Harp-shaped tailpiece

July 25, 2018, 2:57 AM · From time to time I'm running into different kinds of asymmetric shaped tailpieces, like www.saitenhalter.com or even more extreme www.zmtsound.com and others, each of them surely claiming to be the most innovative, revolutionary and anyhow the best invention since the times of Gasparo da Salo himself. By the elongation of the afterlength (and eventually by reduction of the tailpiece's mass?) the tone should become larger and richer.

Has anyone of you used such a tailpiece, and if so, how did it improve or change the sound and playability of your instrument?

Replies (19)

July 25, 2018, 3:26 AM · I installed one on my 15.5" Ming Jiang Zhu viola. It noticeably improved the richness and power of the C and G strings. But I didn't get one of the expensive ones, just a sub-$20 one from an Ebay seller!
July 25, 2018, 4:11 AM · Nuuska wrote:
"By the elongation of the afterlength (and eventually by reduction of the tailpiece's mass?) the tone should become larger and richer."

It might seem that way, but that's not necessarily the way it works. It will improve some fiddles, and make others worse.

July 25, 2018, 4:56 AM · I have used harp pieces, and detested them...

It was in the time I did some experimentation with my violin, so I bought a lot of tailpieces. For the harp experiment in particular, I bought 2 from the same manufacturer 2 ebony tailpieces, standard and harp, and 2 rosewood ones, standard and harp.

In both cases I disliked the effect of the harp tailpieces in my violin, compared to the same model and wood with an standard shape. In each case, the lower strings increased volume to the point of getting "boomy", but with no gain in color or depth in the sound. On the other hand, the upper strings became thinner but not particularly focused.

The effect was, in short, a very annoying sense of imbalance in the sound (and balance is what I appreciate most in my violin).

From my experiments in my violin related to tailpiece, the number one most stricking difference was to get the right afterlength. Minuscule changes are as noticeable as soundpost changes, in playablility, response and color.

Any other factor (wood, tailgut) was arguable and I don't know if I could tell it from a placebo... I have my opinions and chosen accordingly, but I wouldn't press them.

However, the one thing I got from all that it's that it's worthy to experiment.. As long as you are an accomplished soundpost settler...

July 25, 2018, 6:58 AM · Thank you for your input. Okay then... I'd say for my very balanced and strong enough violin it sounds to me like a no-brainer to let it with it's standard tailpiece as it is. With my viola... Well, it is a fine instrument from a living maker, and it would definitely be a rude exaggeration to say it would suffer from a weak C, but like with many violas you have to work quite a bit on the C to bring out a proper forte. Maybe I'll try it on that one, if at all.
Next problem with these tailpieces, at leas with the ZMT, is the need of extra long G (violin) and C strings. By far not all manufacturers provide these, and not all brands. (Does anybody know of others than Larsen and Thomastik?)
Edited: July 25, 2018, 7:01 AM · And David, is there any rule of thumb which kind of instrument might profit? Would you regard this only as problem-solving in instruments with severe weaknesses in the lower register?
July 25, 2018, 9:11 AM ·

I had an awful sounding A string in my recordings that was triggering my OCD, lol. I tried everything and it wouldn't go away, I then tried the harp tailpiece and it was fantastic; it fixed the problem.
A harp tailpiece definitely changes the sound of the instrument, for recording it may really improve the sound, but for projection? I can't say what's its affect is on projection.

July 25, 2018, 10:15 AM · There are old instruments that have similar concept tailpieces on them.

Not a new idea.

I have put on about as many as I have taken off.

I took one off of a small viola last week. It "worked" for a while, so said the owner. She said that it made her instrument louder but at the expense of quality and that it didn't sound as open.

Edited: July 25, 2018, 11:51 AM · I think there isn’t a universal result that can be expected, it will all depend on the instrument and bridge setup and the resulting balance between strings. I have such a tailpiece on my instrument and it works well, having improved the G and general ring of the instrument, but this may not be the case for all instruments. What are you hoping to achieve?
July 25, 2018, 1:03 PM · On the viola I would hope for an easier responding C, which might be easier to modulate with less effort. The C actually does everything it's supposed to, but the amount of weight I have to add in comparison to the G is a bit much. Maybe it is because I'm not used to the Viola so much yet, and it would be simply a matter of adaptation...

On my violin, to be honest, it wouldn't be anything more than curiosity...

July 26, 2018, 8:41 PM · It seems these tailpieces, on average, seem to have a very strong positive effect on the lower two strings and usually don't bother, or worsen, the top two. I had one of these on a previous instrument, and this was certainly the case for me.
I wonder what a tailpiece that was just shorter overall would sound like; i.e. every string pulled back as far as the G on a harp tailpiece. Maybe it would make all four strings louder and ringier rather than just two.
July 27, 2018, 10:49 AM · There is usually a "sweet spot" for the afterlength on each fiddle, where going either shorter or longer starts to take things downhill.
Edited: July 27, 2018, 11:32 AM · So, David, the general accepted rule for the optimal ratio afterlength = 1/6 of the vibrating string length in any well built instrument is only a rule of thumb and not generally applicable? And which way does the tailpiece's mass mix in then? It's obvious that a too heavy tailpiece might dampen the resonances (?), but what happens with a too thin and light tailpiece?
July 27, 2018, 12:12 PM · I should not have seen this. Now I have to go out and try one.
July 27, 2018, 12:24 PM · Same disease than mine, huh Timothy? ;-)
July 27, 2018, 12:28 PM · Yep! And we even know where to look. Ebay. I think I'll try the ones with built in tuners.:)
July 27, 2018, 12:37 PM · The ones I mentioned cost up to €500 - no kidding! (That one from Switzerland made from Pernambucco...) But at least they have a generous return policy. On the other hand, €500 already goes into quite a decent bow, or a really nice case. And with the prices of ordinary tailpieces in mind, I'd say this is almost piracy.
Edited: July 29, 2018, 11:11 AM · I think David is saying that the question is answered empirically, one violin at a time. I suspect most such questions are answered that way.
July 29, 2018, 12:38 PM · So no math and no rule if thumb... Just belief and trial & error. Would surprise me, but hm... Anyway, not really my problem.
July 29, 2018, 11:21 PM · I should add, I did spend quite a bit of time adjusting the tailgut length until I found the balanced sound I was looking for with my viola, just focused enough, and not too "boom-y." The advice from many here, that it's really up to the specific instrument, is on the mark.

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