All Tailpieces Like Ovation Tailpieces

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All stringed instrument players must deal with the minor hassle of changing strings on a (semi-) regular basis. Strings come in two basic varieties: ball-end and loop-end (although a ball-end can be converted by removing the ball). The straight end of a string wraps around the tuning machines and the ball or loop end attaches behind the bridge of the instrument. I am primarily a mandolin player, though I also play several related instruments such as the mandola, octave mandolin, mandocello, banjolin, violin/viola, etc. These instruments have a variety of systems for holding the string.

Most of the mandolin-family instruments use loop-end strings attached to hooks in the tailpiece. Violins and violas use ball-end string if they have fine-tuners (and I do) and I really don't know what those more hardcore no-fine-tuner people do. Most electric instruments use ball-end strings that run through a hole in the body. I bought my Ovation mandocello and some (standard loop-end) mandocello strings on the same day from eBay, but when they arrived I realized that I had made an error; Ovation uses their own system for the ball/loop end of the string. Ovation uses the optimal system.

The Ovation system is to have a hole in the tailpiece for each string such that the player runs the string through the hole parallel to the top of the instrument up to the ball-end of the string. Not only is this very convenient, it also improves the look, sound, and simplicity of the instrument (fewer things to break). Since changing the strings on my other instruments was never a problem for me, and the Ovation system wasn't much an improvement over these systems, I didn't really notice the amazing innovation for what it was. Not until I bought a guitar.

Since I can't seem to find anybody to start a band or even jam with here in Ann Arbor, I recently began playing guitar again so that I could at least lay down some chords when recording tunes by myself…alone…isolated. Toward that end I bought a decent-quality super-beautiful Michael Kelly electric/acoustic dragonfly guitar. I got the guitar and decided to put some fresh strings on it, and man was it a pain in the ass. You see, the guitar has these pegs that keep the ball-end of the string crammed down a hole in the tailpiece and through the top of the instrument. I had a hell of a time getting those pegs out, resorting to pliers and an elaborate technique to get enough leverage to pull the peg out without damaging the top of the instrument. But that tribulation did not alone make me a peg-hater.

About a month after I bought the guitar I decided that I needed to fill the bottom end and so I purchased a really spiffy 5-string Michael Kelly dragonfly acoustic bass. This thing really needed new strings, but I just couldn't get the damn pegs out. That experience was such a fiasco that I even emailed Michael Kelly to ask how I was supposed to do this because clearly nobody would design and use a system that made it so hard to change strings. That would be just plain stupid. They said it was normal. I looked around and it turns out that almost every company uses this ridiculously retarded peg system to hold the ball-end of the string into the guitar. But not Ovation!!!

Ovation (and their cheaper cousins, Applause) guitars, basses, mandolins, etc. all use the same convenient, attractive, and acoustically awesome tailpiece system. It is so clearly superior to the peg system that I simply can't imagine why, after Ovation released its first guitar with this system, every guitar company didn't see its superiority and immediately switch to it. Changing strings is by its nature an annoying chore, so it should be as easy as possible. Ovation's system is the only one that makes any sense. I've already replaced my guitar with an Ovation Celebrity, and the bass is next (as soon as I can afford a 5-string Ovation bass).

And Ovation includes a built-in tuner with the electronics of their instruments; another brilliant innovation that should have been instantly adopted by every musical instrument manufacturer who produces acoustic/electric instruments. The final analysis is simply that Ovation instruments are designed so that I can focus my time on the thing that I actually buy the guitar for…playing the guitar.

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About me

  • I'm Aaron Bramson
  • At the University of Michigan

  • This blog is an extension of my normal website ( where I used to post various articles in my critic's corner section. Using this blog provides easier maintenance, greater functionality, and a wider readership of my thoughts, opinions, and complaints about life and living it.

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