that works for myself and others. He can compare our credentials and make his own decision on who to listen to..

November 19, 2013 at 10:51 PM · edited because I'm trying to be a nicer guy!!

November 19, 2013 at 11:39 PM · Fact of the matter is Nate, you have no restoration credentials, you're not a luthier, you don't own a violin shop, you know how to change strings and rosin a bow, and your trying to give "expert" advice to the OP that has a REAL problem, not a problem that can be possibly fixed by simply butting the strings up against the pegbox, Its like putting a bandaid on a bleeding artery, sure a band aid might have some small effect, but its NOT going to solve the problem.

After the OP solves the problem with either the peg doping as I outlined, or actually having to fit a new peg, then he can decide whether the relatively unimportant notion of butting the strings against the pegbox, is important to him or not, BUT NOT BEFORE HE FIXES THE REAL PROBLEM, which as I have already said is a defectively fitting peg, or a properly fitting peg with the wrong mixture of peg compounds, capiche!!!

November 20, 2013 at 04:30 AM · I assure you Lyndon, I know hell of a lot more about violins than rosining a bow and changing strings. I've been doing this for a long time. Just because someone owns a 'violin shop' in his/her house doesn't automatically make that person by default an 'authority.'

The fact that my pegs work fine and hold gut strings in tune, is a testament to a good meticulous system which works.

My advice was not directed to you. It's for Stuart the 'OP'. Let him be the judge and make his own decision. Just because you happen to disagree with someone on this discussion, does not give you the authority to act as a 'de facto' moderator..

November 20, 2013 at 11:46 AM · Actually if your pegs fit fine its because your luthier fit them well, and you have the right mix of peg compounds, not because of how you wind the strings on!! which brings up the OP's question; he should really take it to a good luthier to get fixed and stop looking for DIY advice on the internet.

November 20, 2013 at 02:57 PM · Winding the string so it contacts the peg wall will help prevent slipping pegs by the added friction and keeping the peg from loosening, yes.

However, I have never heard of any luthiers or shop owners recommending it, as it will cause wear on the pegbox wall.

I have sometimes done this on my own instruments in order to get them playable NOW, until I get around to fixing the real source of the problem, i.e. the peg fit and/or compound. I would never do it on an instrument of value, or one that belonged to someone else.

November 20, 2013 at 03:25 PM · I've been told that 3 or 4 is the recommended maximum number of turns of the string on the peg, which should ensure that the string doesn't touch the inside of the peg box. A string touching the inside of the box adds a layer of unpredictable friction which could lead to sticking (it's bad enough anyway trying to minimize the unavoidable friction of the string passing over the nut and bridge).

November 22, 2013 at 03:29 PM · So -- let's recap here.

(1) Gear pegs are terrible, they destroy your violin. Especially if you are a complete nitwit and you don't measure the peg holes carefully so that you can order the closest size of gear peg, AND if you ream the holes yourself using a Swiss Army Knife, AND if you use enough Elmer's Glue that it's dripping out the sides.

(2) Wood pegs are better, first you need to take out your pegs and clean them with some unidentified solvent, and then use some chalk, but you need to mix some kind of "dope" with your chalk, and you put peg dope on the end of the peg (oops, that's "rubbish" apparently) and you need the addition friction provided by the string against the inside of the peg box (oops, someone else said that's wrong too), and if all that fails then you need the services of a skilled luthier...

Are you guys listening to yourselves? When wood pegs work well, they're great. The problem is, apparently, that they don't work well all that often, hence all the voodoo-type mystery "solutions" to wooden pegs that don't work.

I have gear pegs on two violins. On my Jaas violin I had Knillings put in at Dan Foster's shop in Blacksburg. It was his *first set* of gear pegs, but he is a fine craftsman. They look great and they work perfectly. On my Topa I had a set of Pegheds put in at Potter's in Bethesda. They're great. If ever they fail, I will have them replaced with the next generation of gear pegs. I say next generation because I bet these pegs will outlive me.

