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Questions: String Tension and Purity of Tone

Questions: String Tension and Purity of Tone

by Alan Carruth

Originally published in American Lutherie #99, 2009

See also, Questions: String Tension and Pure Tone by R.M. Mottola

Alan Carruth from Newport, New Hampshire writes in response to Pat Bowen’s question in AL#98 about the relationship between string tension and purity of tone:

While there is some truth in the equation higher tension=purer tone, it is, as the editor said, not as simple as that. A lot depends on how you get the higher tension.

When you pluck a string, it vibrates at a set of different, but related, frequencies. For ideal strings, the kind that you only find in physics books, these frequencies form a harmonic series; each one is an exact whole-number multiple of the lowest (or fundamental) pitch that the string makes. Real strings don’t do this, and that affects the way they sound.

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