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carbon fiber tailpieces?


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There's a model that allows you to adjust the after-length?

 That's pretty cool!

I've been thinking about designing a tailpiece that would have four

individual saddles (using guitar terminology, no idea what you call

that on a violin) with each having an independently-adjustable

after-length.  Not sure if wood would be strong enough,


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Well, I'm very impressed with the acoustic properties of carbon fiber, and would like to try it in a tailpiece, but I don't want all the tuners. I have found that a thinned tailpiece and tuned afterlengths are a good way to tweak the sound of a violin, and that particular model would allow me to do both with a minimum of work. Violin.

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Not sure about that, but the "MultiSystem" allows for screw driven tailgut length adjustment while the violin is strung up. The Core catalog shows a tailpiece with screwdriver included. That's Wittner260-611, I think. I'm looking for Wittner 260-411 no screwdriver. The International catalog isn't clear to me. I'll email them for clarification. Thanks to both of you for your help.

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Originally posted by:

No American supplier on the web seems to carry the Wittner UltraClassicMultiSystem 260-411, that's the one with the adjustable loop, but no string tuners. It's on the Wittner page, but nowhere else, it seems.

Multisystem is the one with the screwdriver. Are you saying now that that's NOT what you want?

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That's a good point, Allan, and seems to be based on some hands-on experience with the item, unless the weights are listed somewhere. Probably, then, it's not what I want. Thin and lite is what I'm looking for. That Steinberger lead is interesting. I'll email him and find out about it, although his instruments are not at all traditional.

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I have Wittner Ultra's (with the 4 fine tuners) on 2 of my fiddles. They actually appear to be made of some sort of dense plastic. They work great, though. On one of my fiddles the Wittner replaced an ebony Pusch tailpiece with fine tuners. The lighter weight of the Wittner had a big positive effect on response (plus the Wittner was much easier to change strings on, and the adjustability of the fine tuners is about twice that of the Pusch). I think you're on the right track looking for a light tailpiece and the Wittner might be worth a try but if you insist on carbon fiber, the Wittner isn't what you want. -Steve

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That of course begs the question: Is the lightest

possible tailpiece what we want?  I had an interesting

discussion with Eric Meyer about this, and about the use of

different tailpiece woods as well.  This thread is probably a

good place to ask for more opinions:

Bose Harmonie claims that Pernambuco tailpieces give the most

"lively" response.  Hmmm.  Marketing or truth?

 Probably true, but then what do they mean by "lively?"

 More HF?  Greater dynamic range?  Both?


If we want the tailpiece as transparent as possible, why not

cut-off the bottom half, making it super-light, and attach a much

longer tailcord? Surely someone has tried this over the

last 300 years, so it probably doesn't work.  However, if I

were to hazard a guess  (who, me?) :

Obviously, every component and every change on a violin has an

interractive, cumulative effect on the overall sound &

response.  That's hardly news.  But, unless you're simply

sticking to the establish norm, how do you quantify & qualify

each part's contribution?  I like to think in terms of

additive and subtractive sonic elements.  Since a tailpiece is

too small to make a significant sound on its own, it must be

considered 100% subtractive, by attenuating select frequencies from

the strings.  As with a good bow, there are likely several

optimum formant structures that a tailpiece can have, given a

"typical" violin.  

-But suppose we made the tailpiece as inert and flexible as

possible?  (tiny piece of CF, long, flexible tailcord)  A

typical violin would have (remember, I am simply guessing) too

much of certain frequencies, and not sound right.  BUT IT


So, (sez I) why not go this route, then re-shape the overall tonal

structure of the instrument via other components and tuning, and

hopefully using as much ADDITIVE elements as possible?  If

this were feasible, wouldn't the end result be a louder, more

complex, more responsive instrument?


Whaddaya' say we now talk about after-length?  ( ! )

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I think it's like strings....you keep trying different brands, gauges etc. until the results you want show up. Supposedly that's how Edison found the right filament for the light bulb. I recently bought an Arcus Cadenza bow, which is carbon fiber and hollow. Terrific stick, so I thought maybe the same ideas applied to a tailpiece might be fruitful.

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I am about 90% sure that the wittner ultra is a plastic composite. Not carbon fiber.

Look up Mosesgraphite on the web. He manufactures carbon fiber fingerboards and bass bridges....

He is very nice. I have spoken with him regarding modifications to a carbon fiber bass bridge. He is more than willing to experiment. You could probably get him to make a mold of a wittner and cast a carbon fiber one. You would probably then need to install the small threaded inserts and could use the wittner parts to make the built in fine tuners. Or, just cast a normal tailpiece and use a Hill style e tuner.

Let me know if you do that, I would go in on a few with you to experiment with.

