Titanium tailgut and end button

June 20, 2018, 7:00 AM · Does anybody here have experience with titanium-core tailgut and titanium end button? My luthier mentioned them recently. Stradpet makes two types of titanium buttons, solid and hollow -- the hollow being brighter sounding. THey are not expensive -- about $20-25.

Supposedly titanium has the property of being extremely good at carrying vibrations, so titanium end fittings can give a violin more volume and a little faster response. I don't especially need more sound at this point, but faster sonic response might really be helpful for passagework.

Replies (42)

June 20, 2018, 7:07 AM · A standard violin end button is $1.58 at Shar.
A titanium end button for $25 sounds like a silly waste of money that will not lead give you a noticeably better result. It's a scam.

Reminds me of the craze in the 1990's for very expensive titanium nuts and bolts that everyone was putting on their mountain bikes to "make it lighter."

On a 25-lb mountain bike, you are not going to notice that you saved 2 grams. The bike shop will be laughing all the way to the bank. That's the equivalent situation here for your violin.

June 20, 2018, 7:20 AM · On the other hand a titanium tightening screw on your bow may make a big difference in balance: one gram less at the frog or one gram more at the tip (with a simple internal lead weight) can make a big difference in off-string bow behavior.

Been there, done those, both - on different bows.

Edited: June 20, 2018, 12:15 PM · Scott, have you actually tried a titanium end button to see if indeed makes a difference? Or are you making an assumption?
There are many small, seemingly inconsequential things that can indeed affect the sound (not always for the better, but they can have an impact); removing fine tuners from a tailpiece, using a Kevlar tailgut instead of nylon, using a higher quality bridge, adjusting the string afterlength...etc, etc.

As far as value goes- yeah, a $25 replacement for a $1.58 part sounds pretty steep. Yet, we all also pay $50-$100 per set of strings that will wear out in a few months, never to be used again. If a titanium end button does indeed fill a need or solves an issue with a particular instrument, then $25 isn’t actually going to break the bank in the overall scheme of things and very well may be money well spent.

Personally, I think it sounds like an interesting concept, if it actually works.

June 20, 2018, 1:30 PM · I am usually willing to try everything, but a titanium end button goes too far. At least, I always want to have an idea how the thing affects sound positively. This would have to be some very high order effect.

1) Afterlength interacts through the undamped part of the oscillation, ok.
2) Weight of tailpiece and resonance characteristics of tailgut have some influence to that, ok.
3) But the end button? Located in the massive end block?

I would guess that simply the length of the string behind the bridge, and thus its resonance frequency, overrules everything else behind the bridge.

June 20, 2018, 1:37 PM · It's not just the $25 for the end button. You've got to have it put on by a luthier and that's going to be another $100. If you want to make something out of titanium because it's better at "carrying vibrations" I'd start with the bridge.

If I wanted my mountain bike to lose a few pounds, I would start by drinking less beer.

June 20, 2018, 2:46 PM · Put on by a luthier? Are they going to turn down the titanium end button like they do an ebony peg?

Take it to the local machine shop for installation.

Or get a bigger hammer...

June 20, 2018, 2:49 PM · @Michael K—you bring up a good point about the end butting being enclosed (and therefore possibly dampening any sonic gains).

Perhaps what is required is a titanium saddle instead?

June 20, 2018, 7:53 PM · Some things I like them breakable and replaceable. They act like fuses. My end button cracked once... Almost like an explosion. Some tension went wrong or whatever, but I very much prefer that the end button was the one giving up, rather than the violin, no matter how massive the block.

By the way... I took the chance to put a titanium tailgut, which I really think made a difference with the regular plastic one. But the buttom is a wooden one, properly turned to the hole size. Which makes me think... How do you size/turn/fit the titanium thing? Do they expect to actually work the hole on the violin?

June 20, 2018, 8:14 PM · Lots of interesting comments even if it is all theoretical.

If we agree tailpiece and tailgut materials and weight are consequential for sound, why not the button? Yes the button goes into the block but isn't that the point -- the button is how vibrations are carried from the from the tailpiece through the the tailgut to that block, which in turn connects to the ribs and plates, right? If that is a sound pathway, seems to me the button is right in the middle of it.

