Planetary pegs vs adjustable tailpiece

August 25, 2020, 3:57 PM · If you were going this route, why would you choose one over the other? Is there a sound difference? Or is it just the look? Or because the tailpiece is cheaper and easier to install?

Replies (31)

Edited: August 25, 2020, 4:31 PM · There are many brands and designs of tailpieces with integral fine tuners. There are only 2 designs of internally geared pegs, the planetary design (i.e., Knilling and the original - Pegheds) and the Wsittner Finetune.

If I were choosing which way to go these days I think I would go with the Wittners and not worry about fine tuners on the tailpiece.

I have had "intimate" experience with all these options for the past 15 years (i.e., done them all).

The look has nothing to do with it nor does ease of installation. Cost is a factor; practicality and ease of use are major factors also. Ease of installation is part of it; I just found it easier to install the geared pegs (myself) than properly size new Kevlar tailcords that I finally installed on all my instruments. The expensive Bois d'Harmonie tailpieces were the only integral-tuner ones I found that did not spoil my instruments' tonal qualities from their bare wood ones, but I would not have needed nor installed them had I previously known about internally-geared pegs.

Edited: August 25, 2020, 4:54 PM · 2nd Andrew (as always, I am of similar mind) except I really appreciate Chuck Herrin’s work at PegHeds. I use his pegs on two violoncellos, two violas, and two violins- I use his Knilling versions on the my electric vln and vla as well. I have found much improved resonance and a more open tone in every case over tuner tlpcs.
Edited: September 1, 2020, 3:21 PM · Edward, I had tried a number of different integral-tuner tailpieces before I took the plunge with my first Bois d'Harmonie. I found no degradation of tone or response compared to my previous bare-ebony tailpiece and so I continued on to install the BdH tailpieces on a total of 3 cellos, one viola and 4 violins. Each violin has a BdH of different wood: ebony, rosewood, boxwood and pernambuco. I did the whole "round robin" thing with the violins and found that only one of my violins was not degraded by the pernambuco (so it still "proudly" wears it). all the other woods were equally good on all the violins. I did not have the heart to switch back to bare tailpieces, since there was no advantage to it and I had so much money "invested" in the BdH. I eventually installed BdH Kevlar tailcord on all my BdH tailpieces too. That was sort of troublesome until I realized how much stretch there would be in the knots and took account of it in subsequent installations.

And thereafter I discovered Herrin's "Pegheds." My first installation was an inexpensive violin with Knillings just in case I messed up - it worked out fine. I've done mechanical pegs on a total of 14 instruments. Chuck Herrin sent me a free Knilling peg to help me out when I did one 5-string fiddle (actually he sent me 2 pegs with different "heads" since he didn't know which heads I had on the other 4 pegs - wasn't that nice of him?). I've also done 2 Wittner-pegged violins. I found them a pit "touchier" to set up, but once installed I find the Wittner pegs a bit easier to tune - but not enough that I would ever exchange out my Pegheds or Knillings.

August 25, 2020, 6:04 PM · The best TPS that I found were Dov Schmidt’s named models with the inset plastic levers. I never could bring myself to spend on some of the others and I had a preference for the minimal changes in contact, after length, and weight in his products. I also have a preference for the feel of the low string on a harp style compensated TP.
We’re not talking a major tone shift, except under my ear- I was a professional music recording engineer for a brief decade in Chicago and LA, so I’m a little more persnickety than many.
August 25, 2020, 9:23 PM · Pegs. I'm never going to use one of those blasted tailpiece tuners again.
August 25, 2020, 9:38 PM · Thank you for your input everybody. I haven't completely decided if I'm going to make the change, but if I do, it will be pegs.
August 25, 2020, 11:10 PM · Pegheds are a little more elegant and they work fine. I have them on my violin. Wittners function just a little better. I have them on my viola. Knilling Perfection Pegs are fine too. My daughter has them on her violin.

My impression is the Chuck Herin is transitioning the business to someone else, but I don't really know. He can't do it himself forever, of course, and he's been at it for quite a while.

