On my violin, I’ve got a very useful addition which makes life easy for me and speeds up work recording strings in the studio. This addition is a tailpiece with four built in ‘fine adjusters’. These are small screws which violins traditionally have only on the E string (the viola on the A string) and change the pitch of the string by small amounts. By moving them clockwise, the string becomes sharper in pitch and to tune ‘down’, the screw is rotated anticlockwise. Of course, bigger adjustments on stringed instruments are usually done with the pegs, but when it’s only a small distance required, fine adjusters are perfect!
I find that when the weather is slightly muggy making the strings go out of tune regularly by small amounts, or if humidity builds up in the studio I can rectify the tuning in a matter of seconds – this is also useful in concerts where a player doesn’t want to interrupt the flow of the work by tuning extensively between movements and in pretty much every situation they are time saving and beneficial – I am a big fan!
So why is it that when I mention the subject of ‘fine adjuster tailpieces’ to fellow string players, I often get a snigger, a sneer or they think I’m joking? I have even heard a player say that he has been taught that the fine adjusters affect the tone or sound of his viola detrimentally. This is simply not the case in my opinion as the tone comes from the individual player and their musicianship. I believe the prejudice comes from the fact that beginners violins often come equipped with a tailpiece and four fine adjusters so they are associated with children. There is the feeling that having them means that somehow you are deficient in your ability to tune your own instrument – strange isn’t it? I am looking at a photograph of a very great violinist called Alfredo Campoli and I can clearly see four fine adjustments proudly adorning his violin and I can also confirm that he was no beginner and had one of the most distinctive, beautiful tones of all.