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Fine Tuner question
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DanielB
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June 8, 2012 - 6:56 am
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I have noticed a lot of players don't seem to like the idea of the fine tuners.  I don't understand this.  Sure, it is possible to tune a stringed instrument by pegs alone, but it isn't always easy, especially not on-the-fly while in the middle of playing a piece.  I would usually think that easier/quicker tuning would be considered a plus for performance.

I figure it probably isn't a weight issue, since they are pretty light and are back near the balance point fulcrum of the instrument.  Now, I can understand why violins don't usually use geared metal "machine head" tuners like most guitars.  Even using fairly light ones, metal tuning machines up at the pegbox would add a couple ounces, and since a violin is basically a lever, that couple ounces would result in almost a pound of additional pressure at the back of the instrument that the player would have to compensate for by pressing down harder with their jaw.  But violin fine tuners are rather small and light and attached at the bridge they wouldn't add hardly anything to the weight or change the balance of the instrument that much.

My electric guitar that logged the most stage miles with me is my Gibson, and it had been retro-fitted with a tailpiece with fine tuners and I considered that a selling point when I bought it.  Sure I can reach up and adjust tuning, but having it back by the bridge I can do it fast enough that I doubt anyone in an audience ever noticed it.  I always thought of it as a good thing, and never met another guitarist that considered it a noob thing or less professional.  Sure, it is a modern touch, but it works.

Violinists obviously aren't machine-shy luddites, since the adjustment screw on the frog of the bow isn't something I've ever heard anyone speak against.

So am I correct in my impression that some violinists sorta disapprove of fine tuners for violin?  And why?

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Oliver
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June 8, 2012 - 7:24 am
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I think some violinists are just sissies about added weight with geared tuners beg  How often have I seen some frail musician playing a large viola with that extra weight violin_girl And it just so happens that I know a young lady who often practices with the new clip on tuning meters clipped on the scroll. (not just the clip, the WHOLE thing)

I do not like the standard fine tuners because of hysteresis and that they can be otherwise mechanical unstable.  So I use something called "midgets". 

Besides, the last 10 cents or so that I may need always winds up on a slippery slope for the peg(s).  "Curse of the pegs" , I guess.  I tend to leave the pegs where they are happy and do the fine tuner thing.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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Fiddlerman
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June 8, 2012 - 7:35 am
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Tuning a violin with the pegs when you know what you are doing is the fastest way possible. I'll make a demo video. I can tune my violin in seconds and it will stay in tune. Problem with the fine tuners is that it releases tension in the back but sometimes when you play the tension slides more over the bridge to the playing side and gets flat. When I tune with the pegs I tune back and up again to the right pitch to make sure that the tension stays and doesn't reverse (equalize) later on the tail piece side.

Having said this I do agree with you guys and what you say above. It doesn't hurt to have the fine tuners and if you use steel strings it's more or less a must have.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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HeadCheese
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June 8, 2012 - 7:54 am
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If I had to come up with a complaint about the fine tuners, it would be the occasional buzz I get when one of the locking nuts loosens up and starts vibrating. 

Beyond that, I find them helpful at this stage in my learning curve.

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ftufc
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June 8, 2012 - 11:29 am
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Hey Daniel, the only issue fine tuners are for me is a matter of aesthetics (and feeling like a "poof", lol).  Other than that I think they're a great tool.  In the other thread I started, you can see all the reasons that people swear by them, and I in fact, have decided to start using them again,,,, you can always take them off and nobody will ever know they were ever there!

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DanielB
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June 8, 2012 - 1:58 pm
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Thanks for all the great replies, it really helps understand the issue better.  I'll stick with mine, since they have been no trouble and I consider them a good addition.  Putting on a set of 4 to replace the one broken one (thanks, Amazon) was right along with new strings was the first upgrade I did to my violin.

As odd as my violin looks, I could probably stick a plastic toy Darth Vader head on the scroll and nobody would notice, so aesthetics aren't anything I worry about.   Heck, playing an electric confirms my status as a bona fide weirdo with some folks anyway.  LOL

 

Oliver: I usually leave my tuner clipped on at least for playing scales.  But its very light, probably not even an ounce.  I can barely feel a difference between it being on or off. 

 

HeadCheese: They make some stuff for that problem.  Loctite thread locker.  You put a drop of it on a screw or nut when you tighten it down.  It looks sort of like a bright blue oil.  Any trace of it that is exposed to air stays liquid.  You can just wipe that right  off.  But the bit that gets down away from oxygen between the threads where there is some pressure hardens up and keeps the nut from coming loose due to vibration.  You may need to carefully use a small set of pliers to get it loose again, but it is very unlikely to ever just vibrate loose. 

