So, what’s in a string? Arguably the most unsung part of any guitar, these simple metal windings create the link between the mind and audible noise. You can play a guitar without a pick, or even pickups, but without strings, you have no guitar. As Paul Reed Smith himself once said, ‘a pickup is like a microphone for the guitar. You can put different microphones up to Barbra Streisand, and she’ll still sound like Barbra Streisand.’ That’s because at its core, every guitar has its own voice- a voice that only sings because of those strings stretched across it.
At only a few dollars per pack, strings are right down there with picks at the “cheap” spectrum of guitar components. Guitar strings tend to go unnoticed until they break and need to be replaced. When one does break, guitarists find themselves in a world of misery. Most, if not all musicians take for granted just how easily new strings can be obtained in the modern era. Long gone are the days of gut strings used in baroque instruments, yes, actually made from the guts of real animal intestines. Also long gone are the days of hand wound strings, full of all the errors and inconsistencies that come with the human process. Nowadays guitarists can enjoy a plethora of computer-perfect strings, available in just about every size and material one could want- which only leads to new tunings, new sounds, and new ways to play. New strings can open doors to entirely new musical places.
These simple metal windings have their musical voice because of acoustical physics. Strings are put under tension to best vibrate at a specific frequency, which then generate tones that the human ear recognizes as notes on a musical scale. This base pitch can then be further manipulated in countless ways by the human hand, which is where the “magic” is. From there, the elusive and philosophical concept of “tone” comes into play, and that’s a (lot of) topic for another day. But these simple strings are where it all begins.
So, in case you never knew just how cool the process of string-making was, this is a must-see. Did you know that a hexagonal core wire is examined under a microscope before it begins its journey? Tensile strength, elasticity, and torsion is all measured to ensure that the nickel-plated steel can perform at its best. Do you ever wonder how your wound guitar strings are so perfectly wound? Do you ever wonder how they attach the ball end to the string itself? Ever wonder what the core difference is between nylon and steel strings? If the colored ball ends don’t give it away, take a look at how the masters at D’Addario create perfect guitar strings, each and every time.