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So, I was browsing the Internet and stumbled across this video of someone using fishing wire as string replacements. This seemed to be kind of a gag just to see if it was actually even possible, but it got me thinking.

Obviously, I don't think fishing wire is a true replacement for actual guitar strings. Still, if I ever had a string snap on me and I didn't have anything else, I'd imagine it'd be better than nothing. Comparing prices with actual guitar strings, it's certainly not very expensive to keep some extra around.

However, that leaves me with a question. The video shows an acoustic guitar. I play an electric. I'm still relatively new to the instrument, so I don't know how everything works yet. However, a friend of mine who also plays the guitar told me that guitar pickups are usually based off of magnets. Then, because the strings are made of metal, the magnets in the pickups can detect the movement of the strings. Thus, the strings have to be made of metal.

That's a problem if I use fishing wire, because fishing wire is usually made of plastic (unless I'm mistaken). So am I correct to believe that using fishing wire on an electric guitar wouldn't work? Or perhaps does it depend on what kind of pickups I'm using and/or what fishing wire I would be using?

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    Fishing line is actually an excellent replacement or repair segment for (accoustic) instrument strings. Especially when you're out camping or hiking and don't have any actual strings with you! It's just nylon! Nylon string comes a wide variety of gauges and is a reasonable replacement for gut. – elemtilas Sep 28 at 0:30
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    Monofilament fishing line is often nylon, but it may also be polypropylene or a variety of copolymers. Braided line is (usually) dacron and flourocarbon line is, well, flourocarbon. – user1103 Sep 28 at 5:09
  • @elemtilas to add that cheaper varieries of strings are not made of gut. They are nylon just like the fishing lines are. – fraxinus Sep 28 at 6:44
  • FWIW I once saw an African harp from Gambia wired with fishing line. I think the bass strings were metal. Not really relevant since the player used a mic. – JohnnyApplesauce Sep 28 at 12:03
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    There's fishing wire which is made of metal, and there's fishing line which is just a nylon string and has no metal. The video shows fishing line made of nylon string. – JRE Sep 28 at 16:30
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It won't work, unless you're using a piezo system which induces current from physical vibrations.

An electric guitar works because the magnetic field around the vibrating strings induces current in the coils of the pickup. So the strings must have some ferrous content for the EM-induction to take place.

It could conceivably work on a guitar like the Nylocaster which uses a piezo pickup.

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    As a further explanation should anybody be confused: contrary to how it might seem, most electric guitar pickups are not a microphone that capture the sound made when the strings vibrate. Instead, the pickups are a magnet, and the manner in which the string vibration disrupts the magnetic field means the entire system of the strings and the magnet themselves form a microphone-like system. – Alexander Nied Sep 30 at 16:30
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Metal, but not just any metal. Both steel-string and classical acoustic guitars generally use metal, such as bronze or silver-played copper, for the windings to add mass and lower the frequency, but they don't have much magnetic metal, so they don't work well with soundhole pickups, which are magnetic like electric guitar pickups.

Most electrified acoustic guitars use piezoelectric pickups, which do not need magnets.

Some strings are wound with magnetically-active metal, like GHS White Bronze. Fishing line has nothing that an electric guitar could use, don't have enough mass or tension to move an acoustic guitar's top, and with classical guitar, maybe they'd be replacement for the E or B strings but not much lower.

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Nylon fishing line is commonly used for African instruments such as the kora and ngoni, as a matter of convenience. Strings were previously leather, but of course nylon is better.

Nylon fishing line would also work on the upper strings of classical guitars, with perhaps some issues on string tension if you can't get the right thickness of strings. It would be a problem for the lower (wound) strings, so you might need to go for the same solution as the kora and twist two lengths of fishing line together.

On an electric, as previously said, it won't work. You need metal strings for an electric (e.g. Stratocaster or Les Paul) to work, because they work on the same principle as an electric generator of moving a wire next to a magnet. If by "electric" you mean an acoustic guitar with a piezo pickup, then that will work OK because the piezo pickup picks up the vibration of the guitar bridge and doesn't rely on the strings to have any magnetic qualities.

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  • Ah, yeah, that wasn't what I had in mind by "electric." I meant the Les Paul type of electric. I really appreciate your answer nonetheless. – Chipster Sep 28 at 15:39
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There's fishing wire which is made of metal, and there's fishing line which is just a nylon string and has no metal. The video shows fishing line made of nylon string.

Just as fishing line might work as a temporary string on an acoustic guitar, a length of fishing wire might work as a temporary string on an electric guitar.

Some brands (and/or models) of fishing wire are made of steel. Fishing wire is available in various sizes (diameters) so you could (maybe) match a particular fishing wire to a particular string on your guitar. Some (if not many) fishing wires are made of stainless steel, which may not work well with the magnetic pickups of an electric guitar.

Fishing wire is also known as "leader wire." It is used down by the hook for catching fish with sharp "teeth" which can cut nylon fishing line.

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  1. Doubtful that the fishing line would endure the the "string tension" needed to tune to pitch.
  2. For a standard electric pick-up, no. Metal strings are needed.
  3. Carry an extra set in a sealed baggie.
  4. Keep playing :-)
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    I did (just like many others) on an acoustic guitar. It works. It wears out faster, but is pretty much good for 1-2 nights of camping. – fraxinus Sep 28 at 6:42
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    Depends on the material and construction of the fishing line. Nylon fishing line, or fluorocarbon, work just as well as commercial strings (usually). I experiment quite a bit with different string materials for my lyres, and seven strand stainless cable will also take the tension of a normal guitar high E string (just). It sounds different than plain steel, though- wispier, and of course more surface noise when playing. It probably doesn't last as long either, before one of the strands is worn through. But it's quite serviceable. – Scott Wallace Sep 29 at 11:29

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