Tradition and innovation in the world of the violin

March 9, 2021, 2:10 AM · There has been a lot of discussion regarding the release of the Dominant Pro violin strings. This reminded me of the seeming dichotomies in the violin world. On the one hand, some new developments are embraced and explored. The new strings are an example of this. On the other hand, many other things are resistant to change. An example would be the widespread adoption of the Guarneri style bridge. This adoption is not even a matter of historically informed practice, as we regularly put such bridges on Stradivarius violins.

In all of this I do not want to start a historically informed practice fight. Rather I want to encourage thought about tradition in the violin world. I want to invite people to share their perspectives, things they see as traditional and why they believe such status is given, and also things that they see are open to change.

I suppose I will get things started. Obviously new innovations in strings are widely accepted. There is no question that they are different that gut strings. Why do you think they were accepted? Cost, stability, lack of substantial visible change (the audience cannot see the difference), strings require replacement, etc...

Replies (53)

March 9, 2021, 8:42 AM · People do what works. You'll note that carbon-fiber bows have been widely adopted, but, for instance, artificial horsehair hasn't. CF bows work, but artificial horsehair has lots of drawbacks without much in the way of compensations.

I've no doubt that luthiers have experimented with bridge-carving and haven't been able to come up with something that works better. But you'll find that bridges have been altered for electric violins, because other shapes and thicknesses have turned out to work better for that application.

Even in strings, we've switched to different cores. We had various nylon permutations for a while, but then Pirastro introduced composite-core strings with Evah Pirazzi and since then, there's been lots of use of composite cores.

Edited: March 9, 2021, 1:45 PM · People do what works except when they don't. By all accounts internally geared pegs for example work well but are rejected nonetheless by a majority, including many on this forum. The old fashioned friction controlled pegs are really no ideal solution to the tuning problem. So what is going on?

One might speculate that innovations that change the outward appearance of the instrument even slightly stand a good chance to be rejected while innovations like artificial horse hair* or new materials for strings have no optical impact and are therefor accepted or rejected on merit.

This perfectionism is not actually the historical norm. Over time violins got a longer neck and a taller bridge, seemingly with little resistance. The chin rest (not exactly a thing of beauty) was widely accepted.

* I believe that material science has made such strides lately that all that is missing to come up with acceptable synthetic "horsehair" is some investment in research.

Edited: March 9, 2021, 2:59 PM · I trust the dude that works on my violin - He's quite savvy and seems to know exactly what to do with a fiddle and bow to make them perform their best - If he told me to go the geared-peg route, I would do it, but otherwise I'll just suffer through.

A lot of these things are trade-offs. For example, I very much doubt that performing soloists are using CF bows, except perhaps when they are playing some kind of outdoor concert where they don't want to put their good equipment at risk. For most, a CF bow will do just fine, but if you are concertizing as a soloist or in a small chamber setting and you have the money for a pernambuco bow, are you really going to settle on CF?

Another factor is that the violin world is full of magical thinking and snake oil - How many different strings and rosins are there? How many gadgets and game-changing bass bars and other crap are being pushed by either earnestly deluded people or people trying to make a buck - So then things that really do work take longer than they should to come to wide acceptance.

The pro of the conservatism of the classical music world is that it encourages the propagation of tried and true methods for playing well, but the con is that it stifles true innovation. But the chinrest and shoulder rest caught on eventually, even if there are cargo cult adherents still slicking their hair back with pomade and trying to insist that the world of music stopped before the last mid-century.

It's also hard to introduce testing with the scientific method in a field where so much is quite subjective. It's hard getting people to agree on a common reality to even test.

March 9, 2021, 3:52 PM · I asked my luthier about geared pegs: he was concerned about the extra weight having an effect on tone. I have 4 fine tuners to go with my 2 fine ears! (And for quick adjustments as the winds warm up.)
I shall ad a blob of Blu-tack on my scroll to see (hear!) if the extra mass in that cantilevered position indeed changes the tone..

And my chin-rest is beautifully re-carved!!
I should like a prettier shoulder rest, though (imaginary 16th century model, to go with the viola's design.)

March 9, 2021, 4:02 PM · Ah, but the fine tuners are also reported to be a problem due to their weight....
Edited: March 9, 2021, 4:08 PM · Good points all. We certainly like to think we do what works. One issue is there is risk in doing something new. It also requires skill to develop something that is good. Thus we can get stuck in situations in which good new things are not developed.