August 26, 2020, 1:13 PM · Leon,

40 years ago most people only used a fine tuner on the E-string hole of the tailpiece, a bit later they started to show up on the A-string hole finally to all of them. Then the integrated tailpiece showed up. I've been through all the variations and have settled on the "Perfection" pegs with a fine tuner in the E-string hole.

Combined with man-made core strings the instrument tends to get a better tune and holds it longer.

The only downside happens when you have to install new strings - turn, turn, turn,...

August 26, 2020, 2:00 PM · For the turn-turn-turn, Wittner offers a crank so you can do it faster.
August 26, 2020, 5:13 PM · I have never found the extra peg turning required when changing strings with geared pegs at all annoying. I also brew my own Cappuccinos!
AH, retirement!!

For those who don't know; Pegheds and Knillings have a 4:1 turning ratio, Wittners - 8:1 ratio. And you guessed it; wooden pegs have a 1:1 ratio.

If you face the time pressure of replacing a broken string between movements during a performance, the pressure of this does not compare with the constant tuning after the string change.

August 26, 2020, 5:29 PM · It wouldn't surprise me if the Wittner crank fit the Pegheads heads. I have a generic one I used for guitar strings back in ancient times, bet that would work too, something like
August 26, 2020, 8:40 PM · I am interested in doing the Wittners. Did you install them yourselves? It looks like you need a reamer. This would be on a cheaper violin that's been repaired. Then what did you do for tailpiece. Is wood better or something lighter?
August 26, 2020, 10:31 PM · I installed all my pegs myself - these were the only pegs I have eve installed.

You do need an appropriate reamer and a digital caliper. You can purchase both of these from Amazon, as I did. The cheapest digital caliper cost me about #10 and I think I paid between $20 and $30 for my reamer. I purchased my Wittner pegs from sellers.

You should purchase the caliper before you look for pegs so you can measure the size of your present peg holes (i.e., peg diameters at the peg box surface) and be sure NOT TO PURCHASE PEGS OF SMALLER DIAMETER. Be sure to commit the peg installation instructions to memory so you do not miss any steps.

Good Luck!

August 27, 2020, 3:36 PM · Paul, et al.,

According to my wife, I am "the crank." Perhaps she isn't thinking about violin pegs though.

Like Andrew, I'm retired and have a lot of open time on my schedule.

September 1, 2020, 3:03 PM · I'll second Andrew's endorsement of BdH tailpieces, I personally find them more accurate than geared pegs. I have a pernambuco TP on one of my fiddles and I really like its tonal effect.
September 2, 2020, 5:29 AM · On my Glasser carbon-composite 5-string violin it came with the Perfection pegs and fine tuners on the tailpiece for all 5 strings. I find that I use them both but it's easier for that last tiny bit of perfect tuning to use the fine tuners on the tailpiece. The Perfection pegs are a huge improvement over the traditional wooden friction pegs that are on my wooden violin (which has 4 fine tuners built into the wooden tailpiece).
September 2, 2020, 11:39 AM · One thing that hasn't been mentioned yet is that geared pegs aren't sensitive to humidity changes. In my area, in the fall, the humidity can vary from 60% to 10% in the time it takes for the wind to change direction. Most of my violins with wooden pegs can be heard popping them loose. I even had one peg pop loose and fall on the floor while I was playing it.

So For that reason alone, I would prefer geared pegs... but they have the downside of having significan friction over the nut, making fine adjustments a little more difficult than with the fine-tuning tailpiece. I usually use both, but as a fiddle player I can get away with that.

September 2, 2020, 2:03 PM · Don, you said "I would prefer geared pegs... but they have the downside of having significant friction over the nut, making fine adjustments a little more difficult than with the fine-tuning tailpiece."

Why do you think that is?

I have only noticed this "hysteresis" effect with Pegheds/Knillings and only when tuning down not up. I did not notice it with my more limited experience with Wittners.

September 2, 2020, 5:42 PM · What about the Harmonie tailpieces with the integrated carbon fiber tuners. Has anyone here tried these?

September 2, 2020, 6:16 PM · Christopher: These appear to be the Bois d'Harmonie I've mentioned many times. I have all 4 woods for violin (one on each fiddle) boxwood (both French and Hill style) on my 3 cellos and a boxwood on one viola.

