To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

So I got myself a violin. The banjoness of the banjo is starting to wear on me. My goal is to slowly transition to bringing the fiddle to sessions in about a year.

But I digress. The violin I got only has the one fine tuner, which supposedly is preferred by the better players, or so I hear. But everyone I see has four fine tuners. Is there a reason Irish players eschew the single tuner? At the very least it would seem easier to tune in a crowded, noisy bar with four fine tuners.

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

One tuner good, four tuners better.

No it’s got to do with the type of strings.

The E strings are metal or whatever with practically everyone. However the other strings used to be gut and they change so much on a daily basis that fine tuners are pointless. My violin teacher laughed and made me take them off after I‘d spent my pocket money on 3 of them.

Now with metal or synthetic strings for all 4, fine tune away!

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

It’s metal strings.

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

Hopefully this doesn’t post twice - I typed it out, then the post disappeared…

Anyway, I had the same question a few months ago.
I’ve recently picked up the fiddle again after a period of abstinence, and it was set up as you describe it - only one tuner on the E. Now I learned to play the fiddle classically as a child, and the instrument was set up that way when it was purchased, so I didn’t change it. I always understood that it was to do with sound quality.

The fact is though, I find it starts to become a bit of a pain when you’re going from home to the outside, to the pub etc, and playing in different places, and I was spending ages tuning on the pegs.
On consulting the internet, which evidently has nothing but highly accurate information on…(!), I purchased a Wittner tailpiece with the built in tuners for around 25 quid. I fitted it, and in all honesty, found no difference in sound quality, but a whole lot more convenience. This was the composite one, in the ‘wood’ look, which in actual fact, looks fairly realistic. They do a few different styles as well. I’m on Dominant strings all round, if that makes any difference.

I see no reason not to. After all, it’s much easier, and what’s to lose. Incidentally, I chatted to a violin maker recently while purchasing a bow about this subject, and he was of much the same opinion. If there’s any sound difference - and I don’t think there is personally - it’s countered by convenience.

Posted by .

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

The main argument against fine tuners is that they interfere with the ‘sacred’ geometry of violin design. On a properly set up violin, the afterlength of the string (from tailpiece shim to bridge) should be exactly 1/6 of the speaking length (from bridge to nut), so that it resonates at 2 octaves and a Vth above the open string note. The effect of this, as I understand it, is to increase the range of resonances, enriching the tone overall. This only applies, however, if the violin is perfectly in tune in the first place.

Most fine tuners protrude a few mm beyond the edge of the tailpiece. There are tailpieces with integral fine tuners that preserve the string length - but these are made from aluminium alloy instead of the traditional ebony, which presumably affects the tone in some small way and is doubtless frowned upon by purists. Another option is geared pegs, which allow easier and finer adjustment than the traditional tapered pegs.

In my own opinion, the detrimental effect on the tone of having fine tuners is very small when compared with other factors, (e.g. poorly fitted bridge, incorrectly set soundpost, old or poor quality strings) and being able to keep the instrument in tune is clearly of the utmost importance.

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

traditionally, most players avoided having 4 fine tuners because in the days of separate fine-tuners (like the ‘Hill-style’ tuners) which sit between the string and the tailpiece, having 4 fine tuners affects both the afterlength of the string and the weight of the tailpiece, which then affects the sound of the instrument, usually in a negative way. so, new playerswould start with 4 fine tuners, but would remove the lower 3 as soon as possible leaving only the E tuner, which was more-or-less required with a steel E. as a result, having 4 fine tuners became something associated with beginners.

nowadays we have Wittner-style tailpieces with integrated fine tuners, which have the same afterlength as traditional tailpieces and don’t affect the tailpiece weight since the tailpiece itself can be made lighter to compensate for the extra screws. with a Wittner-style tailpiece there is no disadvantage to having 4 fine tuners and no reason to switch to a single fine tuner.

unfortunately, some people who are used to the old ways will still look down on people with 4 fine tuners because they think it’s still a ‘beginners’ thing. this is nothing more than snobbery, but i have known players who switched to a single fine tuner for that reason alone. i think this is much more common in the classical world and i’ve never heard a trad fiddler player react that way.

as far as string type goes, i’ve never used gut strings but i do find the fine tuners are still useful with synthetic core strings for making quick adjustments, especially in an environment like a pub or village hall where things can go out of tune quickly.

