Importance of Tail piece and its straightness?

June 8, 2015 at 05:45 PM · Hello,

I have recently invested in a step-up violin and I have been noticing and been told by another luthier(than the person who sold me the violin) and a professional violinist that my bridge is too high(He certainly didn't have any problem with it, then again he played some paganini pieces on my $200 violin previously).

The luthier I bought the violin from, I didn't quite like the bridges that he makes, I think he's used to professional violinists who make their own small modification(s) here and there. A professional violinist in the neighbourhood moved the E string over to ungrooved section because the strings are not evenly separated.

Also I find the tailpiece to be a little bit tilted and the strings seem to have general skew on the fingerboard. With my neighbour's help, I moved the bridge around until everything was even.

I am planning to get the new bridge done with another luthier in July. After seeing some of her instruments, I really liked her attention to details. She suggested also lowering the bridge when she makes a new one.

When I spoke to my neighbour about my idea, he said to be careful because the finetuners on the current tailpiece may scratch the violin and that's why the previous luthier may have set the bridge high. I think I will have a talk with the new luthier and maybe get a new tail piece while at it(I'm open to suggestions, I think I currently have a plastic made one with mounted metal finetuners).

I'm curious how important is it for the tail piece to be straight and what kind of tail piece I should be looking at. The new luthier, I know she can and does make tailpieces herself (She previously made a 7 string viola and it amazed me)

I would also like to mention that the wood between the f hole are not symmetric. They are either warped or just made asymmetric, The side near the soundpost is higher than the other side.

I have attached slideshow of some photos I took.

The last photo really shows how tilted the tail piece is.

Replies (51)

June 8, 2015 at 07:04 PM · It looks like there is quite a bit of clearance between the tailpiece and the belly. I doubt if lowering the bridge (usually a tiny amount) would cause the fine tuners to hit the belly. If that is a concern, change to a Wittner tailpiece with built-in tuners. Having 4 metal fine-tuners puts too much weight on the tailpiece.

Ideally, everything should be aligned properly. But sometimes the neck has not been set properly. Then the bridge might need to be a bit off to one side and the tailpiece will be appear tilted.

A competent luthier will be able to correct almost any flaw (of course at a cost). The question is how much can you afford to get things fixed.

June 8, 2015 at 08:42 PM · Steven,

4 heavy fine tuners can affect the sound; I would rather invest in new pegs, or adjust the existing set, and use fine tuner only for E string.

What matters here is string clearance - if you find the violin comfortable to play and there is a quick response, do nothing.

If the bridge is indeed too high for you, and the neck angle is proper (resulting in correct angle of strings and bridge from both sides), then reducing the bridge height should not be a problem. You may even keep the existing bridge if it is designed properly.

Please note that changing bridge height may affect the sound, because of re-distribution of vertical and horizontal forces.

Good luthier is your best friend.

June 8, 2015 at 08:53 PM · I agree with Kevin in general. The Wittner Ultra is a very good choice for tailpiece. I'm sorry, but I don't see a picture that clearly shows a tilt of the tailpiece. On most fiddles the bridge is a little lower on the treble side to give acceptable string clearances and that automatically causes a slight tilt to the tailpiece. But that is not a problem.

I can't tell for sure from the pictures, but the string clearances do not look overly large to me, so the bridge probably doesn't need to be lowered much. If it does, you should be having serious difficulty playing it.

As for "most professional players tweaking their own bridges," some probably do but most I deal with do not. They expect me to get it right or to make any adjustment for them. That's what I'm here for.

June 8, 2015 at 09:32 PM · The 4 fine tuners on the tailpiece actually came with the violin. Also if I'm not mistaken, the whole tail piece assembly feel and look like very cheaply made(again, I don't know it well enough) one.

I am having small difficulties going into 3rd position without hitting another string(I think that's really because I need to practice more, but I've been told that it's high).

I'm a little uncertain what it is, when he did my bridge on my previous violin. I carved a little groove for the G string because I kept on hitting open G whenever I am using D string with my finger down somewhere along the way. I never needed to do it for bridge(s) done by others.

June 9, 2015 at 12:23 PM · I have just read through this:

I was curious if there were more tailpieces with built-in fine tuners. I am currently looking at

June 9, 2015 at 12:33 PM · Steven, you mentioned a luthier who made a viola d'amore. Since you are in Ottawa, could the luthier by any chance be Olivia?