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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cpiasminc
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June 8, 2012 - 2:22 pm
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I have generally heard the argument that the fine tuners also have a damping effect in that some of the upper harmonics are ever so slightly attenuated.  Though even top violinists like this effect on the E-string because it tends to sound tinny and harsh just by virtue of being such a thin low-mass string to begin with (and typically the E-string is all steel even if the others are perlon/gut core).  Some people I've seen who have Perfection Pegs still keep one fine tuner on the E string for this effect alone.  I find myself greatly unconvinced by this argument, as I don't think there is any evidence in blind listening research to corroborate this, at least from the viewpoint of the listener.  I can believe that there may be some difference to the player, but it overlooks that the player hears something quite different from the listener.  I also took part in a research project about 12 years back where we took some violins and swapped out the scroll with a guitar headstock...  again, in blind listening, almost no subject could tell the difference, and the ~7% who did all preferred the guitar head mod.  In all fairness, that test was done with cheap violins (probably VSOs by most serious violinists' standards) -- obviously, as an undergrad research project we hardly had the money or the intestinal fortitude to gut really expensive high-quality instruments.  There's been no corresponding large-scale study that actually involved higher-quality instruments compared to what I worked on.  I doubt anybody would be willing to try it, either, considering the investment.

 

Also, I don't think it's entirely true that violinists are NOT machine-shy luddites if you get into the topic of geared machine head tuners.  Sure, there's the weight argument and the argument of having to damage the pegbox with screw mounts, but those can also be rendered moot either by cleverness or by using something like the Perfection Pegs or the Wittner tuning pegs (although they are more expensive), which still have the precision advantage while still pretty much fitting in like ordinary pegs.  Even otherwise, the weight argument is effectively moot when you look at anyone who does have to deal with it as a matter of course, and simply got used to it.

The single most common argument I hear against machine tuners for violins is simply that it violates tradition.  I look around, and sure they talk about weight, cost, and the time of changing strings, but nothing is more common than this one.  That sounds pretty luddite to me.

Granted, I am The Grumpy Anti-theist and all, so this is a touchy subject for me, but I can't help but fume with anger about that sort of attitude.  "Tradition" means nothing more than it being around for a long time...  but it's confusing old with good.  I don't mean that all traditional concepts are bad, but that tradition isn't a source of merit.  An old bad idea is still a bad idea and an old good idea is still good.  Saying that you don't want to do something because of tradition is just a cop-out for not wanting to think for yourself.

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Oliver
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June 8, 2012 - 3:38 pm
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AMEN !

Your sensible discussion with a good amount of objectivity might cause medical emergencies.  dazed

Somebody said that a person can violate law and get away with it but they can never escape tradition !!!

So thankful to read your post.

  coffee2



When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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DanielB
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June 8, 2012 - 4:41 pm
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I am of a bit of a divided mind on the matter of tradition.  On the one hand (as it affects gear), it could in some cases get in the way of more reliable performances or new ideas and sounds.  But on the other hand, it can be a part of the romance of the art. 

I personally think it is a big world, with plenty of room for people who use fine-tuners and those who don't. 

In some cases it may not always be a matter of choice though.  I remember when my daughter was taking violin, it was required to have fine tuners on each string and she was not supposed to even try and touch the tuning pegs.  If she broke a string, it had to be replaced by the teacher or the shop.  That wasn't just an easy money scam, since they didn't charge for the replacement, it was covered by the rental.  And the tapes on the fingerboard were put there by her teacher and were definitely considered mandatory.  I am quite sure some people here would have problems with some of that, but if you are taking lessons and it is required by a particular teacher for whatever oddball reasons, how much choice does one have in the matter?   Not every town has a wide selection of instructors (some may have just one  or even none), so changing teachers may not be an option.

But whatever the case, people have their reasons.  I don't find any of them compelling enough to change my instrument's setup, but that's fine.  I had just found it kind of an odd item for some people to feel rather vehement about.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Oliver
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June 8, 2012 - 4:56 pm
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It is a matter of the backlash caused by the dogma of the classical music aristocracy.

And I am basically a classical music guy but without the notion that the classical genre owns all good music. (and performers)

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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springer
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June 8, 2012 - 9:17 pm
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I just added fine tuners to my new "old" Violin. I don't  think I will ever stop using fine tuners. I don't see any real reason to not use them.bananabananabananabananagold_stardancingdancingdancingdancing

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Oliver
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June 8, 2012 - 10:42 pm
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That's fine with me rofl

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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Kevin M.
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June 9, 2012 - 9:37 am
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The only difference I see between having fine tuners and not having them is what type they are.  The string vibrates from the bridge to the tailpiece and as you put on fine tuners, the type most often seen, the length of the string changes thus changing the sound of the string. If you really want fine tuners without any effect on the strings you have to use a tailpiece with built in tuners or the tuners which are very small and mostly under the tailpiece. For those who don't think there is sound produced between the bridge and the tailpiece, check into wolf tones.

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Fiddlerman
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June 9, 2012 - 3:52 pm
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True Kevin. Thanks

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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