Posted by .

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

Maybe it makes a difference - I don’t know - but I do know that when I’m good enough to know, I’ll worry about it then, and not now. In the meantime, four fine tuners for me.

Posted by .

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

With metal cored strings you’ll have a tough time trying to get it in tune without fine tuners, they really are essential unless you are using gut strings. It would be sensible to replace the whole tailpiece with a Wittner style one with built in tuners, they’re only about £15 and have a number of advantages over individual tuners.

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

Just reading the post above, I wondered about the geared pegs as well, but then read somewhere that it’s not that straightforward to fit them, and you have to bore out the peg holes slightly, as they’re thicker than normal ones.
They’re not exactly cheap either, and you can add the cost of a violin maker fitting them, as I wouldn’t dare drill into the top of my treasured fiddle…!

Posted by .

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

"With metal cored strings you’ll have a tough time trying to get it in tune without fine tuners, they really are essential unless you are using gut strings"

i used to know someone who claimed they tuned steel-core strings using only the pegs. i suppose it might be possible in theory if your pegs are very well fitted, but it seems like a bit of an unnecessary hassle to me!

Posted by .

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

Reminds me of that medieval drinking song:

Four fine tuners for me!
Four fine tuners for you!
Four fine tuners for me and you -
Four fine tuners will do!
(Huzzah!)

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

Forget the fine tuners and get the planetary geared pegs. The convenience is amazing.

Maybe keep the e fine tuner with them.

Posted by .

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

My S.O. has the planetary geared pegs on her fiddle, they’re great! I think she still has at least one or two fine-tuners also, for quick adjustments. It’s a very good-sounding fiddle, and doesn’t seem to suffer in tone or volume from the "belt and suspenders" approach to tuning adjustment.

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

I think the thing about fine tuners being for beginners came about in the days before synthetic strings. Gut strings were expensive, so you started out with steel. The cheap student fiddles supplied with steel strings had smaller diameter pegs which gave less pull per turn and were just about usable without tuners, but if you had a ‘proper’ violin it had to have fine tuners fitted. Then came the big day when your teacher deemed that you were good enough to justify the expense of gut strings. Off came the tuners and on went the gut. I still remember that day.

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

I told myself when I sold my renaissance lute that I wouldn’t deal with wooden peg tuners anymore and I aim to stick with that as much as I can.

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

well set-up peg tuners shouldn’t be that that difficult to use. if you find they stick or slip a lot it might be worth having a luthier take a look: a little adjustment to the fitting (or some peg paste) can make them much more pleasant to use. i don’t know what sort of fiddle you have, but cheaper new ones, as well as quite a few older ones, often come with _very_ badly fitted pegs.

that said, modern geared pegs seem pretty nice and i do hope they become standard one day. there’s a bit of resistance to them because of some guitar-style geared pegs that were popular in the early 20th century (i can’t remember the brand name - began with ‘C’ i think?) that turned out to break easily and even damage the pegbox, so i think some people are waiting for the newer planetary gear tuners to ‘prove’ themselves before switching.

Posted by .

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

The reason for ditching the fine tuners except for E is to help the violin resonate more. If set up perfectly, the "afterlength" of the strings (remaining string length from bridge to tailpiece) when plucked should sound a very high D (if you pluck the G string afterlength) A (D string afterlength), and E (A string afterlength), and then the E string has a fine tuner because it’s metal and thin, so not enough afterlength to make a B. E string is metal and thin and might break if you tune it at the peg, eyeball I’d the peg jumps further than your try to turn it.

The little high pitched notes in the afterlength resonate with the normal open strings to give more resonance and a more complex sound. Adding fine tuners shortens this bit of string, changing the pitch of the afterlength of each string and reducing resonance.

