Written by: Andy Fein
For many students and players, tuning the violin is a major impediment to playing and playing well. Traditional pegs can slip or stick. Learning the right amount of push, pull, turning and tension is very, very hard to learn. And frustrating. And expensive when you keep breaking strings. I think that some type of mechanical tuning system is necessary for students and would ease the lives of most players. I have favored using tailpieces with fine tuners built in such as the ones made by Wittner or Bois d'Harmonie.
I just finished putting the first set of Knilling Planetary Perfection pegs into one of my A. Fein/ R. Riva violins. Some things I like about them, some things I'm not in love with, some things just seem wrong.
The instruction booklet that comes with the pegs is very good. The strange part is the E and A need to be threaded in counterclockwise, the D and G need to be threaded in clockwise. The way to tell the difference is to feel how the threads work with your thumbnail. A simple marking system (discrete dots or letters) would take the guesswork out of that part of the installation.
The pegs are made out of some plastic/composite material. They feel nice on your fingers. They are not nearly as beautiful as ebony, rosewood or boxwood. They are also very plain. Many players enjoy some decoration on their pegs. I prefer Parisian eyes or mother-of-pearl and a gold ring.
The one part of the installation booklet I would advise against is gluing the pegs in with a polyurethane glue. Wow! That is a very strong permanent glue. If you ever want to change pegs, you have a big problem. That's also problematic because all mechanical pegs eventually wear out. What would you do if your pegs were permanently glued in? A small amount of hide glue will work just as well for holding power and will be much easier to remove.
I'm not in love with where the string holes in the pegs are. They are well over to the opposite side from the peg head. This sets up some odd physical strains on the strings and pegbox. it also makes it hard to not overlap strings when you are putting new strings on.
|Picture of Planetary Perfection Pegs with all strings on|
|Close-up of where string hole is on E string|
As far as the actual tuning function of the pegs goes, they do a good job. The A, D and G strings let you tune finely enough. You would still need a fine tuner for the E string. The mechanism is not fine enough to allow perfectly accurate tuning of the E string.
For most people, I would recommend staying with the traditional friction pegs. If you need to use fine tuners- Use them!
Whether you use friction pegs, mechanical pegs or fine tuners, the most important thing is to be able to tune your instrument. A violin in tune always sounds better than one out of tune. And it doesn't matter how you get there.