Peg_Box2

How to Prevent Slipping Violin Pegs

YouTube Preview ImageI was originally going to entitle this blog “how to install violin strings”. However, after a brief perusal of the Internet, I found a disturbing amount of misinformation about the problem of slipping violin pegs and I decided to write about that instead, since this is a pressing problem that we hear about everyday at Kennedy Violins. Unfortunately, the vast array of videos and articles available to the unsuspecting public, will ensure that slipping violin pegs will continue to plague violinists for years into the future. Since slipping violin pegs are mostly caused by improperly installed strings, addressing the problem of slipping violin pegs will have the added benefit of demonstrating how to properly install violin strings as well.

Violin pegs slip for two basic reasons: Unfavorable humidity conditions and improperly installed strings. Properly installed violin strings will compensate for most normal fluctuations in humidity and will enable your violin pegs to not slip. I am a professional violist and my pegs may begin to to slip about once or twice a year at most. My viola is rarely out of tune and when it is, it is usually just a little bit flat because of constantly stretching strings. I have observed many professional players in the groups I perform with, struggle with slipping violin pegs, so this problem is not specific to amateur players. There are many very good professional players, instructors and even violin makers, who never learned how to properly install strings and have struggled with their violins for many years as a result. Most of the information you will see and hear, will tell you to use “peg dope” or “peg drops”. Using these products is like taking Tylenol for a headache that is caused by you banging your head against a brick wall. The Tylenol may offer a temporary fix for your headache (slipping pegs), but the best course of action, is to deal with the root of the problem and stop banging your head against the wall! In other words, install your strings correctly, and you will rarely have to deal with slipping pegs.

There are two forces at work that prevent pegs from slipping. The most commonly known, is the friction that is caused by pushing your pegs into the peg holes while you turn the pegs. Since violin pegs are smaller at one end and bigger on the other, a “wedge effect” is created by pushing the pegs further in the hole and this creates a friction that will assist in preventing peg slippage. The second and most important force, is created by winding your violin strings against the sides of the scroll box and this creates an additional wedge effect. When done properly, this will make your pegs as tight as you want them. You can make your pegs so tight that the pegs will not want to turn unless a tremendous force is applied. Of course this is not ideal, but I mention it to demonstrate the power of this second force when applied effectively. If you rely solely on the method of pushing your pegs in while you turn them, you will assuredly diminish the life of your violin, because you will eventually enlarge the peg holes and will have to have them filled and re-drilled, or you’ll have to purchase over sized pegs and have them custom fitted to your violin. You can avoid all of these circumstances by simply following the 4 steps below.

1. Insert the ball end of the string in the fine tuner or hole in the tailpiece and insert the other end in the peg string hole.

2. While keeping a small amount of tension on the string with one hand (to prevent the ball from coming out of it’s place on the tailpiece) turn the peg with the other hand to wind the string.

3. This is the most important step. The hand that is keeping tension on the string, should also gently pull the string over towards the peg, so you are directing the string to wind against the side of the scroll box.

4. As the string winds on the peg, it will begin to squeeze against the sides of the scroll box. The more you turn the peg, the more the string is squeezed. Because the string is being squeezed, it pushes against the side of the scroll box and make the peg very tight. If you gently push the peg in while you turn it, you can control the tightness of the peg in the hole. The more you push the peg in, the tighter the peg gets and it will not push back out of the hole because the squeezed string is preventing the peg from moving.

Eventually, the portion of the string that is squeezed in between where it’s inserted in the peg and the side of the scroll box will begin to relax and the peg may begin to slip. If this occurs, all you have to do is rewind the offending string and your problem is solved. Generally, your peg should remain tight for quite some time. However, if humidity conditions change for the worse, you may have to rewind your string, but it only takes about 20 seconds to do so and this is a much better alternative than the continued struggle with chemicals and other various magic potions that have been devised over the years.

The reason why dry humidity conditions effect violin pegs so much, is because when the air gets dryer, the pegs will contract and the holes they fit into, will expand. This problem primarily occurs in the winter season in areas that get especially cold. People usually keep their home furnaces on almost all of the time in the winter and this dries the air out. Once the air gets overly dry, violin pegs begin to slip. The easiest and least expensive way to compensate for the dry air, is to use a humidifier tube . This simple device is basically an elongated sponge. You can soak it water every 1 or 2 days and insert it in your violins f-hole. The sponge releases small amounts of water in the air and this is generally enough to compensate for just about any dry area that you would normally subject a violin to.

