Wittner tailpiece?

Edited: April 11, 2021, 4:25 PM · What do folks think of the Wittner (or Wittner style) tailpiece - with 4 built-in fine tuners - whether for themselves or for their students? I personally have come to loathe them - for my students; I've never used them for myself. If I find that there is interest in this subject I will go into more detail. Thanks!

Replies (125)

Edited: April 11, 2021, 1:51 AM · How hard is it to simply make the title a requirement for posting?
April 11, 2021, 3:47 AM · Please add a title to your post, it’s very difficult to access otherwise.

Personally, I quite like the Wittner tailpieces, as they offer an accurate after string length, whereas tailpieces with four metal adjusters attached, don’t. They are lightweight and easy to use, particularly handy for small violins too.

I have Wittner tailpieces on several of my violins, especially the ones that are used for outdoor gigs (in normal circumstances). My main violin just has on e string adjuster.

The violas don’t all have them yet, but I’ve ordered another for my main viola until I can afford the Wittner gear pegs.

Why do you loathe them for your students?

April 11, 2021, 5:51 PM · I think Wittner tailpieces are fine for students until they get a full size violin that is worthy of having gear pegs installed. Or their friction pegs might work fine without a lot of maintenance -- it happens.

Wittner tail pieces are also great for older folks who may find tuning stressful or painful.

April 11, 2021, 6:08 PM · My violin has a Wittner tailpiece. It's what was on the violin when I got it. I can't say I either like it or dislike it, it's just there. Even though I'm used to tuning my viola with pegs, I simply haven't felt any particular need to change the tailpiece on my violin.
April 11, 2021, 8:26 PM · I think they are great. They are easier to use than pegs and more accurate. I encourage all my students to get tailpieces with 4 built-ins.

Traditionalists tend to turn up their noses at them.

Edited: April 11, 2021, 9:19 PM · First of all, from a tech point of view, apologies for my not putting a title. I've posted many threads over the years and have always posted a title. I don't know what happened this time but I couldn't find the promt to do so and didn't even want to post it. Then I saw that it got posted without the title and that somehow, 2 people responded - yet I couldn't find a way to get in and respond to my own thread!

This whole thing has been a comedy of errors for me. I stand by my objections based on extensive experience teaching. These objections will soon be noted in an email I will share. But what really got me into a snit was a 3-way recent misunderstanding between and among a student of mine, a luthier I sent her to for the first time, and myself. It got cleared up earlier today and all the more so, I'd just as soon move on. But right now here we are are and I ought to explain myself. Also, to be fair, I suspect that not all "Wittner" tailpieces are made by Wittner, just as not all Hill-style tailpieces and fine tuners are made by Hill. Maybe the originals are better but for sure, I have had a lot of grief dealing with tailpices with 4 built-in tuners in many student violins.

This particular relatively new student is an adult learner. I sent her to my luthier to change her Wittner (or at least, Wittner style) t.p. for a regular on with just 1 tuner on the E. She came back to her lesson with me yesterday saying that the luthier refused to change it, saying that there was nothing wrong with it. I coudn't understand this refusal and was frankly annoyed by it. In that peevish mood I sent my luthier this email:

Raphael Klayman
Sat, Apr 10, 11:51 PM (21 hours ago)
to Inc.

Hi E. Hope this finds you fine and healthy.

I recently sent a student to you, P., with a request from me that you change her Wittner (style?) tailpiece, with the 4 built-in tuners, for a normal one with just one fine tuner for the E string. She told me that you refused, saying that there was nothing wrong with it. I must say that I am surprised and disappointed. There may be nothing wrong with it (right now) in the sense that it is not broken, but the more students I've had with these types of tailpieces, the more I can't stand them!

I'm the one who has to tune most of my beginning students' violins (during an in-person lesson) or they have to as best they can under my guidance during remote zoom lessons. The tuners frequently jam and I find it very difficult to install new strings in them. This is especially true with fractional size violins, but full size, too. Yes, I know about the pencil technique, but in my experience it results as often as not in a broken pencil tip and no installed string.

With valuable lesson time ticking away, I've recently taken to threading the tip of a string through the hole in the ball end in a way similar to the way some people used to do with the loop of a gut string. It holds the string in place very well but is then unaffected by the tuner when the tuner does work - which in my experience is not for long.

Please reconsider. Thanks!

The luthier called me earlier today and explained that my student told her that she was a student of mine but never explained that the change of t.p. request was from ME. The luthier was under the impression that my student thought that it was broken which is why the lutjier told her that there was nothing wrong with it. The luthier told me that if my student would come back, she'd be glad to change the t.p. I called my student and explained - and now we're all on the same page. So that's my comedy of errors and I hope I can soon say "la comdeia et finita"!

April 11, 2021, 9:18 PM · I've never had a problem with a Wittner tailpiece, but can't say the same about inexpensive Wittner copies (such as those included with inexpensive instruments) - they've often had poor quality tuners: hard to use or fragile.
Edited: May 3, 2021, 12:45 PM · I played with "bare naked" ebony tailpieces (except for an E tuner for 60 years, but when osteoarthritis started to interfere with my peg turning I looked into integral-fine-tuner tail pieces. I tried many and they all had a negative effect on my sound - at least as I heard it - UNTIL I happened upon the wooden Bois d'Harmonie tail pieces. I installed them on all my instruments - along with Kevlar tail cords. It was another 10 years before I happened upon GEARED PEGS (Pegheds, Knilling and Wittner) and I installed those too.

CONFESSION: I still have a single Wittner tailpiece - on my #2 viola. That instrument seems impervious to changes of strings and tailpieces. It never rises to the potential of viola #1, but unlike #1 it never seems to negatively judge accessory or string changes.

Had I known about the geared pegs earlier I would have installed them instead of the BdHs. The BdH string adjusters can easilly be removed to use the TPs like standard TPs but they have such light-weight composite adjusters that there is no need to do that and they allow me to adjust my string afterlengths just as I could without them.

