Information

Geared tuning for Violin, Viola, Cello

Perfection pegs are suitable for violin, viola and cello. They also fit the oud, many types and sizes of gamba and some lutes. In fact, any string instrument that has a pegbox similar to violin, a two-sided pegbox with pegs bridging the box, is a candidate. Perfection pegs come in several sizes, to suit different instrument sizes and peg hole diameters.

Head styles & materials

Cello pegs in ebony and rosewood, Swiss and Hill styles.
Cello pegs in ebony and rosewood, Swiss and Hill styles (the Hill has the pin)

Swiss & Hill, in ebony, rosewood & ABS

Perfection pegs heads are made of ebony, rosewood, or ABS synthetic. The heads come in Swiss style (all curves, in ebony, rosewood and ABS), or the Hill style (with a pin on the top, in ebony and rosewood).

Construction

Shape, weight & taper

Perfection pegs have a standard taper and fit in the same holes as standard wooden friction pegs. They have the same shape, weight and taper as a set of good ebony pegs.

Heads

The head of a Perfection peg is made either of ebony, rosewood, or ABS synthetic (the plastic often used in car bodies). The head is attached to the central sun gear, which runs down the center of the shaft.

Shank

The section just below the head is the shank. Made of aircraft-grade aluminium, turned, polished and anodized, the shank encloses the the gears. When the peg is installed the shank is fixed in the peg box and remains stationary.

Planetary gears

Inside the shank is a set of planetary gears, and the brake which holds the gears in position against the tension of the strings. The 4:1 geared reduction provides accuracy and control in tuning. The gears themselves are made of toughened high-tensile steel, they are immensely strong, permanently sealed and lubricated and never require maintenance.

Shaft

The shaft is the section with the string-hole. It sits below the shank and is made of anodised aluminium and Delrin industrial nylon. The shaft is driven by the gears and turns once with every four turns of the head.
See the Perfection pegs planetary gear diagram.

Operation

Perfection pegs work in much the same way as a conventional peg, but more accurately and reliably. Turning the head of a Perfection peg tunes the string sharp or flat.

When a string is tuned to pitch a variable-friction brake holds the gears in position against the tension of the string. The player controls the degree of friction by exerting a light inward pressure on the peg head as a string is tuned. Friction is increased by pressing the peg head inwards as it is turned, and can be released to let the peg turn more freely by pulling the peg head gently outwards during rotation.

Turn the peg head to change the pitch. Press the head inwards to make the peg more firm and hold the tension. Pull the head outwards to soften the peg action.

To get a feel for the tuning action: back the peg off a couple of turns (so there’s no danger of breaking a string) and work the head backwards and forwards a few times, a half turn each way, as you apply a gentle inward pressure to the head. Now do the same thing while gently pulling outwards on the head. You will quickly discover how to adjust the peg for ease of turning and optimal hold.

If at some stage you find that the string is not holding, gently apply an inward pressure as you turn the head and this will make the action more firm. Or, if the peg becomes difficult to turn, gently pull the peg head away from the peg box as you turn and you will feel the action become easier.

Measuring, selecting & installing

Perfection pegs are available in a range of shank diameters to suit different instruments and peg hole sizes.

Taking  measurements

Perfection pegs are available in sizes, styles and materials to fit any violin, viola or cello. To ensure you purchase the correct size peg for your instrument you must take measurements of your existing pegs.

  • Measure the diameter of all the peg holes.
  • Measurements should be made at the point where the peg enters the peg box on the peg head side (your luthier would take these measurements before ordering and fitting the pegs).
  • Use a set of calipers to measure the diameter of the existing pegs at the point where they enter the peg box on the head side.

Choosing the size

  • Select the Perfection peg that is just larger than your largest measurement.
  • The smaller Perfection pegs (7.8mm for violin. 12mm for cello) usually suit newer instruments.
  • Older instruments often have larger peg holes and may need the larger Perfection pegs (8.5 and 9mm for violin and viola. 13, 14 and 15mm for cello)

Installing

Fitting Perfection pegs does not harm an instrument and the process is fully reversible.

Installation is straightforward but involves removal and refit of the strings, bridge, pegs, tailpiece, often the fine tuners are removed, and reaming of all four peg holes. As such it is a task best handled by a trained luthier.

A ‘standard taper’ reamer is used to prepare the peg box (Vn 1:30, Vc 1:25). It is the same tool that is used to install traditional pegs.

Complete installation instructions can be found on the Installation page.

Perfection peg types

Models, sizes, materials and styles

Model Dia (mm) Description
P1VN44 7.8 Eb, Rw, ABS Sw, Hi violin 4/4, viola 14″ and larger
P1VN44 8.5 8.5 Eb, Rw, ABS Sw, Hi violin 4/4, viola 14″ and larger
P1VA44 9 9.0 Eb, Rw, ABS Sw, Hi violin 4/4, viola 4/4, 14″ and larger
P1VN34 7.8 ABS Sw violin 3/4-1/2, viola 12″-13″
P1UG44 7.8 ABS Sw ukulele 4 peg, guitar 6 peg
P1VC44 12.0 Eb, Rw, ABS Sw, Hi cello 4/4
P1VC44 13 13.0 Eb, Rw, ABS Sw, Hi cello 4/4
P1VC44 14 14.0 Eb, Rw, ABS Sw, Hi cello 4/4
P1VC44 15 15.0 Eb, Rw, ABS Sw, Hi cello 4/4
P1VC34 12.0 ABS Sw cello 3/4-1/2
Head types: Eb = ebony, Rw = Rosewood, ABS = synthetic
Head styles: Sw = Swiss, Hi = Hill

