Ebony, rosewood, boxwood...

Edited: June 7, 2019, 2:07 PM · Every time I see an instrument with "mixed" fittings (like ebony pegs and chin rest and a rosewood tailpiece, or similar) I'm wondering about what impact the choice of wood has on sound or playability in these components. I could imagine that with pegs and eventually the chin rest it might be mostly a matter of design? Not sure how to judge these "when I switched to a rosewood CR the sound improved drastically" type of stories. At least I couldn't feel the difference... While I could easily understand that the tailpiece has more influence, according to the weight and density of the wood? But if so, then why mixing?
- Any evidence about that?

Replies (18)

Edited: June 7, 2019, 2:20 PM · Effect on sound? Absolutely none.

The exception is the tailpiece, which tends to open up the sound when it's made of very light material. But the difference is so small...

Edited: June 7, 2019, 3:27 PM · I think it’s more of an aesthetic thing. I’m a little OCD. So the pegs, chinrest, and tailpiece on all my violins match. Rosewood is now considered a endangered species of wood, so it might be harder to get in the future for fittings in certain places. I have all 3 types of fittings (Rosewood, Ebony, and Boxwood) for different violins I own and the wood itself doesn’t change the sound for better or worse in my opinion. Tailpiece length, and the type of chinrest mount you use can alter the sound.
June 7, 2019, 3:31 PM · The violin vibrates from scroll to tail-block (whatever Cotton likes to think...) so changes in the weights of the accessories will have an effect on tone and response; but to what degree is debatable.
June 7, 2019, 3:54 PM · Personally, I don't count the 0.1% change in damping caused by switching out your pegs as a significant difference, but other seems to disagree.
June 7, 2019, 4:07 PM · I have 4 violins. Some years ago, when experimenting with tailpieces, I ended up purchasing one each ebony, boxwood, rosewood and pernambuco tailpieces - all the same brand and style.

I did a lot of switching around to test them and found that except for the pernambuco, the others were the same on all the fiddles and the pernambuco resulted in a little more damped sound from all but one of the fiddles - so that one has lived with the pernambuco tailpiece ever since and the other three still have whatever was on them that day.

June 7, 2019, 4:09 PM · From whence cometh the figure of 0.1% change in damping?
Try adding a blob of mastic to the scroll and you will hear a difference, however insignificant in many cases..

The scroll is at the end of a long cantilever, and the chinrest certainly vibrates against my ancient jawbone.

June 7, 2019, 4:35 PM · Adrian, do you think it's only about weight, or (in case of the tailpiece) would you agree that it's also a matter of wood density / Lucci meters? And in which direction might - generally speaking - the choice of wood influence the sound?
June 7, 2019, 5:58 PM · The placement of the chinrest probably affects the sound more than its wood.

With violins I have tried this on, a violin with a left-mounted chinrest sounded better than it did with a center-mounted chinrest. But this might not be true for all violins.

With left-mounted ebony chinrests to which I added some mass (using 50% of "The Impressionist") to change the shape to better fit me, I could notice NO change in sound.

June 7, 2019, 8:55 PM · If there's no difference between having rosewood or boxwood pegs then surely the composite resin of my gear pegs is fine too. I didn't hear any difference in tone when I changed from the ebony pegs on my violin (or from the jujube pegs on my viola) to gear pegs. I did notice that it was easier to tune my violin and that it stayed in tune better too.
June 8, 2019, 10:47 AM · As a former professional audio engineer who worked in top studios in LA and Chicago, my ear does hear a difference when I change out tailpieces, tailguts, and chinrests. My darker 125 y.o. German violin sounds fuller and less fuzzy with ebony. My German 93 y.o. and 55 y.o. violas sound warmer with rosewood. My 2003 Chinese violin sounds fuller and less strident with boxwood.
There is a difference in tap tones and wood density with different species. Read Chuck Traeger's works for more theory on matching materials and the instrument's resonance.
June 8, 2019, 1:41 PM · Thank you for that hint, Edward. I just ordered it. Unfortunately there is no ebook version available, so it will take some time until I'll get hold of it here in Europe...
Edited: June 9, 2019, 10:31 AM · I do find differences. Over the past several years, on a couple of violas, I’ve switched the full complement of fittings from ebony to boxwood (which is generally significantly lighter) in order to make the violas lighter, and both times, the sound was a bit brighter and more open, but less dense.

Maybe a luthier can share their experiences.

Edited: June 9, 2019, 10:57 AM · Anything in contact with the violin CAN make a difference, even the tightness of the chinrest clamp.

Some people will notice subtle changes more than others....

Edited: June 10, 2019, 6:30 AM · I agree David. I’ve noticed even the slightest difference in the amount of cork on the clamp can change the sound. I recently switched to a Hill style mount for the chinrest on my Vuillaume. It sounds way better to my ear than the same model chinrest with a modern clamp.
Edited: June 9, 2019, 4:37 PM · I don't like the Hil-style clamps - don't like the way the intrude into my neck.

But - I have switched out the cork linings on all my chinrests for thin rubber linings to the benefit of the sound produced.

June 9, 2019, 8:55 PM · Andrew, Thanks for reminding me of that- I want to try that on my Eastman violin first since I’ll be playing around with it while it breaks in.
June 12, 2019, 3:59 AM · What good is musing about accessory impact on sound if my sweaty double chin is all over the tailpiece?

I think this is the same as loosing that last 10 grams on a racing bike, but hauling that fat ass around with it....

June 12, 2019, 10:06 AM · Sweaty double chin, fat ass...
I'd recommend plastic fittings in this case.

BTW--I once calculated that it cost $1/gram to take weight off a bike.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Anne Akiko Meyers
Anne Akiko Meyers

Nathan Cole's Violympics
The Violympic Trials

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases



Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins


Wangbow Violin Bow Workshop

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine