Why not install Planetary Pegs?

October 7, 2016 at 04:35 AM · I have trouble tuning with the pegs both on my 100 year-old German Stainer knock-off and my brand new commissioned violin. The latter's maker suggested Planetary Pegs. What would be the objections to that solution?

Replies (48)

October 7, 2016 at 04:59 AM · I don't want to stifle a new discussion, but search "Planetary" in the archive for a number of previous discussions on the pros and cons.

October 7, 2016 at 06:58 AM · A brand new commissioned violin that is difficult to tune at the pegs? Uh... Properly set-up pegs should work, period! Yes they can be tricky to tune and the E will almost invariably require a fine tuner, but pegs are a tried and true technology that when done right, they work!

Planetary pegs (which I have in one of my violins, and I do love them, but I didn't install them, and I never felt the need to install them on my other violins) are an option. They make tuning simpler, yes. But it worries me that your brand new violin may have problematic pegs from the start.

October 7, 2016 at 07:21 AM · Ugly, anachronistic, and totally unnecessary for the able bodied. They are a solution for a problem that doesn't exist, so don't put the equivalent of trainer wheels on your violin. Learn to use your pegs.

There, I've lit the touch-paper...

Cheers Carlo

October 7, 2016 at 08:09 AM · I have a number of professional colleagues who have to perform in conditions that cause regular friction pegs to swell and shrink beyond the tolerances that would keep them stable...and thus have installed mechanical pegs as an effective solution.

It's important to recognize the diversity of playing challenges that we all face.

October 7, 2016 at 09:43 AM · High tropical humidity, arthritis, tendonitis : there are many reason to fit planetary pegs.

October 7, 2016 at 12:10 PM · My answer to the OP:

why not washing machines?

Why not toilets inside out houses?...

We can live without them. But life is much easier when we have them ..... :)

October 7, 2016 at 01:15 PM · Yeah planetary pegs are like toilets!!

October 7, 2016 at 01:40 PM · Yes, toilets are way better than the alternatives, as anyone who has lived with alternatives knows.

October 7, 2016 at 02:43 PM · (I agree that if the violin was commissioned the pegs should work and there should be no up-selling.)

I am curious--how have pegs shifted on larger instruments (cellos, basses) or other instruments (guitars, mandolins)? How do pegs work on carbon fiber violins? I always like Lyndon's antiquarianisms but have a feeling if it becomes easier/cheaper/better sounding things will move towards planetary pegs. It also sounds to me like they're still mostly for early adopters.

October 7, 2016 at 03:15 PM · Pee and poo INSIDE THE HOUSE, rather than in a separate dedicated outbuilding?

How barbaric! ;-)

October 7, 2016 at 04:40 PM · Ugly? I have Pegheds on my cello, and they are indistinguishable from any other pegs unless you are looking inside the pegbox.

I am perfectly able-bodied, but find them preferable (perhaps not "necessary," as did without them for years) - it can be pretty difficult to tune a cello in conditions of high/low humidity.

They don't damage the instrument. They can be removed if you ever wanted to do so.

In short, if you would feel more comfortable with them, I'm not sure what the downside is.

October 7, 2016 at 06:12 PM · Thank you one and all; I do prefer indoor plumbing, but for the violin, I will wait a month or two to see what happens when the long hot summer humidity drops.

October 7, 2016 at 07:16 PM · Oh my god, not another "Why NOT" thread... Another war is coming :S

October 7, 2016 at 07:49 PM · @Meg. Cello tuning is a whole different story compared to the violin in terms of the amount of strength needed to overcome the friction holding traditional pegs in place. However, for the able bodied, it still should not be a problem but there is certainly a stronger argument.

As to ugly, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I can tell which pegs are on an instrument from a distance, and I don't like the look as I find them anachronistic. Imagine Leonardo da Vinci's "Venus" wearing a digital watch...

Cheers Carlo

October 7, 2016 at 08:27 PM · She doesn't have wrists upon which to wear one.