Also, fine tuners add weight to the tailpiece and that pulls on the bridge, reducing resonance even more, because it reduces how much the bridge can vibrate.

If you want fine tuners, get them fitted, as I’m sure you’re not overly worried about whether you’ve got absolute maximum resonance out of the fiddle (not terribly relevant of you’re mainly playing in sessions and not doing much solo stuff). Or possibly even better, geared pegs as mentioned above (if your luthier isn’t too snobby to fit them!) as that would maintain the afterlength and keep weight of fine tuners off the bridge. You can even get rid of the E string tuner if you have them!

Tuning with the wooden pegs can be tricky. If they’re too stiff, I pull them out and rub a 6B soft pencil on them to lubricate. You can also use peg compound for stiff or loose pegs, to a point… If they won’t stay in tune our won’t move at all, you’ll need a luthier to reshape the peg box holes, and if they have to do that, it might just be the same cost or cheaper to get geared pegs instead!

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

I’d add further to heydiddles post that without the fine tuners there is a certain stability of tuning that can be a revelation , the little things just don’t work and are not even designed to work on strings apart from the e . Get a Wittner tailpiece if you want the ability to tune in finely .
I use perfection pegs on my main fiddle but learning to tune from the pegs is well worth the effort ….

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

When I showed my fiddle to a professional violin restorer (also a trad player) a few years ago, he recommended two changes that he said would improve the tone: i. to swap the existing chin rest (which clamped to the bass side of the tailpiece, directly under the chin) for one with two clamping points, bridging the tailpiece; ii. to swap the ebony tailpiece with 4 fine tuners fitted for a Wittner alloy tailpiece. I cannot say that I noticed a drastic change, but the advice makes sense from a theoretical perspective. A chin rest that clamps either side of the tailpiece is clamped about the tail block, therefore close to an acoustic node, so there is little or no acoustic damping; with the other type of tailpiece, the clamping point is a potentially acoustically active part of the soundbox, so there is significant damping. The reasons for changing the tailpiece have been covered already.

As I have already said, I am not sure about the effects of swapping ebony for alloy - perhaps someone with a keener ear for timbre than myself would notice the difference. But the advice of a professional violin restorer is good enough for me. In a trade where historical accuracy is often paramount, his recommendation speaks volumes.

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

If you like the fine tuners, go for them. I recommend the internally geared pegs, though. Got them on four of my favorite fiddles. It’s been about four years, and I’ve had no trouble with them, other than that because of the fine increments of the gearing, it takes a bit more winding to re-string. I’m using Precisions/Praezisions strings for what it’s worth. The whole set up seems to be very stable, and quick to adjust, tuning-wise. Also takes off some of the stress if you have a fiddle with an old cracked/patched pegbox…

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

Although it is a popular belief, I have trouble with the afterlength argument, If the sympathetic resonance of the afterlength is so important, it can only help on certain notes (those with overtones that match the afterlength). This means that most notes do NOT get an advantage, which means there would be an unevenness of tone and volume across the instrument.
Mandolin players sometimes go to great lengths to muffle the afterlength overtones.

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

the way i’ve heard afterlength described by luthiers is that the resonance itself is not the actual purpose; rather the "tuning" of the afterlength is just a guide to getting the length that gives the best sound for the instrument. the total length of the string (sounding length plus afterlength) _does_ affect the sound of the instrument, but the precise best length depends on the instrument itself, and luthiers will usually judge that by the overall sound, not just the afterlength pitch. i understand it’s almost impossible to get the ‘correct’ pitch on all strings anyway, so it will always be a compromise…

Posted by .

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

"… the way i’ve heard afterlength described by luthiers is that the resonance itself is not the actual purpose; rather the "tuning" of the afterlength is just a guide to getting the length that gives the best sound for the instrument."

Intriguing. I’d be interested to know what, if not the resonances, makes a particular length from bridge to tailpiece optimal for tone, and why it should vary from one fiddle to another.