April 12, 2021, 2:42 AM · I only have genuine Wittners.
The older ones are made of some sort of zinc alloy (like minature motorcars) and the screw-thread wears out. I applied mastic under the metal to reduce the unpleasant ringing resonance.
The newer ones are made of a light composite with what looks like a brass insert for the screw-thread: no problems so far. I think they should be replaced when the screws start to rattle when not under tension.

There are many imitations of dubious quality.

Even well fitted pegs do not satisfy my musical ear, even at the tender age of 72..

Edited: April 12, 2021, 4:34 PM · Adrian, I think Wittner still produces tailpieces in both metal, and plastic. Or at least they do for cello. I think that's nice, since some instruments sound and play better with a heavier tailpiece, while others work better with a lighter tailpiece.

Everything I have run across which was genuine Wittner (and not some cheap knockoff), has been of excellent quality and endurance. It is advisable to grease the screw and screw sockets, not only on the Witterns, but also on the knockoffs, not only to reduce friction and wear, but also because this is really effective at damping noises from metal-to-metal parts rattling together.

Edited: April 12, 2021, 12:09 PM · I just find them plain ugly. Maybe it's a learned response, since they adorn every cheapo student instrument you find at big music stores, but I still think they stick out like a sore thumb on any violin. Besides, if you have geared pegs—which every instrument of any value should have—they are superfluous.
April 12, 2021, 12:15 PM · Wittner makes excellent products in general, and their tailpieces are no exception. They function beautifully and the composite plastic is light enough to work very well with most instruments. The tuners work seamlessly and they’re placed well to allow for setting the priory afterlength. They’ve become the standard for student instruments, and with good reason.

If you don’t love the composite material, you can buy tailpieces with a bit more elite look and feel from Bois d’Harmonie. I’ve put many of them on customers’ instruments and like them. However, for students and parents on a limited budget, the Wittner is an obvious choice.

There are knock-offs out there. Some of the factory instruments come with these, and they are almost never made to the same standards. The threads on the screws are often a poor fit to the holes and the plastic is flimsy. Since they look much like the Wittners, it would be understandable if one got the impression that there were issues. The Wittner name is on the underside.

The Wittner pegs are excellent as well. When I can, I recommend them to students and players with hand issues. With those installed there’s no need for a fine-tuner tailpiece. The pegs are much less conspicuous than the tailpieces.

April 12, 2021, 2:26 PM · Cotton wrote:
"Besides, if you have geared pegs—which every instrument of any value should have— ...."

Is that a general consensus? I have a nice instrument with ebony pegs and as long as I adjust the 'grip' occasionally, they are easy to tune (excepting the e, which has a hill fine tuner).

Don't you have to further adjust (ream?) the peg hole to insert geared pegs?

Edited: April 12, 2021, 2:46 PM · The luthier from whom my parents purchased my violin in the mid-1980s installed a Wittner tailpiece because (he said) it was lighter than traditional tailpieces and, therefore, improved the sound of the violin.

I still have that tailpiece and it's fine.

A teacher with whom I studied in college reacted with horror at the Wittner and urged me to replace the tailpiece. There was no way I was going to ask my parents to pay to replace it just to satisfy this teacher's over-concern with appearances. In front of her, I only used the pegs for tuning from then on.

I do wonder if I should replace it now that I can afford it, especially since it is so clearly associated with student violins (and student violinists).

Edited: April 12, 2021, 3:02 PM · "Don't you have to further adjust (ream?) the peg hole to insert geared pegs?"

Sometimes, if the holes are very deformed from years of abuse at the hands of friction pegs, it will be more aesthetically pleasing to ream them all to the same size. If they are in good shape it may even be unecessary to use a reamer at all. Gear pegs come in many sizes.

A little part of me really dies every time a peg slips and a string goes floppy on me with my second violin. Geared pegs are the kind of thing you can't live without once you have them.

April 12, 2021, 3:05 PM · The geared peg nuts couldn't pay me enough to recommend them, regular pegs work fine when properly set up.
April 12, 2021, 4:06 PM · Cotton, My little viola needed Wittner pegs. The pegs would not stay except in summer. The Wittners remove all hassle from tuning as well as allowing a tailpiece with no fine tuners at all. These were so successful I had them installed on my new violin.
April 12, 2021, 9:10 PM · I've installed hundreds of the genuine Wittner tailpieces with the integrated fine tuners on all sizes of violins, violas, and cellos over the years as a K-12 orchestra teacher. In nearly all cases, they offer vastly improved performance and tuning ease on lower-quality student instruments, especially those that have poorly cut pegs. For the average school ensemble kid who has no interest in private lessons and is in orchestra mostly for social and personal growth through music reasons, they are a vastly useful addition to their instruments, and inexpensive ($15 each).

One of my adult students who didn't have quite the strength to deal with even well-fitted regular tuning pegs found the Wittner fine-tune pegs to be the perfect solution for them--extending their playing time in their retirement years. One simply has to consider the unique situation that each player finds themselves in.

April 12, 2021, 9:19 PM · I remember asking a luthier whether it was necessary to ream out the peg holes to receive gear pegs. His answer was that he needs to remove a small amount of material about half the time. He said a funny thing ... "it helps if the holes are actually round."
Edited: April 12, 2021, 10:44 PM · If regular pegs work fine, why did guitar players get machines a hundred years ago? Bassists TWO hundred years ago?

No point betting on proper set up when geared pegs work reliably, all the time.

April 13, 2021, 1:29 AM · Personally, I like the Wittner-style tailpieces. They're convenient for students and practical for professionals. There are plenty of professionals who use tailpieces with 4 built-in fine tuners and they aren't lesser players for it.

I made the switch to a Bois D'harmonie tailpiece after this last winter because I eventually got tired of my G peg sticking and slipping based on the humidity in Texas (which flip flops a lot!)