October 7, 2016 at 08:45 PM · Carlo, your steel strings are "anachronistic" too, with all that technology, winding and coatings they put today. Oh wait, you use guts strings, right, right. But your bow, your bow probably is anachronistic, oh, and your violin. Do you only play on baroque violins?

Oh, no, wait, baroque violins are an evolution too, they are anachronistic too, shame. Then, I guess you only play on those weird looking curvy violins from 1500's, right?

Oh, and I suppose, no f-holes at all, right?

They're very anachronistic. I guess you have O-holes, or C-holes.

October 7, 2016 at 08:46 PM · ...I don't think Da Vinci painted a 'Venus'...

October 7, 2016 at 08:48 PM · That's right, the famous painting is from Botticelli, not Da Vinci, XD... Fail.

October 8, 2016 at 12:22 AM · Thought the cello section might come into it somewhere ...

October 8, 2016 at 12:47 AM · Erin I have tried all three major brands of gear pegs on instruments that I own -- PegHeds, Knilling Perfection Pegs, and Wittner Finetune pegs. All three work great, but I give the slight edge to PegHeds and I am glad I have them on my best violin. I have written about this extensively on several threads ... all of that is searchable, as Lydia suggests. A few purists may turn up their noses, but just remember: It's YOUR violin.

October 8, 2016 at 01:44 AM · @Tim, Botticelli did paint the "Venus" I was thinking of. I don't know how I forgot as I spent about an hour in front of her in 1976 and have seen her in the flesh, so to speak, half a dozen times since then. Back to pegs...

Progress is about improving something. The traditional peg needs no improvement. Yes, one needs to learn how to use them, just as one also has to learn to play without fingerboard tapes. I believe that geared pegs are not progress but an evolutionary dead end branch and are the violinistic equivalent of trainer wheels for learner cyclists.

@Craig. She does have wrists, but no digital watch :-)

Cheers Carlo

October 8, 2016 at 04:08 AM · My bad.

I thought you were referring to this lady:


October 8, 2016 at 07:22 AM · @Craig. Beautiful girl AND no digital watch! The most beautiful Venus of all is "Venus de Medici". Look her up...

Cheers Carlo

October 8, 2016 at 12:12 PM · Dear Carlo,

i've not found myself (or heard of) negative aspects of planetary pegs usage. Are you aware of some ?...........

I've been using Wittner Finetunes these last 3 years, on my 2 main violins. I can mantain, use, play, tune violins without them, but with them it's quicker, easier........

So, why not?..... :)

October 8, 2016 at 01:19 PM · Why not?

Already explained, because it is "anachronistic". I swear only violinists use such a weird and weak arguments. The f-holes are anachronistic, the modern violin shape too, the bow, the strings, the way you hold the violin, the way you hold the bow. All is "anachronistic".

Geared pegs are no improvement?

Traditional pegs don't need improvement?

Oh my God, tune a guitar, a double bass or pretty much any kind of string instrument and then come here and tell me there's no improvement in the design.

Violin "traditional" tuners are OK, they work, that's right. But the design and the way they work is a complete joke. It was alright for the 1600's, but that design sucks, a lot.

October 8, 2016 at 02:07 PM · Actually historical pegs are like the regular toilet, solid, dependable. Planetary pegs are like those self wiping Japanese toilets that do everything for you and leave you dripping wet.

October 8, 2016 at 02:40 PM · @Tim. would you like mother-of-pearl dots on your fingerboard or frets just like the guitar? This would make it "easier" to play. The machine heads were added to guitars to enable amateurs to play them. The double bass operates under huge tensions, so they do need machine heads. You cannot logically compare completely different instruments to the violin.

The corpus (body) of the violin has not significantly changed since 1600, is it too "alright for the 1600's, but that design sucks, a lot"? The design of real pegs has also proven itself across the centuries. Look at my avatar, 1610 Amati scroll with real pegs that work perfectly.