I think that for more than 150 years the concept of tradition in the classical music world has increased. This has led to fewer innovations. Radical changes such as resetting necks of old instruments in new ways stopped occurring.

I still do not understand why certain changes, such as new types of materials in strings are acceptable, but new designs of instruments are generally not.

Tradition is hampering ‘mutations’ that have been central to the evolution of musical instruments.

And again it is all very odd. The vast majority of works orchestras play are old. And yet some new things are allowed, thus it is not truly purist.

(The fine tuners also change the after bridge length.)

March 9, 2021, 4:53 PM · MY friction pegs work fabulously well! No problems, tune easily, and stays in tune once the strings (old Dominants that lots of pros use!) are broken in. No problems whatsoever...
March 9, 2021, 5:39 PM · The weight of the fine tuners on the tailpiece has vastly more of an effect on tone than the miniscule change at the pegbox.
March 9, 2021, 5:55 PM · Well-fitted friction pegs tune faster than geared pegs. Less motion required.
March 9, 2021, 6:00 PM · I play viola, which seems much less tradition-bound than violin. The 20th century saw a proliferation of new viola patterns; I play a Tertis-pattern viola myself.

I think the likelihood of a new innovation being adopted may have more to do with its effect on how we play (and do other things) than visual effect. For example, geared pegs significantly change how the player tunes the instrument. On the other hand, things like new synthetic strings and carbon fiber bows, and even most of the new viola shapes, make no substantial difference in playing technique.

March 9, 2021, 7:35 PM · I'm always interested in the terminology that's used in the violin world. We've had "synthetic" cores (polymers) and now we have "composite" cores. Are the composites proprietary materials? My guess is that they are still polymers, likely of the same type that have been used for string cores for many years, but they have been stiffened or afforded other mechanical properties by reinforcement, for example with fibers of another (harder, stiffer) material. Lydia mentioned "various nylon permutations," which I think is an excellent description, and nylon has been formulated into all kinds of fiber-reinforced composites for a long time with many application areas.

All these threads in which gear pegs are mentioned will invariably elicit comments from those whose friction pegs have always worked perfectly or who can tune their violins instantly with friction pegs. Good for you. Congratulations. But I would guess that at least four-fifths of the amateur violinists out there do not have well-functioning pegs. Next time you're tuning up for community orchestra, look around and see how much some of the older players are struggling. It's so sad to hear them going back and forth and never quite landing it. And they don't have four fine tuners because some nutty purist told them it would wreck their tone. Nothing wrecks your tone worse than playing out of tune.

Putting blu-tack on your scroll won't be a good test for the added weight of gear pegs because its viscoelastic response is different. Many vibrations will be damped by a soft material.

March 9, 2021, 8:11 PM · My experience is limited, but a personal friend (a professional mechanical engineer) who took up violin making in his late 40s and has now retired from violin making at (about 85) having made his 101st instrument did a lot of experimenting with violin designs, woods, and fabrication methods. I owned his 11th violin (which I gave to my violin-playing granddaugher) his 54th violin (which I bought to replace #11) and his 6th viola. Sometime between violins #11 AND #54 he had switched from carved tops to bent tops Still working with North American spruce and experimented with bent and carved backs (his viola #6 has a carved German spruce back). He also experimented with models (including "his own") and his violin #54 seems to be extremely close in all dimensions to my 1715 Strad model by another maker (made 50 years earlier).

What appears to be a lack of experimentation in violin family instrument design is probably based on the same awareness that Stradivari, Guarneri and Guadagnini, et al came to centuries ago:
"It doesn't get any better than this!"

March 10, 2021, 12:38 AM · I agree that one factor in the lack of experimentation is the belief that it does not get any better than strad and Guarneri, etc. However, I believe that it is false. Strads and Guarneri are different. So which is best? Clearly a certain amount of diversity is acceptable. Has the space of diversity been filled? I think not. It just takes experimentation, dedication, skill, etc.

I think the role of amateur and students is very interesting. Fine tuners used to not exist, and have now been accepted. Maybe change must be generational. It needs to come from people who have not mastered something and are open to new ways of doing things.

