Is a peg just a peg? Not really!
We spend a lot of time thinking about the best violin to buy, or the best bow or case, but sometimes we forget the smaller features of our violins, such as our tuning pegs. Our violin pegs are important because they keep our strings at the right tension to stay in tune while we’re playing.
Pegs almost always come already installed in any violin that you will purchase or rent, so you don’t typically think about the quality of the peg, and how much that quality affects your playing ability, especially our tone quality.
- Tuning pegs are made from a variety of materials, from plastic to wood.
- They come in different sizes to match the size of the instrument their being fitted into.
- Some are produced in manufacturing facilities while others are handmade to fit a specific instrument.
- Some pegs have detailed ornamentation, while others are just plain.
To understand a little about how different pegs affect the overall sound of the violin, we need to look at the different materials that they are made from.
These are the worst, to put it bluntly! Plastic pegs are not that common, but they do can come on low budget violin outfits that are ordered online and when the purchaser didn’t know to check. They will never stay in tune as the material can’t grasp the wood of the pegbox. Be careful and make sure that any violin you buy has wooden pegs.
Wood is exactly what you want for the material in your pegs. What is neat is that there are 3 main woods used to make violin pegs, and all of them have a different effect on the sound of your strings and violin.
Wooden pegs are typically made from Ebony, Rosewood, or Boxwood.
Ebony is the hardest wood of the 3 and is the most durable. It is black in color.
Rosewood is popular for some because it can produce its own resin, making it easier to grip the wood of the pegbox. It isn’t as strong as Ebony and has a good variety of colors in the light to medium brown tones.
Boxwood is a general name for a lot of the newer woods being used by modern violin makers. There’s a wide range of quality Boxwoods to use and many are considered to be somewhat lighter than the other two.
Beginning violin students don’t really need to worry about the type of pegs they have on their violin as long as they are wooden pegs. Most smaller sized violins are tuned using fine tuners on the tailpiece and don’t use the pegs.
Full size (4/4) violins should always have wooden pegs and when a player has developed the advanced stage, they will want to have the highest quality pegs to achieve the best possible tone quality from their instrument.
An important note about buying violin pegs separately from the violin: they usually do not come with pre drilled holes for the strings to go through, and you must take them to your local violin shop to have the holes drilled in. This is a simple process for a professional. If you don’t have anyone near you to do this, then make sure you purchase pre drilled pegs for your violin.
Personal preference is a large component of what makes the best choice of pegs for any violinist. It’s really fun to actually go into a violin shop and try out different violins that have pegs made from different woods, so you can see first-hand the difference in sound.
Let’s look at a couple of the best pegs made from each of the 3 different woods mentioned above.
- A great deal on a package of 4 ebony violin pegs (without pre drilled holes) for the price. You can purchase a set of 4 pegs for violins sized 1/10 – 4/4. Set of Standard Ebony Violin Pegs
- A great package of 4 ebony pegs for violin. This set is made for a full size (4/4) violin only. It also comes with an Endpin and there are small pearl inlays on the outside of each peg. Generic Top Model Ebony Wood 4/4 violin Tuning Pegs Endpin Set
One of the favorite features of Ebony pegs is the fact that because they are so strong, they do not react as much as softer woods to temperature changes and do not seem to compress with age.
- A great set of 4 Rosewood pegs for violin. These pegs have a small white pin in the end of the peg and are made for only a full size (4/4) violin. Set of Winterling Model Rosewood Violin Pegs with White Pin 4/4 Size
- A set of Rosewood parts that include the 4 pegs, the tailpiece, and even a matching chinrest. Again, it is only for a full size (4/4) violin. This color of the Rosewood in this set is a darker brown than some other shades of Rosewood and the pearl inlay is in all 4 pegs as well as the tailpiece. Handmade Inlay Rosewood Violin Parts (Pegs, Chinrest, Tailpiece, Endpin)
Many people prefer Rosewood over Ebony because of the variety of tones in the different woods. Ebony is almost always black or a very dark charcoal whereas Rosewoods come in brownish reddish tones and tends to match well with many varnish tones used on violins.
- A beautiful brown Boxwood set of pegs for a full size (4/4) violin. This is the Hill Model and there is a black pin in the end of each peg. There is a distinctive difference in the brown color between this Boxwood peg and the Rosewood pegs. Set of Hill Model Boxwood Violin Pegs with Black Pin 4/4 Size
- A full set of 4 Boxwood pegs for violin. They too come in a lighter brown color and have contrasting white pin in the end of each peg. Anton Breton VP-143 Violin Tuning Pegs – Set of 4 – Boxwood
There is one more peg to include in this list that is new and is worth taking a look at.
The Wittner “Finetune” Violin Peg set is a technologically advanced peg that features a basically “non-slipping” peg that eases tuning a great deal for some players.
The unique component of these pegs is that the shaft of the peg doesn’t turn while tuning, which relieves a lot of the wear and tear on normal peg holes and even the pegs themselves. What this means, is that you can tune your violin using these pegs, without having to move the actual peg.
Why is this good? Violinists are almost always going to have to deal with slipping pegs, or pegs that are stuck and won’t turn. This can be frustrating when you need to quickly tune your violin. These pegs are able to tune your strings without having to turn in side of the pegbox.
No more slipping, and no more getting stuck!
The reviews are still out on this new product. They are not made of wood but instead they’re made of a high tech composite material and light alloy.
Who would this product be good for?
- Students at the intermediate level
- Beginning adult students
- Violinists that play a lot with bands or who are street musicians
The one precaution in using pegs like this would be to see how they affect your tone quality.
Your violin is made from wood. Wood has a “life” of its own, and this can be seen in how it reacts to cold and warm temperatures, and even in how it responds to a particular type of varnish, as different varnishes effect the tone color of the instrument as a whole.
Wooden pegs work best with violins, if you want to sound the best. Violinists who are playing a lot outside and don’t have to worry about having the best tone quality, or those that are adults and just learning, will enjoy the ease of using pegs such as the Wittner set, just be prepared to move into wooden pegs later on.
Speaking of the weather
There are 2 main issues that violinists have with pegs in regards to the changes in temperatures and atmosphere with each new season.
Slipping pegs tend to occur during the cold and drier seasons of late fall and winter. As the humidity dries up, the wood in the pegs reacts to this by compressing a little bit. All of the wood in your violin reacts to the drier air. As that wood compresses, the pegs tend to slip which causes the strings to lose their tension, and they aren’t in tune.
When this happens you need to get some Peg Drops. Once you have your Drops, loosen the peg that is slipping while holding your violin upright in your lap. Put 1-2 drops on the end of the peg that slips into the hole in the pegbox. Don’t put too much on or your peg will do the opposite and get too tight to move easily. The Original Peg Drops by Ardsley – 1/2 Oz
Sticking pegs tend to occur during the warm and hotter seasons, such as late spring and summer. As the humidity picks up and the air fills with moisture, your violin responds as the wood swells with the additional moisture. As the wood swells, the pegs can stick and not want to move at all.
When this happens, you need to get some Peg Compound. All you need to do is loosen the peg that is slipping while holding the violin upright in your lap, and rub a little compound around the end of the peg that slips into the hole in the pegbox. Don’t use too much, but just dab a little on and then experiment to see if you have enough so that your peg turns back and forth easily The Original Hill Peg Compound
Good quality pegs can not only add in visual beauty to your violin, but they can actually have an impact on your sound and tone quality through the materials they’re made from. Wooden is best for most violinist.
Ebony offers strength and durability, while Rosewoods and Boxwoods offer a variety of colors and shades to match or blend with the unique coloring of a violin.