Fine tuners vs geared pegs?

October 7, 2006 at 04:17 AM · OK, I'm well aware that violinists have gotten by for centuries without either geared pegs or 4 fine tuners. However, I can also tell you as an experienced recording engineer that most skilled violinists I've recorded have rarely been exactly in tune, even when they thought they were.

As I am playing violin solely for the purpose of record on pop music tunes, critical tunign is important to me. I would rather not get into that whole argument.

What I do want to discuss is the possible negative sound of fine tuners. Sure, you'd feel like an amature if you used four fine tuners. Sure, "common knowledge" says that they have an adverse affect on tone. Yet, I HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO FIND A SINGLE SCIENTIFIC TEST TO SUPPORT THIS.

For all I know, fine tuners might IMPROVE sound, by decoupling the string from the tailpiece. After all, the sound travels through the bridge. Any vibrations that get to the body via the tailpiece would theoretically be out of phase, and so induce comb-filtering. SO:

Can anyone pont me to conclusive info on this subject?

Are some tuners known to be sonically superior to others?

Geared pegs are the other option. Since they are heavier, they should actually improve sound the same way a guitar sounds better with a heavier headstock (that HAS been proven.) Does anyone know? The only reason I am hesitating on the geared pegs is that I can't find any that I like the look of.

Replies (41)

October 11, 2006 at 11:13 PM · Not much to say but if you wanted geared pegs that look good, you might want to check out the perfection pegs.

October 12, 2006 at 01:25 AM · I did look at Perfection. Not nice enough, aesthetically. I'm really surprised they don't offer a deluxe model. Sigh.

What I find most illuminating is that almost everyone is convinced that fine tuners are sonically detrimental, yet not one person has responded with any proof. I can also find no testing of this on the internet. Zero.

Sound like a long-entrenched piece of snoot-ism to me.

FWIW, One of the top string manufacturers makes an expensive series with balls made out of a "special" metal. In their ads, they claim that this material better decouples the string from the tailpiece. Hmmm. Being as one of my degrees is in acoustical theory, I decided to find out what the since is behind this. Mind you, my gut says that this WOULD be a good thing (eliminating phase comb-filtering and all)

I called the company, and did the phone-tag thing until I finally reached THE GUY. The tech who supposedly ran the R&D for this string. He was very straight forward. After an interesting conversation on strings in general, he confessed that there is no science behind it. It's just marketing.



I have been thinking more about the violin's set-up. As you may know, the length of the string BEHIND the bridge is (supposedly) critical for getting a nice "after ring." It's pitch is supposed to be an octave + one fifth above that of the main part of the string, and this is determined by how close to the bridge the tailpiece is set.

OK, so with fine tuners, we pull the tailpiece farther away to achieve this same tuning. That will change the total length of the string, from pegbox to the ball, and THAT MUST AFFECT THE TONE OF THE VIOLIN, because it changes the tension on the string. Fine tuners = lower tension. Is this good or bad? Beats me.


More frustrating is the fact that you cannot possibly adjust all four strings for optimum after-ring. (why aren't tailpieces graduated?) and using just a fine-tuner on the "E" makes it WAY out of whack.

It seems to me that if after ring is so important, the optimum set-up would be as follows: A tailpiece with slots graduated to maintain the correct pre-bridge / post bridge ratio on all strings. AND, no fine tuners at all. The current crop of geared tuners such as pegheads makes this feasible.

If it turns out that optimum sound is actually achieved by decoupling the string from the tailpiece, than there are other, better solutions. For instance, the tailpiece could be made out of an acoustically inert material such as teflon or UHMD plastic.

-Or it might be enough to make the saddle out of such material, since you MIGHT want strings to vibrate each other as much as possible. If THAT is the case, then there's another reason not to use an "E" fine tuner.

October 12, 2006 at 05:43 PM · > After an interesting conversation on strings in general, he

> confessed that there is no science behind it. It's just marketing.

And this surprises you?

October 12, 2006 at 06:14 PM · Well, you have a lot of food for thought.

It is quite common for archtop jazzboxes to have tailpieces with "graduations" as you call them. I don't know who did it first, but there must have been a reason. The first archtops were made by Gibson, but the quintessential jazzboxes are D'aquisto's and D'Angelico's from NY. There must be something worth learning from that.