Good Luck,


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You're right about the Wittner, it's a plastic composite of some kind. I have an email in to Moses as of yesterday but I think the holidays are rolling on up there. I'll pass on your suggestion and offer to buy a few. Let's see if he can make a hollow one....It wouldn't have to be a Wittner model, and I don't care about the inserts....I wonder if his violin fingereboards are hollow....

I did see that he makes what he calls a 'compensated' carbon fiber tailpiece for 4 string violin. This means that the leading edge of the tailpiece, by the string inserts, is cut at an angle for some reason. I think this feature would defeat any attempt to tune the afterlengths....and possibly it is for a Steinberger type violin...

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If weight is your first consideration, the Wittner with tuners but with the screws removed weighs just over 17 grams and is made about as hollow as you can get. The screw driver probably adds 25 cents or so to the cost. Several years ago I bought a few graphite tailpieces made in Australia. I can't tell them from the Wittners except by looking at the name.

As for the compensated tailpieces, I would be skeptical except that a friend has a really great sounding fiddle with a wooden "super compensated" tailpiece. I don't know why it works, but it sure seems to.

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The VSA convention was the scene of so many discussions and demonstrations that it was a bit like hearding cats to get a like-minded group in one place. Sometimes the group centerred on who was hanging out where at a particular time.

I made a "minimalist" tailpiece last year which I gave to Joe Curtin to take a look at. He gave it back to me at the Convention and I showed it around a bit. On the second to last day at the encouragement of others we rounded up a group and grabbed one of the vendor's violas. Eric Chapman helped round up the viola and did the conversion. The viola was not very exciting, quiet and dark. Not everyone liked the resulting change (mostly the Europeans), but NO ONE failed to hear the change in volume and clarity. The tailpiece was basically a bar of pernambuco for the string ends to grab on and an adjustable loop of Spectra. This is the same material used in the tailcord by Harmony but single stranded and encased in a thin nylon sheath. So no one thinks I've been stealing ideas, my customers know that I have been playing with the idea of a spectra tail gut for eight years or so.

Anyway, later that day I put the tailpiece down in the Innovations Room with Doug Martin's ultralite fiddles and we made plans to put the tailpiece on his viola the next day. I manager to round up Norman Pickering, Sam Z., and Fan Tao. Same result.

I'm going to make some more, at least one for Doug to play with, as soon as I get caught up with my regular work. Lot's of work needs to be done to qualify and quantify the changes that tailpieces can make. This was an extreme example and there are problems with the tailiece tilting with the string angles et. I don't really know what application there is to be made but everyone involved heard the amplification and clarity that insued.

To address the tailpiece weights question. I have a blank of graphite that I was planning to make into a tailpiece but never did. I multiplied the dimensions to figure out the cubic cc's and divided it by the weight. I did the same with a like blank of pernambuco. The weight per cubic centemeter for the graphite is almost a third heavier than the pernambuco. the carbon was 871cc per gram and the pernambuco was 1191cc per gram. I think the surprise comes from either not normally comparing graphite with wood or the fact that it is often hollow in use. If I am figuring things right (not always a good bet) to make the same dimentioned tailpiece as a 11.2 gr. tailpiece (normal Hill weight), this graphite would make it 12gr. I guess that carbon fiber comes in different viscosities but this is an amazing difference.

I've made hill style wooden tailpieces that go from 9gr. to 19gr. for violin with no adjusters.

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Marilyn Wallin was saying how she tried two tailpieces that were the same weight but different materials and that they sounded very different.

The taipiece itself flexes and vibrates causing changes in an instrument's response. Personally, I find carbon fiber not very attractive as an acoustical material-it always sounds 'glassy' to me with too much high frequencies. Carbon fiber bows, while they can be very nice sometimes, usually produce a flat, unintereting, bright sound.


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The purpose of the 'compensated' tailpiece is that it evens out the string tensions, which apparently has a beneficial effect on the sound....when I was an active tennis player I used to string my own raquets, and I used a system that was called 'proportional', meaning that the shorter outer strings are strung more loosely than the long central strings, thus producing a much larger 'sweet spot'. I always checked my tensions by plucking and listening for the same tone across the string bed. At that time Federer was the only pro using proportional stringing. Now that he's become the top dog, I imagine many have seen the light and gone over....

As for "why carbon fiber", here's the rationale of the makers of the Arcus carbon fiber bow: "The theory: The faster the sound travels through a bow, the better the sound and playing characteristics. (Referring to the groundbreaking research of Maestro Giovanni Lucchi.) Our experience: All Arcus bows show a sonic speed of about 7.300 m/s. High quality wood-bows score between 5.000 and 6.000 m/s."

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