Can a reed be mounted in such a way as to directly vibrate a string? Granted that for the sake of playability, the string instrument would have a length similar to a 1/8 violin. Also, how much would the pitch of the reed override any fretting done to the string?

  • 1
    Your question is very vague. What would vibrate the reed? Would it be someone blowing it like with a woodwind mouthpiece? Whatever the case the sound of the reed would probably be much louder than any vibration it can cause to a string. Commented Jun 24, 2023 at 2:11
  • Voting to close as lacking clarity. An organic reed? electromechanical reed switch? What is vibrating it? and most of all, the question might be clearer if we knew WHY. Finally, I can't even make sense of the last sentence. A reed has no pitch, the column of air behind it in a woodwind does, and I don't see what fretting has to do with it. Commented Jun 24, 2023 at 12:08
  • Meanwhile, a string can be set in motion by being struck by any object, even an electric milk frother. If the point is simply to actuate the string, using a reed actuated by air seems a bit of a Rube-Goldberg way to simply get an oscillating body. Meanwhile, if this is just an exercise in the physics of vibrating bodies, I doubt it's on topic in this Stack Exchange about musical practice. Commented Jun 24, 2023 at 12:14

1 Answer 1


This sounds like a typical coupled oscillator physics problem, with some interesting curly points.

It should perhaps be noted that in a reed+air instrument, the reed's primary function is as a valve that allows air to pass only half the time, so that resonance primarily depends on the length of the air column.

This is different.

The main problem will be matching the resonant frequency of the reed with that of the string. Fortunately reeds are tapered and have a non-linear elasticity, so you can vary their resonant frequency in two ways:

  1. apply a variable lateral (bending) force; or
  2. add a stop to one side of the reed, so that it either pinned (by the the string until the standing wave on the string lifts it clear), or it immediately bounces (causing a shorter oscillation period).

The "pinning" approach is somewhat self-correcting, though not without its problems. The other approaches would require dual operation to adjust the resonances of the string and the reed in tandem.

I suspect you would want to adjust the pitch by changing the tension rather than using frets to change the effective length of the string.

  • The pinning approach was what I was thinking, effectively using the reed as a bow and a bridge simultaneously. I hadn't even considered playing it with basically a vibrato bar instead of frets. Seems to me that even if it worked, my concept would have a very limited range.
    – D-Squared
    Commented Jun 24, 2023 at 7:56

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