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Author Topic: Thomaskik versus Wittner Tailpiece  (Read 15209 times)

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Offline RickyONeal

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Thomaskik versus Wittner Tailpiece
« on: Jul 30, 2007, 02:51:52 PM »
My fiddle self-destructed while I was playing last night (the tailgut gave up the ghost).  I was using an ebony tailpiece with 4 add-on fine tuners.  I thought I'd upgrade to a tailpiece with integrated fine tuners, and am considering the Wittner and the Thomastic.  They're only a few dollars apart in price at Shar, so money's not the issue.  Does anyone have any experience with these tailpieces?  Are there significant differences in sound, durability, etc.?

Other, maybe extraneous details:

This fiddle is an early 20th Century German "Stradivarius" (nothing special) that I have fitted with the LRBaggs piezo bridge pickup.  The strings are currently Pirastro Violinos, which gave the fiddle a very mellow sound.  I'll probably put Dominants on it next.  Not steel strings.  I mostly play classical (or try to), as well as messing around with other stuff like blues, new age and old-time.

Thanks,

- Mike


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Offline Steve_W

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Re: Thomaskik versus Wittner Tailpiece
« Reply #1 on: Jul 30, 2007, 04:47:30 PM »
I've never used the Thomastik but I now have the Wittner Ultra on 3 of my 4 violins and have been really happy with it.  The tuners have plenty of travel for synthetic strings and it's easy to swap out strings (this was something that used to drive me crazy with the Pusch tailpiece that was formerly on my main fiddle).  Hope this helps.

Offline beeswing

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Re: Thomaskik versus Wittner Tailpiece
« Reply #2 on: Jul 30, 2007, 05:01:33 PM »
Not sure there'll be a lot of diff in the sound or durability. There's a 1906 fiddle in the house with a Thomastik TP that's been on for who knows how long, works just fine. Wittner's ought to last pretty well also. I like their consistent finely detailed quality.

Seems to me like the appearance may be the deciding factor. I think of the Thomastik tailpieces as being more goblet-shaped than the Wittners. My own taste favors the more "modern" Wittner style, but on a violin such as you describe, either look would probably work. Your choice...
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Offline woodwiz

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Re: Thomaskik versus Wittner Tailpiece
« Reply #3 on: Jul 31, 2007, 12:19:37 AM »
We put Wittners on all our student fiddles up to $2500.  That's a LOT of tailpieces every year.  Never a problem.

They are a little sleeker than Thomastics, but I think the Thomastics are OK., otherwise.

Offline awildman2384

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Re: Thomaskik versus Wittner Tailpiece
« Reply #4 on: Jul 31, 2007, 12:25:26 AM »
I am happy with my Wittner.  I head somewhere that there is not as much travel in the fine tuners with the Thomastic, but i might be mistaken.

Offline RickyONeal

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Re: Thomaskik versus Wittner Tailpiece
« Reply #5 on: Jul 31, 2007, 12:57:58 AM »
Thanks everyone.  The Wittner it is.  It's also the cheaper of the two for some reason.  Cool.