June 9, 2015 at 01:11 PM · Yes, I bought a bow from her. I bought the violin from Carlo Nicolo Loso

June 9, 2015 at 01:16 PM · Steven, my experience with Pusch tailpieces was not good. They can be difficult to get the strings in correctly and deformation of the tuners affects the linearity of tuning - and the strings can slip in the tuner mechanism. The tailpiece also seemed a bit heavy and had a negative effect on tone - but they are beautiful to look at (wood grain, etc.). Perhaps they have changed the tuner design by now - it's been 10 or 15 years since I bought one.

I played plain wooden tailpieces with just an E tuner for at least 60 years before trying tailpieces with fine tuners (and Kevlar tailcord). I finally took the financial plunge (because of arthritis) and now use the French Bois d"Harmonie tailpieces (on violin, viola, and cello). These are the only ones that did not negatively affect the tone of any of the instruments.

Another alternative would be to install Wittner or Knilling (or Pegheds) internally geared pegs to allow fine tuning from the pegbox.


June 9, 2015 at 01:23 PM · I think I will want all 4 fine tuners. My pegbox/pegs don't feel very well maintained enough for any of the strings. Especially my D, the peg stops before being in tune, so I need to tighten it somehow.

I was learning to use only fine tuner on A and E string on my previous violin.

June 9, 2015 at 01:49 PM · My experience with the Pusch was the same as Andrew's. The Bois d'harmonie are worth the price.

June 9, 2015 at 08:42 PM · As mentioned twice above, Wittner makes the Ultra and a metal version that is not much used. Thomastik makes a fine tuner TP, as does Otto and at least one more that I can't remember. There is also a Pusch knock-off that is much easier to thread. If you look around even a little you should find several choices.

June 9, 2015 at 08:54 PM ·

Get a tube of this (Amazon sells it, amomgst other outlets)

You take each peg out, crayon some of this stuff around the two circumfrences where the peg contacts the pegbox (should be visible by the shinyness on the peg), put the peg back in and turn the peg around and around for a minute or so to get it good and lubed up.

You don't need alot, just enough to cover the areas where it makes contact.

Then ditch the fine tuners. You really shouldnt need then unless you are using steel strings (you will still need one on the E)

June 9, 2015 at 09:47 PM · Thank you for the suggestions.

As for the paste/lubricant coating for the pegs, I already have that and have applied to my pegs. I think the pegs weren't just fitted very well.

I think I will get the Wittner tailpiece for the time being and likely experiment with other pieces once I get better at playing.

June 10, 2015 at 04:25 AM · Telling people to use Hill compound alone for pegs is a recipe for disaster, half the time the result is going to be pegs that are too slippery and won't hold no matter what. Hill compound is useful but only in combination with other compounds that make the pegs stick MORE, not less, such as chalk, rouge etc. I occasionally come across pegs were any use at all of Hill compound will make them too slippery and you have to clean off the pegs and all the hill compound and start over, without Hill compound. Free advice on the internet can sometimes cost you!!!

June 10, 2015 at 12:37 PM · Another cause of tuning problems, often overlooked, is not so much the peg but friction between the string and the groove in the nut (and in the bridge to a slightly lesser extent). The simple answer which works fine for me is to apply soft pencil lead (3B or softer) to the groove to reduce the friction. I do this as a matter of course when fitting a string, or when a string has been on for a long time.

However, there may be other problems which may need the attentions of a luthier:

Firstly, the groove and the string may not match exactly, the string typically being too tight a fit. This is fairly easily and inexpensively fixed.

Secondly, the angle the string makes between the groove and the peg may be excessive, again causing sticking in the groove and unacceptable wear on the string in this area - this applies mainly to the A and D, and is not easily avoided with the outer strings due to the geometry of the peg box, so I live with it. The remedy is, when fitting a string, to aim for a final straight run of the string from the groove onto the peg, unless the pegs are so worn that they are projecting too far through the pegbox, in which case repegging may be needed.

June 11, 2015 at 02:27 AM · I took your suggestions and every string seems to be moving smoothly(Using pencil lead on the nut), except the peg for E string doesn't even go all the way. It stops and gets stuck before making it all the way into the hole

June 11, 2015 at 05:06 AM · Off to tangent. If you've seen the photos, you'll notice that there are scratch marks near the bridge. From what I've read from search, that apparently some people thought scraping off the varnish under the bridge would make the violin sound better. Should I investigate in re-varnishing it?

