Buying a tailpiece

October 19, 2004 at 05:39 AM · I have bought Wittner's fine tuners, but they can't be fit into my aluminium tailpiece with low quality tuners onboard. I decided to buy a new tailpiece, and I've got a hard choice - I can afford such tailpieces:

- ebony

- ebony (Hill)

- rosewood

- rosewood (Hill)

- boxwood

- boxwood (Hill)

and synthetic:

- Wittner Ultra Light

I heard many bad things about Wittner, so I'd like to concentrate on wooden tailpiece - but which kind of wood should I choose? And what's the diffrence between Hill and non-Hill tailpiece (except the shape at the end)? Please, help! :)

Best regards,


Replies (14)

October 19, 2004 at 11:50 AM · Hi Mateusz,

You have already answered half the question yourself. For practical purposes, the only difference between the Hill tailpieces and standard tailpieces is in the styling. The Hills, as you know, have an angled longitudinal ridge as opposed to the smoothly curved arch of other taipieces.

As for the type of wood, this is mainly a cosmetic consideration, although it should also be borne in mind that ebony is a very hard wood and boxwood a relatively soft wood if that is important to you (for example, if you want to match the tailpiece to the pegs, bear in mind boxwood pegs might wear faster than ebony pegs, but at the same time they would put induce less wear in the peg holes. I prefer the ebony all round myself.

In choosing the type of wood for the tailpiece, you should be considering the chinrest and pegs at the same time, as in my view it is important to achieve some sort of visual harmony with these parts. So if you are already happy with the colour of your chinrest and pegs, it might be an idea to try and match the tailpiece to them (although ebony chinrests also look good when matched with a boxwood tailpiece and boxwood pegs in my opinion).

One important thing is to make sure the tailpiece is properly set up, and that it is the correct length for the violin. Although the tailgut is of course adjustable, you want the tailpiece to look right when it is adjusted to be the correct distance from the bridge.

As for the Wittners, I can't speak particularly highly of their metal tailpieces except for their use on student violins. In which case they are excellent.

On the other hand, the plastic Wittner tailpieces are sonically very good indeed, as well as being extremely light. Where light weight is a big consideration, I think the plastic Wittners are an excellent choice.

My old violin repairer never used to be keen on Wittners, citing that they had to be thrown away if one fine tuner broke. This might be true, but I've never yet seen any Wittner tailpiece actually fail yet. Still something to bear in mind. Certainly a standard wooden tailpiece gives you a certain amount if flexibility in string choice and fine tuner combinations.

October 19, 2004 at 12:13 PM · Hi Mateusz,

I once asked my luthier whether there was a "technical difference" (better sound etc.) between ebony, rosewood and boxwood fittings and he replied that it was just a cosmetic thing (i.e. do you prefer black, dark brown or light brown).

One thing that might influence your decision: ebony and rosewood are endangered tropical hardwoods, boxwood (buxus sempervirens) can be planted in any garden - though you probably can't wait for a home-grown tailpiece.

I'm personally against metal or plastic on my violin, except where absolutely necessary, but that's just my personal preference.

Bye, Juergen

October 19, 2004 at 04:24 PM · So after all I should choose between ebony one (i have black fittings on my violin), or Wittner Classic made of plastic (or sth like that). What would be better? The advantage of wooden one is that it's available in my shop, Wittner isn't. And what more question - is it worth buying? I bought these fine tuners, but now I don't know if I should buy a new tailpiece, or just sell the tuners. My cheap violin from the outfit for 100$ has got aluminium-something with integrated fine-tuners, and I don't know if it would make any difference when I'd change it to ebony with wittners.



October 19, 2004 at 07:58 PM · Well, what is the quality of the instrument you are going to put the tailpiece on? If it is a cheaper "outfit" instrument, I'd probably go with a plastic Wittner for ease of use and simplicity's sake. That way you will get good sonics and every string can be fine tuned easily.

On the other hand, if you go with wood, then you are going to "weigh up" the tailpiece with all those fine tuners which can possibly compromise the sound quality to a small extent. Alternatively you could only put a fine tuner on the "E" with the wooden tailpiece and then tune the A, D and G strings with the pegs only. This can be tricky sometimes with synthetic strings.

As I say, it will be easier to make a specific suggestion when we know the quality of your violin, exactly what type (model / brand) of strings you like to use, and how advanced you are as a player.

October 19, 2004 at 08:17 PM · As I said in my previous post, it's a cheap outfit instrument for 100$ with case and bow, and I'm a begginer learning on my own (teacher planned in future, but not yet). After a discussion on FiddleForum I decided not to touch my aluminium-something tailpiece with 4 fine-tuners I have with my violin, and leave or sell the Wittners I have just bought. And I think that's the end of my questions acctually. :) Thanks for help from you all!

October 19, 2004 at 10:40 PM · Yes, that would be the way to go. I said previously the Wittners are usually the best bet for entry level instruments. Plus you get ease of fine tuning which is extremely important.

Although the Wittner plastic is usually sonically better than the metal version (and obviously lighter as well), the difference won't be worthwhile an entry level instrument.

I wouldn't neccessarily sell the fine tuners though. You'll find that most string players tend to have a box or drawer that attracts all sorts of gizmos and gadgets, such as used strings, rosin, tuners, accessories, etc. I think you would be better off keeping them, they may come in handy at some later date.

October 20, 2004 at 05:04 AM · About keeping the tuners - I agree, maybe I'll use them with the next violin, or maybe with the electric, which we (me and my father) are going to make?


> Yes, that would be the way

> to go. I said previously

> the Wittners are usually

> the best bet for entry level > instruments. Plus you get

> ease of fine tuning which

> is extremely important.

The only problem is, that the tailpiece which I have is *not* wittner, but something aluminium with fine tuners. I wouldn't buy a tuners if it was Wittner - it has some cheap plastic stuff, which are quite hard to move (tuners) ;) But I'll leave them - I haven't got _any_ problems with tuning now.



October 20, 2004 at 01:32 PM · Glad you got it all figured out Mati! :D

October 20, 2004 at 02:37 PM · I've had a metal Wittner on my violin since it was renovated in 1996, and have never had any trouble with it or the sound produced; goodness knows many luthiers will suggest you change 90% of your set-up, but the Wittner has never been queried.

October 23, 2004 at 02:10 AM · I have observed that the Wittner or a similar tailpiece is prefered by fiddlers who use steel strings.

October 23, 2004 at 04:08 PM · Interesting - why do you think this is?

October 23, 2004 at 07:50 PM · Simple physics. You need fine tuners on steel strings. That's why you have the one on E.

You also want that 5:1 ratio on either side of the bridge, so a tailpiece with built in tuners would be the most practical.

Personally I like Pegheds.

October 24, 2004 at 09:19 AM · Pegheds are cool, but they are expensive too.

October 24, 2004 at 06:37 PM · For something that make the violin as easy to tune as a guitar that doesn't change the aesthetics in any way, small cost.

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