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!
How hard is it to simply make the title a requirement for posting?
Please add a title to your post, it’s very difficult to access otherwise.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
I only have genuine Wittners.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"Don't you have to further adjust (ream?) the peg hole to insert geared pegs?"
The geared peg nuts couldn't pay me enough to recommend them, regular pegs work fine when properly set up.
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.
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).
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."
If regular pegs work fine, why did guitar players get machines a hundred years ago? Bassists TWO hundred years ago?
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.
Can anyone cite a top violinist (apart from themselves) who uses a Wittner tailpiece or geared pegs? Just wondering...
Elizabeth Pitcairn has the geared pegs in her Strad.
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.
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.
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.
Never had the least trouble tuning with traditional pegs. Personally, I would never entertain the notion of geared pegs for any of my violins.
Diana Adamyan used a violin with (what looked like a) Wittner tailpiece for her 1st place-winning Bruch concerto in the 2018 Menuhin competition.
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.
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...
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? ;-)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nathan Cole uses Wittner pegs on his Strad.
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".
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.
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)?
99% of Strad owners use traditional pegs
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?
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
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.
I'm with Steve, John and Lyndon on this one!
According to their official Instagram account, the Wittner is on the violin he uses when he plays with the quartet.
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!
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.
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?
Among professional cellists, tailpieces with four integral fine-tuners are more the rule than the exception.
Among cellists steel core strings are more the rule than the exception. I would also use such a tailpiece with steel strings.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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. ;-)
The extra weight may also be an issue for those of us that play without an SR. Glad you mentioned it David.
Elise, I was thinking that this could be overcome by tying helium balloons to the scroll. Think how festive that would look! :-)
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.
" Elise, I was thinking that this could be overcome by tying helium balloons to the scroll. Think how festive that would look!"
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. ;-)
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 ;)
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.
Dimitri, aren't hydrogen balloons reserved for the 1812 overture?
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
Adalberto, I like your attitude. These strange new pegs have been a godsend for me but I'm just a retiree doing a hobby.
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.
The shafts of the PegHeds are offered in colors to loosely match the color of the wooden heads.
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.
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?
If you mean tailpiece tuners, no. Not even for the E.
Thanks, Cotton. Yep, that's what I meant.
To each their own-glad these are working out well for all of you.
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.
Negativity as usual. Whatever makes you happy.
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.
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.
Adalberto, He's just acting like his namesake.
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.
Paul I think you overstated the cost of geared pegs.
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.
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...
Elise, they could make it but you probably would not be able to turn the pegs - too close together!
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.
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.
"Elise, they could make it but you probably would not be able to turn the pegs - too close together!"
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).
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
@Elise: I accidently found a picture of a violin with 4 mechanical pegs on the left side of the head:
That's a clever design.
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!
The only remaining question is which unrelated thread will be the next to be thread-crapped on by the pro/anti-mechanical peg mafia?
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?
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.)
Is the Subaru-culting genetic?
Maybe not, since aside from my wife's sister, no one else in their extended genetic family owns a Subaru.
Mike it's a mutation of the boxy-old-Volvo-cult. A lot of those in Ann Arbor, I'd wager.
I drive a boxy old Volvo, I can guarantee I would be the winner in any collision with whatever you are driving!!
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 ...
Paul, Ann Arbor is a very strange town in which to live. It is often described as "72 square miles, surrounded by reality".
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!
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!!
Oh, just you wait until they invent geared bridges, Michael!
How do we feel about bridges with pivoting feet? ;-)
What if it can go flat on command? Quadruple stops!
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.
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.
Yep, I know. The bass players beat us to it again.
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.
Geared shoulder rests!!!
Manually adjusted gears, or gears controlled by a microprocessor using input from load sensors and tonal sensors?
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.
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.
Paul, they're screwed, not geared. All screwed up, as a matter of fact.
All they need to do is invent a violin that plays itself, then we're all screwed!!
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.