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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 '18 at 20:48
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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.

  • 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 '18 at 17:38
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    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 '18 at 17:52
  • 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. – General Nuisance Aug 26 '18 at 18:12
  • I have geared tuners. Some people don't like fine tuners since it affects the tone slightly – marcellothearcane Mar 10 at 19:53
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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.

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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.

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