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germain

Pernambuco Tailpiece and Titanium Alloy Tail Gut

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Changed the tailpiece today with pernambuco and titanium alloy tail gut. To my surprise it made a big difference in terms of sound projection. While I was expecting subtle or no changes in the sound the difference was actually very obvious and substantial compared to a regular boxwood tailpiece and a nylon "sacconi" tailgut. Now the question is what makes the big difference exactly - is it the pernambuco material or the tail gut? I have the feeling it is more the second one...

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How do the lengths and weights of the two guts and tailpieces compare? Unless it’s a high level tailpiece, the boxwood one is likely softer and lighter. It won’t radiate sound quite the same way as a similarly shaped piece of pernambuco.

Also, are you keeping the afterlength the same? If there’s a discrepancy it will have an impact. 

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15 hours ago, germain said:

Changed the tailpiece today with pernambuco and titanium alloy tail gut. To my surprise it made a big difference in terms of sound projection. While I was expecting subtle or no changes in the sound the difference was actually very obvious and substantial compared to a regular boxwood tailpiece and a nylon "sacconi" tailgut. Now the question is what makes the big difference exactly - is it the pernambuco material or the tail gut? I have the feeling it is more the second one...

There can be many factors involved.

Tail adjuster material; hole spacing where the tail adjuster mounts; hole spacing where the strings mount; string afterlength; distance between the saddle and the taipiece; mass, and mass distribution of the tailpiece.

As with so many things in violin making and setup, it is difficult to do single variable experiments to know exactly what is responsible for a change. In your situation, you might start by keeping the tailpiece the same, and change only the tail adjuster material, trying to keep all dimensions the same when going from one to the other.

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it is good that you had an improvement, I would be hesitant to say that this set up would be a universal tone improvement on all violins {not saying you're saying that} but is more likely rooted in some small variable that David has mentioned that is "exclusive" to your particular violin,most likely to do with mass and it's distribution and how once suspended over the body it interacts with dynamic states. But could be one of or a combination of several little things, including but not limited to your ears imagination.

If possible, I always suggest people make recordings of before the change to see if there is a change that it is so dramatic that the new setup can be recorded in comparison.

It's one thing to "think" it sounds better,it's another to "verify" that to yourself and a general consensus of others by having clear before and after recordings that demonstrate a consensus improvement , even if just to yourself.

Tone improvements are a lot like that time you pulled off a double back flip skiing and no one was there to see it.

"Ya,sure it sounds better" :lol:

But,just like the backflip, you know you did it, just like you know it sounds better, and that's all that matters.But it is nice when everyone else gets to see it too.

This is one of those things that have happened to me also, and I like the tone improvement, but don't love the fact that I don't have the ability to explain or control it other than what David says, experiment around.

All I know is that if I string something up, and it does not sound great, one of the first things I do is start looking at all the fittings and components

It's like flopping fish with little backpacks on, with just the right weight and location,it allows the fish to flop to it's maximum extent of floppiness all most as if it did not have the backpack on, shift the location or change the weight, even a little,suddenly the fish can't flop unencumbered. 

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My guess would be the weight.  If you really want to chase this down, I'd put the boxwood tailpiece back on as before, except with clay added to match the weight of the pernambuco one.  Then you can quickly take off the clay to observe the difference.

The tailpiece is a non-radiator, so any vibration modes will cause a response dip at those frequencies.  The main tailpiece resonances (rigid body modes, suspended by string afterlengths) of a heavy ebony tailpiece I measured at 135 Hz (below the playing range, and 211 Hz (down near the open G, where the fundamental is almost non-existent anyway).

Boxwood tailpieces can be less than half that weight, so the corresponding modes would be around the open G (not a big deal) and around the open D (I think you'd notice that).  The significant mass difference can also affect the B modes, much as a different weight chinrest would.

I have only tried a boxwood tailpiece a few times, and never liked the result, probably due to these effects.

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I don't like those metal tailguts, and one shop I know has abandoned them altogether because of the tone changes.

I am not sure what the reasons are for even trying a metal tailgut.

Did you change strings, too?

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On 11/15/2019 at 12:29 PM, germain said:

Changed the tailpiece today with pernambuco and titanium alloy tail gut. To my surprise it made a big difference in terms of sound projection. While I was expecting subtle or no changes in the sound the difference was actually very obvious and substantial compared to a regular boxwood tailpiece and a nylon "sacconi" tailgut. Now the question is what makes the big difference exactly - is it the pernambuco material or the tail gut? I have the feeling it is more the second one...

