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Zeissica

Sonic attributes of different tailpiece gut material?

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Between steel wire, braided steel (Wittener), plastic, and Kevlar tailpiece gut material - what are your thoughts about the effects on the sound of a violin or viola?

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I would say there is about 0 effect on the tone, even though you might think there would be more of an effect.as it sure seems to be in the "vibration mix" , but, based on the location, near the butt, it falls into a nodal area that just doesn't vibrate that much.

Doing stuff to the tailpiece on the other hand, different sizes, shapes, materials and such, does seem to have an effect, none of which seem predictable, sometimes good, sometimes bad. At least that's my experience

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Thanks jezzupe - that's what I figured, but knowing the crowd around here, I thought there might be some strong opinions on the subject. 

 

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There is definitely a lot of effect on the tone. I'm just a player (and not a maker) but my preference is for nylon tailcords. I tried the steel and Kevlar tailcords (against my luthier's recommendations) and they made my instrument slightly quicker in terms of response, but the sound lost a lot of core. I was much happier upon switching back to a nylon tailcord. I've gotten the best results with tailpieces with the widest possible hole spacing (both for the strings, and for the tailcord).

Some violas with response issues might work well with a more flexible tailcord (such as kevlar or steel) but I also prefer nylon tailcords on viola.

It seems to be different on cello, especially since some tailpieces, like the Thomastik or Akusticus, come with a steel tailcord by default. However, the greater majority of the Harmonie tailpieces I've seen on cellos have had their holes drilled wider to accept a nylon tailcord instead of the kevlar tailcord that Harmonie recommends.

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1 hour ago, Zeissica said:

Thanks jezzupe - that's what I figured, but knowing the crowd around here, I thought there might be some strong opinions on the subject. 

 

Oh, give it time, I'm not the end all of end alls by any means around here, Don Noon would be the guy to tell you if it makes a measurable difference, not sure if he's done that.

We already have someone saying it does, really, I think that all one can do is try different things and see what they perceive, 

It is not uncommon for only the player to be the only one who can tell these subtle differences, lots of that based on being very familiar with the instrument and it's tone. I'm a firm believer that players hear and feel things that can not be measured or verbalized.

edit; I would put this in there with sound post adjustments, where sometimes only the player hears/feels a difference, which may or may not be measurable

I say this from both sides of the coin, where I have had personal instruments right where I wanted them, done some sort of post adjustment and forever "lost" that perfect spot, only to come close or good enough at refinding it. And as someone who has done adjustments for players [only after my lawyer draws up a contract about not being responsible for tone changes,:lol:] and imo hearing a new position sound worse whereas the player likes it, I'm sure many a luthier have been yelled at for "ruining my tone!!!" 

cellos may be a slightly different story based on several factors, but to me the tail cord SEEMS to be pretty negligible. I am a big fan of nylon tail alla Passa

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1 hour ago, jezzupe said:

Don Noon would be the guy to tell you if it makes a measurable difference, not sure if he's done that.

Of course I have :)

The tail cord doesn't do all that much on its own, but has a lot of influence on the rigid-body motions of the tailpiece.  The vertical, lateral, and twist movements at the fat part of the tailpiece are mostly controlled by the string tension, but the tail gut can contribute, especially if it is adjusted short (stiffer).  Those movements are very low frequency, and for the violin, mostly below playing range (unless using a very light boxwood tailpiece).  It's more important for violas and cellos, where the vibrations are in the playing range.

More important at least for the violin IMO is the bounce at the lower (skinny) end of the tailpiece.  The frequency can range below 1000 Hz for free tailgut lengths of ~5mm or so, which is in an important range.  I have tried kevlar taliguts, and didn't like them... the low damping and low bending stiffness seemed to allow disturbing vibrations.  I prefer the nylon, which is stiffer and higher damping, which attenuates the vibration and moves it to higher frequencies.  I also try  to keep the free length as short as possible for this reason.  On cellos, I understand that the free length is often adjusted to match this tailpiece mode to a wolf note, as a wolf killer.

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8 hours ago, Don Noon said:

Of course I have :)

The tail cord doesn't do all that much on its own, but has a lot of influence on the rigid-body motions of the tailpiece.  The vertical, lateral, and twist movements at the fat part of the tailpiece are mostly controlled by the string tension, but the tail gut can contribute, especially if it is adjusted short (stiffer).  Those movements are very low frequency, and for the violin, mostly below playing range (unless using a very light boxwood tailpiece).  It's more important for violas and cellos, where the vibrations are in the playing range.

More important at least for the violin IMO is the bounce at the lower (skinny) end of the tailpiece.  The frequency can range below 1000 Hz for free tailgut lengths of ~5mm or so, which is in an important range.  I have tried kevlar taliguts, and didn't like them... the low damping and low bending stiffness seemed to allow disturbing vibrations.  I prefer the nylon, which is stiffer and higher damping, which attenuates the vibration and moves it to higher frequencies.  I also try  to keep the free length as short as possible for this reason.  On cellos, I understand that the free length is often adjusted to match this tailpiece mode to a wolf note, as a wolf killer.

Would it be acceptable if the tailpiece touches or even rests on de saddle? with a 115mm tp and 54.5mm afterlength this is sometimes unavoidable, unless you shorten the tp.

I understand you prefer a more rigid tp/gut system to avoid unwanted vibrations, but i also read some prefer kevlar cords because it is thinner and has lower bending stiffness, making the tp more free to vibrate.