@Marco. I personally think it is quicker and easier to tune with properly fitted and maintained real pegs and I don't like the look, or the aesthetics.

Why do people play a traditional instrument like the violin, then seek to change it? Learning to use real pegs does take some time, but so does learning to play in tune. There is a time to ditch fingerboard tapes, geared pegs and adjusters, and trainer wheels on on bicycles.

Planetary pegs do have their place in the modern world as aids for the disabled. I thoroughly endorse them for those with arthritis, RSI, or other physical difficulties. They use special can openers and pick-up sticks too. Every help should be available to the less-abled. For those of us lucky enough to be in good health, count your blessings, and learn to use real pegs.

Cheers Carlo

October 8, 2016 at 03:04 PM · "The traditional peg needs no improvement." I had traditional pegs, and they worked pretty well. I learned how to tune that way, and I have strong hands. Once in a while (every few months) I would open my case and find that one of my pegs had slipped, and then I knew that for this particular practice session I would need to re-tune that string a few times. Since installing gear pegs. I do not have this problem. So, that's an improvement. When I go to orchestra rehearsals and the like, I find I can tune my violin in 10-15 seconds and get it exactly right, whereas those around me are spending much longer and having great difficulties doing so, and I can hear that, in the end, they are tolerating imperfect tuning. One could say, "Oh, they need to see their luthier and have their pegs improved," but frankly it would just be much easier for them to install gear pegs (which, frankly, is borderline DIY kind of work) and go on with their lives.

Is it impossible that on many student violin there are irregularities in the wood of the scroll that absolutely prevent pegs from every functioning properly for a long time after they have been "properly" fitted? If so, what then?

October 8, 2016 at 03:10 PM · The argument against fitting mechanical pegs on student violins, is that students will become dependant on them, and when they upgrade to a professional level violin, will not be able to easily use the real pegs.

Professional orchestral violinists don't take more than 10-15 seconds to tune with real pegs, I take considerably less, and they certainly don't tollerate out of tune strings.

Cheers Carlo

October 8, 2016 at 03:17 PM · Carlo wrote:

"The machine heads were added to guitars to enable amateurs to play them."


Did they ever catch on with professionals? (wink)

October 8, 2016 at 03:26 PM · Apples and oranges.

Cheers Carlo

October 8, 2016 at 04:39 PM · Haha, good one, David!

Paul, what do you mean that putting in planetary pegs is DIY work? A luthier will install planetary pegs. At least, the ones I know will!

October 8, 2016 at 09:29 PM · I would like to see a survey correlating those in favor of and those opposed to the use of modern-technology pegs with their experience with such pegs. I ask for this because I suspect those who oppose most strongly have never tried them. That's my polite way of saying what I think.

October 8, 2016 at 09:34 PM · Carlo wrote:

"Apples and oranges."


Maybe so, but wasn't it you (certainly not me) who attempted to draw a relationship between geared pegs on violins and guitars?

I simply tried to respond within the "apples and oranges" framework you had already set forth.

October 8, 2016 at 09:35 PM · I would like to see a poll of those that use conventional pegs vs those that use mechanical pegs, I suspect we're dealing with a very vocal, yet very small minority here.

October 8, 2016 at 09:44 PM · Lyndon, that's somewhat of a "red herring" argument, since the latest generation of mechanical pegs are so new on the scene (compared to friction pegs), that most people haven't even tried them yet.

So the vast majority of instruments made over the last 400 years will still have friction pegs. That doesn't make them better, any more than old-style plain gut strings would make a violin better for our current crop of top soloists, or our current crop of players in high-level orchestras.

October 8, 2016 at 09:58 PM · Well I still stand by the statement that the people vocally recommending mechanical pegs for everything are a minority, even among posters on this site. If mechanical pegs were so bad for so many people you'd think they'd all be clamouring to replace them.