Edited: March 10, 2021, 4:01 AM · Necessity again!
The fine tuner appeared with the steel E, itself a ghastly tonal compromise..
Even well fitted pegs are subject to ambient heat and humidity: circles can become ovals..
Even with synthetic-cored strings I use lightweight Wittner tailpieces with 4 built-in tuners: lightning discrete adjustments during silent moments in the music. And no interference with the after-lengths, and no parasitical resonances.

Violas are fun, trying to get a deep warm tone from a manageable instrument. Mine (15.75 inches) is inspired by an early Gasparo of 1561 (google Lyra Viola in the Ashmolean Museum UK): tubby outlines with only two corners, warm tone on all four strings, not nasal.

March 10, 2021, 4:31 AM · Several people, starting mainly since '600 century, established what is called "scientific method". Forgive my english, i'm italian, like Galileo Galilei.

So, one direction that even violinist could and should follow is "is this thing i read or someone told me really true or not? won't i check it myself?".....

My main violin was born from the start with Wittner Finetunes, after i had experienced putting and used them into other two precedent violins that were born with traditional ebony pegs and a finetuner in the E. All 3 made by the same luthier.

I'm quite picky on all the details and tweaks and aspects of instrument (i have been a professional electric bass player too). And i tell you that i had no impression, never, of an increased weight in the scroll when changing to the Wittners. If someone told you that increased weight is negative, i experienced first that if it exists i didn't perceive it, and second that the sound itself got better that before, more solid, more sustain, and more harmonics in the general emission of sound. Stability of tuning went 500% better, when left alone and during performance.
I won't mention the other obvious pros of the Wittners: easy of tuning, easy of strings changing, no more worrying about how strings are wound up, no more worrying about putting regular friction curative things for had them turning properly, no more worrying about the holes in the scroll to increase and deform with decades.

If we want to be some science derived people, living in the 2021, there is no other methods than experimenting, if not on our violins at least watching and testing some other instruments belonging to someone else.
Otherwise, everyone is free to believe that world had been created in 6 days 6000 years ago.

March 10, 2021, 9:51 AM · Rather than the added weight of the geared pegs I'd be more concerned about the lack of solidity being made up of multiple parts with the potential to vibrate.
March 10, 2021, 10:40 AM · Another advantage to the Wittner pegs is that you can set the afterlength how you want it to be.
March 10, 2021, 11:17 AM · Nothing against geared pegs, but at least in my case they are not necessary. I am not more "pro" or "better" because I do not use them. But I do feel players should only opt for them as needed. It should not be an innovation that eventually becomes universal, as there are also benefits to perfectly working friction pegs. Some players have physical issues which may prevent them from easily creating music with regular pegs, in which case I am glad these newer pegs exist, to help them out.

Even today, not all the more common innovations are universal, and it is better that way, IMO. Not every player needs steel Es (I do), must use shoulder rests (I do), or should play on synthetic strings (I *very* much prefer gut strings instead.)

Edited: March 10, 2021, 11:24 AM · Over the past 10 (or so years) I've installed geared pegs in 14 instruments: 3 cellos, 2 violas and 9 violins. The pegs included Pegheds, Knillings and 2 Wittners. I have noticed no change in tone or other audible or playing characteristics of any of the instruments.

Previously - about 15 years ago - I had experimented with various integral fine-tuner tail pieces as osteoarthritis caused some peg-tuning problems. I found all such tailpieces affected the sound of my instruments EXCEPT for wooden BOIS D'HARMONIE (BDH) (which each cost about as much as a cheap violin). I wanted the ability to tune my string afterlengths as I had with my original bare tail pieces.

If I had known about geared pegs back then I would have installed those instead of the expensive tailpieces. Anyhow those French tailpieces weigh about the same as my original bare wood ones (their composite tuners are very light - (and removable if one wants to go without) - I have a gram scale to measure such things.

About 15 years ago I installed violin ebony, boxwood, rosewood and pernambuco as replacements for the bare-wood tailpieces I had used all by life. I rotated them around 4 different violins and found they all had no effect on tone EXCEPT for the pernambuco - SO I found the one violin it did not affect adversely, and there it lives to this day. The other 3 tailpiecs are wherever they ended up those years ago. I installed boxwood BDH on all 3 cellos. My good viola ($1900 in 1996) has an ebony BDH and Knilling pegs. My cheap viola ($125 in 1973 from the luthier who regraduated it) has a Wittner integral-tuner tailpiece and Wittner vine-tune pegs - it tolerates almost anything - including every string I've ever tried.

