Violin designed without tailpiece?

February 10, 2018, 1:51 PM · I'm always obsessing over the design of violins, and this thought popped into my head today:

Why do we have a tailpiece? Why is the violin not designed so that the strings can run back all the way to where the endbutton is? (obviously some design changes would have to occur to allow this).

The benefit I see to such a design is that you'd get very nice sympathetic resonance and a more open response from the strings in general. Theoretically, there would be more connectivity between the vibrations of the instrument.

My best guess for why NOT is that by lengthening the strings behind the bridge too much, you'd get "Feedback" when the sympathetic resonances found their way to the bridge at the same time the primary frequencies reached the bridge from the other side. So you'd probably get a lot of wolf tones.

Still, I like to think that if one experimented with it enough, they could get the vibrations through the endblock to cooperate with the vibrations through the bridge and nut.

Any thoughts? (yes, I've googled this)

Replies (17)

February 10, 2018, 4:38 PM · Are you proposing a design? How far apart do you envision the strings being when they're tied down back there near the end button? And what will be holding them? Seems like something you ought to be able to try on a VSO.
Edited: February 10, 2018, 7:26 PM · Hmmm I do have about 20 or 30 violins I could experiment with this on. I'd need to get custom-length strings for it to work, though.

Do you think it's possible for me to contact thomastik, for example, and have them send me extra-long violin dominants? I could always cut off the extra length with scissors (on the peg end of the string).

But more so than proposing a design, I was assuming that someone has already tried this in the past, probably with limited results. It seems to me that there has been so much experimentation with violin design in the last 500 years that everything has been tried at least one time.

Furthermore, it would seem that the very early violin designs would have been without a tailpiece, and the tailpiece was added later for some reason or another. I just don't know exactly what that reason is. What I DO know is that people are designing lighter and lighter tailpieces for violins and especially cellos nowadays, so it occurred to me that the lightest option is no tailpiece at all.

Probably what I would do if I WERE to experiment with it is just make a mini-tailpiece that would secure to the end button, so the strings would actually wrap around the "lip" where the loop of the tailpiece currently wraps around (it's that little black cylindrical part that protects the wood of the violins from the tension of the loop). This way, the vibrations could both enter from the endblock-area of the violin and from the bridge.

EDIT: an interesting thing I just took note of is that mandolins are designed similarly to what I'm talking about. The back end of the strings extend all the way back to the very end (or very close to it). I suppose it might be more desirable to have "Sustain" in the sound of a mandolin through sympathetic resonance, whereas I could see it being objectionable in the context of what a violin needs to do. We sustain through bow control, rather than by letting the instrument do it for us.

Edited: February 10, 2018, 7:52 PM · And what if we used magnets to hold up the string instead of the bridge. The strings would have to he highly magnetic, of course.
February 10, 2018, 8:13 PM · Harrison, that would simply prevent the vibrations from effectively reaching the body.
February 10, 2018, 9:28 PM · I have read that the timbre of string instruments tone has some relationship to the length of the string afterlengths (distance from bridge to tailpiece) as well as to the bridge, the sound post and it's location and the relative locations of all those elements as well. In my "experiments" I have found that some of my instruments (those I think are better) are quite sensitive to the stringafter lengths and some are not.

If you run the string afterlengths all the way to the end shoulder nut you lose control of that aspect. However you might be able to come to some accommodation by specific relocation of the bridge and soundpost in a search for helpful resonances.

Frankly, I would be surprised if that simpler design was not tried 1400 years ago, or whenever the bowed string instrument concept originated.

February 11, 2018, 1:32 AM · Chanot made some violins with the strings attached similarly to the way guitar strings attach.
February 11, 2018, 9:59 AM · Yea, Chanot did make violins with similar styles in which the strings were attached like a guitar.

Also an idea: If you look at this one Chinese instrument, the Erhu, the strings are attached on by looping them around two pins that are put into the wood itself.

Edited: February 11, 2018, 10:28 AM · Most likely getting a clean tone in such setup would be a nightmare! Not sure that I see why you would want to do that. I would think that you’d most likely end up with the most wolfy instrument on the planet.
February 11, 2018, 1:22 PM · My feeling is that this idea is most likely to work with a solid bodied electric violin.
February 14, 2018, 9:39 AM · Having no tailpiece would not improve the sound of the violin but it certainly would change it. The after length is tuned so that the A string will sound an E, the D String an A, etc. This effects the tone and resonance.
This week I changed a tailpiece on an overly bright violin to ebony as the heavier wood toned down some of the higher frequencies. It worked perfectly and predictably.

Cheers Carlo

February 14, 2018, 11:03 PM ·

See if this works

February 15, 2018, 2:33 AM · Hey Eric, that link doesn't seem to work for me!
Edited: February 15, 2018, 5:09 AM · Eric, (and Erik), I got Error 404, too.

Further to my thoughts about a solid bodied electric violin, to my mind such an instrument wouldn't have any significant internal resonances (i.e. not being hollow), and the vast proportion of the sound, both in volume and quality of tone, would be coming from the electronics and speakers.

February 15, 2018, 1:26 PM · I'm going to be honest: I just hate all electric violins (because of their sound).

With that said, I do think significant changes need to be made to the design of the electric violins, primarily because the current golden ratios of the violin are designed to work in conjunction with the resonance of the body. But if you take away that resonating body, that design no longer seems logical. Perhaps taking away the tailpiece is indeed one of the changes that needs to occur.

February 15, 2018, 1:26 PM ·

Try this then, it's a bikini tailpiece that I made for a VSA meeting.

February 15, 2018, 10:54 PM · Very interesting, Eric. What have your results been with this design? Obviously it's a nice weight reduction, but it must have an effect on sound as well.
February 16, 2018, 10:44 AM · It was an experiment. It's actually adjustable with Kevlar and a set screw. We put it on a viola and had some very influential folks giving feedback. All agreed. louder, Americans liked it more than the Europeans. Not much depth or nuance compared to wood. Clear bright.

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