About five years ago I experimented with a harp tailpiece on my violin. The results were not favorable on my instrument. I felt that the sound was muted and more dull on the harp tailpiece over the standard one. It may be good for instruments that feel unbalanced and need a slight change in ton, however my instrument felt more balanced with the regular tailpiece.
I had avoided other harp tailpieces but have been intrigued by some of the newer ones on the market. A colleague of mine put the ZMT tailpiece on his cello and loves it. He mentioned that it opened up his instrument and gave a much warmer sound.
The website for ZMT states
ZMT is a revolutionary tailpiece design for instruments of the violin family. It dramatically enhances sound production, allowing you to discover and enjoy your instrument's full potential.
I decided to purchase the tailpiece and endpin directly from their website ZMTsound.com. It was quite difficult to get the order to go through. My bank flagged two attempts at first thinking it was fraudulent, and then when I was able to have it go through there were no confirmation emails or receipts that were emailed. After about a month I finally received what I ordered.
So what is special about this tailpiece?
The tailpiece has a very extreme curve to it. The length on the lowest string (C in my case) should be tuned to 1/3 the string length. The tailpiece also seems to bring the lower string down more allowing a bit more force onto the bridge.
What about the endpin?
The special endpin adjust is quite an ingenious design. You are able to adjust the length of the tail-gut slightly with an hex key. One side of the end button has a slight bump to it. If the bump is pointing up the tailpiece will be closer to the bridge, and if the bump is pointing down the tailpiece will be farther away.
eInstallation was not difficult, however I have some experience setting up instruments. There is supplied tack to hold the bridge in place while you remove the old tailpiece. The new one comes with kevlar rope for the tail-gut. That was new to me but not difficult to figure out. The endpin came with many different sizes and there was no sanding needed to install.
It took about an hour of adjusting until I was finally happy with the set up. Luckily my sound post stayed in place throughout the whole process.
My initial impressions were more neutral than positive. I didn't hear a big difference, but the fact that the string after length was adjusted to such a large amount without a large noticeable difference was impressive on its own. For the next two weeks I kept playing on the instrument, asking for other's opinions, getting colleagues to play it, and also checking the endpin adjuster to make sure the C string was at the correct length. My 16" viola not only played a G for the after length of the C string, but also had another G on the after length on the G string.
Ignore the mess... You can see the after lenth sympathetically vibrating while I play the G (Slow motion)
The ZMT website claims "ZMT helps reduce these differences by making a more stable and evenly dispersed sympathetic string vibration across the entire tonal range. Although every instrument resonates differently, we have confirmed a significant reduction of wolf tones after installing ZMT in more than 80% of cases."
I can say that the wolftones on my viola did not change at all
The poisitive change was the extremly rich tone of my G and C string. It sounded as if I was playing an 18" viola and not a 16". I have never heard such smooth sounds come from my instrument before. The downside was that it was much quieter. One violist who had played my viola before and after noted that it sounded more muted. The strings I had before the change were all Kaplan Forza (Metal core) from d'Addario. After installation of the tailpiece I had the same Kaplan strings but with a Spirocore C string because of the extra long length needed. I did experiemnt with a Larsen A for balance.
After two weeks I decided I prefered the sound of the standard tailpiece. I was advised by one collegue to try adjusting the soundpost, change of bridge placement, or also experiment with strings, however I don't feel like I want to towrk to make one single tailpiece work.
The innovation and design are great, however the overall result was not what I preferred. I decided to return the tailpiece and endpin adjuster. I might keep the endpin adjuster as it is a nice innovation that could be a good way to "fine tune" any tailpiece placement.
Note: There is no comparison video because the audio felt too compressed to clearly hear a difference. Hopefully my notes help descirbe the difference and if you have any further questions please do not hesitate to write them below.
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