I agree a titanium or carbon fiber bridge is an intriguing idea -- something a little bit lighter but just as rigid. The problem is bridges need to be shaped and filed precisely and both those substances would be very difficult to shape.

Good question on fitting. The titanium buttons come in three sizes but if it's not a perfect fit.... Titanium is not really a workable substance because it is so hard.

As for mountain bikes, titanium frames are still quite popular in high end bikes, not to save weight but because titanium is more rigid and has different vibration characteristics from aluminum.

Edited: June 20, 2018, 8:21 PM · I don't know about "working" the hole on a violin, but it is what had to be done to install any of the new endpin fittings into 19th century cellos. My old endpin fitting (and hole in my 1877 cello) was about 1 cm diameter and the new fittings were* closer to 2 cm. The only way to upgrade was to drill into the end block.

Of course, if the new end button is smaller than the old, you definitely want to rethink all of this. My luthier charged me $500 to rebush the peg holes on that same cello and install new (cheapest) tuning pegs.

* "were": after the initial "upgrade" I installed at least 3 different endpins and fittings until I finally settled on one that seems best.

June 21, 2018, 12:04 AM · I saw some time ago an end button with a system that allowed to change the tailpiece afterlength without taking off the tailpiece or strings. That, I thought it's a good idea.

Theoretical or not, I would really argue that any vibration or sound passes by the tailgut after the saddle. That angle at that pressure, is the end of any vibration. Which, to me, brings the idea that for the hypothesis that tailgut transmits sound to the violin, the saddle and not the button should be the one with especial material.

June 21, 2018, 1:26 AM · Thomas Boyer says "If we agree tailpiece and tailgut materials and weight are consequential for sound..". I'm willing to concede that all these factors plus a hundred others can influence the sounds in players' heads, but not a single one has ever been proven to make a difference to sounds heard by an audience
June 21, 2018, 7:40 AM · This may be true Steve, but one could also say the same thing about $2 million violins. It's not been demonstrated at all that the audience could hear a bit of difference. And yet people pay $2 million for violins.
June 21, 2018, 7:57 AM · Thomas wrote, "The problem is bridges need to be shaped and filed precisely and both those substances would be very difficult to shape." I went to the dentist yesterday and had a new gold crown fitted. It didn't pop right in. It took about half an hour of patient grinding, sanding, etc., for my dentist to achieve the right fit. Using computerized laser machining you could rough out a dozen bridges of varying thickness and then fit them to the top in a couple of hours. The main problem with a metal bridge is that it's not flexible -- unless it's very thin. So any movement of the top of the bridge will cause the feet to lift away.
Edited: June 21, 2018, 8:55 AM · It's only natural for "performance artisans" such as musicians and sportspeople to hope to give their performances a lift by extraneous (legal) mechanical means, but never a day goes by without some enterprising manufacturer inventing a new must-have gadget or making an established device out of new material. The one thing they all have in common is that none has ever been evaluated against "placebo". A placebo-controlled double-blind trial with the player's own opinion as outcome measure would be easy to devise for such an item as tailgut. Maybe we need all the placebo we can get, but my conviction is that once you've found a violin and bow you like, it's up to you to make the sound you want.
June 21, 2018, 8:59 AM · Paul, I agree, I don't see how a synthetic bridge could work. Maybe carbon fiber since it could be engineered to have some flexibility.

While we're on the subject, here's a German company selling height-adjustable carbon fiber soundposts.

If you click the "reviews" tab they seem to have testimonials from a number of professional musicians in Germany.

https://www.anima-nova.de/english-1/

If I had a violin with sounding a little dead, I would definitely be tempted to try something like this.

June 21, 2018, 1:01 PM · Regarding a titanium bridge and mountain bikes. One of the draws of using titanium for mountain bikes is its light weight, but also it’s flexibility, which makes for a more comfortable ride.

For a violin bridge you wouldn’t simply copy the dimensions from a wooden bridge and tgem just make it out of titanium (or carbon, or aluminum or whatever). The dimensions would need to be adjusted to make use of the materials’ innate qualities. I imagine the waist would be narrower, the overall thickness would be thinner (except perhaps the feet for the sake of the spruce top).

In the end it likely would have a dramatic effect on the sound of the instrument. But I wonder if anyone would care for that sound, as we all have been trained as to what s violin should sound like with a maple bridge.