- Mike

Offline aborygydknee

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Re: Thomaskik versus Wittner Tailpiece
« Reply #6 on: Sep 01, 2008, 02:26:36 PM »
I was so surprised to read that someone else's fiddle had self-destructed in that way. Imagine that, a tail-gut letting go! Well, it happened to me. I was using the aluminium Thomaskik tailpiece with 4 integrated fine-tuners and metal tail-gut. My attempts to adjust the length of the metal tail-gut resulted in getting the wire of the tail-gut kinked-hence the breakage in minutes of playing. You can imagine my horror as I stood there with a bare fiddle: the bridge flew left, the tail-piece went right and all strings flopped forward. All this was accompanied by a loud bang as the bridge hit the body of the instrument on it's wayward flight to the ceiling. The bridge suffered a 2 centimetre break on the left foot; luckily the bridge was still  temporarily usable as I had a gig to play the next day. I temporarily slapped on the Wittner tail-piece I had intuitively bought a few days before as an experiment.
After long consultations with the great luthiers I know, I was made aware of the 'Bois d'Harmonie' tailpieces from France. This tail-piece is carved out of pernambuco wood. For those who might not know, this wood is most often used for bows. It's an interesting material for a tail-piece because it responds quicker than metal and quicker than any other wood. The Bois d'Harmonie who make this tail-piece have also won international awards for the tail-gut invention. This tail-gut is made of a combination of carbon fiber and kevlar. It is 9 times stronger than steel and doesn't lose it's strength when a knot is made like other fibers. It is woven and has zero elasticity, therefore it will not stretch and lose it's designated length. But also interesting is that it is extremely flexible and will 'move' slightly with the action of the tail-piece and strings providing more resonance and a clearer open sound. It's expensive, but I wouldn't use anything else ever. I was even able to precisely adjust the tail-gut using the recommended 'fisherman's knot' to tie it on. The excess has to be burned off with a lighter as this fiber is impossible to cut. This tail-piece comes with 4 integrated fine-tuners. You can buy the pernambuco tail-piece without the tuners and fit some others on, but because they won't be 'integrated' they will occasionally buzz, requiring more tightening at the washers. It comes in different styles-I bought the Hill style one; very elegant looking!
Anyway, best of luck.

Offline Emma

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Re: Thomaskik versus Wittner Tailpiece
« Reply #7 on: Sep 01, 2008, 08:07:37 PM »
I have an ebony Harmonie tailpiece.  The luthier who put it on said he used parachute cord as a tail gut.  Is that the same as your carbon-fibre and kevlar?  I like the tail piece very much except the fine tuners go deep underneath the tail, so there is a tendency for them to get uncomfortably close to the top of the violin.  I have to keep a close eye on them.
Elsewhere I have posted about being careful not to use loop-end E strings, as these will cut the fine tuner.  Ball-end should be ok.
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Offline frodopogo

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Re: Thomaskik versus Wittner Tailpiece
« Reply #8 on: Sep 02, 2008, 03:08:47 AM »
I tended to use Thomastik tailpieces back in the '70s and '80s
and like the improvement they made over normal tailpieces back then.
More than a year ago I got a Wittner Ultra.
One of my fiddles likes it a lot, but the other didn't.

I've never had a Thomastik and a Wittner at the same time to swap
on the same fiddle.  I'd be interested to try that- they look the same,
but are based on different theories:
Thomastik "more mass is better" similar to the scroll on the headstock
is there to add mass.
Wittner "lighter is better because it allows the bridge to vibrate more freely.

I can hardly imagine they'd sound the same,
perhaps better in different ways, or better on different fiddles.

Offline Jojopotato

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Re: Thomaskik versus Wittner Tailpiece
« Reply #9 on: Sep 06, 2008, 03:22:56 PM »
I like the Wittner. They have a sleeker design, and have the traditional look, but still that kind-of modern flair. I've never tried a Thomastik. They look ugly to me, so I'd never really want to put them on one of mine.

Offline Steve_W

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Re: Thomaskik versus Wittner Tailpiece
« Reply #10 on: Sep 12, 2008, 07:06:42 PM »
I tended to use Thomastik tailpieces back in the '70s and '80s
and like the improvement they made over normal tailpieces back then.
More than a year ago I got a Wittner Ultra.
One of my fiddles likes it a lot, but the other didn't.

I've never had a Thomastik and a Wittner at the same time to swap
on the same fiddle.  I'd be interested to try that- they look the same,
but are based on different theories:
Thomastik "more mass is better" similar to the scroll on the headstock
is there to add mass.
Wittner "lighter is better because it allows the bridge to vibrate more freely.

I can hardly imagine they'd sound the same,
perhaps better in different ways, or better on different fiddles.