I also wouldn't mind getting geared pegs in the future because as Cotton rightfully alluded to, if guitarists and bassists can use them why can't we?

Edited: April 13, 2021, 3:46 AM · Can anyone cite a top violinist (apart from themselves) who uses a Wittner tailpiece or geared pegs? Just wondering...
April 13, 2021, 4:14 AM · Elizabeth Pitcairn has the geared pegs in her Strad.
April 13, 2021, 5:18 AM · I have always liked the harp style tailpiece but because I do not see one on any of the top soloists violins they are probably not as good as their makers tout them to be, so I think if it is not good for them it is not going to improve my sound any.
April 13, 2021, 12:29 PM · There is a very poor Chinese copy of the Wittner tailpiece that's barely functional and the threads on the tuners strip out easily. . . if the forks holding the strings don't break first. The real thing is high quality, with no problems. We use the real ones on our rentals, but I've never put one on a good violin. They also make an all-plastic chinrest that's great for people with metal allergies and quite comfortable, and I've put those on a few "real" violins because they're so chin-friendly.
April 13, 2021, 1:23 PM · Michael - for metal (almost certainly nickle) allergies why not just put on titanium brackets? And for ebony allergy (rare) you can always substitute boxwood etc.
Edited: April 13, 2021, 1:44 PM · Never had the least trouble tuning with traditional pegs. Personally, I would never entertain the notion of geared pegs for any of my violins.
Edited: April 13, 2021, 2:08 PM · Diana Adamyan used a violin with (what looked like a) Wittner tailpiece for her 1st place-winning Bruch concerto in the 2018 Menuhin competition.
April 13, 2021, 2:28 PM · Elise, oftentimes it's quicker and easier, and produces quicker and better results to "cut to the chase" by eliminating multiple variables in one fell swoop, and then work backwards to try to identify a single cause, if one is still interested in doing that after solving the basic problem.

I have never installed a Wittner chinrest as original equipment, because I don't like the way they look. But I have had one or two fiddles come back in with customer-installed Wittner chinrests, and I couldn't find any fault with functionality.

April 13, 2021, 3:11 PM · David, I'm sure you would know better than I but I would guess that 95% of allergies are nickle - so why not get rid of that first? BTW I have it and have cured the problem with a chamois looped over the CR and hanging down the back of the violin. Also serves to protect it from perspiration...

Its a %^& of an irritant BTW. One exposure and I can have a red welt that lasts for a month. That's how I found out - a cheap silver necklace led to a red tatoo... :D

April 13, 2021, 3:27 PM · Nickel allergies, and bacteria and mold supporting porous wooden parts are good. If not for them, wouldn't it be much more awkward to explain to ones mother where that hickey came from? ;-)
April 13, 2021, 4:42 PM · I thought the Wittner TPs were for beginner students or players who have difficulty operating their pegs. I have never seen one used by a professional soloist (other than Diana Adamyan) or master maker. When I see one I assume the instrument is not of very good quality. I could be wrong.
Edited: April 13, 2021, 7:39 PM · Elise, yes you could buy expensive titanium fittings on exotic wood and end up with a non-allergenic, still-uncomfortable chinrest. Or you could spend ten bucks and have a genuinely comfortable chinrest instead of merely tolerable expensive one.
Edited: April 13, 2021, 8:30 PM · Although I don't see these on any pro's violins here, at one time there was a fair number of the tailpieces and the chinrests in the viola section of our very good state orchestra. We opted for a Bois d'Harmonie tailpiece for looks (and the Wittner chinrest to prevent allergic reaction; I agree with Michael it fits just right, and we wish someone made an identical one in wood with titanium for looks). The BdH composite tuners are not so easy to turn with higher tension viola strings - I wish the heads were just a little bit larger.

Might be neat to try the ConCarbo tailpiece at some point.

Edited: April 13, 2021, 8:15 PM · While I haven't seen a Wittner tailpiece being used by a professional, I have seen several of them on upper-end workshop instruments -- my own violin, which had a Wittner tailpiece installed when I inherited it, is in that category.
Edited: April 13, 2021, 10:29 PM · Nathan Cole uses Wittner pegs on his Strad.

The violist of the Miro quartet uses a Bois D'harmonie tailpiece

The 2nd violinist of the Miro quartet uses the Wittner tailpiece

Julia Bushkova who is a violin professor at UNT uses Wittner Pegs on her violin

Obviously the Strad is, but I'm quite sure each of the other instruments are also quite valuable instruments and I don't think they are too distraught using any of those options

Edited: April 14, 2021, 2:01 AM · Responses to my last post (thanks David, Jocelyn, Christian) support my impression that a very large majority of professional violinists are happy to persist with the conventional tailpiece and pegs. I'm sure mechanical prostheses are convenient and beneficial in certain circumstances (after all, wind players have half a junkyard attached to their instruments) but there's a lot to be said for the mantra "keep it simple, stupid".
Edited: April 14, 2021, 6:30 AM · Conservatism is no proof of anything. Additionally, the more pros pay, the more they have to reduce dissonance, hence their preference for Strads only when the tests aren't blind.

My teacher has a 15" John Betts viola, ca. 1780 with Wittner geared pegs.

Edited: April 14, 2021, 11:55 AM · The 2nd violinist of the Miro quartet (William Fedkenheuer) is also a Texas fiddler. Is the Wittner on the violin he plays with the quartet, or just on his fiddling violin (which may have steel strings)?
April 14, 2021, 8:07 PM · 99% of Strad owners use traditional pegs
April 14, 2021, 8:56 PM · Geared pegs ARE keeping it simple. What's easier: constantly shaving pegs, reshaping the holes, adding lubricant, needing to ram the pegs in to keep em tight, worrying about atmospheric conditions... or getting some gear pegs?
April 14, 2021, 9:20 PM · Geared pegs are an obsession for you, serious luthiers don't have any trouble making regular pegs work fine, if you get your violins from hacks then the pegs might be a problem, your solution?? Get hacks to butcher the violin installing geared pegs
April 14, 2021, 9:41 PM · I imagine other violin innovations such as synthetic strings, single fine tuners, chin and shoulder rests, etc. may have been frowned upon by traditionalists when they first came out. But if I were fortunate enough to own a very fine and rare instrument, like a Strad, I could not imagine installing geared pegs. My lord. What a shameful abomination.
Edited: April 14, 2021, 9:52 PM · I'm with Steve, John and Lyndon on this one!
April 14, 2021, 10:49 PM · According to their official Instagram account, the Wittner is on the violin he uses when he plays with the quartet.

