I was wondering if anyone here has bought the Arbutus tailpiece for violin or had experiences with it that they could share? For those that aren't familiar, it's essentially a tailpiece with a small, adjustable internal weight that can be pushed forward or backward to change the vibration modes of the instrument it's on (primarily to split a large, single wolf tone into two smaller wolf tones on different pitches).
It seems that it was originally designed for cello, then violin and viola models were introduced, but I can't seem to find any reviews regarding its use on those smaller instruments.
I do recall Bruce Berg posting about its use on his Amati and using it to enhance the power of his G string, but that's all I could find.
It's a gimmick. They claim that adjusting the position of the weight alters the resonant modes of the tailpiece, and that by aligning these modes with the body modes of the instrument, it may attenuate a wolf tone. While it may be true that the vibration of the tailpiece does change based on the position of that weight, it wouldn't be by much. The same effect can be achieved by changing the afterlength, tailgut length, and length / mass of the tailpiece itself, with a greater range of adjustability.
It's going to make a difference---everything does. The question is whether it does what YOU want on YOUR violin, and there's obviously only one way to answer that question.
I have it and it works.
Which brings up something, and that is that many of the problems I see here can be fixed by a COMPETENT workman. Things like E string whistles are setup defects, for instance. But people insist on cheaping it out using expensive DIY fixes, and I guess there's also a problem finding competent help these days. :-)
I had an aunt named Arbutus, who preferred to go by the name "Peg". I kid you not.
That's a splendid idea, Dmitri! Pegs with a moveable, titanium-coated weight to adjust the resonant modes of the pegbox. Arbutus pegs: starting at only $200 for an unfitted set!
Michael, I don't think a lack of competent help is the primary reason for the emerging popularity of DIY fixes. I think a big part of it is that not everyone knows how to articulate exactly *what* they want their violin to do. Or, sometimes extensive experimentation is necessary to even stumble across the ideal sound. Not everyone is willing to make a luthier sit there, adjusting their violin for multiple hours until they decide which adjustment is ideal. Even if they did, they might go home later and realize they want something else. Having some degree of easily changeable control at home allows a whole different layer of sound experimentation. Yes, for more obvious goals, such as eliminating a wolf or stopping a whistling E, clearly a well trained luthier is best. But for "exploring" different sounds, I think some of these devices can be helpful. I think the same idea applies to trying different strings.
I really disagree with what you're saying on a very fundamental level, but I don't think it's worth pursuing here. It's too long of a discussion.
Mr. Musafia! That is hysterical!
This tailpiece seems rather heavy. I recently upgraded my tailpiece to a light setup which is not uncommon, and it made a significant effect in opening up the sound of my instrument. I even put on a light titanium fine tuner, and even that little bit of weight saving made a noticeable difference on my instrument, so I wonder how such a seemingly heavy setup would work out. The adjustability of its weight distribution seems like an interesting idea, but I would be more concerned with its overall weight myself.
I just went and took a look at the arbutus. With the exception of the sliding weight, it looks pretty normal, and nicely done.
Michael, it's funny you mention that, because the very same idea popped into my head earlier today. I was thinking of two small magnets on either side of the tailpiece instead of blu-tack, though.
I think it was too much bother for the benefit. I could hear the difference, but it was nearly within random variation. I haven't done these tests in a while--like 20 years--so maybe now I wouldn't agree with myself. :-)
I can again attest to the efficacy of the Arbutus tailpiece. They helped sound production on my Brothers Amati, Cappa, and Thomas Kennedy. The tailpieces are also beautifully crafted.
Bruce, your impressive level of pomp and self-absorbedness is matched by only a few in our world. Bravo! Admittedly never having been, I'm not sure what they teach at Juilliard. But if it's how to blow your own ego out way of proportion then they certainly do a good job! Everything you say seems only to serve to minimize others and place yourself on a pedestal.
People might bear in mind that adjustments that make no difference on normal violins can have gigantic effects on good ones. So if you have, say, a $20,000, to pick a number, violin you won't likely see a big difference with many adjustments, where a better instrument is going to respond much more to everything you do to it, adjusting and playing, both. That's why artists spend the big bucks.
Very true, although I would expect a $20K instrument to fall within the "better instrument" category.
Who said I said they were useless? Would be a nice bit of irony for me to say that right after having auditioned at the University of Toronto and York. And my instrument is reasonably fine—more than sensitive enough to hear these changes—but thank you for making assumptions.
Michael, you better be charging more than $20k for your violins after a statement like that! :)
For those interested, here is a scientific paper written about the properties of the Arbutus Tailpiece.
I don't believe anyone said it didn't work at all. If you read their own data, they show that other adjustments already possible on standard violins can have the same effect and have a greater range of adjustment, which is also my point.
Worked for me after all standard adjustments, string changes, etc. on 3 different violins.
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