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From my experience as a player, the Kevlar tailcord does improve the response of an instrument. Many of my cellist colleagues have changed the metal tailcord on their Akustikus Tailpiece with Kevlar and are satisfied with the result. I personally prefer using the Bois d’Harmonie Tailpiece on both of my Cellos, since it weighs significantly less and looks undoubtedly more elegant.

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4 hours ago, Emilg said:

Would it be acceptable if the tailpiece touches or even rests on de saddle? with a 115mm tp and 54.5mm afterlength this is sometimes unavoidable, unless you shorten the tp.

I understand you prefer a more rigid tp/gut system to avoid unwanted vibrations, but i also read some prefer kevlar cords because it is thinner and has lower bending stiffness, making the tp more free to vibrate.

If the tailpiece rests on the saddle, the tailgut springiness is short-circuited, and things are MUCH stiffer in certain directions.  This will naturally raise some of the tailpiece modes, which may or may not be desirable.  There's also a risk of buzzing.  I prefer to leave a couple of mm free gut length.

The tailpiece is a non-radiating resonator, so if it's "more free to vibrate", then the effects (primarily a dip in the response at the resonant frequency) become more severe.  That might be good if you're trying to mode-match a wolf note, but in general I prefer less severe tailpiece vibrations with a nylon gut.  Cellos and violas might have different considerations.

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Personally, I like Kevlar for tailguts and have been using it more lately. I certainly wouldn’t say it’s anything earth-shattering, but I have found that switching from nylon to Kevlar made the sound a little bit richer in some cases. 

I really hate the way nylon stretches out and ruins all one’s careful attention to adjusting the afterlength and I’ve seen enough tail guts explode at the threads on good instruments to be in favor of an alternative. Also, I think that the look of the braided Kevlar has a professional aesthetic to it that makes nylon just seem like cheap plastic. The irony is that the Kevlar is actually cheaper than nylon.

I like the braided steel as well, but I’ve found that it cuts into the saddle, necessitating little strips of  plastic or some other protective material. 

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As Neil Ertz pointed out when this was discussed previously, many moons ago, changing from nylon to Kevlar alters the “effective’” saddle height quite a bit. Maybe this is of some significance?

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I can speak from a cello perspective...

I installed the Tonal Tailpiece on my cello (http://tonaltailpiece.com/) and to me it was a game changer. This is a carbon fiber tailpiece that was invented by accomplished cellist Kenneth Kuo. I immediately noticed greater sound and resonance and amazingly enough the cello became a lot more responsive. On cello's he's had a lot of people using them (even on Stradivarius cellos!)  I'm by no means a professional player, but as a serious amateur I definitely feel like it has made me a better cellist. ;)

Now, I can't speak about violin or viola, but some people who have used Tonal Tailpiece like it and some people don't. From the people that don't like it the complaint I've heard is that it's too overpowering because the instruments are smaller (or that's what I seem to understand.) I think ultimately you have to try it out and see if it's for you. I know that Tonal Tailpiece gives you a trial period and if you don't like it you can return it.

One other random thing I should mention that I heard from a cellist about carbon fiber tailpiece... I'm not sure if it applies only to carbon fiber, but I was told that a cellist installed some random carbon fiber tailpiece (i.e. something that was a knock off from China) and the darn thing actually exploded and did some damage to the cello! :o So do be careful with what you buy/try out there! 

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17 hours ago, JohnCockburn said:

As Neil Ertz pointed out when this was discussed previously, many moons ago, changing from nylon to Kevlar alters the “effective’” saddle height quite a bit. Maybe this is of some significance?

9 hours ago, MeyerFittings said:

Define "quite a bit" please.

With the nylon gut being ~2mm diameter, the center of a thinner gut could never be more than 1mm lower on the saddle.   From the tests David and I did on saddle height influence, I can't imagine that this would matter.

However, think about the holes in the tailpiece, where a thinner gut would have more clearance in the holes.  Where do you define the "free length" of the gut?  Seems to me it would be the place where the gut is tied, which can be 5 mm farther away than the point where the gut exits the tailpiece.  That could have a significant effect on tailpiece vibration frequencies.

 

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1 hour ago, Don Noon said:

With the nylon gut being ~2mm diameter, the center of a thinner gut could never be more than 1mm lower on the saddle.   From the tests David and I did on saddle height influence, I can't imagine that this would matter.

 

 

i don't recall seeing these tests. Is the conclusion that saddle height doesn't matter?

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8 minutes ago, JohnCockburn said:

i don't recall seeing these tests. Is the conclusion that saddle height doesn't matter?

Don points out the difference is height will be marginal between 2mm and 1mm gut, as height is determined by half the diameter.

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You might think that the place where the tail gut is held by the knots or barrels would be the effective length of the vibrating gut. I believe however, due to the angles of the holes and the raised tailpiece saddle that where the gut exits is more likely the fixer of length. I have customers who are veryspecific about the length of the overhang past these holes. I'll bet Eric Fouillhe has looked into this, at least on cello tailpieces.   

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4 hours ago, JohnCockburn said:

i don't recall seeing these tests. Is the conclusion that saddle height doesn't matter?

Variations in sting angle over the bridge do produce differences, but so far, I don't think that small differences (like 1mm on the saddle end) matter as much as some people would like to think.

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4 hours ago, MeyerFittings said:

You might think that the place where the tail gut is held by the knots or barrels would be the effective length of the vibrating gut. I believe however, due to the angles of the holes and the raised tailpiece saddle that where the gut exits is more likely the fixer of length.

Agreed.  I have never encountered a situation where the tailgut was just floating in the middle of the hole. It was always pressed against some side of the exit hole.

Not that floating in the middle of the hole couldn't be done, but it would very likely result in buzzes.

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