At Kennedy Violins, we string up thousands of violins every year for our customers and because they live in a variety of differing climates, some customers pegs will be very tight when they receive their instruments and some may even be a little looser than is ideal. However, any string can be rewound in a matter of seconds, so it doesn’t matter where a person lives, anyone can experience the joys of a violin that is peg slip free!

17 thoughts on “How to Prevent Slipping Violin Pegs”

  1. Thanks Joel….this video is very helpful.
    …I think I will try to change my own strings now…I don’t like the pirraz eva strings that came on my Kremona V1….

    I may experiment with wound gut ..YES I know…no one recommends “gut” these days!
    By the way the kremona is doing fine now…..!!
    Thanks
    Dave Kennedy

    1. Hey there Dave,

      Glad to hear that your Kremona is doing well
      And I’m glad to hear that the video helps. Those
      Guts will stretch a lot, so you have to check the
      Bridge now and then to make sure that it is not
      Leaning forward but you probably already knew
      That. Good luck and have a nice weekend!

  2. Thank you very, very much for the video explaining how to wind violin strings and why it matters! I’ve been going nuts trying to keep my violin in tune. The pegs slip in a heartbeat (it’s -20 Deg. F here in northern Minnesota as I type) and I realize now that I have my strings wound improperly. I’m off to go rewind them now. Maybe I’ll get to spend more time playing than tuning!

    1. hey! I play Viola, but i was trying to figure out how to use “Peg Dope”… My aunt who is teaching me viola said to use it…

      1. Hi there, violagirl. So peg dope is helpful for creaky, squeaky, stuck, sticky pegs. It acts as a lubricant to facilitate pegs to turn smoothly. If you have some, it likely is in a lipstick-type tube. Just rub a little around the circumference of the peg, just in the area where the peg will be in contact with the hole around it. Turn it back and forth to rub it in, then you can pull out the peg and wipe off any excess peg dope off the outside pegbox and peg. A little put usually goes a long way. That should do the trick. Let us know if it works for you!

      2. Hi there–thanks for your question. So peg dope is usually applied as a cure for creaky, sticky pegs that don’t turn smoothly. To apply it, you would loosen the string and unwind one peg at a time (so the other strings hold the bridge in place), remove the end of the string, and take the peg out. Rub a little peg dope around the sections of the peg circumference that contact the pegbox (i.e. where the peg fits in the holes). Insert the peg back into the hole and turn it back and forth to rub the peg dope in. Wipe off any excess peg dope. Reinsert the string and tune it up. Repeat with each peg–or with the ones that are creaky or sticky.

  3. Thank you so much for the advice on winding strings properly. Up here in Minnesota it’s so cold, and with the heater on there is no moisture in the air! I just rewound my strings the way you advised and already I notice the difference. My pegs aren’t slipping and I don’t have to jam my D-string peg in by pressing the violin against my thigh as I tune (an awkward and annoying position!). I’m off to get a humidifier tube as we speak. Hopefully that will take care of my problems! Thank you again!

  4. Thank you very very much! I haven’t played for two weeks because the pegs kept slipping and didn’t have $ to buy peg drops. Just rewound all four strings in two minutes and voila! “Violin Voila!’ lol. Keep up the nice work.

    Robbin from RI

  5. Thank-you. I’ve never had a problem with pegs slipping on my violin, probably because it has screws in the pegs. I recently had a new E string strung and I couldn’t go to the shop I usually go and now it is strung incorrectly. I am also changing all the strings on a violin I take to school with me and those pegs are slipping, and my stand partner has the same problem. I was going to put peg dope on and then wind the new strings, should I still do that?

    1. Hi Alia,

      Sorry for the late response. It has been Spring Break at the office. If you rewind the strings like the video recommends, they should stay securely. Using peg dope is merely a band-aid. It will fix the slipping for a while, but they will just start to slip again after it wears off. Besides, peg dope can be messy. I don’t recommend it.

      If re-winding the strings doesn’t fix the slipping, it could be a sign of something else like the holes are too big or the pegs are the wrong shape. Also, as the seasons change, the weather can affect pegs as well.

      Please let us know if you have any additional questions.

  6. Thank you so much! Just changed my own strings today and went on about a dozen different websites and this is the only way that has worked thus far! Thank you for posting this – very helpful!

  7. Thank you so much. My daughter has only been playing a few weeks and all of a sudden her violin was untunable – the pegs slipped as soon as they were set. I tried restringing and it now seems to be holding.

  8. Thanks for explaining the root cause of slipping pegs! Others only address the issue by using peg dope but. Helped me a lot!

  9. Thanks for explaining the root cause of slipping pegs. Helped me a lot! Others only address the issue by using peg dope but.

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