Violin pegs are used to tune violin strings. The strings are tightened and the notes are raised by turning the pegs clockwise, and the strings are loosened and the notes are lowered by turning the pegs counterclockwise. There is a violin peg for each of the four strings, known as G, D, E, and A, and fit into the peg holes in the peg box at the top of the violin. One end of a violin peg has a flat round handle that is comfortably pinched between the fingers for turning and securing the peg. On the other end of the peg is a post that is tapered, which allows the pegs to be pushed into the peg holes once the string is in tune.
The most common materials used to make violin pegs are ebony, boxwood, or rosewood. Pegs are sometimes made of a composite material developed for strength, minimal slippage, and reduced shrinking and swelling from humidity. The pegs on stringed instruments, including the ones in the violin family, are most often black.
All violin pegs have a small string hole drilled into the wood about a third of the way up from the end of the post. To string an instrument, the string is hooked into the tailpiece and is then rested on the bridge’s string notch. Next, holding the loose end of the string, the violinist will pull the peg slightly out from one of the peg box holes and thread the string through the peg’s string hole. The violinist will then slowly twist the peg clockwise to increase the tension on the string.
One ongoing problem for musicians who play stringed instruments is the slipping of pegs, which causes the instrument to fall out of tune. To add some stickiness to the pegs, many musicians pull the pegs out, remove the strings, and rub the posts with bow rosin, chalk, pencil lead, or a specially formulated, sticky, peg compound called peg dope. It can also help to wind the strings close the edge of the peg box, which gives the string some extra support and decreases the pull on the pegs.
Violin pegs can also become extremely tight, making the violin difficult to precisely tune. This is often caused by the swelling of the violin pegs in high humidity. To minimize swelling of the pegs, violins should be stored in a room maintained with a relative humidity between 30% and 50%. Rubbing the peg’s posts with soap can also lubricate the post just enough to make tuning easier and not create slippage.
The stickiness or slipping of violin pegs can be overcome with mechanical violin pegs. These pegs have mechanical gears inside that tighten or loosen the strings for tuning. The gears are activated by turning the peg handle.