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

Afterlength tuning isn’t about resonances. Tuning it to a 5th above or the 1/16 rule are only to get you into the ballpark. The vibrating string is moving the bridge, the afterlength is trying to stop the bridge moving. The shorter the afterlength the more effect it has, so if you move the tailpiece towards the bridge the fiddle sounds softer, moving the tailpiece towards the end button gives the bridge more freedom and it sounds more aggressive.

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

That’s a witner tail piece , which we recommend. And the fiddler May rock your boat , but not mine :-) there is more to music than technique and speed…..

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

"The vibrating string is moving the bridge, the afterlength is trying to stop the bridge moving. The shorter the afterlength the more effect it has, so if you move the tailpiece towards the bridge the fiddle sounds softer, moving the tailpiece towards the end button gives the bridge more freedom and it sounds more aggressive."

Thanks, Mark M. So you might deliberately lengthen the tailgut/shorten the afterlengths to soften an overly agressive fiddle?

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

Yes, or go the other way to liven up a dull sounding instrument.

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

//And the fiddler May rock your boat , but not mine :-) there is more to music than technique and speed…..//

Will, that’s Michael Cleveland - yes, he’s best known for his fast and fiery playing, but he also plays some lovely slow waltzes too, with all the lovely true double stops and killer intonation.

He’s a true master fiddler :)

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

My Scott Cao 4-string had 4 Perfection pegs fitted, and had an E-adjustor too.

When I changed the E string, I removed the E-adjustor altogether, and it made quite a difference to the tone - it was much sweeter.

It was quite a surprise - I really didn’t think that removing the adjustor would make any audible difference, but it did.

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

Aye jim , I know , and I recognize his mastery of the instrument but his playing does not interest me personally. It’s a genre thing I’d say as the music that does interest me is traditional Irish , not Scottish or American or classical or even swing though I appreciate the playing of many fiddlers there is a certain something that I find in the fiddling of Bobby Casey or John Vesey or Paddy Canny that draws me in and entrances me and it’s not technique or speed though they might have both .
If I listen to Yehudi Menuhin playing Bach , that’s my definition of mastery and it’s because of the depth of expression he puts into his music , obviously there is speed and technique there , but the speed and technique is there with other fiddlers playing the same tunes but …… I’m a musician firstly not a technician so for me , it’s just my opinion , my personal tastes , and I know what I like and why .
Saying that mr Cleveland gets a wonderful tone from his fiddle and draws his bow far better than I ever will!! ( and doesn’t have those horrid little fine tuner yokes ) so is a good example of what a fiddle can sound like without them… rich and full

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

I noticed his bow hold first thing !! Carbon fiber 5 string !! Bet that’s not cheap !! Last a while though!!

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

You guys are still here? I got a new four fine tuner tailpiece that supposedly doesn’t change the after length. Possibly the Wittner. Now I’m just fussing over bowing.

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

don’t worry, there’s only about 4 or 5 different bow holds to argue about - you’ll be ready to start playing in a year or two for sure :-D

Posted by .

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

Yep the witner is what you want or perfection pegs and they are not cheap and require gluing in!!!
It does lead to a good joke when people notice they are glued in!! I just say I tuned it and then glued them in place so it’s always in tune :-)
Bow hold , well there is a fiddler here missing his bow hand and he plays very well !! And Martin Hayes told us about some accident he had that meant he played with the middle 2 fingers wedged in , no thumb involved!!
So whatever works for you , I use a variation between standard and baroque grip depending on whether I notice where my hand is !! :-)
For me the biggest lesson was to open my chest head up shoulders wide open and free And not holding the fiddle with my chin rather putting in in place and drawing my head back , hard to describe but easy to demonstrate .

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

//Carbon fiber 5 string !! Bet that’s not cheap !!//

Will, it’s selling for $US 5929 [£4490]+ tax (why the tax?)

There were a few of them at the Groton Fiddle Hell in 2010. We got someone to play a three wooden ones, plus that carbon fibre one, and not a single listener out of 7 could tell which was the CF one :)

It would be more difficult to do that test with the player, of course.

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

On bow holds - there are quite a few, as you all know. People often argue about which one is best, but the best one is the one that suits purpose, both now and in the future.