Also note that Gibson in its highly successful prewar years had engineers designing the details. It wasn't a simple craftsman business. What did those engineers engineer? I have never seen any details on that but it might be interesting to delve into.

Why doesn't the violin have "improvements?" I would hazard to guess that that is because those most highly skilled in the art do not believe it is needed. Though I'm sure many luthiers have made improvements while keeping them secret.

As far as fine tuners go, well, it would be academically interesting to look into it. I bet it has already been done. Perhaps the Catgut Society (something like that) or the New Violin Family Association might have stuff on that topic.

Lots and lots of great fiddle players use fine tuners and don't seem to be bothered by them. What sound do you want? If you get the sound you want, then fine, who cares how you get it?

If you want to experiment with changes, no reason not to give it a try. Carving a tailpiece can't be too difficult. Heck it is just a little piece of ebony. You can get a chunk the right size for less than 5 bucks retail.

As far as being in tune for pop music goes, well, I don't see why it is more important there than it is for other "genres." Being out of tune is contextual anyway. What mode are you in etc. Of course recordingengineers working with electric guitars have to get pretty precise with tuning, due to distortion. Maybe that is what you are worrying about. Is it merely on open string work that you are thinking, or are you also concerned with being in tune with sympathetic vibrations? Are you working in a tempered tuning? All of these things influence the tuning issue and what it means to be in tune.

October 12, 2006 at 06:32 PM · Great idea! If you can design/engineer something better in holding tunes, you will not only be financially successful (I hope), but also help a lot of beginning students like me. Some of the pegs are very difficult to work with and I have broken a few strings in the process. Some of my violins cannot hold tune; they tend to stay at a few % lower than the intended frequencies.

By the way, I saw Sarah Chang used two fine tuners on her violin. Apparently, one extra fine tuner has not hurt her tone production.

October 12, 2006 at 06:53 PM · I wonder if Sarah is using a steel core a' string. Sometimes you get better continuity in sound from "e" to "a" that way. In fact getting strings to work both together as a continuum whilst retaining useable individual characteristics is quite interesting. The most noticable thing to me is that the G-string played in 4th position is an entirely different rich sound than the d string or the a string at the same frequency, and this effect is used by composers who understand the violin.

I currently have *no* fine tuners on my fuddle, as it is strung entirely with plain gut (except a wound gut G). If your pegs are misbehaving, it is usually a simple matter to treat them.

If they stick, or tend to "index" between slightly sharp or slightly flat, the 1st thing I do is one at a time, loosen a peg and withdraw it, put a bit of soap rubbed onto the shiny parts, and re-reave the string. This makes the peg run very smoothly. Ususally it is enough to make tuning really easy to do.

If pegs are slipping, the classic thing is to add a bit of chalk rather than soap.

If the pegs or holes seem to be unround (you can see this with them withdrawn, by the wear pattern on the hole or peg) the thing to do is to give the hole reaming and the peg a turning. Yet if not too bad, you can do ti yourself, with some jewler's rouge. Just withdrawal the peg, smear liberally with rouge, put back in, and "lap" it by turning it around and around. The rouge will gently grind the two together to a perfect fit. When done, wipe the rouge off, and re-reave, applying soap or chalk as needed.

The biggest problem with pegs is that the vast majority of players never learn to take care of these little chores!

October 12, 2006 at 09:13 PM · I do think fine tuners affect your sound. And there are always problems with them, such as rattling, dangers to the body of the violin, well...I don't even think it matters. It isn't snobbery that keeps us from putting fine tuners on. We don't need them. As for having a fine tuner on the E, that doesn't make anything worse. It is because of the comosition of the string and how it stretches, not vibrations of the instrument.

I would say that the less "machinery" on the instrument, the better. As simple as possible. Maybe it becomes a matter of aural aesthetics, and not one of science, which is why there is not much material on the subject.

I don't pile on the fine tuners because it desturbs an open-ness of my instrument. Remember, every violin/viola is different.

When using steel strings, sometimes is is beneficial to use fine tuners. The reason being, the steel strings are harder to tune precisely manually. They tend to move in larger increments within the string. So the tuners really help to get closer and more exact. But that is why they are there. A necessity for the strings.

