Learning to tune a stringed instrument can be one of the most frustrating and expensive parts of learning to play. Most student instruments are usually set up with some type of four fine tuner configuration. And they should be! But fine tuners on the tailpiece only solves half of the tuning problem.
|Wittner Finetune Pegs|
Learning to use the pegs on a violin or cello is a very difficult skill. In fact, it seems that many people give up playing simply because they can't keep their instrument in tune. Traditionalists will argue that the standard ebony (or similar very hard wood- rosewood or boxwood) pegs, if fit well, will be all that a player needs to tune well. I would agree to some extent. I also know that Minnesota weather (where our summers are hot and humid and our winters are bitterly cold and dry) can test the limits of even the best fitting pegs and the most patient player. For a student learning to tune, it can be a deal breaker.
I posted about the PlanetaryPerfection Pegs in a previous post. I think they're OK at best. I don't recommend them.
I recently installed Wittner Finetune Pegs in a cello and a violin. I am much happier with the quality and engineering in these pegs.
|Reaming the peg hole with a standard 1:30 violin peg reamer|
The synthetic material of the Wittner pegs feels much better. It seems to be the same carbon composite material as their tailpieces and chinrests. It feels good in your hands when tuning. Not too slippery and not like plastic. And because it's synthetic material, it won't be affected by temperature or humidity.
Inside each peg there is a self-inhibiting gear mechanism so you can tune the string up to pitch and it will stay there without pushing the peg in or pulling it out.
The gearing in the Wittner pegs seems very accurate. That is, with most strings, you should be able to use just the pegs to get the string exactly in tune. No need for other fine tuners, although they won't hurt in a pinch. For the E string, I would recommend still using a fine tuner. The turning mechanism does not seem to be accurate enough to get the E string exactly in tune. On the other hand, I handed the cello over to a cellist after installing the Finetune Pegs for the first time and his response was, "Why aren't these required equipment on EVERY cello?" Yes, they are that easy to use.
|Wittner Finetune pegs fitted to a violin. The extra length can be cut, shaped and polished just like an ebony peg.|
Fitting the Finetune Pegs is no harder than fitting a standard set of violin pegs. The small side of the peg has small edges to grip the pegbox. The taper of the pegs is the same as the standard reamers for stringed instruments: 1:30 for violins, 1:25 for cellos.
There are two string holes in each peg. One close to the peghead side and one a little further away. The holes are slightly in different size to accomodate different thicknesses of strings. A simple but ingenious idea that Wittner incorporated into the Finetune pegs.
I'm amused that in the instructions Wittner provides with the pegs is this line, "The Finetune peg needs not/must not be loosened or tightened in order to tune the instrument." Must not. Jawohl!
OK, nothing is perfect. So what do I think is not perfect with these pegs?
1) The pegs themselves are impervious to temperature and humidity changes. That's excellent. The pegbox of your instrument is still susceptible to all those changes. So the claim that the pegs won't ever slip isn't quite true in a climate like ours in Minnesota. I have found that a small dab of standard hide glue to the small (non moving) side of the peg will stabilize everything. Not a great idea to some but I think it's better than the wear and tear that pegs put on the pegbox and the frustration of learning to use standard ebony pegs.
2) Changing strings. The gearing is set up for very precise tuning, much like guitar machine heads are. That means that turning the peg will produce only a small amount of change in the string tension. So changing a string is not a fast process. Be prepared to turn and turn and turn and turn the peg before the string is up to pitch. Not a great prospect if your string just broke and you have to be on stage and ready to play in two minutes.
3) The cost. The violin pegs cost about $250 installed, and cello pegs about $350. Unfortunately, that's a big number to the market that needs these pegs the most - beginning students. Maybe in a production house the cost of installation could come down significantly, but they still need to be fitted with care. Have them fit by a skilled violin maker, not Joe Shmoe working out of his basement as a hobby.
|The Wittner Finetune Pegs have two string holes in each peg|
I have confidence in these pegs. Wittner has been a reliable manufacturer of so many great products for stringed instruments. I'm sure their engineers and technicians thought through and tested these pegs extensively before putting them on the market. If you are having trouble tuning your instrument, I Recommend Them.
Wittner has more information and a detailed installation guide.
Update- September 7th, 2014: I have installed the Wittner Finetune Pegs on many violins, violas, and cellos over the last year. They are great! I highly recommend them for any and all players, but I especially recommend them for the following groups: players that travel with their instruments; students, older players and anyone that has had a left hand injury; musicians that play outdoors; musicians in extreme climates of hot, cold, high humidity or very low humidity; anyone that has trouble tuning with friction pegs; all cellists(!); musicians playing on antique instruments; musicians that are playing instruments that have cracks and/or bushings in the pegbox... These are great pegs, and if you ever want to test them out, we always have instruments set up with them here at Fein Violins in Saint Paul, Minnesota. We'd love to see you!