So, using that bow hold, you’d need to be able to use all bowing techniques, on the string, off the string, long bows, short bows, bowing at the tip, centre and frog-end, ricochet, ghosting, chopping and everything else. I’d say the general classical hold would work for all of these.

Theoretically, of course. Few players would use all of these techniques (or even know how to), but I suppose it’s fair to say that each has their own preference as to what hold is most easily manageable and sounds best, and also to be aware of both the advantages and disadvantages of an unorthodox hold.

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

I meant to say earlier on, about the planetary pegs - they really do make tuning easy (although expensive to get fitted). Just watch out for the Wittner (I think it was the 1st generation set) - they had a little bit of detent when you turned them, and didn’t have ‘infinite’ tuning like traditional pegs or the Knilling Perfections.

The later Wittner models were vastly improved, though, and solved that little problem. For both the Wittners and the Perfections, you might still need to push the peg in towards the box occasionally, as they can get a little slack (you can inadvertently exert a little pulling action on them while turning).

Or - just get the Wittner integrated tailpiece (as Mark M mentioned earlier), very light, and easy to tune from . Just bear in mind the main pegs will get stiff after a while if you don’t use them for tuning (although that might not matter to you).

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

Planetary pegs are great… until you break a string in the middle of a performance and need to wind a new one on in a hurry. Or want to adjust your soundpost, which involves repeatedly slackening and then re-tuning all four strings. Even with an electric string winder it gets pretty tedious.

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

//Planetary pegs are great… until you break a string in the middle of a performance and need to wind a new one on in a hurry.//

That’s true, Mark. Same deal as when you have to do a full string set change. It’s a nuisance.

Just a thought here (and I don’t have the fiddle to hand) - with standard pegs, you could slacken the string and the peg, then unwind the string by pulling on it, and letting the peg rotate by itself. Could you (theoretically) do the same thing with a planetary peg?

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

I think I’ve had only 2 students over the years come in with Planetary pegs. They were great for tuning, but I don’t recall having had to deal with a string breakage issue either.

I have swapped out the single tuner tailpiece for Wittners on every fiddle that I have - the expensive babies down to all my studio rentals, because of the terrific convenience. Tailpieces are better made now; integrated - and yes to using a Wittner. The Chinese knockoffs usually can’t turn more than one or 2 rotations and are a waste of money. In the US Wittners are only 20-$25.

Having played a lot of violins of every value over the years (under a million dollars for the most part, lol) I never noticed such a sound difference with the better made ones on at least, that I could stay in the "OMG I would NEVER…." camp. Whatever. I’ve had the "tailpiece talk" with other professional players/teachers in the classical world, plus a few luthiers. Some (it’s mostly the players) who do get a bit snobby about it, just make me laugh. Others are more inclined to agree that it probably doesn’t make any appreciable difference, and more honestly, admit they just don’t want to change the look of their instrument or be looked at with disdain by their colleagues…who also haven’t tried it either. Well…to each his own. :)

Thanks for sharing about the string length Mark, and WHY it can make a difference; however minute. I did not know all that beyond "it affects string length" which never made any sense as a reason by itself. So anyway I personally love integrated fine tuners, especially running a music studio… it makes quick tuning for all a dream, no matter what state of slip/stuck their pegs are in. :D

(Clever title! haha)

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

The perfection pegs are as easy as wooden pegs to tune in large increments, just pull it out and push it back in when you get close.

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

A couple of posters (like heydiddle) have suggested that fine tuners "weigh down the tailpiece" and reduce the bridge’s ability to vibrate. Do you know what the downward force on the bridge is on a violin? I didn’t, so I googled it. It’s between 16-20 pounds. The exact number depends on string tension (which varies with string type) and the angle of the string as it goes over the bridge.

Of course, there’s an additional downward force provided by the player’s bow, and I don’t know how much that is. (If you just let the bow rest on the string without pressing down, it’s about 2 ounces).

Fine tuners weigh what— half an ounce, maybe?

