Fine tuners? Yes or no?

January 4, 2016 at 10:32 PM · Hello ladies and gentlemen,

So I was talking to my younger brother the other day and he said if I was going to make my violin into a "proper" outfit I needed to get rid of my fine tuners on all my strings except my E string. So to give you all some background information on my family. Both my younge brothers play the viola and the eldest of the two is considered, by many, a great musician. He's performed everywhere and has even earned himself a spot in several college orchestras. I value his opinion on the matter since this is he's field of expertise. However, I kinda like seeing my fine tuners even if I don't use them. What do you all think? Fine tuners yes or no?

Replies (29)

January 4, 2016 at 10:54 PM · Depends. Steel strings or synthetic? Well-fitted pegs that work properly? I use mostly tailpieces with integrated fine tuners. They work well with all but gut strings. I do not like long-lever add-ons for most fiddles. If you are not a professional I wouldn't worry about trying to look like one. And I have seen integrated fine tuner tailpieces in videos of European orchestras.

And if you have steel strings, the E is the one that LEAST needs a fine tuner.

January 4, 2016 at 11:30 PM · I don't use them simply because I don't need them (therefore no need to add weight to the violin).

Some people like them and use them even if their instruments don't need it. It doesn't make you better or worse than anyone else whether you choose to use fine tuners or not!

January 4, 2016 at 11:33 PM · My violin is a student's instrument. I bought it cause, well besides liking the sound and how well everything worked, I didn't need a fancy instrument cause that's what I am a student. However after learning how to tune with my pegs I've never really used my fine tuners I just like them. And I've never used cut string always used synthetic strings. I'll get around to using gut one day though. And no I am by no means a professional, I've only been playing for eight years and I just do it for my amusement. This discussion between my brother and I came up since he had noticed I had bought myself a better case and bow for my violin.

January 4, 2016 at 11:52 PM · Can you tune your instrument without them?

At the end of the day, what is important is that you can quickly and accurately tune it, and make adjustments when necessary. Whether that is having regularly maintained regular pegs, mechanical pegs, integrated fine tuners, a highly-paid lackey that sits next to you and does only that, etc.

January 4, 2016 at 11:55 PM · I can easily tune my violin with my pegs, it became easy once I got the hang of it. But having a lackey to do it for me does sound like a lot of fun.

January 5, 2016 at 12:09 AM · The steel E is tuning-wise the most stable of the strings, and hardly ever needs adjusting, except when your'e tuning to an orchestral A from an oboe which isn't quite A440, or to a piano which likewise isn't at concert pitch. Even a steel E can slip out of tune slightly due to external influences such as temperature changes or a small movement in the bridge when another string is being tuned or slips, so tuning adjustment is therefore necessary.

Hence I believe one should use micrometer tuners for a steel E or A. But a metal-cored D or G should be tunable from the pegs if the pegs are working properly.

If the two lower strings are gut-cored (as in the traditional Russian set-up which will have steel E and A and gut everything else) then micro adjusters are needed only for the A and E, and are not a good idea for gut strings. If a player believes that a pair of add-on micro adjusters on the tail piece has an effect on the tone (I don't think the effect is significant) then very light-weight add-on adjusters are available.

January 5, 2016 at 12:16 AM · Gene, I believe there are some high-level rock bands that employ a lackey to tune a line-up of guitars so that if one goes out of tune during a gig, as is very likely, a tuned replacement is immediately available for the musician.

January 5, 2016 at 12:33 AM · There are 2 aspects:

1. ease of tuning - if your pegs are ok, no need to for fine tuners on G, D and A

2. sound quality - fine tuners affects the sound; the more metal parts on your violin, the worse it gets

January 5, 2016 at 01:40 AM · If you want fine tuners, hopefully you have the kind built into the tail piece ... the Wittner tail piece. Feel free to dump them if your pegs work well.

But ... if you want to leapfrog your brothers entirely, get gear pegs.

January 5, 2016 at 01:41 AM · The tone of my violin improved tenfold when I removed the fine tuners from A-D-G. From the visual perspective, they make the instrument look cluttered and distract from the beauty of its simple design.

January 5, 2016 at 02:18 AM · I generally prefer to use fine tuners, as it allows greater precision, but it's up to you. I don't think my violin sounds any different with or without fine tuners. Learning to tune with the pegs is a vital skill, as you can't make big adjustments with fine tuners. It's also important to have pegs that are in good shape. They are effective with steel and synthetic strings. I'm not sure about gut strings, but if they're inefective for gut strings, it's pointless.

January 5, 2016 at 02:42 AM · I use a fine tuner for my A simply because it is easier and more comfortable than using the peg. However, for D and G, I use pegs.

On my viola, I have fine tuners, and that is fine by me. As with many things we discuss on this site, I suspect that the perceived disadvantages of fine tuners make no real difference to anyone except the really talented. To amateurs like me, the advantages of fine tuners, such as we perceive them, outweigh the disadvantages.

January 5, 2016 at 04:12 AM · Wow so many replies with differing opinions. I like my fine tuners they are useful when I'm having a bad day and can't get my pegs to turn (hand problem not peg) but I hardly use them since my pegs work really well. Thank you all for your opinions.