There are so many variables of each component of a violin that determines all the things in your message. It would be hard to say how a violin reacts to certain things, unless it is basic principles of how the violin works.

As a bunch, perhaps we tend to have intonation moments (of ambeguity), though I don't think it has much to do with the tuning of the strings. Pitch is very much affected by percieved timbre. The width of the sound you hear, and how clear the core of the note is. I can think of many reasons why a violinist would be or sound out of tune in a recording atmosphere. None of which have to do with tuners or incompetance.

(Jennifer steps off the wagon and slides in the mud....)



October 12, 2006 at 10:54 PM · Greetings,

I have also found fine tuners affect the sound.

It really isn`t a snobbery issue. There may be some snobbery involved in not using geare dpegs (never actually seen them). I could see those being a real boon in humid climates such as where I live. As long as they dont necessitate enlatging the peg holes. That kind of doctiroing of insturments is unconscionable.

It is worth bearing in mind that Oistrakh, and consequently the soviet school of that era since his influenc ewas so vast, used a fine tuner on the a string which was metal- mad eby prim.

I have noticed some players in Japan copying this while using eudoxa and obligato strings. They say it is extremely convenient during cocnerts to just be able to tweak the a string. personally I think one can equally well adjust the intonation. I don`t know if the sound of thos eplayers has bene affected.



October 12, 2006 at 11:15 PM · Stephen & Jennifer,

You both state that fine tuners affect the tone. Let me reinforce my original point, hopefully without being offensive:

Are you 100% sure? By that I mean, did you record the instrument with and without the fine tuners, having put on new / settled-in strings each time?

If not, with no disrespect intended, you cannot possibly know. I have spent my life doing, and analizing, A-B tests. It is incredibly difficult to get accurate results. I could write pages & pages about various examples wherein "golden eared" engineers, musicians, & Hi-Fi afficianados were "absolutely sure" of some difference, and were then proven wrong by scientific testing.

I'm not arguing one way or another, but I'm still waiting for proof.

Interesting about the interraction with steel strings. Fascinating, actually.

As for the need for fine-tunig: Again, on pop tunes with close recording, it really does make a difference, and time is money. I have tested MANY top string & horn players, using an $800 Peterson strobe set for just intonation @ the key being played in(NOT chromatic.) I have seen players think they were in-tune when there string or horn was as much as 12 cents off! To some extent, a good player can compensate, but not completely, and certainly not on open strings. -to say nothing of sympathertic overtones from the un-bowed strings.

I'm not being picky, I make records for a living.


FWIW, the player whom I consider to have the best consistently dead-on intonation, who you can readily check out, is Mark O'Connor. The man is a machine. I don't like his tone very much, but his intonation is amazing, as is his musical sensibilty. If you're not a classical snob, and haven't heard Mark, I highly recommend checking out some of his work.

October 13, 2006 at 12:38 AM · Greetings,

yes, I do know. Absolutely, totally without doubt. I have compared both in quick succession on the same insturments. I have a fantstic ear for small changes in violin sound. This is what I have spent most of my life workign on. It`s one of the reaosns I am a bloody expensive teacher ....

Sometimes one can place too much faith in machines. Note that for all the high tech graphs and resonance testing stuff I haven`t a clue about violins are still not being made by machines . Nor would you be able to replicate the skill of some of the luthiers on this list using a machine to set up a violin.The beauty of machines is they destroy false illusions we have about our playign because we hear in our minds which indulge in whistful thinking.

The only blanket statement I won`t make is that it affetcs all instruments. I also think it is quite possible that a very good quailty tailpiece with embedded tuners would not affetc the sound. I would be very interested to see the effetc of new Titanium products.

You kepe using the word snobbery which I think detracts from the point you are trying to make. I have lsitended to OConnor and think he is brilliant. I don`t need advoice on who to listen to and how.But all your talk about intonation and tone is only part of the picture. Intonation is not a fixed entity that an engineer can pin down. If O connor was playing in an orchestra he might be adapting his intonation in onw way and if he wa sin a quartet he might be doign something else. There are endles sdiscusison about the menaing of `intonation` on this site by player swho have spent their whole lives seeking the elsuive goal of the best possible pitch for a given situation.

