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Guitar Strings

Guitar strings, or rather strings in general, were originally made of the intestine, or gut, of domesticated animals such as sheep and cattle. The ancient Greek word for string, "khord?", actually means gut. Animal intestines are highly flexible, which makes them good conductors of sound, but they also readily absorb moisture in the air, so they don't hold tune very well.

These problems were solved in the 20th century with the introduction of nylon and steel (and other metal) strings. Nylon strings, which include pure nylon and nylon covered in wound metal, have a mellow tone that suits classical and folk music styles. They also produce a lot less tension that steel strings, but don't work with magnetic pickups.

It's this fact that has made steel strings so synonymous with electric guitar and bass. Not only do they have a bright, clean tone, but their full-metal construction means they can interact with the magnetic field of a pickup to produce a signal. Interestingly, it was the development and miniaturisation of piano string technology that finally lead to the invention of steel-strings for guitar.

Close-up of guitar strings on an electric guitar
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