Honestly, I don't see the harm in using geared pegs if you want to use them. If it bothers someone that's on them. It's not like they have to play the instrument. If friction pegs work for you and want to keep using them then knock yourself out. I on the other hand will probably give them a try at some point even though I have a Bois D'harmonie already on my violin. There was a violin I tried at a shop I was at and I must say I quite liked them (and violin wasn't bad either).

April 14, 2021, 11:05 PM · I owned an old enough and used enough cello that I finally had to have the peg box rebushed and repegged. Because it was not a classically valuable instrument the only thing about that that bothered me was the cost. But I can imagine how I would have felt to have to have that kind of work done on "my Strad." At least with geared pegs you cannot see the pegbox disfigured by where the peg holes used to be!

Ten years later I installed a set of Pegheds!!!

April 15, 2021, 2:01 AM · I have had my violin for more than 25 years - it was new then. It has not had the pegs reshaped or the peg holes reamed in that time. So the need for "constantly shaving pegs, reshaping the hole" is exaggerated. I do apply a little lubricant when I change strings. If the pegs need to be shaved a couple of times per century I can live with that.
Regarding friction pegs on guitars the construction of the head is very different and the forces leading to deformation of the hole are greater as a result. The friction peg on a guitar (yes guitars with pegs exist - Google "flamenco guitar") is basically sitting in a hole in a board with the string attached to the end. But the peg on a violin is supported in both sides of the head and has the string in the middle.
Edited: April 15, 2021, 3:52 AM · My experience is very like Bo's - neither of the two violins I played from 1970 to 2018 (one acquired new, the other 50 years old) ever required any attention to the pegs. I also never encountered a good violin for sale in a London dealership that was fitted with these gizmos. Of course that doesn't mean they're "bad", but maybe it's a climate thing?
April 15, 2021, 5:25 AM · Among professional cellists, tailpieces with four integral fine-tuners are more the rule than the exception.
April 15, 2021, 5:34 AM · Among cellists steel core strings are more the rule than the exception. I would also use such a tailpiece with steel strings.
April 15, 2021, 8:34 AM · I would not argue that fine tuners and geared pegs are inherently bad. In fact they surely have their proper place and application. I’m not against anyone owning a carbon fiber or electric violin either. But as the owner of a fine and rare masterpiece, one should be a caretaker of sorts and preserve the condition and integrity of the instrument for future generations. Just my opinion.
April 16, 2021, 6:00 AM · John, if a Stradivari violin had its original pegs,(which none do as far as I know) most high-level violin restorers and preservationists would probably recommend that if the violin is being used, different pegs be installed, and the originals set aside for posterity, rather than being subjected to the wear and tear of regular use. Since pegs are "wear items" which are commonly replaced, non-original pegs have come to have about the same level of acceptance as a non-original bridge or set of strings.

It can be argued that the geared pegs are actually better for preservation of an instrument, since the wear on the peg hole is reduced, compared to friction pegs, and they put less of a wedging force on the walls of the pegbox. Their use also does not preclude re-installation of conventional friction pegs if so desired. In other words, it's easily reversible.

But if ones primary objective is preservation of a fine and rare masterpiece violin, it should be kept in a climate-controlled museum environment and never played. Everything else involves some sort of compromise. There is one Strad that I worked on early in my career which has had so much wear in the interim, that I didn't even come close to recognizing it when I saw recent photos.

April 16, 2021, 7:21 AM · For an upscale instrument, do the addition of a Bois D'harmonie tailpiece or geared pegs affect the value of a violin? Or is it recommended to revert to a classical setup before putting the instrument on the market.
Edited: April 16, 2021, 1:57 PM · I wouldn't think that either would affect the value of an upscale instrument. The value of expensive instruments is mostly determined via methods other other than what accessories are attached.

Unless one of the "accessories" should be a genuine Omobono booger, verified by DNA. Some people might get pretty excited about that! What person who worked in the Stradivari workshop never sneezed? :-)

Shouldn't we be putting greater focus on boogevidence?

Edited: April 16, 2021, 5:05 PM · On my bass and cello, the Wittner ultras without tuners are amazingly resonant and have solved some wolf tone issues. Not such a difference on viola and violin in my experience. I would never use fine tuners if they can get geared pegs. If I had to install a fine tuner tailpiece, I prefer the built-in style used by Dov Schmidt and Stradpet.
April 16, 2021, 6:56 PM · David, that definitely makes sense. I did not realize that geared pegs were easily reversible. Do you think they are a “better mouse trap” so to speak? Would you consider making them standard issue on your violins? What is the downside?
Edited: April 18, 2021, 12:13 PM · John, I don't use the geared pegs as standard issue. The main reason is low familiarity among players. For someone who has played for a long time, tuning with conventional pegs will have become almost automatic, and picking up a violin with pegs that work differently puts a new wrinkle into the matrix. ;-)

I also consider the geared pegs to be less visually pleasing (at least to me) than the pegs I normally use.

One POTENTIAL issue for those who are considering having them installed in their own violin: The geared pegs are quite a bit heavier than conventional pegs. The reason I put emphasis on the word "potential" is that some violins will sound better with heavier pegs, and some will sound worse. The same goes for tailpieces.

