How much do you know about the violin tailpiece?

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What is the violin tailpiece?

The violin tailpiece is an important accessory on the violin. The dimensions for a 4/4 violin tailpiece are typically 110-115mm in length and 41-43mm in width. Its main purpose is to connect the violin strings to the end of the instrument. 

Additionally, proper use and installation of the tailpiece can result in a more responsive violin, improved resonance, and easier playability, ultimately enhancing the overall tone.

The style of the violin tailpiece

There are many styles of violin tailpieces, the most common are 4 styles, English style, French style, tulip style, and harp style.

English-style tailpiece

English-style tailpiece

The English-style tailpiece is highly common and has a triangular-shaped appearance with pronounced edges.

French-style tailpiece: 

French-style tailpiece

The French-style tailpiece, like the English style, is highly common and has a similar shape. However, the surface of the French-style tailpiece is smooth and lacks pronounced edges.

Tulip-style tailpiece: 

Tulip-style tailpiece

This type of tailpiece appears somewhat similar to the French-style tailpiece, but it is not identical. The Tulip-style tailpiece has an overall shape resembling a wine glass.

Harp-style tailpiece: 

Harp-style tailpiece

This type of tailpiece differs significantly from the other three styles. Not only does it have a different appearance (resembling a harp, hence the name), but more importantly, the shape change affects the string length, increasing the afterlength of the lower strings and reducing the tension of the E string. This alteration results in increased vibrations and changes to the sound.

The impact of different types of wood on the sound of the tailpiece

Different violins require different tailpieces, and for renowned violinists, changing the tailpiece is a very serious matter because different materials can have varying effects on the violin's sound.

At Fiddlover, our violins are crafted with tailpieces made from various woods and styles. Common options include jujube wood, ebony, rosewood, boxwood, and pernambuco wood.

Jujube Wood Tailpiece:

Jujube Wood Tailpiece

Jujube wood is known for its hardness and fine grain. It has a light red or dark red color. Jujube wood is a durable and dense hardwood that is resistant to decay. Jujube trees typically grow slowly, taking several decades to reach a usable size. The outer layer of jujube wood is light yellow, while the heartwood is light red. Violin fittings are mainly made from heartwood or the stained outer layer, as jujube wood is used as a substitute for traditional European boxwood. The effect and color of jujube wood are similar to European boxwood. 

The density of jujube wood ranges from 0.75 to 0.80g/cm3.

Ebony Wood Tailpiece:

Ebony Wood Tailpiece

Ebony is a type of wood that originates from Africa and Asia, with some production in southern China as well. It is known for its hardness and fine grain, with white bark and black heartwood. Ebony wood is considered a precious imported wood in Europe, often used for decorating valuable instruments and furniture. 

The density of ebony wood ranges from 0.85 to 1.17g/cm3.

Rosewood Tailpiece:

Rosewood Tailpiece

Rosewood is a hardwood species with a hard and uniform texture, as well as clear and natural grain patterns. It is commonly used for making violin fittings, and guitar backboards, and is known for its resistance to decay and insect infestation. Rosewood is an internationally recognized and recommended environmentally friendly tree species. 

The density of rosewood ranges from 0.75 to 1.04g/cm3.

Boxwood Tailpiece:

Boxwood Tailpiece

Boxwood has a smooth texture, fine grain, and a creamy yellow color that deepens over time, giving it an elegant and antique aesthetic. European boxwood tends to be softer, while most Chinese boxwood is harder. The use of boxwood in woodcarvings allows for intricate and vivid details, making it suitable for violin fittings as well. 

The density of boxwood is approximately 0.85g/cm3.

Pernambuco Wood Tailpiece:

Pernambuco Wood Tailpiece

Pernambuco wood is abundant in Brazil and historically was primarily used as a dye. It is also a premium material for making violin bows. The surface of pernambuco wood ranges from yellow-red to reddish-brown, with a slightly glossy cross-section that may exhibit a dark brown hue. It is a hardwood with high elasticity and fast sound transmission. 

The density of pernambuco wood is approximately 1.02g/cm3.

Analysis of five kinds of wood tailpieces

The density of Tailpieces:

The actual results of density testing are as follows: Ebony > Rosewood > Pernambuco > Jujube Wood > Boxwood.

Sound Transmission Speed of Tailpieces:

Among the five tailpieces made of different wood types but with similar shapes, the tailpiece with the highest density, Ebony, has a sound transmission speed of 4435 m/s. The tailpiece with the lowest density, Boxwood, has a sound transmission speed of 3481 m/s. The tailpiece made of Pernambuco wood has the fastest sound transmission speed at 5288 m/s. The impact of tailpiece density and sound transmission speed on violin sound requires separate investigation and analysis.

After conducting frequency spectrum analysis on tailpieces made of different wood types, it was found that the influence of different wood materials on the high-frequency range is minimal, which means it has little impact on the brightness of the violin's tone. However, it does have some influence on the richness and responsiveness of the tone.

It can be observed that the sound characteristics are affected by the sound transmission speed of different wood materials. Tailpieces made of wood with faster sound transmission speed tend to produce better sound quality. Analyzing from the perspective of density, it is found that the tailpieces made of Ebony, which has the highest density, do not necessarily exhibit the highest peak in the frequency spectrum. Instead, Rosewood and Pernambuco tailpieces show a better overall peak display. In terms of perception, the Boxwood tailpiece, although not exhibiting high peaks in the frequency spectrum, produces a softer and warmer sound. On the other hand, the Jujube Wood and Ebony tailpieces, which are commonly used by luthiers and performers, show similar characteristics both in the frequency spectrum and perception.

Based on the experience of luthiers, Ebony, despite not exhibiting the best frequency spectrum, can be considered when the violin's sound is thin and needs to eliminate excessive vibrations due to its heavier weight. Pernambuco, with its fastest sound transmission speed indicating high elasticity, is suitable for violins lacking vibration and producing a dull sound, as it can improve responsiveness. Jujube Wood, Rosewood, and Boxwood tailpieces, although different in color, exhibit characteristics that lie between the two wood types mentioned above.

The material properties of the violin tailpiece do have an impact on the violin's sound. The specific choice of tailpiece material should be based on the individual characteristics of the violin and the preferences of the performer.

Carbon Fiber Tailpiece

For beginner violins, sometimes an integrated tailpiece with built-in fine tuners is used. These tailpieces are often made of carbon fiber. They are particularly suitable for beginners as they are sturdy, durable, resistant to deformation, and lighter in weight compared to wooden fine tuners. However, for more advanced violinists, wooden tailpieces are more commonly used.

How to Install a Tailpiece

The installation of a tailpiece can be referred to in the following video. This is a setup video we provide before shipping the violin, which includes the installation of the pegs, tailpiece, strings, and even the carving of the scroll. Each violin's scroll is individually hand-carved.

1 comment

  • Posted on by Jesse

    I have an old violin it has an interesting tail piece made of ivory of mother of pearl inlay. Any ideas when something like this could have been made?

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