I get the feeling that the noisiest critics of some of these innovations have never tried them. Am a wrong?

March 10, 2021, 1:03 PM · There is no such thing as a "Guarneri" bridge. That idea is an unfounded myth based, as far as I know, on 1 instance of correlation (labels of unknown purpose), which doesn't overcome the body of evidence pointing to the evolution of transitional and modern bridge designs happening after Guarneri's death.

As to why the modern bridge design is still king of the hill, the general direction of comment from experienced bridge cutters is that it does the job of making a violin sound the way it's expected to for the purposes of classical music very well.

It may be the case that effective innovations in this regard look so radical that there is resistance to them and they can't quietly 'evolve' their way into the mainstream. But there's enough iconoclasm in the fringes of classical music now that I would expect a functional bridge innovation to be used without hesitation about its appearance.

March 10, 2021, 5:44 PM · In decades as a viola maker, I never heard a player complaining about the pegs in my violas.

Geared pegs are mechanic... so they will break someday... Boing planes crash. If you have a normal peg, a luthier will fix it in minutes. I you have geared pegs and is far away from home.... you will be in trouble.

Players are very conservative, so violin makers. If a driver wants a Ferrari, he will want a 4 wheeled car, not one with 3 wheels.

That is what I am an orthodox maker. My violas do have some things different, but players will never notice them.

If new strings are darn good, I will use them, we pay for good computers, good cell phones, good wine, and good strings.

March 10, 2021, 6:12 PM · Luis, i understand your point of view, and it's fine.

Simply i don't get that someone, probably without any direct experience, can state that mechanical pegs are in general worse because of weight, rattles, etc.

March 10, 2021, 7:19 PM · Luis, It's not always that simple.

In my teen years I lived 50 miles from the nearest luthiers and there were only slow, curvy country roads. Going that distance seemed a far trip for a sticky peg - and in the variable heat and humidity of central Maryland pegs in summer were always sticky or slipping.

Just as bad in suburban Washington D.C. for the next 7 years - and early in my working career luthiers were hard to afford and with grad school too, time was hard to find.

And then we moved to the California desert for 33 years (160 and more miles from the nearest violin shop in LA, 3 hour drive each way) going from the humidity of swamp coolers to the dryness of air conditioned rehearsal hall - or playing out doors in 100°F+ temperatures. I don't think wood pegs were made for all that.

And then in the San Francisco Bay area - finally a temperate climate for the past 26 years and by then I was old enough to start getting arthritis and sometimes found it too hard to turn regular pegs.

It will be easy enough to replace a geared peg if it fails - easier than shaping and fitting a new wooden one. I installed them, I should be able to replace them!

Been there, done all that for a very long time.

March 10, 2021, 8:23 PM · Does anyone know, factually rather than guessing or wishful thinking, how much of a violin's vibrational force reaches the part of the peg which contacts the pegbox? This has just gotten me wondering and I tried to look it up and find the internet less helpful of late since everybody has been asking it questions (like Jeopardy). I wonder not only because of the peg durability question but because I'm just curious what's going on in the pegbox. I know about transmission of motion through the neck but it seems like most of the vibration would stop at the nut? Yes? No? I'll shut up now.
March 10, 2021, 11:13 PM · You can tell that violin vibrations reach the pegbox because there are electronic tuners that clip on the pegbox and register the frequency (or pitch) of the strings'vibrations. They also will register the same frequency when clipped on the bridge or (with a different mounting device) on the violin corpus when attached over the ribs on the upper bout.

If the device were an accelerometer it could register the amplitude of motion as well as the frequency.

Edited: March 11, 2021, 12:36 AM · Ann, if your conception of the vibration of the strings is the palpable and visible motion of the strings upon being bowed, then it's reasonable to think of that stopping at the nut. But some of that energy is transferred into the violin at the saddle, the nut, and especially the bridge. It is in the sense that the whole instrument vibrates as a result of that energy passing through its various parts that what Andrew described occurs.

The vibration of the string isn't continuing over the nut into the peg, rather part of the vibration is picked up by the nut and passed on to everything in contact with it, including the strings on the other side.