April 17, 2021, 4:07 AM · The extra weight may also be an issue for those of us that play without an SR. Glad you mentioned it David.
April 17, 2021, 5:14 AM · Elise, I was thinking that this could be overcome by tying helium balloons to the scroll. Think how festive that would look! :-)
Edited: April 17, 2021, 8:29 AM · I have put on custom PegHeds with real carved Rosewood and Ebony on my best violin and both of my violas. IMHO the weight difference and effect on the scroll is not noticeable. In fact, the improved resonance and tambre from being able to lose all fine tuners is very significant. Additionally, the ability to tune with normal technique from the pegs is much smoother and worry free. I also do not have to worry about the issues of potential damage to sound or table from slipped pegs - you know how it sometimes would take quite a while to get the instrument to play well after finding it in your case with popped pegs.
Oh, and I often play without a shoulder rest on viola and violin.
April 17, 2021, 8:34 AM · " Elise, I was thinking that this could be overcome by tying helium balloons to the scroll. Think how festive that would look!"

News Release:
'The priceless stradivarius violin was last seeing heading east over the North Sea....'

Edited: April 17, 2021, 2:16 PM · Attaching too many helium balloons to a violin is not without hazards. Ya don't want to go all crazy with it or anything, unless you do. ;-)
April 17, 2021, 3:02 PM · Helium is getting too expensive for violin scroll lifting. You can substitute with hydrogen balloons, just steer clear of open flames and sparks while playing ;)
April 17, 2021, 8:19 PM · Like all research-university chemistry departments, my department has several instruments that require liquid helium to maintain powerful magnets. MRI scanners likewise require liquid helium. No insulation is ever perfect, and these devices must be topped up periodically. The collective need for helium in research and in health care is stupendous. With help from a Federal funding stream for this purpose, we have installed a device to recover and re-liquefy the escaping helium gas. Even though helium has become expensive, I don't expect the device to pay for itself -- the installation was also very costly. But we had to do it.
April 18, 2021, 3:37 AM · Dimitri, aren't hydrogen balloons reserved for the 1812 overture?
April 18, 2021, 8:47 AM · The atomic symbol for hydrogen is H, as everyone surely knows. A common joke among chemists (and perhaps others) is that it stands for Hindenburg.
April 18, 2021, 10:59 AM · Genuine Wittner tailpieces don’t jam in my experience. You can buy Chinese made knock offs for a 20th of the price of real one. These are a pain in the a...
Mechanical pegs are superb for the disabled and those who cannot tune with real pegs. They are much slower to use and, in my opinion, should never be installed in a professional level instrument. Pros prefer real pegs!!!

Cheers Carlo

April 18, 2021, 2:50 PM · I'm sure there are more pros that are using gear pegs and we just don't know it because we either aren't looking closely enough or we just can't tell. I'm sure we wouldn't have known that LA Phil Concertmaster Nathan Cole uses gear pegs on his Strad unless one of us was just that observant or he flat out told us as he has in a blog on his website natesviolin.com.

Furthermore, just because a peg has gears in it doesn't mean it's not a real peg. It just means it's not a friction peg. Geared pegs are a wonderful invention and if you want to use them then do so. If you don't want to use them then don't. Simple as that. There's no harm in putting gear pegs on your instrument if that's what you want to do. It's your instrument. No one else is playing it except you so who cares?

April 18, 2021, 8:19 PM · I have a Wittner tail piece with fine tuners and I love it. I should have done it 30 years ago. Tuning is a breeze and the violin sounds good. Apparently the only reason more professionals don't do it is pride. For me, it's wonderful. I like to be spending my very limited time practicing, not tuning.
April 19, 2021, 7:34 AM · I read somewhere that David Kim has gear pegs in his violin. But I also read that he has his own antique violin as well as one that is on loan to him from the Philadelphia Orchestra (Kim is the CM). So first of all I can't find chapter-and-verse to confirm that Kim has gear pegs, and therefore I cannot also determine which (if either) violin.

Chuck Herin, who founded PegHeds, says that he has never had a customer ask their gear pegs to be switched back to friction pegs. And they've installed many hundreds of peg sets in their shop in South Carolina, and Herin claims that many of the instruments have been quite rare and valuable antiques.

April 19, 2021, 9:46 AM · I have mentioned this before: while I do not mind what others use on their violins, I do not like how limited these (possibly factory made?) pegs are regarding classic aesthetics, being too overly utilitarian vs the beautiful artisan pegs one can find elsewhere, and that IMHO better match many good instruments. With good pegs and a good luthier, there is almost "never" a need for geared pegs. However, there are indeed cases where the modernity and ease of use of geared pegs may be super helpful-especially with some medical issues. But in my view, it is a compromise, made to solve a bigger problem, and should not be the norm for most instruments, be it for beginners or professionals.

Each to their own as usual. I do not mind it if your modern pegs help you make the music you love! Walk your own path-just be aware that good working pegs do indeed work very well. Do not be offended, or feel challenged, as that is not my intent. If a pro uses them, good. If you do, great!-but make sure it is a solution you absolutely need, as there are also advantages to tuning the traditional way.

Stay safe, and happy practicing/peg turning.

April 19, 2021, 3:07 PM · Adalberto, I like your attitude. These strange new pegs have been a godsend for me but I'm just a retiree doing a hobby.
Edited: April 19, 2021, 3:55 PM · Adalberto,
The Peghed people could mount your existing peg "handles" on their geared peg shaft so that they look like the originals. They also have shafts in different colors to more closely match the original wood.

I had this done for two of my violins and one of my cellos. But not liking the delay nor the higher cost of Pegheds, I started to use the Knilling and Wittner pegs which were half the cost and arrived a few days after ordering from ebay.

I must say I really liked dealing with Chuck Herin at Pegheds, but since I ended up repegging 14 instruments for myself and other family members, cost began to matter. From the distance of player's eye to peg I cannot detect the difference between an ebony peg handle from Pegheds and a black plastic one from Knilling - and their functioning is identical.