No offence taken whatsoever. I jsut think we aren`t going to agree on this one.



October 13, 2006 at 12:37 AM · I can possibly know, because while you have spent your life studying the sound, scientifics, or mechanics of the sound, I have spent my whole like playing it, analyzing it, redefining it, learning it, loving it, etc. Point made.

I do not value perfect mechinics in playing. You mention a player who is pretty much dead on...but not all so musical.

You are using instruments, computers, recording equipment etc etc. to judge whether something is in tune or not. They are guides. They are not the law. And there is a level of error when using any mechanical judge. The more equipment, the more area for error.

We make music for our ears and for the audience's ears. The ear, and the connected brain is the best judge. So...if 12 cents off...using what as a guide?

I'm sure it is really interesting to study the sound etc. etc. and I have recorded myself with many different changes to hear the resultant sound. I record myself playing every day. So, just as I can say that I like Obligato strings over any steel string, I can say that I think tuners affect the sound. For some, maybe in a positive way. For some, not. That's me.

I'm not offended, per say. But I do feel that the angle of approach is one that is demeaning to musicians in the quest for something better than what they do?

The best judge is the live performance with a diverse audience.



October 13, 2006 at 12:47 AM · that`s what I meant ;)

October 13, 2006 at 02:47 AM · Jemmifer,

You missed every single point I was making. Every single thing you say (about me) in your last post is incorrect. Please re-read with an open mind.

-Or don't. Whatever.


October 13, 2006 at 03:26 AM · You're trying to get violinists more "in tune" by using better pegs, etc. The problem with that is that as far as they're concerned their strings are already in tune. Whether you come up with a better mechanism or not doesn't matter.

Though you lament lack of any scientific reports addressing your violin problem, when you go to record something you don't go to some scholarly paper to choose a microphone. Your own taste and experience dictate what you do - and somebody else would do something different. It's the same idea with violin. You're arguing that a painter's choice of brush has to be supported by science. So no wonder the painter is a bit put off, say.

As for the tailpiece, I don't know for sure if it vibrates out of phase. I don't think the bridge is really a nodal point - to begin with, it's vibrating. But to me it looks like the tailpiece designed in part to decouple that end, the tailpiece gut being a big part of that, but also influence the vibration it sees, via its inertia, shape and various angles, resonances, and interation with other vibrating strings. But it doesn't make sense to try and understand it that way with an artistic goal in mind, which is what you're doing.

Now, what would I do. There are some silly things that don't jive. You're worried about the intonation of the finest players around you say, but want to do some of it yourself, and you're just learning violin. If I was a producer I'd use the best synthesized strings where strings aren't featured (featured either as solo or accompaniment). Where strings are featured, you're dependent on their artistry, sorry, so let them do their thing. If their sound, intonation, etc. don't satisfy you, get other players or work on the tapes, to be practical about it.

October 13, 2006 at 03:38 AM · Allan,

I think what you're not taking into thought is the use of expressive intonation. (A pitch may be played purposely higher or lower within a certain key so that to the ear it will actually sound MORE in tune. Not to mention a B in the key of G may not sound quite the same as a B in the key of A even without the use of expressive intonation.) My teacher gave me intonation exercises to work on things like this. The idea is that you play double stop exercises that pair up pitches against an open string. For example, if you play a B against an open E (a perfect 4th) you'll place the B higher than if you play the B against the open D (a major 6th.) I'm pretty sure this is all pretty standard stuff for string players. Of course if you check that same B against a machine it'll say you're out of tune, but if you play every note according to what a machine says rather than within the context of a key, it's going to sound out of tune. This is why I have my students check their intonation against open string intervals rather than with a tuner. I think most players and teachers would be in agreement with me that unless the strings are out of tune, this is a better way to work on intonation than relying on a machine. Machines cannot make art, only living and breathing people can do that. I'm sorry for a long winded explaination, but hopefully it makes sense.


October 13, 2006 at 03:44 AM · Allan,

Also in regard to the fine tuners, I used to have the type of fine tuner on my E string that connected the string between the tail piece and the bridge. I recently switched to the type that connects the string right on the tail piece, thereby lengthening the string distance between the bridge and tail piece to what I was told was the optimum length. I didn't use a machine, so I have no scientific proof, but gosh did my fiddle sound a heck of a lot better from that one little change! Maybe it's just in my head, but I doubt it.


