Today’s blog post will be a different sort – all about set up and equipment! I hesitate to write a blog post on equipment because so much cello-centric equipment comes out that seems admittedly “gimmicky.” In addition your instrument and bow are a very personal combination. What works for me might not work for you, and what I prefer may not please you at all! With that being said, the intent of this blog is to both share what has worked for me as well as to thank and promote the shops and individuals who helped me come to my current setup. When I buy a new instrument, I will definitely try out these same accessories to see if they work just as well for me on other instruments. To confirm, none of the shops mentioned in this post have sponsored me in any way. Rather I would like to use this post to show my gratitude for their products and their good service.
Horvat Tailpiece and Carbon Fiber Tip
Perhaps the most unique part of my setup is a pernambuco/mixed composite hybrid tailpiece by Damir Horvat of Horvat Fine Violins based in Columbia, South Carolina. Although many carbon fiber tailpieces have flooded the market in recent years, this model is the only one of which I am aware that successfully integrates both the natural look and warm sound of wood with the tone-enhancing characteristic of composite materials. Damir Horvat says “the exact ratio is a little trade secret.” My particular tailpiece is a prototype that I fell in love with after trying several different tailpieces on my cello. Now several models are available with various choices of wood. More examples can be seen HERE, and the Horvat Fine Violins website can be found HERE.
In addition, my tip plate is also carbon fiber!
|Horvat Tip Plate|
This tip plate replaces the broken original one, and I have no worries of this one will be breaking any time soon, or ever! I did not notice any difference in weight or tone after the carbon fiber was added. It is the first carbon fiber tip plate design of which I am aware.
|Josef Teller Swiss Model Ebony Peghed|
You may have noticed that that tailpiece does not have fine tuners. Although I prefer fine tuners, I am happy to live without them if the sound benefits. That brings us to another innovation in string technology, Pegheds, a name brand of mechanical pegs. Lest you recall tuning nightmares with older mechanical pegs that used a screw to tighten or loosen the grip of the pegs, mechanical pegs have developed tremendously since those early attempts. My early interaction with mechanical pegs was limited to one friend who used a different brand in high school and loved them, although they were always the last one tuning! More recently however several of my teachers had Pegheds installed, prompting me to consider them. Although many off brands exist, to my knowledge, Pegheds are the top of the line and worth the investment.
Chuck Herin, founder of Pegheds was nice enough to both give me a tour of his shop in Winnsboro, SC and also to walk me through the options of different designs for the head of the pegs. In the end, I decided to keep the heads of the pegs that were currently on the instrument and have them installed on the new peg shaft. Watching the process was fascinating, and procedure requires much less time and painstaking detail than fitting a new set of traditional wooden pegs. To create and install the whole set on my cello took well under an hour! Pegheds ships internationally with detailed instructions for luthiers who may not be familiar with the products, or you can go to the man himself at his Columbia, SC location. The Pegheds Facebook page can be found HERE, and their website is HERE. Note: Pegheds, Inc. is for sale! Contact Chuck Herin with inquiries.
New Harmony Endpin – Cellos2Go
|New Harmony Endpin|
One final often overlooked accessory on the cello – the endpin. Endpins come in multiple diameters, materials, and lengths. If you are debating switching to a new endpin, consider factors including how long you need the endpin to be and whether you can remove your current endpin easily, or if you need to take the whole unit out. Also consider the diameter of your endpin. They come in both standard 8mm and 10mm sizes, and the two sizes are not interchangeable. Materials vary from composite materials to carbon fiber and denser metals. Some are hollow and some solid.
So why would you want a new endpin? I admit I was skeptical about what difference an endpin would make. However, there was no risk involved when Cellos2Go shipped me several to try for a week. I came out with a New Harmony hollow carbon fiber pin with the sharpest spike known to man! From behind the cello, I really did not notice much difference in sound, but the response of the cello did become much quicker, especially on the C string. That being said, at my first lesson after switching to the new endpin, my teacher looked up as I tuned the first string and immediately asked, “What did you change?” Perhaps the difference out front is more marked than I can tell from behind. Cellos2Go’s website is HERE. I have always had a positive experience with their advice and their customer service. Note: In speaking with Chuck Herin from Pegheds, I found that he too makes endpins! They include “Bronze, Copper, and brass core in a 10mm pultruded carbon fiber sheath…with silicon carbide tips.” Here is a picture of one of his endpins.
Keeping all these innovations in mind, I would like to share a quote to which I often return when tempted to purchase instrument-related equipment. “Amateurs think hardware; professionals think software.” No matter what your skill level, you can overcome the limits of your instrument and equipment; still having nice gear is always an enjoyable experience, to be sure! Happy practicing!
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