Metal vs wooden tailpiece
I have violin made by german luthier's manufacture in 1922, I bought that beautiful instrument one year ago. I am thinking about changing tailpiece, someone put metal tailpiece to this instrument, with all fine tuners.
But I am thinking about wooden one, because I think it fits better to the older instrument (my wife has violin made in 2006 by luthier - great instrument, also with metal tailpiece).
What do you think about difference? I prefer darker fuller sound, I am still experimenting with strings, now I use Dominants, but looking forward to try Warchal strings.
And what do you think about weight? My instrument is heavier than my wife's. But I have bigger chinrest (don't know the name of type but it is over tailpiece, she has small one), but I think it is not just this part.
Is metal lighter or heavier?
What about your experiences?
Do you mind going without fine tuners?
I never heard of anything other than a wood tailpiece. It is certainly possible to have four fine tuners with a wood tailpiece.
IMHO wood with built in fine tuners.I play in orchestras that use varying a tuning- 440, 441, and 442 and have to constantly retune. I use Dov Schmidt harp tailpieces in ebony, rosewood, and boxwood. I know others that like Fritsch brass. Many find the composite Wittners sufficient.
There certainly have been aluminum tailpieces (Wittner), and composite/CF, maybe even just plastic (Akusticus?), but I have always gotten better sound with wood.
The "standard" Wittner tail piece that has the four built-in fine-tuners is made of a synthetic composite material. It's the same material they use for their chin rests and the heads of their gear pegs. I would be floored to learn that a blind test can discriminate between the sound of the violin with this composite tail piece compared to a wooden one.
You might well be floored! I had no ax to grind for wooden tailpieces.
Wittner comes in both metal and composite, both sound worse than wood.
Which tailpiece sounds best can vary from one instrument to another, and according to ones individual taste in sound. Just like string choices.
Yep, Wittners are very popular with cellists.
Well, maybe so, I have not done a blind comparison with one violin, so I'll defer to y'all who, I'm assuming, have. (That is, I hope this isn't merely one of those "pros know" situations.) But usually you see the composite tailpieces just on student instruments anyway. There does come a time for most violinist when they leave their four fine tuners and cleave to their gear pegs. :)
At first thank you all for lots of precious informations, much appreciated.
Off one of my violins came an ebony tailpiece with 4 very large tuners. That combination weighed 42 grams. I drilled holes in a $3 metal tailpiece with built in tuners that ended up weighing 22 grams. The boxwood tailpiece without tuners weighed 12 grams. I also drilled holes in a metal tailpiece on my cello. I cannot speak about the difference in tone with authority, I'm not that good.
If you want a wooden tailpiece with fine tuners, look at Dov Schmidt's catalogue – he has a large range of options there!
@ Aditya Chander thanks :) I will look on them
Paul, it's pretty well-established that the tailpiece does affect the sound, and it stands to reason -- it's directly connected to the strings, near the bridge, and vibrates with them. Contrasted with the pegs, which are behind the nut, so don't have as much of an impact.
Martin, I have personally installed 11 Peghed and Knilling geared peg sets and 2 Wittner Easytune sets - (thats a total of 53 pegs because one instrument was a 5-string violin). Chuck Herrin, who designed and patented the Peghed design licensed Knilling to use that design. The Peghed design has a gear ratio of 4:1; the Wittner, 8:1. The only time these ratios are annoying is when you install new strings and have to keep cranking and cranking as opposed to the 1:1 ratio of standard pegs.
I don't have any qualms about installing the geared pegs, if a client requests it. Along with the potential advantages already mentioned, they have the potential to decrease wear and stress on the pegbox, if one is coming from a conservationist viewpoint.
I wonder: how many of your customers have requested geared pegs when they commissioned a violin, so far?
Very few so far, maybe three in total. People are used to what they're used to, and there's quite a bit of resistance to change in the violin world.
When using a tailpiece without integral fine tuners isn't it important to maintain a 6:1 ratio of vibrating string lengths fore and aft of the bridge? For that reason my luthier changed the fine tuner on my E-string to the short Hill-type (?), with the other strings anchored directly to the wooden tailpiece. I think that may have resulted in truer harmonics. The Hill-type tuner requires a loop-ended rather than a ball-ended string which seems to limit the choice considerably. I'm currently using Evah Pirazzi but my luthier also recommends Golden Solo.
David, Han N., I'm one of those old violinists resistant to change. It took me a long time to try out the synthetic strings, although now I generally stay with them, but I'm still always looking for ones that sound the most like gut. As for metal tailpieces, and geared pegs, I have an irrational reaction to the idea of more metal parts on the instrument. I had a violin with a metal tailpiece, once, and when I replaced it with wood, the sound was warmer and richer.
Steve, before switching to geared pegs I used Hill-style E string tuners. I found I could usually pop the ball out of the loop if I had accidentally bought the wrong E string.
it should be pointed out that the actual number of people recommending geared pegs are actually a small minority of very vocal posters, almost everyone else is using traditional pegs.
Andrew - I never thought it through before but I can see the sense in getting the after-length of the A string to resonate with the open E and harmonics of E. But in that case the after-length of the E shouldn't matter too much, there being no higher strings for it to resonate with!