October 13, 2006 at 04:14 AM · Greetings,

to expand on what Laura said a little I teach the follwoig approach to scale intonation. The tonic, 4th , 5th and octave are inviolate and practiced first. The seventh and third are then added according to the preference of the individual player. Some liek ot sharper than others. The relationship between the tonic and thrid dictates the pitch of the 2nd. The relaitonship between the 5th and 7th determines the pitch of the 6th.

A further complicating factor is that i vary the sharpness of the third and 7th to some extent depending on what music I am playing. You would not use the amount of sharpening for Bach as Wagner. The harmonci intensity is not necessary.



October 13, 2006 at 02:44 PM · Buri,

Good point and well said.

Basically Allan all of us are saying that intonation is not exactly a science, but more a living breathing art in a way. This is not to say that I'm an expert in any way. I think intonation is an area that I continue to work on as I am not satisfied yet.

You are right that pop music is often out of tune which is quite annoying. Even some of the more talented pop stars tend to be out of tune sometimes and for some reason continue to stay out of tune rather than quickly adjusting. I'm sure that's because it's probably hard for musicians to hear each other in a recording studio, but use of machines to correct that is not the way. It just makes things sound worse. Violinists have to be able to rely on their ears to fit into the context. If you'd like better intonation from string players, make it easier for them to hear what's going on around them. Any good musician will adjust. If they can't adjust at that point, you just need some better musicians, either that or everyone else is out of tune to start with.


October 14, 2006 at 03:10 AM · Laura's right, intonation isn't something set in stone. You have to vary pitches to create color. It's not about science.

October 14, 2006 at 04:31 AM · Greetings,

well, maybe it`s about science and art being as one...

Prunes needed I suppose,



October 14, 2006 at 05:55 AM · Allan,

I think Jim already kind of said this, but what exactly are you trying to accomplish by putting fine tuners on? Having fine tuners on a violin won't affect a player's intonation on other notes...

But Jim...the bridge isn't a nodal point?? How could it not be? Sure it's vibrating but isn't L still determined by the length of the string from the nut to the point of contact with the bridge?

October 14, 2006 at 08:28 AM · I was trying to think of a reason for the two parts to not be in phase. One reason would be if the bridge was a node of a standing wave, but that isn't what you have. Actually the polarity on the other side of the bridge would depend on impedances. But there's so much happening that I really think there's more of a difference between the two parts. I wouldn't swear it though. It probably all depends on what's happening at the bridge.

October 14, 2006 at 04:19 PM · ??????!!!! (Jennifer hauls out massive theory bible) Is this in any way related to Pythagorean Theory, or is physics? Because I'm trying to follow, and I'm thinking that in the overall scheme of things...the division of the string into partials..uh...I mean. Put the finger in a complimentary distance on the string to create sympathetic vibrations within the bigger concept of our overtones and...

(Jennifer opens massive theory book now)

You know what? I think I'll just stick with thinking about it in terms of scales and open strings to avoid unnecessary Saturday Morning Confusions.

(Jennifer closes theory book and drinks coffee and puts on Bach)



October 14, 2006 at 04:53 PM · On further reflection and driveway basketball, the tailpiece side is so damped that nearly anything would make it vibrate, but only a bit, and only at its resonant frequencies, so I conclude the two sides have nothing in common.

October 24, 2006 at 07:36 PM · Well, I said right in my first post that I didn't want to discuss the merits of being exactly in-tune. I knew it would cause the discussion to make a useless left-turn.

If you strictly play classical music, your world & needs are different from mine. -but trust me, my needs are also based on musicality, not technology. If the open strings are out, the lines are typically also out, no matter how much the player THINKS he's in-tune. This has been seen over and over and over again, and yes this is based on subjective opinions, and yes it's the opinion of many people listening back, not just me.


I still can find no science to back-up this pervasive belief that fine-tuners are detrimental to sound.

Laura Yeh made an excellent observation, citing the sonic difference between a standard fine-tuner, and the type built into the taipiece. The latter maintains proper string-length (post bridge) so maybe that has a lot to due with the difference. (or maybe the difference was psychological. I sure would like to know)

Some good points from Bill Pratt, but still no statistical evidence regarding the main question.