October 8, 2016 at 10:26 PM · @David. If you re-read my post, as the summary at the end of that paragraph, you will observe that I stated, "you cannot logically compare completely different instruments to the violin".

@Lyndon. There is also a vocal minority who prefer modern Chinese fiddles over antique instruments. The amount of dialogue coming out of them does nothing to improve the quality of the violins either.

Cheers Carlo

October 8, 2016 at 10:50 PM · Lyndon wrote:

"If mechanical pegs were so bad for so many people you'd think they'd all be clamouring to replace them."


Am I the only one who suspects that in your fervor, you didn't really think things through before you posted (appearing to come down in favor of mechanical pegs)?

I so far have never encountered anyone who wanted to revert from the three main brands of mechanical or geared pegs, to the old-style friction pegs.

October 8, 2016 at 10:54 PM · There's more salt in this thread than on Bonneville. Does it really matter what we tune our instrument with if it gets us in tune?

October 8, 2016 at 11:11 PM · Carlo wrote:

"There is also a vocal minority who prefer modern Chinese fiddles over antique instruments. The amount of dialogue coming out of them does nothing to improve the quality of the violins either."


Actually, I think it does. We "niche market" (and kinda pricey) violin makers realize that our instruments will likely go through some heavy trials, including being compared to both Strads and Chinese instruments. So just banging out a box and sticking a high price tag on it is unlikely to be a successful strategy.

October 9, 2016 at 12:36 AM · Modern violins made by top makers cannot be seriously compared to modern factory instruments. Today's "niche market" violins are tomorrow's Stradivaris. That comparison isn't apples and oranges but rather chalk and cheese.

Enthusiasm for factory instruments does not make them better. There is too much talk, in my opinion, about the qualities of cheap and cheerful violins. Why are there not more discussions, for example comparing the work of the various Fetiques, or comparing the qualities of the different models Stradivari used? It seems always to be a race to the bottom. My budget Chinese violin is better then brand XYZ, and I believe that plastic cases/bows are better...

Cheers Carlo

October 9, 2016 at 02:13 AM · Sarah I did not not install my gear pegs myself. But there are plenty of folks who have (perhaps Andrew?). Also for a luthier it's maybe an hour's work so it's not worth my trouble even to find the right tools.

October 9, 2016 at 02:27 AM · Carlo wrote:

"Enthusiasm for factory instruments does not make them better."


Agreed. But there is also nothing wrong with being frugal (some people consider this to be among the highest of virtues and/or skillsets), or looking for the best bang for the buck.

October 9, 2016 at 03:50 AM · David, if your customers were more frugal, you wouldn't have any customers, would you??

October 9, 2016 at 11:10 AM · "It seems always to be a race to the bottom."

Financially, many of us don't have to "race" to reach the bottom!

October 9, 2016 at 12:05 PM · "David, if your customers were more frugal, you wouldn't have any customers, would you??"


Lyndon, if a professional needs a good quality instrument, one way of being frugal is to buy a contemporary instrument, (even a rather pricey one), if they feel that it meets their needs as well as an antique costing many times more.

So no, I can't see that your assumption has merit.

I also have no issues with people who don't want to spend that much. It's nice that there are violins available in nearly every conceivable price range, and it doesn't bother me at all if people want to try to hash out what gives them the best value among "assembly line" type instruments, whether old or new.

October 10, 2016 at 03:51 AM · I would consider the purchase of a high-quality, recently-made instrument to be quite frugal. From what I've read they compete favorably with antiques that are many times as expensive.

That is why I bought a recently-made instrument, made by Wojciech Topa in 2006. I love it.

It's precisely the runaway explosion of prices of fine antique violins, and the nagging feeling that one is buying mostly "investment" rather than sound, that drive consumers into the queue of a credentialed maker like Burgess.

If I had $1,000,000 to spend on a violin, I would commission 40 (?) new violins from as many reputable makers worldwide. I can just imagine how much fun that would be to play (or lend out) all those violins instead of just having one old French or Italian violin.

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