I use knilling pegs on my cello, spare chinese violin, and electric violin and viola. I beleive the exchange to be better tailpiece resonance due to less parts and a cleaner transfer of vibrations through to the saddle with a slight loss of resonance in the (imho less important) peg box and scroll. The weight difference is pretty insignificant and is not in the plane of the wood sides of the box, but perpendicular. I do not believe that it is enough to affect the resonance of the neck and is most logically less of an impedance than the string to tailpiece interface that IS clearly resonating close to and between the bridge and saddle contact points
That said, I have yet to pull the trigger on installing them on my 1892 Benzinger and 1926 Roth as I don’t trust myself to install them on my beloved old ones. I was very sorry about that the other day when the temp change popped three pegs loose- probably more dangerous than the installation.
My experience switching tailpieces is mainly limited to cello, because players' opinions regarding what they expect to see aren't as strong there. In cellos, tailpiece and hanger can make a huge difference, and my cellist Hersh partner and I usually spend several days figuring out what works best for a cello, working back and forth among string, bridge, post, and tailpiece changes. One point that's come out of that is that it's not a clear choice what tailpiece to use until it's actually tried on the specific instrument, so it's impossible to make a specific general recommendation.
Definitely NOT saying geared pegs and harp tailpieces for all. Michael is absolutely correct. Each instrument, player, climate, playing style, and setup (...) is different as is the subjectivity of what is good sound and good playability. Everyone weighs the trade-offs differently. Opinions should always be taken with a grain of salt
Lyndon wrote, "it should be pointed out that the actual number of people recommending geared pegs are actually a small minority of very vocal posters, almost everyone else is using traditional pegs."
Also not a single customer has sold their violin to anyone else, perhaps because of the pegs!!
I don't know if it's true , but on the subject of metal on violins . I heard that Strads have a nail driven through the top block into the heal !!!
Three nails actually. That's just how it was done then. But all Strads have had those nails removed and the necks glued into mortises, as it's done now.
Actually the real reason no one changes their mechanical pegs is that they are glued in, often with super glue, and you'd practically have to destroy the pegbox to remove them, which will happen when inevitably the pegs fail of old age, as all mechanical things do. Also you'll need to bush the pegholes as they've probably been reamed out too big to fit the mechanical pegs.
A number of inaccuracies there.
One of the nice results of people using standard tools to standard specs: the two sets of mechanical pegs I've fit were direct drop-ins---if the player didn't like them, all I had to do to put the original pegs in was take the old ones out. The pegs come in a range of sizes, up to and including "these holes really need bushing".
That's great that you do it that way but amateurs think they can fit them themselves and the manufacture specs actually recommend gluing them in place. They also don't have the option of buying all the sizes so often fit the largest size, reaming out the holes for no good reason to fit.
David had it right already with "a number of inaccuracies there".
I tried geared pegs on my viola (shoulder problems made tuning regular pegs difficult). After about a year, I had them restored to standard, and now use a tailpiece with integrated tuners.
Lyndon, I think it's rather unfair referencing amateurs in this specific instance, since EVERY time amateurs attack their violins, the violin is in danger, and you can say that about any category of repair. The problem is not pegs, it's amateurs.
My philosophy for changing things is "don't", if it already works well with no problems. In view of my zilch woodworking skills if it ever did come to pass that I felt I should go along the geared pegs road I'd make sure the job was done professionally by a luthier - as I did a few weeks ago when a broken bridge needed replacement, the result turning out to be truly wonderful.
Using glue to lock in Knilling or Peghed pegs was recommended to me by Chuck Herrin, inventor of that design and I did that using superglue with 45 pegs (including one 5-string fiddle). So far, since I started these installations 7-10 years ago only two pegs have slipped in use and had to be reglued - no problem unless you happen to be performing at the time. My concern about allowing the Peghed design to self-tighten in the peg holes was that it might require heavy tools to remove the pegs someday - also the threaded connection to the pegbox walls could continue to self-thread the walls and thus slip slowly. I bought a pack of small superglue "one-shot" tubes and carry one in each instriment case for emergencies (none have been used so far).
Lyndon, the last time you went off on one of your tirades against gear pegs, I asked my luthier whether they're easy to remove and he said it was no trouble -- not quite as easy as putting them in, but not difficult at all. He installs almost entirely Wittner pegs.
@Paul, I don't recall which species I had. When my luthier gets back online after the holidays, I'll ask him. He's sure to remember, because tho he had no problem removing them, no professional likes having to undo a good piece of work.
Like I said incompetent amateurs are super gluing the mechanical pegs in. And gluing in the pegs is recommended by the manufacturers. This is not restoration, it is butchery.
And like Michael said, ANY violin work performed by incompetent amateurs is risky, including the fitting or replacement of conventional pegs.
I used an alumnium Wittner on my viola for manyyears, until the screwthreads wore out. Tapping it with a fingernail gave a metallic ringing sound, so I coated the underside with silicone mastic. Heavy, though.
The Wittner installation notes say the following:
Just for the record here, I am not sure that heavier pegs are worse than lighter, and wouldn't want to make that claim until I'd tested in on the specific violin in question. I can easily extend from some other experiences that it might be a gain, tonally, and there's a logical model for that.
Michael, it shouldn't be too difficult to test the hypothesis by attaching a weight (say 20gm for starters) firmly to the scroll and see (i.e. hear!) what happens.
For those who are interested, luthier Chuck Traeger published some interesting findings about lateral resonance in necks and scrolls in double basses, which btw, often use REALLY massive brass hardware.
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