I think you're probably right there.  My main violin came with an ebony Pusch Hill-model tailpiece (with integrated fine tuners).  This tailpiece was quite heavy and when I swapped it for a Wittner Ultra (much lighter) it improved the response of the fiddle but also brightened it up, to the point that it verges on being too bright in the treble range for the music I play.  Now I'm wondering if switching the tailpiece to one heavier than the Wittner but lighter than the Pusch--either a standard ebony tailpiece or a Bois D'Harmonie will give me performance somewhere in the middle...  On the other hand, I didn't notice this effect on either of the other 2 fiddles I switched to Wittners but am assuming that their standard tailpieces were more similar in weight to the Wittner.

Offline jtafaro

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Re: Thomaskik versus Wittner Tailpiece
« Reply #11 on: Oct 28, 2009, 12:25:17 AM »
I had two different tailpieces self destruct this fall.  One was on a twenty year old Bucharest Instruments fiddle ($60 in 1988).  It didn't sound very good.  WELL its tailpiece let go while hanging on the wall.  I put a Wittner ultara on it AND now the afterlength is 54 mm and the sound is noticably better (Zyex strings)  I didn't know why until I read this post.  I have two other fiddles with Wittners and can't complain about them.

Now for the rest of the story.  I bought a Strad 1715 copy from Yitamusic in Shanghai and it came two weeks ago.  It had boxwood parts and looked great and with playing and reasonavle strings will sound great too I think but four days after I got it the tailpiece on it exploded too.  I can't put a Wittner on it and don't want to fool with Pusch or Harmony so I am waiting on a replacement from China.  It isn't that hard to tune with the pegs if they are fitted and lubricated right.  The chinese use graphite to lubricate their pegs if they lubricate at all. 

I never thought it would be this complicated to play a few songs at old folks homes and coffee houses.

Joe T

Offline giannaviolins

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Re: Thomaskik versus Wittner Tailpiece
« Reply #12 on: Oct 28, 2009, 02:16:47 AM »
Why can't you use a Wittner?  They're very nice. Light.

Offline jtafaro

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Re: Thomaskik versus Wittner Tailpiece
« Reply #13 on: Oct 28, 2009, 02:27:32 AM »
The black wittner tailpiece wouldn't match the boxwood chinrest and pegs.  It would just look out of place on a strad 1715 copy.  For what its worth.  I bought this fiddle to see if these small shops in China made a good product or if it was a glorified Bejing box that wholesales at ten dollars and is spray painted and shipped before the varnish cures.  So far I am impressed with what I see.  They also sell fiddles in the white to local luthiers who retune the top and varnish and put the pegs, strings etc on and put their own labels in them.

Joe T

Offline frodopogo

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Re: Thomaskik versus Wittner Tailpiece
« Reply #14 on: Oct 31, 2009, 06:24:27 AM »
I used the Thomastik back in the 70's and liked it both for tuning, and it seemed to improve the sound of my fiddles that I put it on.

Recently, when I went to get a tailpiece with built in tuners, I saw a recommendation for a Wittner Ultra, and tried it... and I like it...
on ONE of my fiddles... but not the other- on that one, it came right off and the ebony with added fine tuners went back on.

Now, unfortunately, I haven't tried the Wittner Ultra and the Thomastik on the same fiddle, or even in the same decade!
However, one thing I <can> tell you- the Thomastik is solid metal, and therefore heavy, whereas the Wittner is plastic, and quite light.

However, since the Wittner did well on one fiddle, but not on the other, I think it's possible that the Thomastik might be suitable for some fiddles, and the Wittner for others, and some fiddles would, like one of mine, prefer the ebony.

One issue I had with the Thomastik- last I looked, the "tailgut" was just a piece of wire, and therefore non-adjustable.
But that issue may be in my mind more than anything, because I don't remember it causing any problems.  Nevertheless, I like the idea of an adjustable nylon "tailgut", which the Wittner has.

