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Questions: First Use of Metal Wire Strings

Questions: First Use of Metal Wire Strings

by James Buckland

Originally published in American Lutherie #100, 2009

Neill Pickard asks:

When were metal wire strings first used on a guitar? By what process were these strings produced, and who was the earliest manufacturer? The provenance of the earliest “steel string” guitar would also be of great interest. People have been putting wire strings on instruments since the time wire was readily available, but at some point there would have been a move to commercial string production which would have in turn made possible the appearance of a distinct steel string guitar.

James Buckland from Clinton, South Carolina replies:

It is probably not possible to say precisely who first strung a guitar with metal strings or when it happened. I do feel confident in saying that the practice was adopted from keyboard instruments such as the clavichord and harpsichord. Two early mandolin methods, the Michel Corrette method of 1772 and the Giovanni Fouchetti method of 1771, refer to the use of brass harpsichord strings on mandolins, although gut was still the most commonly used string material for mandolin family instruments.

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