Why do most full-size violins have only one fine tuner on the tailpiece?
This is a question I get a lot from young students, whose smaller violins typically have four fine tuners, one for each string. The fine tuners are located on the instrument's tailpiece, and when they are wound or unwound, they change the pitch of the string only a little bit - thus "fine" tuner. The turn of a peg makes a much more radical change of pitch, and making it more difficult to "fine tune" a string with a peg.
The reason a smaller violin has fine tuners on all strings has to do with the fact that the strings are shorter, so even a little tightening or loosening of the string makes a big difference in pitch. For this reason, tuning a small violin with pegs can get ridiculous! So the small violins are better suited to fine-tuners.
When it comes to full-size violins, the E string is the most tightly-strung, so a little tightening or loosening goes a long way. That's why it requires a fine-tuner. However, the other strings have more leeway, so they can be fully tuned with pegs.
But let's admit something: this has never been easy. I personally think that it would be okay, even beneficial, for violinists to embrace new technology over the 400-year-old standard of wooden pegs that are simply jammed into a wooden hole and stay there by means of friction. Pegs slip, they are imprecise by nature - they are difficult.
To me, this means that it's okay for full-size violins to have fine-tuners on all four strings, and it's also okay to get geared pegs, such as Wittner pegs. Why? Such accommodations make tuning easier general, and they allow the violinist to bring each string to the precisely correct pitch with a lot more ease. And for those who say, "it's easy to tune the traditional way!" I'd say, yes, it's easy for someone like me to tune this way because I've been doing it for decades. But it can be a barrier for young and even intermediate students. Heck, if you have bad pegs, it just keeps creating trouble, even for a pro.
Personally - yes, I just have one fine-tuner, on my E string. I'm super happy to report, though, that two of my students bought full-size violins within the last month, and those violins simply came with geared pegs. It is SO much easier for them to tune their violins now, and to tune them with a high degree accuracy.
How many fine tuners do you have? Do you wish you had more? Or less? Do you feel it's easy to tune with pegs, or not really? Do you have geared pegs? Would you get them if you could? Do you feel it's it okay to have four fine tuners on a full-size violin? Please participate in the vote and then share your thoughts and experience with fine tuners and pegs.
Many thanks to Elise Stanley for the idea for this week's vote. If you have an idea for the Weekend Vote, please e-mail me. I welcome your ideas!
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