Monday, 21 February 2011
#1.1: The Life of Strings
"How often should I change my guitar strings?" Let’s find out. We’ll put a set of brand new strings on a guitar, and see how the sound changes over time.
STEP 1: Collecting some data
First step complete! I put new strings on this past week, gave them a proper stretch, and before doing any playing, recorded how they sounded. Here’s an example of an open D string:
NOTE: The guitar model, type of strings, instrument maintenance, climate in Toronto, and so forth will all affect the sound, but because we care about relative values—i.e., the difference in sustain and tone week-to-week—and we’re keeping our setup the same, they shouldn’t play a major role.
Before we get to the results, let’s see how some of the data actually look. Here’s a plot of the B string's volume. We can see that after the string is plucked, the volume goes down pretty steadily until coming to a stop at around 12 seconds.
Below is the frequency content for the B string. Notice how there’s a big peak on the left: this is the fundamental frequency—it’s what makes the note a B. All the peaks on the right contribute to the tone, and we’ll use them to measure brightness. These peaks are often shorter than the fundamental frequency, and the stubbier they are, the duller the sound.
STEP 3: The results!
Now that you’ve seen what some of the data actually look like, here’s a summary of the results for Day 1. The red bars are averages over the three plucks; the blue dots are the values for each individual pluck.
Let’s play these new strings for a week, and then see how things look!