Why is it that violins use simple pegs instead of geared tuners, like an upright bass?

  • Just guessing (so I won't make a full-on answer out of this), but it's probably because an upright bass has to support a lot more total force/tension in its strings, so it needs a peg system (geared) that is less likely to slip and that even provides a bit of mechanical advantage / leverage. Let's see what the people who really know answer. Any luthiers in here?
    – mlibby
    Aug 2, 2018 at 20:48

4 Answers 4


Maybe you just never noticed them?

I would suspect that someone trying to sell a violin with a head like a classical guitar wouldn't be able to sell them into a very, very traditional market.

So... what did they do instead?
They made geared tuners that look exactly like regular tuning pegs - with the added bonus that you can swap them into any existing instrument with no modification.

At a glance you simply cannot tell the difference.

Regular peg? Nope, geared peg...

enter image description here

Pic from PegHeads

There are several manufacturers - inc Knilling & Wittner

imo, Knilling has the best page to read about the reasoning behind the idea.

  • 2
    Is there really a point to this, considering that you can easily fit fine tuners behind the bridge on all the strings if you really want to? A fine tuner on the highest string is "standard" except for violinists specializing in early music. The other answer to the OP's question is simply "because you don't need them," of course. Normal wooden tuning pegs work just fine, except on double bass where the strings are thicker and heavier.
    – user19146
    Aug 2, 2018 at 17:38
  • 4
    Well... the "point" is... someone asked a question, to which here is one of several possible answers - one of which may become the 'accepted answer'... You've been here a while, you know how it works... vote it up or down, provide your own answer if you have one... otherwise, don't comment.
    – Tetsujin
    Aug 2, 2018 at 17:52
  • 5
    While this is all well and good, I would point out that this is not at all close the standard setup. Nearly a decade of playing violin, and I've never came across one. Now it's possible that I just missed it (I honestly can't tell from the picture) but I don't feel this answers the question of why geared tuners aren't the standard. Aug 26, 2018 at 18:12
  • 1
    I have geared tuners. Some people don't like fine tuners since it affects the tone slightly Mar 10, 2019 at 19:53
  • 2
    I didn't notice them on my violin... because they aren't there. The question is about pegs. Mar 25, 2021 at 18:38

Some reasons why people don't use geared tuners on violins:

  • I haven't tested in personally, but there us usually some discussion on how using heavier material in metal geared tuners reduces some of the vibration transfer from the strings into the neck, causing some tone loss/difference. The wood to wood contact is supposedly better for tone.

  • The short scale of the strings and lower tension doesn't require geared tuning machines for ease of tuning the way longer or higher tension strings do (such as on a mandolin). The turning ratio of the violin strings is very low, especially when using gut based strings, making the 1:1 ratio of the peg more suitable for smooth tuning.

  • Geared tuners on violins aren't "traditional" looking, which is a consideration for some Orchestras, which may require a standard look. (in some cases some violin colors aren't allowed either, such as "blond" violins)

  • Geared tuners are more expensive. Manufacturers want to use the lowest cost solution, especially if it is already the accepted standard.

That being said, as stated in Tetsujin's answer, there are geared tuners available. There is even a manufacturer that makes violin sized Bass style geared tuners (I have a fiddler customer that prefers them, so I occasionally install a set on his new instruments).

I've found that the various designs of the geared peg style tuners have some issues. Over time the bushing or parts fail, and depending on the installation type replacing them or converting back to pegs can be an expensive job. In some models keeping the tension can become an issue as well. I'm seeing these problems on the older versions of the products as they come in for repair or on used instruments I'm setting up for sale, so newer versions may have some of the kinks worked out.

  • 2
    Your 1st point - the string hardly vibrates behind the players finger, so it only really affects open strings. Your 2nd point - the friction between peg and its hole isn't necessarily uniform. Your 3rd point - they can often look identical to the original tuners. Your 4th point - on even a reasonably priced instrument (say £1000) a geared set for £150 makes a much better instrument.
    – Tim
    Dec 22, 2019 at 12:33
  • 2
    @Tim - Vibrations travel through the body and neck, so loading the head with heavy weight theoretically will have an effect on tone. I personally don't believe it would be noticeable, but my answer is reporting what I've heard about using geared tuners. Pt 2, it isn't the friction, it's the ratio. A gut string has enough stretch that a gear makes you wind more than necessary. Pt 3, I'm referring to the geared style like a bass, as the question asks. The peg style wouldn't be an issue. pt 4, I'm referring to why they aren't included stock on new instruments. Dec 31, 2019 at 20:23
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    With modern strings and manufacturing ability there isn't really a good reason not to use a geared tuner other than tradition, with the exception possibly of using natural gut strings. For the most part it seems that fine tuner tailpieces are becoming the standard now, which basically puts the geared tuners on the tailpiece instead of the head stock. There is a similar thing with banjo tuners. People still use friction or planetary pegs instead of geared tuners because the geared tuners don't "look right". Dec 31, 2019 at 20:26
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    If 2. was true, why would some violinist choose to install microtuners on the tailpiece? Feb 23, 2021 at 18:09
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    I probably should have said "Reasons I've heard people give for not using geared tuners". I think cost and tradition are the main reasons makers stay with traditional pegs. The geared tuners are getting better, but they will never have the lifespan of a piece of hardwood. Integrated fine-tuner tailpieces are becoming standard now. Fine tuners work fine for steel and nylon strings, not as well with gut strings. Feb 23, 2021 at 20:13

As already answered, the force of violin string does not require gears. If you asked due to the possibility of finer tuning granularity, there are fine tuners instead, which are much cheaper, but also do not convince all violinists: so they either resort to standard peg tuning or have them only for one or two strings.

  • That's no longer the case these days, prices have changed over the Years, Geared tuners cost a lot less due to durability meaning it would benefit everyone, & as it says in the advertisement:hangoutstorage.com/fiddlehangout.com/storage/attachments/… they improve the sound & look of the instrument by keeping it in tune, plus a String Winder makes restringing even faster (like twice as fast). Mar 26, 2021 at 18:45
  • Banjos used to have Friction Pegs for the 5th String but that's no longer the case because they've updated to Geared Tuners:youtube.com/watch?v=cll9CjPSOK8 that are shaped the same way. Rules need to be updated for Reliability & Practicality. Mar 26, 2021 at 18:53

Some electric violins do come with geared tuners, such as this 1990's Jensen 5-string.enter image description here


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