How To (and why?) Replace the Tailpiece of Your Violin or Viola
In this weeks video I’m going to teach you how to replace the tailpiece of your violin or viola. But first…
Why should you replace the tailpiece of your violin or viola?
- If your tailpiece is broken (duuuuh)
- If you want a tailpiece with four integrated finetuners.
Let’s go a little deeper into the second point. Why would you want a tailpiece with four integrated finetuners?
Perhaps your tailpiece is made of wood and you use loose fine tuners (not integrated). This means you can take the finetuners of the tailpiece and use none, one, two, three or four finetuners. Tuning is easier and faster when you have four finetuners.
If you put four loose metal finetuners on a wooden tailpiece, the tailpiece will become heavy. It’s not good for the tone of your violin to have an heavy tailpiece.
However… we want a good tone AND four finetuners. To achieve this you should consider a tailpiece made out of composite material with four integrated finetuners. I have bad experiences with Chinese made tailpieces (they break quickly and don’t tune easily), so get yourself some German quality (click here to buy what I recommend) by Wittner, a Deutsch Qualitätswerkzeug ;).
It’s not so difficult to replace the tailpiece yourself. Just follow these steps and watch the video before you start.
- Turn all the strings loose.
- Don’t remove the strings all the way.
- Remove the ball of the string from the finetuner.
- Remove the bridge.
- Wrap the strings around the neck of the violin.
- Remove the tailpiece.
- Clean your fiddle carefully (now you can reach all those places you normally can’t clean).
- Don’t shake your violin ;), so the soundpost doesn’t fall.
- Turn the finetuners of the new tailpiece all the way up.
- Place the loop on the new tailpiece.
- Measure how long the loop should be and adjust the length. Repeat this a couple of times if necessary.
- The tailpiece should never touch the soundboard.
- Put a cloth under the tailpiece, so it doesn’t damage the soundboard.
- Put one string on the tailpiece and tighten it a little.
- Make sure the winding of the string around the peg remains the same. The string shouldn’t cross itself and shouldn’t push the peg out of the peg box.
- Put the strings on the tailpiece one by one. Don’t mix ‘em up. Don’t tighten them too much in this stage.
- Put the bridge back on the violin under the strings. Make sure the position of the bridge is correct and that it stands up straight.
- Tune your violin carefully.
- The distance from the tailpiece to the bridge should be 1/6 of the vibrating string length. If it’s different, adjust the length of the loop.
- Tune regularly.
Is this useful to you? Please let me know in the comments below!
PS: Do you have questions or struggles on violin or viola playing? Post a comment below or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and I might dedicate a Violin Lounge TV episode to answering your question!
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- What Tailpiece and How Many Finetuners Should You Have on Your Violin or Viola? | Violin Lounge - […] Would you like to know how to replace a tailpiece yourself? It’s not so difficult. Just watch this video…
- Phan Thanh Tiến | phanthanhtien.com | What Tailpiece and How Many Fine Tuners Should You Have on Your Violin or Viola? - […] Would you like to know how to replace a tailpiece yourself? It’s not so difficult. Just watch this video…
Just as an addition to this blog post…
When I posted this article/video on violinist.com I got lots of comments (see here: http://www.violinist.com/blog/Zlata/20146/15874/) which are very interesting.
Among these kind and informative comments someone said:
“I’ve tried a wittner on one of my instruments that had fussy pegs. The sound to me is just not as warm as a wood tailpiece. I would suggest if you really need fine tuners, finding an ebony, boxwood, or rosewood tailpiece that has built in fine tuners. I think they look better and sound better without adding additional weight.”
That got me thinking…
A Wittner tailpiece is very light and resonates well… but…
I was struggling with my own violin, which has a very big sound and very sharp response.
My luthier changed my wooden (ebony) tailpiece with integrated finetuners on the A and E string to a Wittner Ultra. He said it’s easier and wooden tailpieces with integrated finetuners get broken easily, so I accepted the Wittner.
Since a year I have struggling more with the clear sound of my violin… it’s a bit too sharp en and it’s difficult to dose it. It seems that it’s troubling me more than it did in the last fifteen years I own this instrument.
Let’s say it eats 2,7 meter Steinway’s for breakfast. Most pianists have to play a little soft when accompanying a violinist… my accompanists can hardly keep up with my little monster violin.
Last year I have been thinking about and searching maybe another violin…
After reading this comment I immediately (yes, with my first morning coffee on Sunday) replaced my Wittner tailpiece with the ebony one with integrated finetuners… and Eureka! My violin is still a monster, but the sharp edges are a bit off.
The Wittner works perfect with most (especially student) violins, because it resonates very well and gives modest sounding instruments a clearer sound.
After this experience I wouldn’t recommend this tailpiece with rather clear and large sounding instruments.
A tailpiece really has a great impact on the sound. I knew this, but didn’t knew this difference is so big.
With this new experience in mind I am planning to make a video about the different tailpieces available on the market.
I would love to hear your experience with tailpieces. Do different sorts of wood matter? Enlighten me in the comments!
I really like this video! I want to put a Wittner tailpiece with integrated tuners on my 15 inch Chinese viola, which I like very much, but which presently has a (very pretty) tailpiece with only one fine tuner on the A string. I have steel core (Helicore) strings on it, so they are very hard to tune with the pegs & are forever going out also. I like the sound with the Helicore strings–this viola has a deep warm sound but it is also a bit growly and muddy. Now I am inspired to try the Wittner to see if this will further clarify and amplify the sound! Thank you so much, Zlata! I hope your new tailpiece has saved your fiddle from banishment! 😀
Thanks for your comment and I am glad you like the video! Let me know what the effect is of the Wittner.
Well… I changed violin some months ago… the tailpiece made a difference, but I still wasn’t happy and have bought a different violin.
All the best,