The other idea floated here is that the length of the tailpiece affects the bridge’s vibration. Maybe it does, but I don’t understand the basic physics of that. It wouldn’t affect the downward force of the string on the bridge (unless it changed the angle of the string over the bridge).

Finally, the third idea is that you want the string ends (between bridge and tailpiece) to resonate sympathetically. Again, don’t know if this is something which is audible, and if it is audible, I don’t know if it would sound very good (the resonating strings would have a very high pitch!) There are actually some mandolin players who put a dampener on the string ends because they DON’T want that resonance.

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

There are a few misconceptions there. First it’s not about tension or down force, it’s about inertia. You assume that because fine tuners are so light in comparison to the downforce from the strings they will have no noticeable effect? Each individual fine tuner weighs about five grams, so 20 grams for four. A mute only weighs 2 grams, yet has a pronounced effect on the sound.

Thinking about a mute might help understand what is happening with the tailpiece, because it is to all intents and purposes a big mute - it’s not a rigid anchor point like a mandolin tailpiece, it is a weight suspended between the strings and the tailgut. When the string vibrates it tries to move the tailpiece, but the inertia resists, sapping energy from the string. The heavier the tailpiece the more inertia and the more it damps the vibration.

To understand the effect of changing the string afterlength keep thinking of the tailpiece as a mute - imagine what would happen if you moved it right up next to the bridge - you’ve effectively got a 28gram mute on the bridge, absorbing all the vibration energy and not letting the bridge vibrate at all. As you move the tailpiece away it reduces the coupling between bridge and tailpiece, giving the bridge more freedom to vibrate and making the violin louder.

Afterlength tuning is a big part of voicing a violin, at least as important as soundpost adjustment. The weight of the tailpiece, its position and qualities of the individual violin all need to be balanced against each other to give the best possible sound. Even the tailgut makes a difference, a violin will get noticeably louder and harsher if you replace a nylon tailgut with a Kevlar one.

You are right that we don’t particularly want resonance in the afterlength, although on a fiddle they aren’t the same problem that they are on a mandolin, because we heve that suspended tailpiece which damps them out, whereas on a mandolin the string runs from a rigid tailpiece to the bridge with nothing else to absorb vibration, so it all goes into the bridge to create sound. The 1:6 string length ratio (which happens to give a note 2.5 octaves above the main string) is really only to get the tailpiece in approximately the right place before you adjust it. Ideally you try to land up with the afterlength set so that it plays a pitch that is in between two notes, so that it doesn’t resonate with any note on the chromatic scale.

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

Mark M - a slightly different question here. Does the afterlength at the peg end make any difference?

I ask, because on my 5-string, my 5th string is on the peg nearest the nut, on the left side of the pegbox, so in other words the strings/pegs 1,2,3,4,5 go in an anticlockwise direction.

Someone on another site brought this up - his 5th string is on the peg furthest away from the nut, on the LHS, so the afterlength is greater.

Would this make any difference to the sound?

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

It shouldn’t do, because the peg and the nut are both rigid, it is the interaction between the weight of the tailpiece and the bridge that has the muting effect.

I’m now puzzled as to how any why he has it strung that way, it seems totally illogical, and unless the 5th string runs outside the pegbox or something it will have to cross all the other strings to get to the end of the nut.

If it’s any consolation, I’m currently building a replica of a viola d’amore, with 14 strings and pegs - the pegbox is longer than the neck!

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

So, I’m curious. Is there a general consensus about whether planetary pegs do improve the tone of the fiddle?
I have fine tuners on my regular fiddle, and planetary on another very old one (1830s), but I’m not really sure if the planetary improved the tone on the old one or not. My regular fiddle, for ITM, is circa. 1890 German carved.

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

I don’t know if they improve the fiddle tone? But they make tuning very simple!! I never had fine tuners as I play on gut ( or synthetic) strings and just one tuner on the E .
For me the quality of strings is the most important factor .