Your original set up was a boxwood tailpiece and a nylon tailgut correct? And the new tailpiece is made of Pernambuco? And not Ebony?

I am constantly telling my students to investigate an Ebony Tailpiece, and I think the tail gut is either Kevlar or silk, I think Kevlar most of the time. The sound is always better  then the previous tailpiece which invariably is either plastic or incredibly cheap carbon fiber or even pot metal, it seems. I have used boxwood before, but that doesn’t seem to have enough mass. However, a titanium tailgut. might be worth a try. But pernambuco For the tailpiece? Tell me more.

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2 hours ago, jezzupe said:

It's like flopping fish with little backpacks on, with just the right weight and location,it allows the fish to flop to it's maximum extent of floppiness all most as if it did not have the backpack on, shift the location or change the weight, even a little,suddenly the fish can't flop unencumbered. 

That’s a really terrific simile, I can imagine when I’d be able to use it, but boy that’s a great simile

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50 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

The tailpiece is a non-radiator, so any vibration modes will cause a response dip at those frequencies.

Are you saying that the tailpiece itself doesn’t vibrate? Or that it doesn’t resonate?

I should understand that comment, but I don’t.

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1 hour ago, GeorgeH said:

I don't like those metal tailguts, and one shop I know has abandoned them altogether because of the tone changes.

I am not sure what the reasons are for even trying a metal tailgut.

They maintain their length better than nylon, and the length is easy to adjust. Eventually, the nylon will stretch so much that the thread pitch no longer fits that of the nut, and the nut can't be turned without screwing up the threads, so then you install a new one and start the process all over again.

 

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I think Don Noon gave you the best explanation in terms of violin physics. 

My simplified view is that I look at the ensemble of strings tailpiece and tailgut as a chain. If you imagine that you put one weak member in the chain (like a plastic tailgut) the behavior of the whole chain will be affected. Likewise you can hear a difference when you exchange a softer wood tailpiece with Fernambuco which has lengthwise a very high stability. (I would almost bet that your previous tailpiece was a sort of soft boxwood)

But as said by other MN members there are definitely other factors as well as the weight and hole spacing in tailpieces. 

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1 hour ago, PhilipKT said:

Are you saying that the tailpiece itself doesn’t vibrate? Or that it doesn’t resonate?

I should understand that comment, but I don’t.

The tailpiece does vibrate/resonate... but the area is very small compared to the air wavelength, so it doesn't produce appreciable sound, or doesn't radiate.

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1 hour ago, Don Noon said:

The tailpiece does vibrate/resonate... but the area is very small compared to the air wavelength, so it doesn't produce appreciable sound, or doesn't radiate.

All right, that’s exactly what I thought, but I wanted to make sure I understood correctly, thank you very much don

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7 hours ago, Don Noon said:

The tailpiece does vibrate/resonate... but the area is very small compared to the air wavelength, so it doesn't produce appreciable sound, or doesn't radiate.

Same with the strings. They produce very little sound on their own (think solid-body instrument). But when they feed their vibration into the body of an acoustic instrument, things change a bit. I like to think of tailpiece vibrations in a similar way. They still aren't very loud, but are very significant, in my opinion.

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I'd be really interested in an unambiguous demonstration of these big differences.

Whenever i try this I can never be sure that whatever differences i hear are just due to the strings being slackened and re-tightened (this does make a difference - try it if you doubt), or even just in my mind. 

I like the titanium tail cords for the same reason DB likes the steel ones.

 

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24 minutes ago, JohnCockburn said:

I'd be really interested in an unambiguous demonstration of these big differences.

Whenever i try this I can never be sure that whatever differences i hear are just due to the strings being slackened and re-tightened (this does make a difference - try it if you doubt), or even just in my mind. 

I like the titanium tail cords for the same reason DB likes the steel ones.

 

I can't think of a way to change tail adjusters or tailpieces without slackening the strings, but Don's suggestion of adding, removing, and repositioning clay can reveal some differences due to mass changes and distributions.

