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The answers to this question have led me to wonder: if you string a guitar with a differently-shaped string, would it have interestingly different sonic properties? And of course, since I can't just imagine what it sounds like, I start to put every bit of magic from behind the rainbow just on the other side of the mystery.

So are there such things as ...

  • Ribbon strings (flattened) ?

  • Tube strings (no core) ?

  • Hexagonal strings (like using just the hex core from a wrapped string) ?

  • Higher n-gons ?

  • Wound with one of these ?

So am I on to something, or am I on something?

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I use flat-wound strings on a fretless guitar, and they certainly affect tone. I wouldn't be surprised if someone out there had written a book on this already, but I have no idea where to find that book. –  jeremiahd Oct 18 '12 at 18:04
1  
But flat-wound is about the winding wire, not the core wire. This (stringsandbeyond.com/hex-core-vs-round-core.html) says that many strings are hex-core. I can't really comment more. –  VarLogRant Oct 18 '12 at 19:13
    
I think it's very creative that you thought of that! It would be really interesting to find out what those would sound like! I wonder if you could do a triangle core? and if so, after wrapping, would the string still maintain a bit of the triangle shape? and what about the sound? –  M3NTA7 Oct 18 '12 at 21:16
    
as @Var says, most have a hex core - you can see this if you peel one. The core shouldn't be that important though - the only reason it is hex is to provide some friction against slippage of the wound wire. –  Dr Mayhem Oct 18 '12 at 23:24
    
Found a nice discussion about hex/round cores at music-electronics-forum.com/t19507 . –  luser droog Oct 19 '12 at 4:46

3 Answers 3

I don't know about that, but it's worth mentioning that traditional classical guitar strings are hand-made from sheep gut, which means that they are not perfectly geometrically uniform.

Nylon guitar strings were not invented until the late 1940s; up until that time, gut strings were the only option for classical guitar. Nylon strings, which are a lot more durable and long-lasting, as well as louder, rapidly became very popular, and now they are the standard for classical guitar.

Sheep gut strings have remained popular to this day for the ukulele.

Sheep gut strings are also still used by musicians today who study historical performance practice in Renaissance and Baroque music, for instruments like the lute, Baroque guitar, and especially the Baroque violin, viola, cello and bass.

And some upright bass players, for instance in rockabilly music, still favor sheep gut strings.

It goes without saying that sheep gut strings sound very different than metal-core strings, but they also sound different than nylon strings.

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How expensive are sheep gut strings? –  segiddins Oct 19 '12 at 1:09
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I know of one manufacturer in Italy, Aquila Strings. You can read about them at aquilacorde.com. Bear in mind that they also make "nylgut" which is a nylon string designed to sound more like sheep gut, but to be more durable. –  Wheat Williams Oct 19 '12 at 1:11
    
Very interesting... thanks –  segiddins Oct 19 '12 at 1:14
    
I found a ghost story in The Theosophist where the second best violinist, continually overshadowed by Paganini, makes a set of strings from his own teacher's gut. –  luser droog Oct 19 '12 at 1:41
    
The Theosophist,I.4. January 1880, "The Ensouled Violin" by Hi'larion Smerdis, F.T.S. (likely a pseudonym for H.P. Blavatsky) –  luser droog Oct 20 '12 at 1:23

I've been able to imagine something of what a ribbon string might sound like. We've all heard vibrating sheets of metal; say a square sheet held at two corners by the hands and shaken: the tips will drag and whip whenever the "rigid" axis changes direction. Ribbons would tend to have the same effect: extraneous phaser harmonics, damping the true signal. :(

But a very slight oval might hold this down to some kind of shimmer. :) [This part is total speculation, beyond the slight speculation above. ;)]

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As far as nylon guitar sets, in particular the flamenco more expensive ones, I know they are actually machined to exact roundness, and that is meant to be done for consistency of tone, at least for the ones not wound.

I am not sure if it is a good idea to have geometrical edges on strings, as far as wear and tear of the three things involded: frets, fingers, and strings themselves.

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Good point. I wouldn't expect any of these crazy strings to wear well. –  luser droog Oct 22 '12 at 23:59

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