Wednesday, 6 April 2011

#1.4: The Life of Strings

Just over a month ago, a new set of strings was put on a Tele. Since then, we've been tracking what happens to these strings over time. Does the sound become less bright? Does the sustain go down? Along the way, some interesting results have come up:
  • Thicker strings ring for longer (#1.2)
  • The effect of plucking location on brightness is less significant when using a fingertip versus a pick (#1.2)
  • Playing closer to the bridge yields a brighter tone (#1.2)
  • Playing softly results in a brighter tone, and one that drops in volume more slowly than when playing hard (#2)
When we checked in on the data last time, there wasn't anything conclusive just yet. Sustain was staying pretty much the same, and brightness had unexpectedly increased. Since those measurements, about a month and 30 hours of playing have now passed—let's check in again and see what's happened!

Since the last post, there have been four new measurements—we're now up to 46 hours of playing over 46 days, coincidentally. Let's take a look:

NOTE: The first set of values that we collected back in February has been removed from these plots. That's because those measurements were made a little differently—a guitar pick was used instead of a fingertip to pluck the strings.

Nothing much has changed for sustain. Brightness is another matter: each pluck of the string has such a unique sound that it's tough to get an idea of the string's general brightness level at a given point in time (#1.2 is a good example). There's just too much variation.

So, why do the brightness values change so much between plucks? My guess is a combination of minor variations in plucking position, intensity, and how the finger interacts with the string (e.g., which part of the fingertip touches the string, how fast the string is plucked). We may need to refine either our brightness measure or our methods—or both—to get a clearer understanding of what's going on!