Gear pegs are NOT new. Thousands of sets of them have been installed. There's enough market for them that there are at least three brands. Great violinists use them. They're on at least one Strad (the "Red Violin" no less). Type "broken violin peg" into Google. How many of the hits that you get involve failed gear pegs? Chuck Herin claims to have installed over 400 sets of Pegheds in his Columbia shop alone and not a single customer has asked to go back to wooden pegs.

Your performance is more likely to be ruined by breaking your e-string (you will not play in tune after that) or having your bridge snap than it is by having one of your gear pegs fail.

Further reading:


December 1, 2013 at 02:57 AM · Chalk is a great method to try if you haven't yet. It grips and keeps it in place. Another way is to use a soft graphite pencil and dry lubricate the peg with it where it touch the peg box, it prevents the slipping and many people have used that option. You can also use baby powder instead of a graphite pencil. You can rub birthday candle wax on the peg and it makes it more "sticky."

December 1, 2013 at 02:59 AM · Chalk is a great method to try if you haven't yet. It grips and keeps it in place. Another way is to use a soft graphite pencil and dry lubricate the peg with it where it touch the peg box, it prevents the slipping and many people have used that option. You can also use baby powder instead of a graphite pencil. You can rub birthday candle wax on the peg and it makes it more "sticky."

December 1, 2013 at 07:26 PM · I avoid winding the string against the pegbox myself, but this is a note on what it does. A couple of people mentioned that winding the string against the pegbox counteracts slipping by adding some friction between the string and the pegbox wall. It does add friction, but I believe that the greater effect is that the peg is jammed more tightly into the hole, and ordinary peg/hole friction is increased. Suppose the last wind of the string is squeezing into the gap, a little less than a string width, between the second last wind and the pegbox wall. You can see now that the peg is being pulled from the inside, deeper into the hole. Why would this be a greater effect on the friction resisting a turning peg? Well, imagine that you push a thin wedge into a slot. The perpendicular force tending to widen the slot is greater than the force exerted on the end of the wedge.

There are numerous subtleties that I've ignored. And while I understand forces somewhat, I know almost nothing about violins compared to a luthier, so I concede that my take on this might be lacking.

December 3, 2013 at 01:34 AM · Michael, you said,

"Suppose the last wind of the string is squeezing into the gap, a little less than a string width, between the second last wind and the pegbox wall. You can see now that the peg is being pulled from the inside, deeper into the hole."

There appears to be a misunderstanding in the second sentence of that quote. According to my understanding of how a pegbox works, the peg tapers away from the end where you tune it from (the finger end) and fits into conical holes on opposite sides of the pegbox. Therefore, there is a natural tendency for the peg to loosen and come out when it is pulled, and conversely to fit tighter into the holes when it is pushed.

The string is inserted into the little hole that passes radially through the peg and is then wound towards the finger end of the peg. Ideally, the windings should touch each other so as to prevent slipping and stretching on the peg. If this is not so then the windings will tend to move and slip, a common cause of instability in a string's tuning.

If there are too many turns of the string on the peg - you don't need more than 3 or 4 - then the final winding will eventually come up against the inside of the pegbox. There will obviously be some friction between the string and the pegbox, but something more important and undesirable will happen if the string continues to be wound onto the peg - it will tend to push the peg out of the pegbox and loosen it - it certainly does not "pull the peg from the inside, deeper into the hole". The player's answer in this situation sometimes is to force the peg in, which not only increases the friction levels to the "difficult" but risks distortion of the peg and increased wear to the peg and the pegbox holes.

December 3, 2013 at 09:41 PM · If it actually matters whether your last string winding rests against the peg box or not, then you are basically the "poster child" for gear pegs.

December 4, 2013 at 03:03 PM · Trevor wrote:

"There will obviously be some friction between the string and the pegbox, but something more important and undesirable will happen if the string continues to be wound onto the peg - it will tend to push the peg out of the pegbox and loosen it - it certainly does not "pull the peg from the inside, deeper into the hole" "


I think it does.

December 4, 2013 at 05:48 PM · Sorry Trevor, but you are wrong on this one.