Stephen B wrote, "I have also found fine tuners affect the sound." and later "I have compared both in quick succession on the same instruments." But, Stephen, with no disrespect, you can't tell diddly that way. (neither can I, and I have proven that to my own personal amazement) I have done EXTENSIVE A-B testing in many facets of instruments, studio ger, and Hi-Fi. What we have found over and over is that no test is valid unless the sounds are recorded, and played back later, using the double-blind proceedure. Additionally, the switch back & forth must be within SECONDS. The ability for the brain to "lie" to us is astounding. I could write pages on this, but you can also easliy find info regarding this online and in libraries.

But OK, let's assume you are right, that a tuner negatively affects tone. This then it begs the question: Why not remove the "E" fine tuner as well and install perfection pegs?


Vivian mentioned Sarah Chang using two tuners.

For the record, this Aubrey has 4 fine-tuners, and sounds amazing:

-and this J. B. Vuillaume 'Ole Bull' copy has TWO fine-tuners:

Oh no! Horrors! Someone better call the snoot police.....

October 24, 2006 at 12:08 PM · Well, just a few months ago I tried out a pile of bows and fiddles and had my wife listen without watching. What she heard and what I heard (she was blind to the changes, I was not) matched up perfectly. So I don't think it is impossible to do a good test without recording.

However, as one of my colleagues says so eloquently, "a lot of people [guitarists] hear with their eyes." (This in regards to nonsense such as brass nuts making more resonance etc.)

October 24, 2006 at 08:18 PM · Allan, your message is not only prfoundly disrespectful. Its utterly ignorant.

Since for all your 'know how' your level of debate is that of a child here is a simple explanation you may be able to follow althoug you are so full of your own ideas I doubt it.

I start with one fine tuner. The violin produces a certain sound. I immediuatley ad danother an dlisten again. The sound is changed. I don"t need machines or some pratt spouting theory to tell me the sound has changed.

October 24, 2006 at 08:37 PM ·

October 24, 2006 at 11:01 PM · So many absolutes, so few absolutions.

October 25, 2006 at 12:13 AM · I think the problem we have here is that not everyone did their experiments on the same fiddle in the same way. Everyone could actually be right!

Here's what I believe after 35 years of doing sound adjustments:

ANY change to an instrument has the potential to change the sound. It could be a different set of pegs, or something as subtle as the slightest change in the tightness of the chinrest clamp.

Whether the change is positive or negative or can hardly be noticed can depend on the instrument. A change from boxwood to ebony pegs might really wake one fiddle up, and make another one sound worse. There might not even be agreement between two different players about whether the change was positive or negative.

I agree that A-B comparisons are very difficult. With something like a tailpiece change, some time will elapse, so there's no way to do a quick comparison, and it's difficult to go back and forth many times. If there was a change, was it really the tailpiece that made the change, or was it because the bridge was put back in a slightly different spot? (a tenth of a millimeter can make a big difference) Or was it because the distance between the bridge and the tailpiece changed?

Even if a violin is recorded before and after, some important information may be missing, because changes can make a huge difference in the way the violin feels to the player, even if the sound hasn't changed much.

So do fine tuners hurt the tone?

Depends on the fiddle. Depends on the perception of the player. Depends on how it's done, and possibly by whom.

October 25, 2006 at 02:15 AM · If you didn't want to get into the whole "argument" of string players not being able to play in tune or tune their instruments because you knew it would blow up, why did you post on a violin website that violinists, in your experience, can't play in tune?

Just an observation of common sense.


October 25, 2006 at 09:50 PM · That's NOT what I wrote, Jennifer.

That point, which I did not want to deal with in the first place, was in response to some who feel it isn't necessary to have the open strings perfectly in-tune. I know this to be absolutely incorrect, and that's all I will say on the subject.

This had nothing to do with my original question. David makes some excellent points, esp in his last post. Still, where is the hard data? Where are the sound files? Granted, "better and "worse" are subjective, but there should still be some empirical data that says "this is how "X" differs in sound from "Y."