There are very small seams and chips near the neck. I went to speak to the luthier who sold me the violin, he told me not to worry about those. Should I investigate in getting them fixed as well?

I believe that I will stay with this violin for a decade at least, considering how slow-paced learner I am of the art. I hope that I will be able to afford an entire new instrument by then, but until then, I would like to have this violin in top condition.

June 11, 2015 at 07:15 AM · Rocky's advice about using the pegs to tune and not having those awful fine tuners on the tailpiece is excellent advice, as usual.

I don't want to make negative comments about people who sell instruments, but in my experience over many years, very few really know how a violin should be set up. Of course, I am not making a reference to the experts on this forum, but generally out there in the wide world.

I have handed back violins priced at £8,000 (approx US $11,000) and asked how one can possibly know how good they are when even to my eye and ear I can tell that the set up is all wrong. This has also happened with brand new violins straight from the maker!

I always think it is vital that people get expert advice from someone with no vested interest before making a purchase. Even if this costs a little for their time an expertise, it is worth it.

June 11, 2015 at 08:29 PM · " except the peg for E string doesn't even go all the way."

Your "luthier" needs to fix that. There is no excuse for it. I find that problem on all new cheap Chinese fiddles. The reason they do it is so that they don't have to trim and finish the peg ends. A result is that a ridge forms in the small hole so that the peg will not seat properly. It's an easy fix for anyone with any knowledge at all.

I would like to watch those who insist on ditching the fine tuners do the job with steel strings. I can usually do it, but it's no fun, except to watch. And if you do get rid of three tuners with steel, the e should be the first to go. Experience speaking.

June 11, 2015 at 09:35 PM · I think the answer then is to also ditch the steel strings and use modern synthetic covered strings. Maybe even pure gut but it's so long since I played on a gut string that I can't give any advice, but I'm sure others can.

June 12, 2015 at 04:28 AM · I have just received Haynes Violin Manual, and I've been reading it, I'm curious, the bottom plate of my violin feels very smooth. There is some sort of layer which feels like permanent clear coating on wood. I'm uncertain how to tell if it's laminated or clear coated.

June 12, 2015 at 09:18 AM · Steven, I think your query might be to vague to get a good answer.

What do you mean by "clearcoat", for instance? It's a term which is mostly used in the automotive finishing business. Are you referring to what most people call "varnish", or something about the methods by which it was applied? Are you noticing less surface texture than you are accustomed to seeing?

I'm also not sure what you mean by "laminated" versus clearcoated. Most commonly, in the fiddle business, "laminated" refers to a plate which is made out of plywood.

June 12, 2015 at 12:01 PM · I think I will have to wait and speak to a luthier about it I suppose.

The "clear coat" I refer to is a layer of clear smooth surface which has no colour. It is also glossy.

In example from furniture, I know there are wood, staining and "clear coat". I'm unsure what people refer as the varnish anymore because the book suggests that the "varnish" has colours, similar to staining when it comes to furniture.

Now when I look at "varnish" definition, it says glossy protective surface, so I guess the "clearcoat" I refer to is varnish. My violin has this only for the back plate, ribs, top panel and neck, I can feel the texture of the wood.

June 12, 2015 at 02:06 PM · I hope it's not lacquer.

June 12, 2015 at 06:57 PM · How does what you see and feel on your violin compare to a real violin, such as your teacher's violin?

June 12, 2015 at 07:56 PM · I don't really have a teacher, but I can tell you that the bottom plate seems glossier than most and smoother than most violins I've ever touched.

June 12, 2015 at 08:19 PM · I looked at your other thread and couldn't quite tell what kind of violin you have. Is it the Amati copy? Does it have a label? I have a feeling that the glossy coat on the back is lacquer, something that seems common on cheap Chinese VSOs.

June 13, 2015 at 01:24 AM · I'm afraid that you may be correct, the link to the pictures on the top of this thread.

I am starting to realize that I might've gotten lower end of the stick from my deal. I cannot argue about the sound of the violin though.

June 13, 2015 at 01:29 AM · It is an andrea amati copy.

I have a Palatino violin as well, which actually may have lacquer coating everywhere.

As for the bottom plate

The from the feel of it they feel almost identical except the amati copy has worn spots and have brush spots and quite a bit of scratch marks on the coat

June 13, 2015 at 01:32 AM · Also on the amati copy, the purfling seems to be genuine, but not every carefully set

June 18, 2015 at 04:26 PM · I took the violin to a reputable local luthier currently in town, he was mentioned that my violin is very likely German factory made and the reason that varnish feels different is because their varnish is alcohol based.