Understanding model names

Example: P1VN44 8.5 EH
The model name indicates the peg, the instrument type it’s suited for, the instrument size, peg hole diameter and the head type. In this case, “P1VN44 8.5 EH” describes a Perfection peg suitable for a 4/4 (full size) violin with its largest existing peg hole at less than 8.5mm diameter. The peg has a head made of ebony carved in the Hill style.
P1 Perfection peg
VN Instrument type VN violin & viola, VA viola, VC cello
44 Instrument size 44 full size, 34 half to three-quarter size
8.5 Shank diameter in mm, at top of the thread No number indicates 7.8mm for violin or 12.0mm for cello
EH Head style & material E ebony, R rosewood, H Hill style, S Swiss style No style designation indicates ABS synthetic in Swiss style

Availability

Perfection pegs for violin, viola and cello (instrument sizes 1/2, 3/4 and 4/4) are available by mailorder through the Sales page on this website, or from your luthier. Not all peg models and sizes may be in stock at the time of your order but they will be brought in to fulfill the order.

Please contact us by email if you would like to check the availability of a particular type of peg or if you have other questions.

Trade discounts are available for luthiers.

Efficiency & Effectiveness

An instrument that is difficult to tune wastes a lot of time that could be better spent playing or practicing.

“Efficiency is doing things right, effectiveness is doing the right things.” – Peter Drucker

Perfection pegs eliminate string tuning problems and boost the efficiency and effectiveness of string teachers and students. Teachers using Perfection pegs with young orchestras report time savings in lessons and onstage of around 30%.

Students using Perfection pegs are able to tune on their own at a far earlier stage in their learning, often years earlier. Every lesson they have is more effective because they no longer have running battles with awkward pegs. At home, they can practise on an instrument that is in tune, an instrument that they have tuned.

A violin, viola or cello fitted with Perfection pegs has a longer and more useful working life. Maintenance spending on instrument repairs associated with pegs and fine tuners is reduced almost to zero, as are those ‘incidents’ with friction pegs that are the most common cause of broken strings.

Background

Ancient pegs

Friction pegs are the major cause of wear on a string instrument.

In centuries past all stringed instruments had strings made from processed gut and were tuned with wooden friction pegs. Wooden tuning pegs pre-date all modern string instruments and their first use is lost in prehistory. Friction pegs are problematic – it can take years for a player to feel competent in their use and it requires strength and skill to use them properly.

The performance of wooden pegs is unpredictable and is particularly affected by the weather. Changes in temperature and humidity cause the wood of the peg and the box to expand and contract, this can make pegs jam or let go unexpectedly.

The difficulties of friction pegs increase as the wood of the peg wears. Held in place by friction, exerting pressure against the wood of the peg box, wooden pegs are designed to wear with use. This is simply the way they work, the friction of wood-on-wood resists the tension of the string, while each turn of the wooden peg creates wear on both the peg and the pegbox. The wear occurs unevenly and as the pegs and holes change shape the pegs become more difficult to use, eventually the peg holes must be reamed to a larger size and the pegs replaced. Finally, when the peg holes become too large, they must be rebushed and the process starts again.

New strings

Over the years, from around the end of the 19th century, alternatives to gut strings became available. Different materials were used to create strings with bigger and brighter sounds and better projection. Fashioned from steel, aluminium and synthetic fibres, the new strings needed higher tensions and this further aggravated the problems of friction pegs, making them more difficult to use. With the new strings friction pegs reached the limits of their capabilities, the pressure was literally on. To regain control of the process fine tuners were attached to the tail piece. Fine tuners allow more accurate tuning than friction pegs unassisted but they also compromise the sound.

First gears

In time, geared tuners were developed to handle the higher string tensions. The geared devices were easier to use and more stable than friction pegs and the design and construction of the string bass, guitar, mandolin and several others, changed to allow them to adopt the geared tuners.

Finding a suitable replacement for the traditional wooden pegs for violin, viola and cello proved more difficult. With these instruments the weight of the pegs has a bearing on the sound, and there are strong aesthetic requirements to be satisfied. The development of an acceptable alternative, a geared peg that performed properly and looked good on the instrument, had to wait another 100 years for the development of new metals, synthetics and computer aided manufacturing methods.

Perfection takes time

Chuck Herin is a cellist and an engineer who became intrigued by the problems caused by string instruments’ archaic method of tuning, and realised that there must be a better way, and while all string players are aware of the tuning difficulties of conventional pegs, Chuck was the only one who felt he could actually do something about it. He got busy and in 2000, after 20 years of research and development, he released the first PegHed precision planetary geared tuning peg. The PegHed technology was then licensed and the Perfection planetary pegs for violin, viola and cello were developed.

Perfection pegs maintain the appearance and the character of the instrument, to the extent that the most visible indication they are fitted is the absence of fine tuners on the tail piece. They provide string instruments with a precise geared tuning action that is reliable, accurate and stable under all weather conditions. They will never wear out and you will never again need to have your pegs maintained or repaired.

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