Edited: April 20, 2021, 8:10 PM · Adalberto, I agree with you that a well-made violin with proper regular professional care should have pegs that turn easily and work properly. But that's expensive. On the other hand, gear pegs are not that expensive (the cost of three or four violin lessons) and Wittner tailpieces with four built-in tuners are even cheaper. Still others live in places where there are no luthiers to visit.

You mentioned aesthetics and that's a very good point, and I wanted to follow up with my own experience in that regard. I have three violins (including my daughter's violin) with gear pegs of three different brands: Wittner Finetune Pegs, Knilling Perfection Pegs, and PegHeds. For function alone, Wittner Finetune pegs are the best, far and away. I mean they work perfectly. From the audience you cannot tell they're plastic.

However, up-close, when you are holding your beautiful violin in your hands, Wittner Finetune pegs are decidedly unattractive. The heads of the pegs are kind of chubby because that's where the gears are in the Wittner pegs. However, that's where PegHeds are superior. Chuck Herin's peg design terminates in a rectangular steel stud (tenon). These can be fitted with composite (black plastic) heads, or they can be fitted with your wooden peg heads (hence the brand name, "PegHeds"). Chuck uses a jig to cut the mortise into your peg heads, probably with a drill press. I chose the composite heads for durability, and because the gears are inside the shaft of PegHeds (the same for Knilling), the peg head can be slender and elegant just like real ebony pegs. It's hard to tell the difference without looking closely unless you really have a trained eye -- someone like David or Lyndon, and perhaps you too, can probably spot them right away, but I can't.

Now, one missing detail (as far as I know) is that the shaft of the pegs is always black. Normally you don't really see what's inside the pegbox too much but the little bit that protrudes from the pegbox is clearly visible. So if you have brown pegs (rosewood, for example, or jujube), even with PegHeds those must rest on black shafts, which might be deal-breaking for someone aesthetically. I believe it's only a matter of time, if it hasn't happened already, that the manufacturers come up with a medium-brown composite formulation for the shaft of the peg to ameliorate this issue.

April 20, 2021, 5:01 AM · The shafts of the PegHeds are offered in colors to loosely match the color of the wooden heads.
April 20, 2021, 8:09 PM · Oh cool, I did not know that, David. I suspected someone would have that by now, though, which explains all my hedging and waffling and weaseling. Not surprising it's PegHeds. I suspect Chuck Herin may have retired and transferred his business to his employees. Do you know anything about that? He was an innovator.
April 20, 2021, 9:04 PM · So just for my own curiosity. Do you still need to install tuners if you use pegheads, or any geared pegs? Or is that moot/redundant?
April 20, 2021, 9:36 PM · If you mean tailpiece tuners, no. Not even for the E.
April 20, 2021, 9:42 PM · Thanks, Cotton. Yep, that's what I meant.
Edited: April 20, 2021, 10:02 PM · To each their own-glad these are working out well for all of you.

I would indeed only make this compromise if I needed it for health reasons, but I would prefer the artisanal pegs, so would use my own wooden ones. However, the thought of "murdering" my pegs without needing to both made me laugh, and a bit nervous. Good to know-I really did not know this Pegheads product well, only the name, and wrongly assumed they were all a bit similar.

So my apologies to Mr. Deck, Mr. Victor, and all other fans of the product. Whatever helps your music and personal enjoyment of your instruments is fine. However, hard to convince me I personally "need" this technology, even though I am sure that for many of you it has been quite advantageous.

(I always thought the Bois d'Harmonie tailpieces were a more elegant solution, even though I do not own any. They are not as affordable as the geared pegs as far as I remember them, of course.)

April 21, 2021, 8:11 AM · Yeah, a wooden tailpiece with big metal prongs sticking out of it that requires you to bend around the instrument to perform a redundant function IS more elegant than tuning pegs built to look almost exactly like traditional pegs.
Edited: April 21, 2021, 6:45 PM · Negativity as usual. Whatever makes you happy.

Myriads of ways of saying "I disagree"-so many "creative" ways to state them offensively. Words matter.

Enjoy your pegs along with all your superior views. Glad these devices work for you.

Edited: April 22, 2021, 9:05 AM · Adalberto, if you are enjoying your wooden pegs, then that's perfectly fine! Traditional wooden pegs will always be the most beautiful even though I believe they have been surpassed by gear pegs in functionality. Also some violinists just enjoy the feel of how they turn and so forth. That's all perfectly wholesome.

About the fine-tuners, I still use one on my E string. The PegHeds do not have the same turning ratio as the Wittner Finetune, so I find it is still useful to make very quick, nanoscopic E-string adjustments. I can do the E-string adjustment with just the peg, but because it is on the "far" side of the peg box, I cannot do it quickly. On my viola I don't have any fine-tuners on the tail piece. My daughter has Knilling Perfection Pegs and these require the user to push in slightly to maintain the right tension on the pegs (even though if one forgets to do that the pegs will not slip -- an aspect of the peg design that I don't fully understand). For this reason she has fine tuners on both her E and A strings because she just hates tuning on the far side of the peg box. It is really her experience that leads me to advice people to choose Wittner Finetune Pegs if they want the best functionality, because Wittner pegs don't require any pushing-in.

April 22, 2021, 11:11 AM · I noticed on some photos a while back that if you don't have fine tuners, the strings tend to get worn on the nut. I suppose this is because peg adjustments are usually quite coarse. Some photos of fine tuners show the wear to be mainly on the bridge, but it's usually less, due to the more limited motion. I have Wittner Ultras with fine tuners but use them very carefully and don't get wear over the bridge.
April 22, 2021, 11:21 AM · Adalberto, He's just acting like his namesake.
Edited: April 22, 2021, 3:14 PM · The adjustment is the same whether you use the peg or the tailpiece. Machine pegs will wear your windings less than friction pegs because you will not spend so much time overshooting your intended pitch and filing the nut with the string. It's also a larger surface than the bridge, reducing the chance that you pull the windings apart on the playing length.