March 11, 2021, 1:35 AM · Another opinion on geared pegs:

Guitarists (and double bass players might I add) have used gear pegs for centuries without any problems. I don't see why violinists, violists, and cellists can't use them as well. And as Andrew said, I'd imagine that they'd be quite easy to replace should one fail just like for guitars, basses, and double basses. Many musicians have backup instruments (myself included) that they can play on should their main instrument have to go to the luthier for whatever reason so that they still have an instrument to play on while the other is getting fixed.

I've never used geared pegs on my own violin, but I have tried them on a violin at a shop I was visiting and they were a dream to tune. If I wasn't too scared to install the pegs on my violin myself at the risk of messing it up I would've done so a while ago. Additionally, I'm pretty my luthier would balk at my request to install them anyway. I did recently get a Bois D'Harmonie tailpiece though and it's just amazing.

Also, Nathan Cole, concertmaster of the LA Phil uses geared pegs on his strad.

March 11, 2021, 1:52 AM · Andreas, your comments about the bridge are informative. I referred to the Guarneri style bridge on account of the bridge on the il cannone. It had been attributed to Guarneri. Maybe this attribution was insecure or false. Although it lacks a heart, it’s shape is more similar to modern bridges than other bridges of the time. I should not have implied that bridges did not evolve over time. It is my belief that they have been stagnant for a long time. However, even that may not be the case.

The comments about fine tuners are interesting. One change, steel strings, had some negative aspects, difficulty tuning. These were then mitigated by another change, fine tuners.

March 11, 2021, 1:56 AM · Ann: I do not know the answer to your question. I suspect that studies such as the one I link to below provide as close an answer as exists.

Full-field vibration measurements of the violin using digital stroboscopic holographic interferometry and electromagnetic stimulation of the strings
AIP Conference Proceedings 1740, 040005 (2016);

Edited: March 11, 2021, 5:01 AM · Mr. Harrell and others are really exaggerating this "need" for geared pegs in that Strad article many of you must have read by now. But I do agree that players with physical problems should find workable solutions to their issues, as I mentioned before, and is stated in that very reading. And in the end, the point of the article is likely to "move" this type of product, so of course it is biased in that regard.

I also believe good peg-making is an art, so it would be a shame for said highly specialized craft to be considered an outdated dinosaur. I am surprised these geared pegs are so affordable compared to even "mid-tier", great quality pegs. Perhaps they are magnificently constructed regardless. But I would not change my pegs to a lesser quality option for a practical reason that does not apply to me-of course, if I needed them, it would be different.

(As a side note, "conservative"/"outdated" gut strings are generally *very easy* to turn on friction pegs.)

Be modern for a reason, not because it is in season.

Edited: March 11, 2021, 8:04 AM · I will stop shutting up long enough to thank you all for your responses. I was thinking that the entire vibration of the violin is transmitted everywhere through the wood because of all the reasons given here as well as my physics training. Amazingly, when I took physics in college we discussed in detail how a violin "works." In the section on acoustics we started with the simple case of the organ pipe and went on to strings and violins. Bass bar! Sound post! Our prof. was named Grace. We called her Amazing Grace.
March 11, 2021, 10:40 AM · Michael - I tend to take a hammer to myths when they pop up, I apologize if anything I said seemed directed against you personally. This sort of misinformation appears in fairly elevated sources at times so it's understandable that a casual reader might think it's true. In fact that's part of the reason I am incessant about it.
March 11, 2021, 11:02 AM · Christian, I hate change and was frightened at first about ruining my instrument by having Wittner pegs installed. But this was on a viola with an intractable peg problem. The luthier twice a year changed the run in pegs and then made them fit perfectly and they were fine for 2 minutes. I was in danger of ruining the pegbox through repeated reaming and bushing so I had them reamed one last time for the Wittners and I'm glad I did. I waited a few days to take delivery on my new violin so these pegs could be installed on it.
March 12, 2021, 3:38 PM · Adalberto, I never said they were necessary, I just don’t see the problem with it someone using them if they want to.