January 5, 2016 at 04:40 AM · I like them because they save working the pegs, and quite a bit really. Less working the pegs around trying to get in tune, the less the holes will get larger and the pegs go in farther. It's simply a matter of violin longevity to me, but I also find turning the tuner up a couple of times easier than turning the pegs- and undoubtedly less risk for breaking strings.

No I'm not thrilled about the extra weight but not that big a deal. Had integrated tuners on my first cheap violin, and hated losing them. So I've used a full compliment of add on since.

They reduce after length though, unless built into the tailpiece, so some loss of sound quality. Not that much quality to lose here!

I am hoping to try some synthetic strings soon so I may change my opinion then.

January 5, 2016 at 04:20 PM · Other options than fine tuners are geared pegs such as Wittner or Knilling Perfection Planetary Pegs (which are mechanically the same as Pegheds). Added fine tuners are usually a bad idea for any instrument that has fine core tone. There are tailpieces with built in fine tuners that are a much better choice.

If you have any sort of mechanical inclination, installing a set of geared pegs takes only

1.careful caliper measurement of your current peg diameters

2.a peg-hole boring tool

3. a set of geared pegs (Wittner might be easier to work with) of diameter not less than your current pegs.

4. about an hour of your time and careful prior consideration every step of the way.

Alternately a much more expensive luthier installation.


January 5, 2016 at 04:51 PM · My teacher, luthier and professional player discouraged me from using fine tuners on all but the E string (using a light weight loop-hook rather than a ball-hook at that)for the following reason:

1. One more possible source of buzzing,

2. If one not careful, can sometime damage the top plate of the instrument,

3. More importantly, add weight to the tail piece, hence can affect sound resonance,

4. Aren't really needed, and aren't very aesthetically pleasant to look at.

January 5, 2016 at 05:55 PM · Installing the gear pegs is generally under $100 (plus parts) because it's a pretty easy and quick job for the luthier, especially if they've already done a few.

January 5, 2016 at 06:00 PM · My teacher told me the fine tuners affect the sound and had me remove them (except for the E) but I think it's really up to you. It may be helpful to know that you can have your pegs redone. I had an instrument that was nearly impossible to tune using the pegs and I went to a luthier who fitted new pegs for me and the problem was solved. Everyone I know either has no fine tuners or only one on the E string (and for Violas, usually one on the A I think).

January 6, 2016 at 04:21 PM · I have integrated fine tuners on both vln and vla b/c I have bad shoulder arthritis, and they make tuning easier--also much faster to correct a slip during orchestra. The tailpieces have had no negative effect on the sound or action of either instrument as far as I know. (My pegs work but the reach is hard).

I tried geared pegs but they always slipped just a fraction, no matter what I did, so I went back to integrated tailpieces and tuners.

January 6, 2016 at 04:45 PM · I have Wittner geared pegs AND a Wittner tail piece with integrated fine tuners. I do not need the fine tuners but I like to have them there anyway. Why bother to remove them ?

January 6, 2016 at 05:53 PM ·

January 6, 2016 at 06:04 PM · I use strange devices that Shar calls mini violin tuners. The size is a pain in the neck but the the action is fast for synthetic strings AND the mechanism is solid metal, not like the sheet metal of the long lever versions.

The long lever version can suffer serious hysterisis which can be annoying during tuning.

The minis are not for players with weak fingers however. They need more strength than the usual adjusters.

I heard no difference with the minis but I still like them for mechanics.

January 6, 2016 at 06:09 PM · I have also found these "mini" type or "Hill" type tuners to be very hard to turn. They even usually are fitted with an oversized screw to enable proportionally higher torque, they still hurt my fingers. The worst are the little tuners that fit over the string on the afterlength.

gear pegs -- gear pegs -- gear pegs ...

January 6, 2016 at 09:50 PM · The Hill style tuners are usually quite easy to turn, if they are properly lubricated, and not excessively worn.

Lubrication is a step often missed.

January 6, 2016 at 11:13 PM · I have 4 fine tuners on the violin I bought a few years ago, but my new viola came with only the E-string ft. I did a search of past discussions on this topic and came to the conclusion that there are a myriad arguments for and against 4 fine tuners (even more than listed in this thread), and it comes down to what works best for you. Forget about whether or not it's more "professional" to have only one.

January 6, 2016 at 11:15 PM · David, what do you use for lubrication? I've tried graphite, and also candle wax, but neither seems very effective. What about lithium grease? I don't want to get any of that near the varnish!

January 7, 2016 at 12:25 AM · Perhaps a little dab of petroleum jelly, or a tiny drop of olive oil, as long as it is applied to the tuner before it is installed on the tail piece. You'll therefore be able to make sure that nothing is going to drip onto the varnish after installation. In practice I think the likelihood of significant damage to the varnish is unlikely with such small quantities.

January 7, 2016 at 01:20 AM · Lithium grease is worth a try.

And regarding the arm of the tuner scarring the belly of the violin, sure that's a hazard, but I noticed on my new viola that it's (single) tuner had a little rubber boot on the fine-tuner arm. I thought that was a clever idea. But I don't see why a viola should need a fine tuner at all.

January 7, 2016 at 10:35 PM · I've had best results with bees wax, except in one instance where the screws fit very tightly. I also had one situation where paraffin wax made the screws turn TOO easily and they wouldn't hold tune.

Paul, many violists use a steel A string.

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