Just an inquiry, at a professional level, how often do people switch their strings? Eversince I got this violin, I only passed one day without playing it for less than 2 hours. Often went over 5 hours practice throughout the day.

It seems that my A string is giving out, the luthier suggested that both my bridge and nut are high, so it's not good for the string, but he also mentioned that I may need to plane the fingerboard if I make changes to the nut.

I've ordered some warchal sample strings and waiting my Infeld Red to give out, which I think is going to be soon.

June 18, 2015 at 07:23 PM · Steven wrote:

"I took the violin to a reputable local luthier currently in town, he was mentioned that my violin is very likely German factory made and the reason that varnish feels different is because their varnish is alcohol based."


One can get just about any characteristic desired (or undesired) from either an alcohol or oil varnish.

June 18, 2015 at 07:31 PM · He actually showed and compared with smaller sizes of the similar violins(identified as German factory violins, again. No Genuine label) and the varnish did feel very similar, it just feels mine is better polished.

June 18, 2015 at 09:14 PM · As to the question of how often do we change strings?

It depends on how many hours a day you play on the instrument and also how heavy you play.

Someone playing big concertos all day and digging in a lot may need new strings every 5 weeks. However, a gentle player performing only lighter pieces for an hour or two a day might get away with 5 months.

I think we know when the strings are getting a bit off, as they lose thier resonance, are more difficult to tune and may need more tuning. Worn strings have a rather dead sound.

Playing in a professional orchestra 6 days a week 6 hours a day will probably kill the strings in about 4 weeks, but many make them last a bit longer as we don't get paid conductor's rates, and conductors only wear a baton out every 20 years. (Unless they are a lightning conductor and then the baton burns down quite quickly ...)

June 19, 2015 at 04:47 AM · Off to tangent, conductor's baton wears out?!

June 19, 2015 at 11:57 AM · Only if used for dubious purposes ...

But sometimes the *carver may chop a bit off so it's being waved in the right key, although carvers have a bad reputation for being tone deaf. Many carvers break them by hitting unmoveable objects like the princ. viola which inevitably wakes up the said viola player and causes the section to go into overdrive so they all heat up and implode. Quite a nasty sight.

Not to be undertaken during a full moon.

(* conductor).

June 19, 2015 at 12:28 PM · Ancient Greek had a word for conductor - "rhabdokradantor", which literally means "wand-waver".

Thought you'd like to know ;)

June 19, 2015 at 05:25 PM · If I could pronouce that word i would call a conductor that! It sounds a bit like "Rabid something" which is definitely appropriate.

June 21, 2015 at 12:44 AM · Another inquiry, I spotted a Violin polish/wax which is apparently to be used for instruments with oil finish. I was tempted to get it but I decided not to.

Would it be a good idea to get this?

I have been using Hill's cleaner/polish and since this violin is relatively old, there are spots where varnish is almost completely worn off. I want to put a protective layer of some sort, would the wax do the job?

It said that it is silicon free and the "violin manual" I've been reading recommends using this kind of wax.

More specifically this thing:

June 22, 2015 at 06:24 PM · Currently, Hill polish isn't highly regarded in the high-level restoration community. Both microcrystaline wax, and nothing at all, are looking like the best things right now, until we learn more.

The "bass polish" you linked to gives almost no information about the composition, so it's really hard to comment. Personally, on an instrument of more than trivial value, I'd rather use nothing at all, than a "mystery" product.

June 22, 2015 at 07:06 PM · I decided to pick up two bottles of those because I need a decent furniture polish anyways(It's lower cost than some of the higher end furniture polish I've been looking into). I tested it out on my Metronome, and seems to do an excellent job.

I also tried on the neck of my violin, it seems to be exactly what it is advertised to be, a polish/wax. Similar to car polish,wax. I don't think I'll be using it for the rest of the violin since it leaves residue, and it doesn't really leave a "coat"(it flakes off and makes it shiny, similar to car polish, but I don't want the flaky wax powder on my instrument)

June 22, 2015 at 07:31 PM · Now, here's maybe the final inquiry to this thread:

Is it advisable to try fitting my own tailpiece, pegs, and endpin?

