My friend and I were disputing about if someone installs another instrument's strings on a different instrument such as: (guitar strings on harp or vice versa, Oud strings [an oriental instrument] on guitar, piano strings on guitar, and so on...)

Would the new setup-instrument produce its usual sound with slightly difference in notes pitch or would its sound be totally different and just similar to the instrument which we took the strings from ?

In more general view, what is specifically the main factor that characterizes the sound of an instrument to be its own sound ? the sound box shape ? the strings material ? strings length ? strings tension ? or what ?

1 Answer 1


For acoustic instruments, the following have been shown to affect the tone, in order of impact:

  1. The design, shape and size, including bracing style, etc. A guitar built from maple and ebony will sound like a guitar, a violin built from the same woods will sound like a violin.
  2. The materials used, generally with the materials used on the largest pieces having the greatest impact. For example, the wood chosen for the sound board would be more important than that chosen for a nut or saddle. This includes the aging of any solid wood pieces, with more mature wood often sounding richer.
  3. The composition, design, and age of the strings.
  4. Setup, action height, tuning, and other details that can be changed deliberately or that may change as the instrument ages.

Those last two elements might be reversed in order of importance in some situations.

  • hmm..then seems to me every single factor in instrument design has a vital role in producing the tone ... but a question comes up to me each instrument has a very specific body shape, then is modifying it (make it slimmer for example in violin or guitar) will massively change its own tone ?
    – wisdom
    Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 10:16

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