Fine tuner tailpiece
I've an 18th century instrument with a great sound. My luthier just made a new bridge for it at no cost to me as he wasn't quite happy with the setup when he sold it to me. It sounds even better than it did before and that's saying something.
The tailpiece is the same fine-tuner tailpiece that was on my previous $850 violin that he took in trade. I've small arthritic hands and a very short reach. My teacher advises me to stick with the fine tuners. It is a Wittner tailpiece.
My pegs are perfect, very easy to use but I can't use them in playing position due to my physical issues. Given I need to stick with 4 fine tuners, would there be any real benefit to eventually moving to a better tailpiece? Given it came on my student instrument I am assuming it's not a very good one - or are there marked differences between fine tuner tailpieces?
They are all just the same. You could get a wooden one with integrated tuners if you want to be real fancy, but the only noticeable difference will be aesthetic, unless there's a significant difference in mass.
Sound-the idea is not to appear more "pro", but taking full advantage of what your violin can offer. The "regular" tailpieces are lighter.
I went through the gamut of fine-tuner tailpieces as osteoarthritis made turning wood-on-wood pegs too painful at times. I finally settled on the French "Bois d'Harmonie" brand for all 4 violins, 3 cellos and one of my violas. Except for the screw, which is metal, the fine tuners are made of carbon fiber composite and hence very light weight. That part can break, but the replacements are available and easily installed.
The Wittner pegs have an 8 to 1 gear ratio that make fine tuning trivial and peg slippage a non-issue. You will not need fine tuners on the tail piece, even for the E string.
The Wittner peg tuning is racheted (i.e., in small steps) - so they need the 8:1 ratio for fine tuning. The Knilling and Pegheds have a less fine 4:1 gear ratio, but they tune continuously rather than incrementally so they can be tuned right on, easily within 1 Hz.
My takeaway from the group comments is that changing tailpieces for another fine-tuner tailpiece probably wouldn't make a real difference in my sound, and the suggestion for a Hill-style tailpiece is noted.
Fine tuner tailpieces are not all alike -- most have a shape which is straight across, parallel to the bridge. But I bought a violin that was revived by a local luthier and he installed a harp-model tailpiece similar to this:
About the option of geared pegs: I had Wittner pegs installed on my new violin. I'm actually not that thrilled about them. As I turn the pegs, the tuning jumps in steps of about 5 cents, which makes me have to go back and forth quite a few times before it's right. With a Wittner tailpiece, it was much easier. Or is it normal to tune to +/-3 cents accuracy?
The built-in tuners vary a lot in quality. The zinc alloy (as in Dinky Toys) wears out faster than the brass inserts in a resin or wooden tailpiece. Also, the design of the attachments can affect the longevity of the strings.
On a decent violin the tailpiece makes quite a bit of difference, but if you are happy, why change? I would expect a good quality wood tailpiece with integrated tuners to sound a bit smoother, less bright, less open, and not as loud, but a lot depends on the architecture and materials of the specific one you switch to, and cost is not a measure because it depends on what would benefit your particular instrument. Of the non-wood models, the Wittner is the best, but that is also by far the most common, so you probably already have one.
Han I suspect you are seeing slip-stick (periodic release of static friction) at the nut. What I do with my gear pegs is tune down (just like you would with a friction peg) to release the static friction and then draw up. I haven't notice jerky tuning with my viola which is my only instrument with Wittner Finetune Pegs.
I haven't tried it, but that's an idea. I do have some powdered teflon for piano actions, and haven't thought to try it--much the same idea. You can also buy powdered pure dry graphite in small tubes for lubing locks. The traditional lube is pencil lead (which has clay added, so it's not really perfect for the job, but I often will rub a candle in the slots of the nut. Do NOT use wax on the bridge slots, though!!!! The bridge needs a bit of friction to stay up because the forces aren't equal on either side. I spit a bridge halfway across the room once trying this! :-(
If you’re happy with the sound of the violin and the Wittner tailpiece helps you overcome your physical difficulties, there’s no need to change anything. The Wittner tailpiece is designed well and works nicely on most instruments.
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