Look at all the discussion and testing devoted to strings. Should I laugh at all of you for wanting to know how a red relates to a blue, to a pure gut, to a wrapped gut? No, of course not.

In the same way, why aren't we discussing tight-grained vs med-grained bridges, rosewood vs ebony tailpieces, long vs short vs no fine-tuners, etc etc etc. All of these things make a tonal difference. Electric guitarists worry about pick, sadlle & nut material, string vector, headstock weight, neck stiffness, etc etc etc and for good reason. they worry about what kind of copper is in their cables. Heck, Eric Johnson has A-B'ed the brand of batteries he uses in his stomp boxes. (I kid you not.) Violinists seem concerned with what strings they use, and that's about it. I just don't get it.

And, you know, the real reason you don't use 4 fine-tuners is because, well, that's for students. Admit it. removing those three tuners is like removing training wheels from you bike. It's a badge of honor, a rite of passage. If someone told you that having 4 fine-tuners actually IMPROVED tone (and it might) you STILL wouldn't use them. I know it and you know it. It's human nature. That's precisely why we need carefully recorded tests.

In absence of such tests, I am going to go (temporarily) with the assumption that a tuner per-se does no damage. The long-type probably does damage, by changing the string-length, so I will use a tailpiece with 4 built-in (short) tuners. If anything, the added mass should help decouple the vibrations from the tailpiece, sending a stronger tone into the bridge, though the difference would likely be so small as to be insignificant.

Maybe one of these days I'll run my own A-B test. If Perfection Pegs ever comes out with a boxwood/ ivory model, this will likely happen.

October 25, 2006 at 11:09 PM · Stephen, I will not respond tit for tat with you, other than to say I find YOUR post disrespectful. This upsets me since I have learned quite a bit from your excellent posts on other threads. I happen to know a great deal about the nature of A-B testing and human perception. This was part of my graduate studies, as well as a major part of my professional life since then. What you think you are hearing and what you are actually hearing are usually two different things.

If you choose to disbelieve this, despite an enormous amount of supporting data, that's your business, but kindly lay off the insults. I am taking a great deal of time trying to explain the science behind my positions, for those that are interested.

October 25, 2006 at 11:06 PM · From Allan Speers

"David makes some excellent points, esp in his last post. Still, where is the hard data? Where are the sound files? Granted, "better and "worse" are subjective, but there should still be some empirical data that says "this is how "X" differs in sound from "Y." "


One of the problems is that so far, it appears that good listeners can hear changes that nobody can find on a spectrum analyzer. I don't mean that the changes absolutely don't show, but that the variables of playing or testing two different times with no changes can be greater than any changes that show up graphically after a change.

Add to that the affects of heterodyne phenomena (where under certain conditions, frequencies will combine to produce new frequencies which we hear clearly, but which don't show up on a spectrum analyzer) and psycho-acoustic phenomena (which we also hear but don't show up)you've got quite a can of worms.

Some really great acousticians are working on this stuff. It's not simple. I'm sure you already know most of this.

Back to fine tuners.

It's probably a good idea to keep the tailpiece/bridge distance the same, as you've suggested. But likely the mass, mass distribution and resonant frequency of the tailpiece (actually at least three different resonant frequencies) will change. Unfortunately, one set of these values doesn't sound best on every instrument.

I understand your frustration though. : )

October 26, 2006 at 12:34 AM · (part of post removed because David B said everything a little better, and more authoritatively)


Yes, you certainly should go ahead and install the fine tuners and see if you like the results. It will be a matter of your own fiddle and your own tastes.

Strings are something you need to replace periodically anyway, they can be changed easily, and the differences are to some extent predictable, so it makes sense to try different ones from time to time. You don't usually need to replace your tailpiece or pegs, and the changes aren't very easily predictable, so it makes sense to have a luthier pick those out and make the necessary adjustments when he or she is setting up your instrument.

October 26, 2006 at 12:25 AM · Many "guitarists" obsess endlessly over bullsh^% such as "brass nuts improve resonance."

This does not mean "guitarists" are smarter, or more advanced, or more clever, or more aware, or more interested or more creative.

It means that many "guitarists" apparently have too much time on their hands.