These are good stuff, the carbon fiber tuners are not infinitely strong but replacements are cheap. The are an unnecessary adjunct to geared pegs - just an added convenience.

September 2, 2020, 7:16 PM · Andrew, the break angle over the nut is much higher than over the bridge, giving much higher friction at the nut and therefore somewhat less tuning precision at the pegs compared to a tuner at the tailpiece.

It's not a huge deal, especially with geared pegs and well-lubricated and well-fit nut slots.

September 2, 2020, 8:24 PM · Don,
Doesn't the string move at the nut and bridge regardless which direction it is pulled?
September 2, 2020, 9:07 PM · I don't use the crank either. I usually wait until I'm settled in to watch a Scandinavian murder show on TV, which gives me a nice two hours to change a set of strings and have a couple of nice scotches ...
September 4, 2020, 8:46 AM · Andrew,
I'm not perfectly clear on what you're asking, but...
In tuning with the peg, the first thing that happens is that the string between the peg and nut will begin to tighten. When the tension in that segment overcomes the friction at the nut, then you'll get a pitch change in the main string length.

In tuning with tailpiece fine tuners, it's the afterlength that will begin to tighten until friction over the bridge is overcome.

As previously mentioned, the friction over the nut is higher, so there will be a wider tuning deadband at the pegs before the main string gets changed in pitch. Of course, there are other things... like the fact that the bridge is somewhat flexible and can bend slightly before friction is overcome, and the tailpiece can move laterally to redistribute tension... but I think these are the main considerations, and even those aren't huge.

September 4, 2020, 8:55 AM · Gottcha! Thanks, Don.
Edited: September 6, 2020, 9:59 PM · You can tell Don's an engineer. That's one of the first things you'll notice with gear pegs is that they turn so smoothly that you can actually tighten the short segment within the pegbox ever so slightly before the static friction at the nut is released. Initially it can be a little annoying because you think, "I'm turning my peg but nothing is happening." But it's not true -- something is happening, you just can't hear it. With traditional pegs the main source of static friction is the peg itself, so by the time you have released your peg, the string will come along across the nut so you don't experience a deadband. (At least I have never experienced a deadband with traditional pegs.) A "solution" (if even one is needed) is to use the gear peg just the same way you would a friction peg. Tune down a little, this will release the grip of the string on the nut groove, and then draw up.

One also sees violinists "tuning" their violins by pressing on the short lengths inside the peg box. This method relies on the idea that the short length inside the peg box can maintain a tension that is significantly different from the main length between the nut and the tailpiece. In other words the violinist is counting on the static friction maintaining a metastable state. If you find yourself doing that kind of "tuning" a lot, that's a prescription for gear pegs for sure.

September 4, 2020, 10:15 AM · You would think that possessing 8 geared-peg instruments for over 10 years, and having seen concertmasters without geared pegs pushing their "short lengths" when tuning (over the past 25 years) and having physics degrees, that might have occurred to me by now! (:-()
September 9, 2020, 6:42 AM · @David

Do the geared pegs on your Glasser instrument turn smoothly?
I got really annoy that mine seem to have "steps" that click in place and I won't be able to stop and stay where I want to stop when tuning. This makes it impossible to tune without fine-tuners.

As Glasser's build-in fine tuners are no-where near as smooth as those on Wittner's tail pieces, this is really annoying.

September 9, 2020, 8:10 AM · What about he weight of geared pegs? Do you folks find that they have any effect on tone?
Edited: September 9, 2020, 9:17 AM · I noticed no change in my instruments' sound or responsiveness when I converted them to geared pegs.
September 9, 2020, 10:50 AM · I didn't notice any change in sound either. Yet this is a hotly contested topic on this site. Chuck Herin claims that he's never known one of his customers (at PegHeds) to switch their violin back to friction pegs.

What I have noticed is that my violin is more likely to be in tune because it's easy to tweak it during an orchestra rehearsal, for example. And I've noticed that my pegs never slip in different weather. You see pegs slip during string quartet performances and they have to stop because of it -- there's just no need for that.

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