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New life for aging guitar strings.

Guitar strings that go "dead" after a few weeks of intense use have troubled musicians for a long time. Over the years, rejuvenating remedies like boiling the old strings in vinegar have become part of guitarist folklore. With such treatments, the strings, usually consisting of silver or stainless steel wire wrapped around anylon core, seem to recover for a short time. Then the problem recurs.

Prompted by a question from his son, a classical guitarist, physicist Rogert J. Hanson of the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls began investigating what makes strings lose their bright sound. "the folklore provides a good answer," he now concludes.

Hanson and collaborator Gordon O. Muuns, suspecting that dirt and sweat rather than changes in nylon properties are responsible for a string becoming dead, discovered that a little bit of fat and clay rubbed into a guitar string duplicates the effect without significantly increasing the string's mass or changing its fundamental frequency. By testing strings before and after this treatment, they found that the sound of dead strings had a much lower proportion of high frequencies.

Remedies like boiling seem to partially clean the strings, says Hanson. Perhaps a mild detergent would work even better, he suggests. But there are other effects that may contribute to a string's changed sound, including the possibility of some corrosion damage. There's a lot more to study, says Hanson.
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Title Annotation:dirt and sweat found responsible for strings going 'dead'
Author:Peterson, Ivars
Publication:Science News
Date:Nov 23, 1985
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