March 12, 2021, 8:24 PM · Greetings
here is a potentially viable example of modernization
March 13, 2021, 2:55 AM · @Christian - I was interested to learn that the concertmaster of the LA Phil uses geared pegs on his Strad. It was in the LA Phil that I remember noticing the principal violist playing an asymmetrical Rivinus instrument or something similar. I'm all in favour of players breaking with tradition in this way, but get the feeling that it would be risky for rank-and-file orchestral players to attempt anything innovative. The orchestra is one of the last bastions of old-fashioned military discipline!
Edited: March 13, 2021, 9:22 AM · Violin makers and luthiers have tried all sorts of innovative things. If you don't see them much, it's because they didn't cut the mustard for one reason or another. As it turns out, it's pretty hard to improve on 300 years of fiddle evolution. There is, however, a small market for unusual things, attracting mostly those whose main objective is to be weird or different.
March 13, 2021, 8:38 AM · I think David Burgess summed it up perfectly.
March 13, 2021, 9:12 AM · Yes, agree with Mr. Burgess as well.
March 13, 2021, 4:24 PM · What Mr. Burgess says could be so, however, I think the fault lies in the mustard. There used to be a wide variety of stringed instruments. Gambas, violins, etc. Certain sizes of instruments adopted certain forms. Thus double basses were of the viol family, etc. Did a cello of the viol family not cut the mustard? How about a double bass violin?

I believe that there are many reasons that things happen. It is not necessarily that they are an improvement.

In the brass world there are a wide variety of somewhat similar instruments. Trumpets, cornets, flugelhorns, etc. Instruments of different designs, keys, etc. However, we come to violins and hear that even though all sorts of innovations have been tried, that none of them were any ‘good’

I will admit there is the issue of when something new gets its own classification, as opposed to being considered an innovation of a given thing. However, even here, there were a wide range of holes in addition to f holes. I doubt that the f holes are the only adequate ones.

Edited: March 14, 2021, 12:33 PM · Micheal Berger, F holes are probably not the only adequate shapes, but the little flaps stemming from their shape do tend to radiate a high-frequency sound component, quite different from circular holes.
March 14, 2021, 10:06 PM · I don't think experimentation is only for people who want something different or weird. Many innovations have stuck. Synthetic-core strings are here to stay, as are synthetic tail-guts. CF bows are selling well -- and not only to non-conformists. Will Corene fingerboards be next?

I would argue that the problem is not too many people itching to be different or weird, but too many people not wanting to be the first one to show up at a rehearsal with a brown fingerboard.

Edited: March 15, 2021, 7:52 PM · Paul, synthetic strings and tail adjusters, and carbon fiber bows aren't weird at all, compared to many of the other things which have been tried.

For example, the Smithsonian Institution owns quite a number of instruments which were obviously fashioned with the intent to resemble, uhm, certain male appendages, which I will not further specify. The museum has never included these in a public exhibit, nor do I expect them to do so in the near future.

March 15, 2021, 8:40 PM · The comments are very interesting. I think they shed light on the fact that there is a very strong tradition which is prevalent. Ideas of non-conformity, etc. Some comments about knocking on doors were deleted. It is indicative that there is some fierce defense on both sides. Despite the strength of the tradition new things are created and, as been noted, some stick and become accepted in traditionalist circles.

Experimentation has been vilified, such as the famous quote about it being the water closet of art. And there is some truth to the statement. On the other hand, all creativity involves experimentation at some level, and is thus essential.

Edited: March 15, 2021, 9:40 PM · David, I guess I'm drawing a brighter line between innovation and absurdity. Most of this thread has been about bridge design, gear pegs, bent vs. carved backs, and violin strings -- not violins crafted to resemble genitalia.

I am acquainted with fine young luthier who has been using only synthetic material (such as Corene) for his fingerboards for some time now, and he says it's easy to work the material, easy to install them, and his clients are very happy with it.

March 16, 2021, 2:08 AM · Eight years ago Laurie wrote a blog on David Rivinus's radically innovative "Pellegrina" viola design.
The subsequent silence has been deafening. Has anyone out there tried one at all? FWIW I'm inclined to think what outweighs any consideration of the size, the ergonomics or the sound in most player minds is the appearance. Not so much genitalia as elephant man.
Edited: March 16, 2021, 9:42 AM · Steve, yes that's an "interesting" contribution. I think there have been a few different designs of viola that are intended to improve ergonomics without losing interior volume. Invariably they have a bulging bout or two.

I guess where one might envision kind of a boundary is when you've got an instrument that (a) can't fit into any kind of standard case, although that's not all that strange for violas, and if you can afford a bespoke viola then you outhg to be able to afford a bespoke case, too (might have to forego the Yosemite Sam mud flaps for a few months until you breathe a little more room into your credit cards) (b) has zero resale potential, or (c) has your orchestra stand partner asking to change seats because they're just grossed out. I can't imagine any of that happening because of gear pegs or a Corene fingerboard.

