Violin Fittings: The Tuning Pegs, Tailpiece and Tail Gut

Violin Fittings The Tuning

While typically made separately from the violin, viola or cello, fittings are vital and a fine instrument deserves a finely crafted set.

The fittings of the violin, including the tuning pegs, tailpiece and tail gut, are attachments that are added on to the body, neck and bridge to place the strings and align the instrument. Properly installed attachments allow the strings to be more responsive and the instrument easier to play.

Each tuning peg has a slightly conical shape and is placed through a perfectly rounded hole in the peg box, held by friction. The tapering holds the peg more securely by being pushed farther into the peg box. Pulling out the pegs untightens them, allowing for fine-tuning adjustments. Pegs are typically crafted from ebony, rosewood or boxwood and sanded to just the right diameter to cause the ideal friction. The strings are tied to holes at the small ends and tightened to desired tuning.

The tail gut, also known as the stirrup, traditionally made of gut, like the strings, now also comes in nylon, carbon fiber and stainless steel varieties. The violinmaker adjusts the tail gut for the right distance between the tailpiece and bridge, known as the after-length, roughly 55 millimeters, through a trial and error process of tuning. Then, the tailpiece, strings and chin rest are ready to be placed.

Tailpieces anchor the strings, and proper installation of tailpieces is vital to the sound of the instrument and playability for the instrumentalist. Tailpieces are often made of ebony, rosewood or boxwood, but may also be metal or synthetic. The tail gut loops around the end pin, attaching the tailpiece to the body of the violin. Different tailpieces are tested on the instrument body for their weight and shape to enhance the harmonics of the strings. After the tailpiece is placed, the fine tuners are tightened to prevent wobbling.