Friday, May 27, 2011

Planetary Pegs for Violin/Viola/Cello

My daughter is big enough to use a full size violin.  Excepting tuning with the pegs part, the transition is a very smooth one.  I don't like four fine-tuners on the tailpiece.  They looks ugly and add unnecessary weight to the tailpiece, which may dampen the sound.  Finally I decide to give the internally geared pegs a try.  There are two products in the market - the Perfection/Knilling/Pegheds pegs from the States (they are the same thing marketed under different names) and Wittner pegs from Germany.

The Perfection/Knilling/Pegheds and Wittner have different gearing ratios: 4:1 and 8.5:1 respectively.  The difference is not as big as it sounds.  I have tried both in real life and found them equally functional.  I slightly prefer the Perfection/Knilling/Pegheds as they look more pleasing to my eyes and are a little lighter.  These pegs look exactly like traditional wooden pegs.  Without close examination you cannot tell a violin with planetary pegs from one with wooden pegs.  They work most charmingly and make tuning a completely effortless, almost joyful thing to do.  Installation is easy.  All that you need is a reamer, a small saw and a piece of sand paper or a file.  It took me less than 2 hours to finish the job, and that includes the time going through the detailed installation guide, which is available online here.  Living in Hong Kong where relative humidity can rise from below 50% to over 90% in a day, these pegs are godsends.  They are especially useful to children who don't have the fine motor skill and physical strength to turn traditional wooden pegs.  Will they cause any damage to the pegbox?  I don't think so.  The friction and tension caused by traditional pegs probably exceeds that caused by these pegs.  At least  there is no erosion of the wood from constant turning.  If known violin makers and collectors like David Burgess, Michael Darlton and Giovanni Gammuto say they are fine, I bet they are.  See the discussions here, and here if you are interested.

By the way, violin shops in Hong Kong don't carry these pegs.  I got my set from Gostrings, which I cannot recommend highly enough.  Their price is unbeatable and their service is simply superb.


Joyce Lau said...

You bring me back, SorLo.
I remember when I was finally deemed big enough for a "grown-up" violin -- when I could stretch my left arm out and curl the fingers around the scroll.
I remember those old wooden pegs. (This was in small-town America, oh, 20-odd years ago). There were all these old wives tales of how to take care of them -- chalk if they were slipping, soap if they were too tight.
Good on your daughter. How old is she?

W said...

My daughter is 12. A reader emailed and told me that Pegheds now offers a new version with wooden head. Very attractive indeed. Am thinking of getting a boxwood set for my own violin.

Anonymous said...

Hi! My child is old enough for a full size violin. Which shops in HK sell violins with reasonable prices? Do I need to invest in a violin with over 10k or any violin under 10k is reasonable for a 12 years old kid. Could you share your experience.

W said...

Not knowing your child and having no idea of what a budget of say HK$10K means to you, I guess I'm not in a position to tell you what you should buy for your child. Generally (just generally), if I am to choose a violin with a budget of say HK$10k, I will go for a well made Chinese or Eastern European violins. Consult your child's teacher. He or she should be able to give you some useful advice. I wrote about violin shops in HK a while go ( Check it out to see if there is anything in it that may interest you.

Also, please don't let the perceived "investment" value of the violins bother you (I say this because you asked "Do I need to invest in a violin with over 10k ...") A playable, well set up violin that your child loves to play is the best investment.

Anonymous said...

Hi W, thanks for your reply. When I say 'invest', I mean 'buy'. My son's violin skill is below the 'so-called' Grade 5 and he is not a hardworking student. I'm thinking should I buy a violin between $5-6k and change to a better quality one when he shows me he's serious in playing the instrument. Please share your insight and views on this. His current violin teacher is new (just started last week) and did not give much concrete advice other than my sons needs a full size violin.

W said...

Your son should really appreciate all the care and efforts on your part. $5,000 to $6,000 can buy your son a decent Chinese violin. Try Yue Hua Music as well. Good luck with your shopping and your son violin playing.

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