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

Hi Mark,

As to the location of the 5th string, this is where one luthier put it (no idea who it was). In the pic the red circle shows where my 5th string is, and the actual 5th string is on the peg at the top left. Quite odd.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/4a1dyd6ruzhs61f/5-string-nearest-peg.JPG?dl=0

That viola d’amore project sounds mighty!

Tervs and Tunes - I don’t think planetary pegs make any difference to the tone at all. Maybe other people might.

The other thing about having standard pegs and using only the tailpiece tuners is that pegs tend to stick if they not used regularly.

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

That’s well wierd jim!! Looks like the D will wear away where it rests in the side wall. Why on earth would anyone set it up like that?
Regarding the pegs , perfection pegs are fairly new , I tuned from the wooden pegs for about 20 years after dumping the crappy fine tuners . The e even!!
The secret is either soap to lubricate or chalk to slow or peg dope or even pencil graphite . Then tuning is accomplished by going down and In one fell swoop turning and pushing in the peg . It’s either right. Or wrong ! In which case repeat ! It might sound tricky but it’s not , it’s easy as long as pegs fit and are lubricated .
For some reason this system is more stable , often the strings stay in tune with a reliability not available from the little fine tuners .
The witner allows for fine tuning from this position , but tuning from the pegs is a really good thing to do and iwhen you get the hang of it it could well be a revelation.
Use an aid to get to 440 such as an accurate ( Peterson) device or a tuning fork and once the home is in tune perfectly then it will open up and reverberate and be a pleasure to play .

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

It is weird. It’s not anything to do with the way the fiddle is made, only the way it’s strung. It’s defies logic, but I suspect the reason for it might be string lengths - a violin D string might not be long enough to reach the extra peg, while the bottom C would be a viola string, so a bit longer.

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

Well, the poster was on Facebook Fiddlers, and he didn’t mention who the maker was (which is good etiquette, I suppose), but he did say the reason was to allow the string to vibrate more freely. That doesn’t make any sense to me, as the string really only vibrates (audibly, at least) between the nut and the bridge, doesn’t it?

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

You are absolutely right. And even if you weren’t, the string isn’t going to vibrate at all when it’s rubbing up against the cheek of the peg pox like that. I think he’s just making excuses.

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

Makes sense mark as violin strings are cheaper …

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

Tuning that puppy would drive me batty, Jim! haha

Have you ever just switched them, or is it one of those…if it ain’t broke don’t fix it things…?

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

Diane, changing strings on the Bridge Lyra 5-string electric is easy, as the pegbox is hollow.

Once the string is slackened enough to remove from the tailpiece, there’s no need to keep unwinding it.

You just pop the ball-end through the gap in the pegbox, between the other strings, and unwind it that way.

Much faster!

As for changing the strings on the acoustic 5-string, think of it as an art form :)

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

I meant more that the strings aren’t in the right pegs per natural placement in the left side. THAT would make me crazy. :D

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

Diane - you mean more crazy? :)

You get used to it. If you tuned the strings in order, highest first, then the pegs would tune the same strings as on your normal 4-string.

Of course if you tuned to rolling 5ths, starting from the lower end, then you might confuse the C string with the G string as it’s the closest peg to you.

I’m finding there’s not a lot of music that really needs that bottom C, unless you write your own stuff.

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

I stand corrected. More crazy indeed!

But not as much as someone who plays a FIVE string fiddle. I just don’t know if it’s worse that being a violist or not. :P

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

Well, the 5-string is a bit of a hybrid of violin and viola in pitch range, but tonally it’s still a violin. No one could tell the difference by between the two, just by listening.

Actually there was a guy, an ex-sesh member called Michael Gill, also known as Llig on here, who played both violin and viola at his local session.

He reckoned the viola filled in the gap in the mid-range, between say, fiddle and guitar.

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

So how about someone who plays a 5 string viola?!

Re: To Fine Tune ‘er Or Not To Fine Tune ‘er

Oh, all of their fillings are now missing :)

There was a full-size 5-string viola at one of them at one the Fiddle Hell events a few years ago. Quite powerful instruments too, with a deep rich tone, tuned F2 C3 G3 D4 A4 low to high.