October 26, 2006 at 12:52 AM · "OK, I'm well aware that violinists have gotten by for centuries without either geared pegs or 4 fine tuners. However, I can also tell you as an experienced recording engineer that most skilled violinists I've recorded have rarely been exactly in tune, even when they thought they were.

As I am playing violin solely for the purpose of record on pop music tunes, critical tunign is important to me. I would rather not get into that whole argument."

I think you did say that violinists, in your experience, don't play in tune, or don't care. I don't know that I'd find a single violinist that doesn't CARE if they are not playing in tune.

Yes, you did say it. I understand that you are speaking of the violinsts whome you have recorded personally, perhaps specific violinists, but on further threads, you took a more general hit at us.

Being a violinist yourself, why would you think that others would not want open strings in tune? If open strings are not in tune, then the player is probably working on it. And then, fine tuners are fine.

You raise a point that we don't want fine tuners because they are ameture, and embarassing? I hardly think so. There are many factors that play into a string falling ouf of tune, also...humidity, strings stretching as you play on them, playing a strong passage, over-lubricated pegs....

Fine tuners would not fix these problems either.

Down to the matter, I find fine tuners clunky. I also believe they affect my sound, but we have been around and around on that one. Just as some players like ball ends, some like loop ends. There are various approaches to how one connects the string with the tailpiece.

For such complicated and intricate speakings on the technical workings of the violin and acoustics, would it not matter whether metal, gut, or whatever actually connecting the sound to the vibrating part of the end of the instrument. I admit, I'm not a buff on physics. But I'm not stupid.

And I can read, so lets stop insulting each other and just agree to disagree on terms of opinion. I have not made cracks at you, and I am not snooty or snobbish. I don't turn my nose up.

I work very hard every day of my life to produce beauty from my instrument. That is the bottom line and I will not say anything more.

(I will set up my instrument how I see fit to make the best sound possible and the rest lies in my ability and skill and artistry.)




October 26, 2006 at 01:12 AM · If I was offensive or rude at any time, I apologize, I might have been seeing red. I respect your knowledge, but just don't see the relevance. So I might should have not posted at all. Oh well. Said and done.



October 26, 2006 at 01:59 AM · hello allan, interesting thread. any time there is heated discussion, objective met.

i am not going to take side but do have a neutral question, one that you have touched on early on.

about the afterlength...

can you or anyone walk it through one more time for me because i am still confused about that?

can you elaborate on the octave plus 1/5 thingy slowly and give some real examples:)? what is the rationale? why 1/5?

i also noticed that frequently it is impossible to match all 4 strings... in that case, which string should i match (it is often G by itself vs the other 3)?

thank you!

October 26, 2006 at 04:37 AM · I teach violin lessons. Most of my students have tuners on all four strings. Usually, if I'm tuning their instrumnent, I opt for the pegs, for this reason:

In order to tune the A, D, and especially G string, I have to turn the fine tuner many more times, compared to how much I need to turn the tuner to get the E string in tune. By the time I've brought a G string up to pitch a couple of times using the fine tuner on a full-sized violin, the tuner's screwed all the way down. This doesn't happen with the E string, which is wound differently and keeps its pitch much better than the other three. In the case of the E string, a fine tuner is handy and somewhat necessary, since the peg makes the pitch move too drastically. I can usually find the correct pitch on the other three strings more quickly with the pegs.

Fine tuners generally come in handy on all four strings in the case of smaller violins.

I'm speaking from my personal experience as a violin teacher who tunes dozens of violins on a weekly basis.

October 26, 2006 at 02:05 PM · It's already been mentioned (including in other threads), but an engineer's concept of intonation might be different from a musicians.

Strictly speaking, intonation is a series of mathematical ratios, with an octave being the frequency of the lower note times two.

This has never been quite satisfactory to the ear though, hence the variety of tempered tunings that have arisen over the years.

Another thing to note is that it's usually unsatisfactory to take intonation just from the fundamental. The note we hear is a combination of the fundamental and the harmonics, which on a violin are not aligned. Most electronic tuners are based on the fundamental, while the ear (and brain) consider all the harmonics too.

Intonation can also be contextual, or can be used as part of the "signature" of a musician.

Here's something interesting:

What about vibrato? Isn't that an example of intonation being "off" more of the time than it's "on"? The violin sounds a little dull to most listeners if it's never used though..........

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