Edited: June 21, 2018, 2:55 PM · The next step along the titanium route for a bridge would of course be single crystal titanium - the bridge would be a single crystal of the metal. Such a bridge would be immensely strong (the material is used in aero jet engine fan blades) and I imagine it would have intriguing acoustic properties. Whether it would be in any sense affordable is quite another matter!

What may be more practicable to develop would be titanium wound strings – has anyone explored this yet?

June 21, 2018, 5:07 PM · "...titanium frames are still quite popular in high end bikes, not to save weight but because titanium is more rigid and has different vibration characteristics from aluminum."

I wasn't talking about titanium bike frames. I was talking about the marginal improvements by tarting up a bike frame (whatever it's made of) with overpriced titanium nuts and bolts. Same thing with tiny overpriced carbon fiber doodads. That's what you'll get with a titanium end button: a marginal, probably undetectable difference for a BIG price difference.

And besides, practically no one is using ti bike frames anymore. Everyone except the custom guys have gone to carbon fiber.

June 21, 2018, 5:23 PM · Trevor, there are titanium wound strings, Kaplan Amo A for viola is titanium wound.
June 22, 2018, 10:34 AM · Well Scott, you have a passionate point of view on this, but I'd be more persuaded by someone who actually tried this and couldn't hear a difference. One thing I've learned about violins is that small things can matter a lot. Sound production is the product of 100 details.

In fact tiny overpriced carbon doodads DO matter if you're talking about fine tuners. Just changing an old tailgut to kevlar matters a LOT. So in the absence of evidence to the contrary, I think it's a fair assumption that the end button matters too.

Maybe I'll finance the experiment and report back to you all.

June 22, 2018, 10:38 AM · D'addario Helicores are titanium wound strings. Not bad, but not my favorites, the value of the titanium is that it resists corrosion from contact with fiddle players who sweat a lot. Vision Solo Titanium, despite the name, are not, they're aluminum wound.

June 22, 2018, 4:54 PM · Thanks everyone for that info about titanium strings - shows how relatively unadventurous I am when choosing strings!
Edited: June 23, 2018, 6:02 PM · From experience, I will tell you that more flexible tailpiece hanging on violins results in a difference in sound that usually is not considered desirable. It thins and brightens--which is solving a problem that violins usually do not have. This can be confused with more volume. Sources of this can be a more flexible tail gut, or too much space between the tailpiece and the saddle. On most violins I use a Sacconi-type nylon hanger, and use the longest tailpiece that will give me the afterlength I need. I replace a LOT of kevlar tailguts put on by shops that use them on everything without thinking, and the change is nearly always an upgrade in sound.

An experiment you can do yourself is to pull the separate strands of the tailpiece hanger closer together or farther apart, if this is possible. This has much the same effect because it causes more or less stiffness in the system from a wider or narrower stance. Be sure to maintain the same centering when you do this, or you will pull some other things out of adjustment.

Cellos and violas work differently, and both can benefit from a more flexible system of hanging the tailpiece, especially to focus an instrument which is too diffuse sounding or generally muddy.

MY experience on adjustments in general is that better instruments (defined as more complex AND variable) respond to everything you do to them in both adjusting and playing where monochromatic ones don't care what you do to them, and will sound the same when many changes are made.

I doubt the endbutton would have too much to do with anything, since it's beyond the stress point of the saddle, and won't affect how anything important moves--at that position it's just a weight in a place that's mostly insensitive to weight. But I could be wrong.

June 23, 2018, 6:47 PM · good posting!!!
June 25, 2018, 1:52 PM · Just found this Ti accessories related STRAD magazine link in my unexamined older emails:

https://www.thestrad.com/lutherie/titanium-the-perfect-material-for-instrument-fittings/7888.article?utm_source=Adestra&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=19147

June 28, 2018, 10:34 AM · "Well Scott, you have a passionate point of view on this"

No I'm not passionate about it.
I just recognize a waste of time and money when I see it.