December 6, 2013 at 12:31 AM · Perhaps I may indeed have made a mistake in my argument, but for the life of me I can't see it. So I'm worried. If someone would identify the mistake I'd be grateful.

December 6, 2013 at 01:58 AM · Hi Trevor. This is a little tricky, and the use of "push" and "pull" adds to the trickiness. To see what is happening, first consider a simpler case where the string is not wound right up against the pegbox wall, but comes away towards the nut while leaving a gap of, say, a string width or two. Suppose you now put a screwdriver blade into that gap, and give it a bit of a twist using the handle. You see that one side of the blade pushes on the inside pegbox wall, while the other side pushes on the string. Clearly, the peg moves deeper into the hole. While we think of the screwdriver blade as "pushing" the winding and the thin end of the peg, that force can be regarded as pulling the peg head in towards the hole.

In the original case, the final winding is doing the same thing as the screwdriver. It's definitely confusing, and I debated whether to change the perspective and use "push" instead of "pull" when I wrote the original post. I'd hate to have to define the difference between push and pull. Sorry if I wasn't clear.

December 6, 2013 at 02:04 AM · In my understanding the forces "pulling" the butted against the pegbox wall peg into the pegbox are negligable, the friction fighting against the tendency of the peg to pull out is significant, not any pulling, for the string to be pulling the angle of the string would have to be going in the opposite direction.

However it seems to me if the peg is fitting perfectly there is no need for this method to prevent the peg from pulling out as the peg isn't going to be wanting to pull out as it is fit just fine in the first place.

On second thought if the string is so wedged up against the pegbox, that successive winding forces it to wedge in place, then the string via the pegbox is pushing, not pulling the string into the hole.

Not putting the final winding close enough but not touching to the pegbox wall, is in effect pulling the peg, at least a little bit, but pulling it out of the pegbox.

December 6, 2013 at 03:35 AM · Though I thought that I would ride this one out, since I thankfully don't have to fit pegs or maintain them, I am presenting this link.

Tom has made many turns around the block so to speak, so I, for one, would listen to him. Don't shoot the messenger.


December 6, 2013 at 04:26 PM · Eric,

Why would we shoot the messenger that brings us a message that answers all questions clearly and correctly? If anyone starts raising a gun about this, they need to be locked up.

December 6, 2013 at 05:16 PM · Actually experts are quite divided on this issue, I was surprised to hear two experts I know recommending the strings up against the pegbox, Tom Croen and others are quite against it, in any case however you do it, no method is a substitute for getting the pegs properly turning in the first place.

December 6, 2013 at 08:22 PM · Eric, that link you gave sounds sensible except for one thing the author got wrong. He said that when the wood shrinks owing to lower humidity, the peg shrinks but the hole gets larger. In fact, the hole shrinks too.

There's a old physics question: if you have a disk of metal like a coin and drill a hole in it, and heat the disk, does the hole get smaller or larger? One can be tempted to think that the metal outside the hole expands and encroaches upon the hole, making it smaller. In fact, the hole expands along with the metal, exactly like metal would if there was no hole.

Similary, both peg and hole will shrink if the wood dries. Of course, the wood shrinks more across the grain than along it, and they are different kinds of wood. So both peg and hole become smaller, at different rates, and the hole becomes oval.

December 6, 2013 at 11:41 PM · I'm not a physicist but if the wood shrinks, the wood around the hole would shrink outwards and the hole would get bigger, as Tom says, maybe wood doesn't behave as metal.

Otherwise pegs wouldn't start popping loose when the heater comes on and dries everything out.

December 7, 2013 at 12:41 AM · I believe Michael has it precisely correct. I don't know the shrinkage rates of maple vs. ebony or boxwood, but I do know that crossgrain and tangential shrinkage is much more than along the grain. The hole diameter has one direction crossgrain, the other along the grain, so it will go oval, not shrinking much at all in one direction. The peg diameter is all crossgrain and tengential wood, so the peg should shrink more than the hole and loosen during dry conditions.

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