I'm really just teasing, but I guess it comes across passive aggressive as plain text.

Edited: April 22, 2021, 3:41 PM · Paul I think you overstated the cost of geared pegs.
Where I live the cost of violin lessons matches that in San Francisco ($60 to $100 per hour, according to internet posts). I can buy a set of Wittner or Knilling pegs on ebay for the low end of that range (and have done so) and since I install them myself - the cost of a set of pegs and the cost of a single lesson are the same.

Extra tools one might need are a 1:30 taper peg-hole reamer and a digital caliper both available on Amazon for half the cost of a SF lesson.
Been there, done that!

Before doing it myself I checked with my luthier and the price he stated was out of sight. But I suspect that back then he had never done one and didn't know how easy it was. The most time-consuming part of the installation is rounding the ends of the pegs after they have been cut to proper length (rounding is not an essential step, but definitely one I would want done for any expensive instrument and definitely one you would expect a professional to include for any instrument).

Those unfamiliar with geared pegs probably don't know this but Pegheds and Knilling Perfection Planetary pegs only need fit the pegbox holes at the "wing" (or "head") end of the peg shafts where they must seat perfectly: the narrow end of the peg shaft does not seat in the pegbox walls (it "floats" there). The Wittner pegs seat at both sides of the pegbox - but a 1:30 taper reamer creates holes at both sides of the pegbox for a perfect fit.

April 24, 2021, 1:59 AM · Andrew, if you have any experience with the Wittner pegs, I see that there are 2 models available for 2 sizes : 8.6 and 7.8.
Any idea what size fits standard modern violins ?
April 24, 2021, 10:27 AM · Can a new violin be made with mechanical pegs all on the 'near' side of the peg box (as on many electric guitars) - or would that remove too much wood, making it unstable? I guess one could make it wider on that side and possibly increase the length of the pegbox so that the pegs heads are comfortably spaced...

yes, I know it would take a bit of getting used to but its just a mechanical device after all isn't it?

April 24, 2021, 11:56 AM · Elise, they could make it but you probably would not be able to turn the pegs - too close together!
Edited: April 24, 2021, 12:20 PM · Julien, you should invest $10 in a digital caliper to accurately measure your current peg diameters at the peg holes. Wittner finetune pegs also come in a 7.2mm diameter. You should get the thinnest pegs that are not too thin for your current pegholes.

There is no standard for peg diameters, but thoughtful makers will make the diameters as slim as possible - BECAUSE -

1-peg holes get reamed out over time from the turning of pegs made from harder woods (like ebony) and eventually the shoulder of the peg will be in contact with the outer surface of the peg box and can no longer be seated to hold the string in tune. So a narrower peg hole in a new violin should last a player's lifetime. (Having peg holes rebushed can be expensive.)

2-The slimmer the peg, the less torque the wound string creates so the less force it takes to tune it.

These "rules" apply to friction pegs, but still you want to follow the rules for geared pegs BECAUSE -

if something goes wrong and the hole made for one of your geared pegs is too large you can try again with a larger peg. CAUTION - installing the Wittner pegs can be tricky because you have to FULLY seat them before removing them to cut the ends off. If you have not pushed the peg in enough you might ream
open the hole too much and not be able to use that peg - there is a little projection on the side of the peg that makes an indentation on the side of the peg hole; IT MUST BE SEATED!

When I have installed geared pegs, I have measured my new geared pegs at the diameter I want the holes to seat, then I mark at a slightly smaller diameter on my peghole reamer and ream the hole to that diameter. From that point on I go very slowly and check the fit of the peg for each hole VERY, VERY CAREFULLY!

I never had a problem installing Peghed or Knilling pegs - BUT the Wittners are tricky at the final fit. Nevertheless, I think they are worth the risk.

Edited: April 24, 2021, 3:28 PM · One advantage of the PegHeds brand is that they are available in a larger variety of diameters, so reaming the hole up to the next available size doesn't require the removal of as much original material.

But with whichever brand of geared pegs one chooses, I would still recommend having the installation done by a shop which has done it numerous times before. There's a lot that can go wrong with the installation of both geared pegs and friction pegs the first few times, and a shop which has already done installation of the geared pegs numerous times should now be able to do it quickly enough that they don't need to charge a lot.

One shop I know of which has done a chitload of the geared pegs, and also has stellar standards, is the Pasewicz shop.


April 24, 2021, 8:42 PM · thnks victor
April 24, 2021, 9:11 PM · "Elise, they could make it but you probably would not be able to turn the pegs - too close together!"
Perhaps you didn't read to the end ';)
Edited: April 24, 2021, 9:55 PM · I did, but I guess I ignored the end because you would have to double the length of the pegbox to be able to turn the pegs comfortably (enough room to fit your fingers in there).
Would you be able to reach that far?
Or, do they sell strings long enough?
Edited: April 25, 2021, 1:54 AM · A double-length headbox might cause problems for your desk partner, and to what advantage? What about a violin with no headbox at all, tuning done entirely on the tailpiece? Nigel Kennedy has an electric one
April 29, 2021, 10:02 AM · @Elise: I accidently found a picture of a violin with 4 mechanical pegs on the left side of the head:


April 30, 2021, 5:30 PM · That's a clever design.
April 30, 2021, 6:20 PM · Hey, well done Bo - so that wasn't so hard was it! I presume there is a gear mechanism on the other side, just like some guitars. I'm not sure what it has going against it, perhaps the owner does!
May 1, 2021, 9:10 AM · One hundred!
Edited: May 1, 2021, 9:58 AM · The only remaining question is which unrelated thread will be the next to be thread-crapped on by the pro/anti-mechanical peg mafia?
May 1, 2021, 10:32 AM · I was thinking maybe the gut-strings thread because someone said theirs don't stay in tune during a rehearsal and tweaking them up should be easier with gear pegs. Whaddya think?
May 1, 2021, 1:14 PM · The pro/anti-mechanical peg mafia is probably at least a smidgen better than the Subaru cult. (Yes, my wife is a member of that cult, and so is her sister.)
May 1, 2021, 2:16 PM · Is the Subaru-culting genetic?
May 1, 2021, 5:37 PM · Maybe not, since aside from my wife's sister, no one else in their extended genetic family owns a Subaru.