When string slackening is required, I like to allow some time for the instrument to "settle" again. This doesn't eliminate all unintended changes from string slackening, but it's the best I know how to do. Of course, this allows more time to elapse between listenings (which is itself a huge problem), but I try to get around this by recording each setting, editing out the silent parts, then playing back these different adjustments in a repeating loop. My conclusions from listening to these loops won't always be the same on the one day, as they will the next. It's fascinating and mind-boggling stuff. :o:lol:

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13 hours ago, David Burgess said:

They maintain their length better than nylon, and the length is easy to adjust. Eventually, the nylon will stretch so much that the thread pitch no longer fits that of the nut, and the nut can't be turned without screwing up the threads, so then you install a new one and start the process all over again.

Thanks, David. I also wonder if they don't cut into the saddle and endpin over time, which would be more of a problem than stretched thread pitch.

In my very limited experience, I have never observed a failed thread on an old nylon tailgut. What do you think the lifespan is for a nylon tailgut? 

As an aside, three times I have observed the metal nuts on nylon tailguts crack and eventually shatter tailpieces.

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5 minutes ago, GeorgeH said:

Thanks, David. I also wonder if they don't cut into the saddle and endpin over time, which would be more of a problem than stretched thread pitch.

In my very limited experience, I have never observed a failed thread on an old nylon tailgut. What do you think the lifespan is for a nylon tailgut?

The threads on the better-quality nylon adjusters seem to hold up fine, until you try to adjust them back to their original length (or to a different length) after the threads on the nylon have stretched. This seems to take at least several years on violins, but can happen more quickly on cellos. There can also be a separate problem from the threads on the nylon being cut too loose in the first place, causing the nut to jump threads. I even had this problem on some of the Sacconi-brand adjusters, after they replaced their old cutting die with a new sharper one.

Yes, the metal tail adjusters will cut into the saddle. I try to get around this by placing a small piece of plastic, cut off from a zip-tie under each wire. This works well, except that some person in the future who unstrings the instrument may not notice they are there, and may fail to put them back. Maybe I should slap a big warning sticker on the fiddles. :lol:

Even with the plastic protectors, the wire tail adjusters will still eventually indent or deform an ebony saddle. But the nylon tail adjusters will too. If I could easily make a metal saddle, I'd probably try that. :)

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Here's how we have done  it in our shop: The change that comes from unstringing an instrument is a constant, so we get that out of the way first, then quickly cycle through all of the possibilities to find the one that works the best minus what we have observed as the initial unstringing change. Then we let the instrument sit overnight to settle and see where we are at. Then maybe do it again. We do that with changes other than just tailpieces, too. Eventually we get where we want to be--it might take 10-20 minutes a day for a week to really hone things in if the instrument is a twitchy one.

We have been doing this for a few years now, and experience allows us to shortcut the process a lot, in that we've learned in a general way how all the alternatives work, and how to hear and subtract the take-down's temporary changes, so often we can get it on the first or second try. This has helped me a lot in doing customer adjustments, too, and the process is incredibly efficient now.

I can't think of a single violin that came into the shop with a kevlar tailpiece hanger that went out with one, but that might be an effect of the type of violins we work on.

Tailpiece and hanger material have huge effects, but as David has noted, there are a lot of "invisible" variables that most people won't consider that might be having a large effect on their own. In the OP's case, that same setup would sound a lot different if the back end of the tailpiece were sitting less than 1/2 mm from the saddle or even closer vs far away. This is why violin tailpieces are available in lengths from 105 to 114 mm, so you can change that back length without changing the afterlength.

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On 11/16/2019 at 6:12 PM, GeorgeH said:

I don't like those metal tailguts, and one shop I know has abandoned them altogether because of the tone changes.

I am not sure what the reasons are for even trying a metal tailgut.

Did you change strings, too?

No same set of strings. I also realized the previous tailpiece was not boxwood but mountain mahogany. I am pretty sure that the thicker "sacconi" nylon gut was the reason for getting less resonance out of the instrument. It still sounded fine don't get me wrong but with the new set up the instrument opened up even more. 

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On 11/17/2019 at 3:02 PM, GeorgeH said:

Thanks, David. I also wonder if they don't cut into the saddle and endpin over time, which would be more of a problem than stretched thread pitch.

In my very limited experience, I have never observed a failed thread on an old nylon tailgut. What do you think the lifespan is for a nylon tailgut? 

As an aside, three times I have observed the metal nuts on nylon tailguts crack and eventually shatter tailpieces.

My last titanium tailgut lasted only a few hours of playing and broke in the middle of a group practice. Replaced with Kevlar and still going on.

 Juan

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