March 16, 2021, 10:02 AM · Steve, I think the Rivinus looks like a beautiful lady ;-)
March 16, 2021, 10:14 AM · Paul, I'll probably start using one of the substitute (for ebony) fingerboard materials, once I feel that they have established a sufficient track record. Some have failed to stay glued to the violin very well, and some have had less bending stiffness or shape retention, compared to ebony. It's bad for a maker's reputation if their violins become known for having their fingerboards pop off in the middle of a concert, LOL. I'm quite willing to let others do the beta testing. We'll see what pans out.
March 16, 2021, 11:51 AM · I'm late to this forum, and apologize. But I would like to say that when I was playing in the Santa Monica Youth Orchestra, Anno Domini 1973 or thereabouts, our director (the late Manuel Compinsky)let an entrepreneur in during a pause to show his creation to us all.

The latter was geared pegs, and his appearance was for selling them. I remember that no one bought and I felt sorry for the guy. That was almost 50 years ago. I think it's a good idea, but am a bit flummoxed as to why it never caught on in half a century.

March 16, 2021, 1:14 PM · Dimitri, that may have been the same entrepreneur who visited the Weisshaar shop, around the same time. Weisshaar was quite enthusiastic about these pegs, and we even installed them in some fiddles. But the pegs turned out to have some major problems, some quickly apparent, and others taking a little more time to emerge. So those in your orchestra who didn't buy them probably made the right choice.

Today's geared pegs are vastly better.

Edited: March 17, 2021, 12:51 PM · As I understand some of the earlier gear pegs had kind of a "ratchet" mechanism so that tuning occurred not in a smooth continuous way but in discrete steps. Of course, that's totally DOA because you'd still need fine-tuners then.

There is also a local pro who has this one negative story about gear pegs that he always trots out, wherein some young cellist's gear peg malfunctioned immediately prior to a critical audition, and the lad's father had to stand behind him for the whole audition holding the peg in place.

With my first set of gear pegs (Knilling pegs in my daughter's violin), the luthier who did them had never installed gear pegs before. He called me two weeks later to say they were done. When I got there I grumbled a little about how long it took, and he said "oh it only took an hour but one of the pegs was faulty and I had to send it back for another." I bet not. I bet he just ruined it. But he was a nice guy and he charged me hardly anything in labor, and the pegs worked fine, so I let it go.

Regarding failures of gear pegs, from talking to a few luthiers, my understanding is that with modern gear pegs like PegHeds or Knilling Perfection Pegs or Wittner Finetune pegs, the likelihood of failure of gear pegs is less than friction pegs, which also can crack, split, shear, etc. Wood is not infallible.

David -- my luthier says that he uses "bone glue" to affix the Corene fingerboards to the neck. I'm sure you know all about this. He says each fingerboard comes with a suitable portion of glue to use. I don't know anything about natural glue formulations. I also wondered how well adhesives "take" to composite materials like that, but the fact is that many of the microstructural features of a natural material like wood (such as porosity) can actually be mimicked pretty well in a composite.

In other threads on composite fingerboards, bamboo was mentioned. My experience with bamboo is only with bamboo flooring. Bamboo flooring seems to be a composite of bamboo fiber and urethane. The material is incredibly dense and hard. The guys installing our flooring gave up on nailing it down because the nails coming out of their nailers were bouncing off or bending, so they glued the flooring down instead with urethane construction adhesive! That's never coming up again. Fortunately, we love it. But the quarter-rounds were another story. For that part of the project they tried to use a hot-melt adhesive and it's slowly failing everywhere in the house. So I'm doing what they should have done originally, which is to drill holes in the quarter-rounds and then tap them in with finish nails and a nail set, or finish screws that I counter-sink (I could fill those holes with a matching filler but I care as long as it's structurally sound). The contractors were just being lazy and I stupidly let them get away with it. I fix them as they fail. They were particularly sloppy in the closets. Had they pre-drilled all of the flooring pieces before hand-nailing them with nail sets, their labor costs would have more than erased their margin.

Of course, you're not putting a fingerboard down with finish screws. That would go into the Sawzall category of violin construction.

Edited: March 26, 2021, 3:47 PM · Eric Aceto - apropos of this thread:

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