However, my step-mother, to whom I am not genetically related, has owned a Subaru. So the mystery deepens. :-)

Edited: May 2, 2021, 8:12 AM · Mike it's a mutation of the boxy-old-Volvo-cult. A lot of those in Ann Arbor, I'd wager.
May 2, 2021, 8:40 AM · I drive a boxy old Volvo, I can guarantee I would be the winner in any collision with whatever you are driving!!
May 2, 2021, 9:11 AM · The hood is going to the cogs: the 'pro/anti-mechanical peg mafia' seems to have all but kicked out the 'scaffold SR/let-it-all-hang out SR-less' brotherhood ...
May 2, 2021, 9:51 AM · Paul, Ann Arbor is a very strange town in which to live. It is often described as "72 square miles, surrounded by reality".

We don't have many old Volvos around here. Salt on the roads, used for de-icing and snow melting, is highly destructive to most metals used in the production of cars.

May 2, 2021, 10:30 AM · I had an old subaru once, I had to trash it because the exhaust pipe needed changing - it had the catalytic converter built in so the price was almost twice the value of the car!
Edited: May 2, 2021, 11:58 AM · catalytic converter for my Volvo was $500 installed, my neighbor has a Lexus SUV, it was $3000 to change the alternator, had to take off the whole front to access it. And they think technology is improving our lives!!
May 2, 2021, 11:28 AM · Oh, just you wait until they invent geared bridges, Michael!
May 2, 2021, 2:04 PM · How do we feel about bridges with pivoting feet? ;-)
May 2, 2021, 2:23 PM · What if it can go flat on command? Quadruple stops!
Edited: May 2, 2021, 9:17 PM · Lyndon I have a friend who has a collection of old Volvo and Mercedes cars, and you're right: Those things are tanks. And I agree with you about maintenance on fancy new cars. They do better with lower-end models, which is what I would buy. Most recent car purchase is a 2014 Hyundai Elantra, my wife's car. That's been a very reliable vehicle. I drive a 2006 Toyota Sienna which I bought from my in-laws when my kids were little. I'm still only putting about $500 a year into it, but I don't really have any kind of commute. I drive a 50-cc Honda moped to work, when I drive, and I get there in 5 minutes.

David when I was taking piano lessons in Ann Arbor (early 1980s) there were plenty of Volvos to be seen then. But yeah, 20 years of road salt later, maybe not so much.

Cotton they already have geared bridges for basses.

May 3, 2021, 6:23 AM · Paul, I've read that it's becoming more and more common for people to get rid of their cars when the warranty runs out, because they can be so expensive to repair. Mostly, this seems to be from expensive-to-diagnose and fix electrical glitches. I think my 2017 car has 47 different processors or micro controllers (and I don't know how many sensors), spread out all over the car, and needing to communicate flawlessly with each other.
Edited: May 3, 2021, 8:37 AM · Yep, I know. The bass players beat us to it again.

Cars are like everything nowadays... the more gadgets they install, the less time the average person will keep it before they simply throw it away.
DIY repairs are possible on modern cars—my dad does them—but it's not worth it unless you know a mechanic who will let you use his software.

May 3, 2021, 12:40 PM · My son replaced the giant battery in his Prius, but he need help to lift it in. Only cost him $900 vs. what the mechanics charge.

I, on the other hand just donated our 2001 Ford Escort to charity earlier this year rather than pay to repair it. Our other car is a 1993 Mercury Villager van with only 160,000 miles. Our mechanic tells us the Nissan engine in it is a good one, should get at least another 90,000 miles (sure hope so - I don't want to sacrifice being able to carry my car key in my pocket with my house keys).

Edited: May 3, 2021, 2:03 PM · Geared shoulder rests!!!

dun dun dun

May 3, 2021, 4:54 PM · Manually adjusted gears, or gears controlled by a microprocessor using input from load sensors and tonal sensors?
May 3, 2021, 9:51 PM · David I heard that the global shortage of chips is testing the supply chains of the auto manufacturers because they greatly underestimated demand, so production could be slowed for a year or more.

And Helen, shoulder rests are already geared. You turn the feet and dial in the height you want. Is that geared? Or merely screwed? LOL

Edited: May 4, 2021, 3:58 AM · Paul, automotive supply chain overall has been a mess. (That's my wife's profession.) Automobiles are assembled from parts made by a host of suppliers, many of them independent companies. When one supplier has a slowdown or temporary shutdown due to covid, even when their product is something as simple as a glovebox door latch, you can't make a car.

One can try to source this part from another supplier, but it may take a while for that supplier to be able to ramp up their production sufficiently and pass durability testing. And if and when they do, they too might have a covid slowdown or shutdown.

Another big problem is that formerly reliable methods of projecting the level of consumer demand for products, have not been working very well over the past year.

It's surprising how well things look from the consumer end, while behind the scenes, supply chain people are tearing their hair out.

May 4, 2021, 2:33 PM · Paul, they're screwed, not geared. All screwed up, as a matter of fact.
What violinists really need is SRs that screw directly into the violin, with gears that adjust the angle of the shoulder rest for the individual playing.
This would solve untold problems. (Untold because they're too elusive to be put into words... Mystery...)
May 4, 2021, 3:14 PM · All they need to do is invent a violin that plays itself, then we're all screwed!!
May 5, 2021, 9:21 AM · Almost worse Lyndon: software that can take one violin and make it sound like a section already exists. It was used here for Les Mis (I know the second violin section). Obviously, you need one really good violinist - 9 others are out of work.

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