Pernambuco Violin Tailpieces

Edited: May 18, 2021, 1:46 PM · Has anyone tried a Pernambuco violin tailpiece and what might be the acoustic attributes be compared to ebony, rosewood, or boxwood?
Would it be more of a brighter & resonant, or a darker sound? No notable difference?

Replies (13)

May 18, 2021, 12:05 PM · They are similar in mass to ebony, I believe. Heavy and stiff anyways. I think using pernambuco for a tailpiece is a right waste; it seems like a gimmick ("hey, the best bows are pernambuco, so the best tailpieces must be, too!"). The species of wood has very little bearing on the tonal effect of the tailpiece.
May 18, 2021, 12:08 PM · Since pernambuco wood is an endangered species, why would anyone want to add an unnecessary use when it’s already difficult to get enough for good bows?
Edited: May 18, 2021, 1:46 PM · I certainly would not advocate cutting down
pernambuco trees. I'm sure bowmakers have wood that is too small for bows that could be used for something functional rather than disposing of it.
Native American Indians utilized every part of bison, nothing was wasted, due to their great reverence for the animal. Some of the larger online shops already carry these tail pieces. I doubt if it was made from wood that was long enough to make violin bows from. The very bows that I would dare say, most of us already have.
Edited: May 18, 2021, 1:32 PM · The pernambuco for good bows is apparently a very-strict selection of wood, so lots of wood leftover to make fittings from. I say good that it is not wasted. My daughter's good cello came from the maker with a pernambuco tailpiece and pegs, rather beautiful medium-brown wood that's lighter in color than most bows. When we tried a set of higher-tension strings once, I needed to open up the hole in the peg just a bit so the heavier-gauge C string would go through, and was pretty surprised at how tough it is.

https://ksviolins.com/cello-gallery/

May 18, 2021, 12:54 PM · Basic arbitrage-- slice up Peccattes into 4 1/2" pieces to suit the whims of violinists.

j/k

While my own sample size is vanishingly small, I doubt very much that the tailpieces I've seen could have been turned into anything more valuable.

Edited: May 18, 2021, 1:47 PM · @ Stephen. I don't really understand what you're saying....
"I doubt very much that the tailpieces I've seen could have been turned into anything more valuable"?

I'm not advocating cutting up precious bows, but the leftover wood from bowmaking and I said nothing of turning existing tail pieces into anything else.

May 18, 2021, 1:58 PM · Precisely-- I was speaking of the source wood.
Edited: May 18, 2021, 2:17 PM · Somehow I doubt the factories churning out these tailpieces go to the great inconvenience of soliciting irregular offcut wood from luthiers and wood shops. Even here in North America I see that companies dealing in wood will rather toss it in the trash and buy good pieces in bulk than recycle, donate, or sell imperfect stock. Can't imagine the situation being better in India or China.
May 18, 2021, 2:22 PM · I've heard only about 1% of pernambuco is good enough for bows, so that other 99% should have some uses.
May 18, 2021, 4:12 PM · There are many uses for exotic tropical woods. My son's business for the past 25 years has been making and selling beautiful dringking vessels from many such woods (as well s mor mundane ones). This instagram page ( https://www.instagram.com/goodlywoods/?hl=en ) shows many examples - and the first figure is a video showing the loading of many wood varieties in of his trailer in Phoenix, Az prior to the 5 hour return trek to his workshop in the mountains of southern New Mexico. But I have never seen a vessel he has made using pernambuco.

One of the 4 Bois d'Harmonie violin tailpieces I have is made of pernambuco. I tried it as well as the ebony, boxwood and rosewood pieces on all 4 of my violins before deciding which fiddle got which tailpiece (that was a busy couple of days). The pernambuco sounded worst (deader) on 3 of the violins. Fortunately on the 4th violin it was the same as all the others - so that violin wears the pernambuco to this day (probably 20 years later).

I saw stacks of pernambuco bow blanks in the 5-car garage under the Frank Passa's house in Santa Rosa about 21 years ago. (Literally STACKS!) There were 3 different types (as I recall) violin, viola and cello. There had to have been a tremendous amount of usable scrap remaining after cutting those pieces as implied by some previous posters here.

May 18, 2021, 4:29 PM · Pernambuco is a very good wood that’s dense and strong and has a good appearance without needing any dye or stain to get a nice color. It seems to carry vibrations well, a crucial reason for its prevalence as a bow making wood.

I have seen some excellent fittings made from it. There are some players who absolutely swear by it. I don’t know if it’s any better than rosewood or ebony of the same mass—it would be challenging to determine. I see no problem with trying it, but I see it as an adjustment on the micro level.

May 18, 2021, 8:06 PM · I have a Bois d'Harmonie pernambuco tailpiece on one of my fiddles and I was pleased with the result. It brightened the sound and seemed to give it more impact.
May 19, 2021, 3:45 AM · Pernambuco fittings will certainly affect the sound of instruments. You have to experiment and be willing to take a loss or reap the benefits, but when it works well, pernambuco for tailpieces or fittings can smoothly brighten the tone of instruments in a radiant and sunny way, allowing more color modulability, along with retaining focus. When it dosen't work, it just sounds brighter, brittle, less projecting, and sometimes harsher.

I think one must study the individual instrument and find an ideal balance of total mass of fittings and ideal tailpiece length, more or less mass, which can change results widely. Out of all of the fittings, tailpieces/tailgut affect tone/timbre the most, followed by e-adjuster type, chinrests, pegs, then endpin.

Pernambuco, along with other fittings types, in conjunction with other tone optimizing accessories, titanium hardware, string bean, varying tailguts, contribute to that tonal whole. I had just recently made the decision to cut down (reduce 25% of the weight) of a large strad model pernambuco chinrest to great tonal balance on a primary violin that has all pernambuco fittings. Prior to that, it muted the instrument, so I subbed out the pernambuco chinrest for a smaller and lighter boxwood one. When I reduced the weight, the cut down pernambuco chinrest seems to help the total response better.

I just did a hour long presentation on this very subject for the afm earlier this month, regarding ebony, boxwood, rosewood, pernambuco, and set-up, I'll edit the workshop share it soon.


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