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Musical Strings

Musical Strings

by H.E. Huttig

Originally published in American Lutherie #9, 1987 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume One, 2000

In the realm of stringed musical instruments, logically enough, the quality and strength of the sound produced is largely dependent upon the strings that the instrument maker must use. To be sure, a string tensioned between two fixed points with no sounding box will scarcely make an audible response when plucked. On the other hand, the sound made by a finished instrument varies widely with the qualities of the strings that are used.

There is a Persian legend to the effect that the stringed instrument concept was discovered by a person wandering in a desert. He came upon the shell of a tortoise. The bottom was lost but the top part still had dry sinews stretched across the hollow shell. The wind blowing across them made a musical sound. The Chinese gave us the idea of strings made of silk. There is still controversy as to whether the hunting bow with its vibrating string gave man the idea of a musical application or whether it was the other way around, the stringed instrument providing the idea of the archer’s bow.

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