Prior to this year, every summer, I would be carving chess pieces. I've been told that I have surgeon hands and I was getting quite good at it after 5 years. Past winter I was struck with painful arthritis, so I decided to stop doing it and kill my fingers learning to play the violin instead.

Here's a link to a website and the parts seem rather inexpensive. I wish to know if it is advisable to try on making my own fitting entire for aesthetics.

Eventually, I wish to make the tailpiece entirely by myself and have it built somewhat crooked to accommodate for the "tilt" on the tailpiece.

Also, I have always been fond of texture of Rosewood.

If anything, I am going to start off with Endpin, the pegs then tailpiece

June 22, 2015 at 08:03 PM · To install new pegs and endpin, you will need a peg reamer and a peg shaver which can be bought at the link you listed.

June 22, 2015 at 08:30 PM · "Is it advisable to try fitting my own tailpiece, pegs, and endpin?"

You can do it, but I don't advise it. I've been fitting them for 30 years and still find "perfectly" fitting pegs to be difficult (I do not find the shaver listed to be useful at all). If your expectations aren't too high you may do OK. The hard part about end pins is turning them to size, unless you have a holder. Fit is not as critical as pegs. With tailpieces it's setting the afterlength.

June 22, 2015 at 08:56 PM · It is unlikely for me to buy and use the tools on the website.

I do have my own very fine carving knives and sandpaper/pads. Last chess pieces I made was out of Cherry, Box and Oak wood 2 by 2 pickets. It took a week just outlining them each.

If I do make it, I'll probably do it free hand using my knives and sandpaper. Of course, I will never have the perfectly round pegs or endpins, but this is my hobby/recreation.

I take pride in "personalizing" anything I own, except I don't want to jeopardize the quality of the sound on my violin, which is why I'll leave the tail piece and the bridge to the professionals at least for now.

I also want to dig my fingers into fingerboard(not literally) eventually

June 22, 2015 at 11:13 PM · You can't properly fit pegs without a quality reamer and peg Shaver which are going to run you about $200, for that price your repair shops prices seem a lot more reasonable, given that you probably wouldn't do a good job the first time you used the tools anyway.

There is no way you are going to get pegs to turn properly using just a knife and sandpaper, give up the idea before you waste a whole lot of time.

June 24, 2015 at 03:46 AM · Very well, I shall only carve the peg handles, tail piece tops, endpin ends and ask a luthier to fit them after, if I get around to that.

Apparently I lied, I have more inquiry(ies).

I have been putting a lot of practice hours on this new violin for the past month. Few things I am noticing:

1. Certain spots on bow hair, near the tip, I have almost no grip. I did put extra amount of rosin on these spots to compensate, helps little bit.

-I have been practicing Tremolo. Could this be the cause? The bow is only a few weeks old.

-I am considering a more durable secondary bow, as soon as I can afford one, I will get it. Most likely Carbon Fiber one. I will be dedicating it to play aggressively and with a mute on.

2. My previous violin had rosewood fingerboard, I think my current one is ebony, maybe not of the higher grade. As I clean the strings each night as a part of routine clean and polish, I am finding very fine and small mount of black powder coming off the strings. I think it may be the tiny bit of the fingerboard being shaved off from string vibrating while in contact with the fingerboard.

-I have read some articles regarding how planing fingerboards on violin is somewhat of a routine. I have been told by someone that I do need to plane the fingerboards as it is.

-I have been always fond of texture and feel of rosewood and boxwood. How noticeable is the wear on them in comparison to ebony?

-Depending the cost, I may ask one of the luthiers to use one of those.

June 24, 2015 at 11:19 PM · Nevermind about the bow hair, it turns out that it's the D string very well worn.

August 9, 2015 at 03:42 AM · I've been looking around on e-bay lately to buy parts for my side-semi-restoration project, and I came across the compensated tail pieces.

I've also read that some people suggest it makes the lower strings sound better.

Has many people here tried the compensated tail piece? I honestly think if it has any improvement in tone, it may be ideal for my "Campbell"(Crooked smile) violin. It would actually make the crookedness of tailpiece straight. It'll maintain its name however because the wings are crooked.

August 9, 2015 at 04:23 AM ·

August 9, 2015 at 11:37 AM · You can do a search of this forum and find many threads on tailpieces.

The short answer to your question is changing the tailpiece can change the sound of the violin. Better? Worse? Nope. Just "different". It is up to you to decide if you like the change.

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