Be cautious in handling the fiddle while the strings are off, and DON'T
grab it with one hand by the waist- this flexes the top and back, and is likely to cause the soundpost to drop.  Ask me how I know...

Michael

Offline beeswing

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Re: Thomaskik versus Wittner Tailpiece
« Reply #15 on: Oct 31, 2009, 03:34:02 PM »
Grab an unstrung fiddle by the waist and hear the post drop, and start rolling around inside the box. Is that some kind of milestone in a fiddler's life?

Michael, I'm wondering if your fiddles took to one tailpiece or another by happenstance... tailpieces and chinrests are tunable too. They might not be as complex as a bridge, and as manufactured, they tend to be pretty close to the right shape, but little tweaks to the mass distribution have quite an effect. They say it matters more on a fine sensitive fiddle, but I've heard it work on a plywood box as well, heard it with me own two ears as well as the other folks' in the room.
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Offline Don Stackhouse

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Re: Thomaskik versus Wittner Tailpiece
« Reply #16 on: Oct 31, 2009, 08:16:14 PM »
Just setting the tail gut to the right length has a significant effect.

For a starting point, set the afterlenth (the length of the strings between the bridge and the tailpiece) to 1/6 of the vibrating string length from the bridge to the nut.

The tap tone of the tailpiece (which can be adjusted with the tail gut, among other things) should be a half step to a full step above or below the A-0 (the frequency of the air in the box) and the B-0 (the first structural frequency, which should be matched to the A-0). If the A-0 and B-0 are not matched, and/or the tailpiece frequency is the same as the A-0 and/or B-0, the tailpiece will suck up all the vibrational energy, and the fiddle will sound like it has a head cold.

So, the results you had of the W.U.C. tailpiece working well on one fiddle and not on the other could have simply been a matter of how you happened to set the tail gut length.

Offline jtafaro

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Re: Thomaskik versus Wittner Tailpiece
« Reply #17 on: Oct 31, 2009, 10:06:56 PM »
I think we are talking about an after length of 55 mm.  I have a couple of fiddles which are 45 mm or less.  The ones at 50 to 55 sound very good.  I have two very old fiddles that have afterlenghs of just under 45 and they sound pretty good,  But I put a Whittner Ultra on a Romanian cheap fiddle this August when the old tailpiece came apart.  This vastly improved its sound.  Its after lenght is about 53 mm now.

I see a lot of fiddles on ebay with 4 fine tuners and wonder what their afterlength is.  Some of these are supposed to be very high quality chinese fiddles made in small shops.  There are a lot of things about these instruments the average player like me doesn't know.  We learn a lot from these forums.

8 years ago I bought a Franz Werner concert model violin and when I got it I put fine tuners on it not knowing any better.  I thought it didn't sound as good as it should and only found out why this week.  When I did I took off all but one fine tuner and even though the strings are worn out its sound improved.

Its amazing what a little knowledge can do.  Now if I could only improve my intonation.

Joe T

Offline Bryanmac

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Re: Thomaskik versus Wittner Tailpiece
« Reply #18 on: Feb 15, 2015, 03:04:49 PM »
Recently replaced my old alloy Thomastic tailpiece with a Wittner Ultra and noticed a definite boost in tone and volume on my old Scots fiddle. The Wittner is a conventional length and my Thomastic was quite short leaving. Long gap between bridge and tailpiece which may have been part of the cause.
Interestingly I followed on by replacing the chin rest with centrally mounted Wittner and again it seemed to give a slight improvement. There was a slight issue with the chinrest as my fiddle is slghtly on the large side si had to modify my fiddle case as the Wittner fixings fouled the case .

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Re: Thomaskik versus Wittner Tailpiece
« Reply #19 on: May 20, 2015, 11:48:54 PM »
Jtafaro, there is a wittner tailpiece with a rosewood-like look: here

 




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