June 28, 2018, 11:58 AM · I'd also like to point out an essential problem: there's no logical way to determine if a titanium end button does or doesn't help the sound. For one thing, you can't do an A vs B comparison on a given violin because no two are the same. If you take the violin apart long enough to fit the button, it will almost ALWAYS sound more resonant and more responsive for a day or two just from having the tension take off. And you can't compare the sound between days--it's too subjective. And the smaller the effect, the more difficult it is to determine whether or not the button made the difference.

It's kind of like those many gasoline additives they have for sale that "clean your engine" or give you more horsepower or gas mileage. Or vitamins. Or homeopathic remedies that claim to shorten a cold.

It's all baloney.

June 28, 2018, 12:31 PM · This is a good point, but actually I don't think a violin sounds better from being re-tensioned per se. When you replace a bridge or sound post and then re-tension the violin, what's happening (what SHOULD be happening) is that the top and back of the violin re-seat themselves and make better contact with the post.

Plus a caring luthier will micro-adjust the post and bridge locations to optimize the sound. The improvement in sound isn't just for a few days, it's for the long term but it SEEMS like it's for a few days because that's when you're noticing the improvement.

But you're right -- replacing any of these components -- tailpiece, tailgut, button, tuners -- means you are re-tensioning so the violin plates might be re-settling, or the luthier takes the opportunity to readjust the bridge and post.

So how would you know if the titanium button makes a difference? This is a good question. But assuming the answer is no is just that, it's merely an assumption. If human beings all dismissed innovations without trying stuff out, we wouldn't have violins and bows to begin with.

June 28, 2018, 3:26 PM · But they're cool, right, like those fine tuners with the jewel on top? ;-)
June 28, 2018, 3:34 PM · "If human beings all dismissed innovations without trying stuff out, we wouldn't have violins and bows to begin with."

True. However, when we contemplate a purchasing decision, we don't start from zero knowledge (unless you're a child). You use experience and intuition to decide the likelihood of some new product being more effective or a waste of money.

In other words, you develop a bullish!t meter. I'm sure many people have either seen the ads for, or have actually tried the product Prevagen, which is supposedly derived from jellyfish and is supposed to improve your memory. You don't need a Phd to know it's total BS. Which is the reason the company is being sued for false advertising.

Gullibility is the engine of capitalism.

June 28, 2018, 4:24 PM · What's-it-called, the something-fish stuff, worked really well for me! :-)
June 28, 2018, 11:07 PM · Fish murderer.
June 29, 2018, 4:12 AM · Uh oh. How about if we call it "sea jelly" rather than "jellyfish"?
June 29, 2018, 8:30 AM · Why, are there "land jellies" that could confuse people?
Edited: June 29, 2018, 9:36 AM · Beats me. Wikipedia lists sea jelly as an alternate term for jellyfish.

Another reference:
https://seaunseen.com/jellyfish-sea-jellies/

June 30, 2018, 10:21 AM · I know that Ravel dedicated Tzigane to a Jelly.
Edited: June 30, 2018, 4:56 PM · Prevagen? Don't remember that one ;)
July 1, 2018, 9:52 AM · "Prevagen? Don't remember that one ;)"

Well, you have your looks, your pretty face...
And don't underestimate the power of body language.

July 7, 2018, 2:18 AM · But they're cool, right, like those fine tuners with the jewel on top? ;-)
Still wearing that ear ring, Big Boy? :)
July 7, 2018, 2:29 PM · Eric, not much. It's gotten so cliche. Chopped off my long hair too.
Edited: July 10, 2018, 12:27 AM · I was biting my tongue over the bike comments but now that we've degenerated to jelly fish: I have a bike-loving husband who rides in a club with a lot of cyclists, some of whom seem to have more money than they know what to do with. My comments here pertain to road bikes, but much of it also applies to mountain bikes. Here's what I understand: the "feel" of steel is some kind of gold standard and Ti gives that feel without the weight. Aluminum frames are actually stiffer than Ti frames, but it may have to do with how you have to engineer an aluminum frame, for all I know. Regarding "noone except for custom bike riders use Ti any more": there are companies out there that specialize in Ti frames. Ti is actually very hard to work with and there don't seem to be many custom bike makers who work in it. Carbon: light, comfortable ride, can be molded into almost any shape, and inexpensive (but, if violin bows are any measure, more expensive than they're worth). Also, more breakable than the metals. Some people go overboard with carbon this's and thats's to save weight, and they may be taking a big risk.


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