Anyone who has dealt with ill-fitting cello pegs that slip or stick can attest to the frustration of not being able to keep an instrument in tune. A poorly tuned instrument will never perform well, so picking cello pegs that are functional and reliable is essential. Cellists can choose between friction, gear, or planetary styles of pegs. When choosing a peg style, you should consider the ease of installation, ease of repair, reliability in holding tension, and appearance.
By far the most common type of cello peg is the friction-style peg. In this reasonably simple style that can be installed by an intermediate cello player, both the string and the peg are held in place by friction. The tapered peg is designed to be pulled out slightly before tuning and pushed back in during tuning, in order to maintain the proper tension in the string. Friction pegs, usually made of wood, can be extra sensitive to variations in temperature and humidity than more mechanized styles, making them likely to stick or slip. Unless these issues are severe, however, they can often be repaired at home by removing the peg and applying either graphite to decrease friction or chalk to increase friction.
Gear-style cello pegs are often considered to allow for more precise tuning, but as of the early 21st century had still not gained widespread popularity. Cello enthusiasts debate whether the musical community's reluctance to accept these pegs is due to traditionalism or practicality. Fans claim that the delicate mechanisms of geared pegs are better able to hold tension without the frustration of the trial and error, sharpening and flattening of tuning traditional friction pegs. Others complain that the sensitive gear mechanisms of these pegs causes them to fail more quickly and be far more difficult to repair. Installing gear pegs may also damage the wood of the peg box and must usually be done by a professional.
Planetary cello pegs are a sort of hybrid style designed to combine the best qualities of both friction and gear pegs. A planetary peg contains a gear mechanism inside a casing that maintains the appearance of a friction peg, but still tunes smoothly. Some professionals recommend this style for student players, as it is less frustrating than learning to tune with friction pegs; but they still recommend friction pegs for advanced players.
String players are notorious for the pride they take in their instrument's appearance, and decorative cello pegs are one way to enhance the beauty of an instrument. While planetary and gear pegs tend to have fewer options available, traditional friction pegs can come in a variety of styles. The wood of the peg generally matches the wood of the fingerboard and tailpiece, but it can be carved or inlaid with intricate designs.