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A string (from Old High German  seito 'knit', 'gut string'; orthographically separated from side in the 17th century ) is a thin strand of natural gut , plant fibers , metal , plastic , animal hair or other material that is stretched onto a stringed instrument , for example . Tennis and badminton rackets are strung with tennis strings.


One differentiates strings according to:

Structure of musical instrument strings

Different strings on a harp by Sébastien Érard

Strings for musical instruments are differentiated according to their material and the way they are made up for a type of instrument, such as guitar strings, strings for piano , violin or harp. If necessary, the scale length (oscillating length of the string) and the pitch are also mentioned.

Strings are either single threads or wires or - for lower tones - are wound with one or more layers of silver , bronze , copper or aluminum wire. This wrapping is used to increase the mass coverage and thus to reduce the natural frequency . The core (core) of a wound string can also be a rope made of many thin wires. Compared to the single wire, this results in a lower bending stiffness and is therefore particularly advantageous with relatively short strings.

The tensile force to tension the string is only absorbed by the soul in the wound strings. In the case of piano strings, therefore, the winding does not extend over the full length.

Strings on a grand piano with damper

Function in the musical instrument

A string instrument sounds when its strings are made to vibrate (see string vibration ). This can be done in several ways:

This creates a tone that, on most instruments, is amplified by a sound body connected to the string. The tone becomes higher if you shorten the length of the vibrating strings (scale length), increase their tension or reduce their diameter (and thereby the mass allocation); a string sounds lower when it is lengthened, its tension is decreased, or when its diameter is increased.

A high string is as Diskantsaite (or treble ) as a deep bass string (also contra string hereinafter).

As early as 1636, the French mathematician Marin Mersenne (1588–1648) described in his Harmonie Universelle the vibration properties of different types of strings in terms of length, material and cross-section. See also string vibration .

An open string is a string that is set in vibration without shortening. The highest string is called a chanterelle in many stringed instruments .


The manufacture of gut strings has a millennia-old tradition, which stems from the manufacture of bowstrings . Gut strings were already known in ancient Egypt , as evidenced by the discovery of an almost completely preserved lute in the grave of the musician Harmosis, who lived in the 18th dynasty at the time of Queen Hatshepsut . The material for gut strings is obtained from the intestines of sheep or other ungulates and has been processed in Europe using a method that has not changed in principle since the late Middle Ages. The intestines are cleaned, degreased, bathed in a lye, which mainly consists of potash and water, and then cut into strips. After twisting and air drying, the string is treated with sulfur and stretched taut for further drying.

Gut strings were also used in watchmaking until the beginning of the 20th century. In pendulum clocks they were used to attach the drive weights, in early pocket watches they were used to connect the worm and barrel before a chain became common.

In China, silk strings were known very early and were used for lute strings in Spain (Córdoba) at the latest in the 9th century, while the equestrian peoples of Turkestan originally used strings made of horsehair. Metal strings ( iron and brass ) have been in use for centuries in the Middle East and North Africa .

Today, guitar strings are mainly made either from metal or, since the 1930s, from synthetic material such as polyamide (nylon strings) and today (as with other plucked instruments) increasingly also from polyvinylidene fluoride (carbon strings) .

Michael Praetorius wrote about the stringing of string instruments in 1619 in his Syntagma musicum II :

“The same bass, tenor and discant violin (which is called Violino, or Violetta picciola, also called Rebecchino ) are covered with 4 strings [...] and are all tuned by fifths . And therefore the same every man knows / is about it (except for this / that if they are related to brass and stalls / a more quiet and almost lovely response / than the others / give) [...] it is unnecessary to write. "

See also

Web links

Commons : string (music)  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Saite  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. See, for example, treble strings for instruments of the classical guitar type. on Google Patents.
  2. Duden .
  3. ^ Hans Dagobert Bruger: Johann Sebastian Bach, compositions for the lute. First complete and critically reviewed edition. Transcribed and edited from old source material for today's lute. 1921; 3. Edition. Julius Zwißlers Verlag (owner Georg Kallmeyer), Wolfenbüttel 1925; Reprinted by Karl Heinrich Möseler Verlag, Wolfenbüttel / Zurich, p. 49.
  4. Frederick Cock: The Vihuela: large or small scale length? In: Guitar & Lute. Volume 2, No. 3, 1980, 3, pp. 14-18, here: p. 17.
  5. ^ Franz Jahnel: The guitar and its construction. Erwin Bochinsky, Frankfurt am Main 1963; 8th edition 2008, ISBN 978-3-923639-09-0 , p. 20.
  6. ^ Syntagma musicum II ; P. 48, section Violn de bracio