Vibrating Strings

When sound is presented in Physics terms, a tensioned string is often used to illustrate the principle of sound as vibration. Here’s a more dynamic way of presenting that very premise…

A Tale Of Six Strings

A guitar is essentially a treasure trove of practical Physics demonstrations; six tensioned strings which can be plucked to create different notes. The precise note which is actually generated depends primarily on the length of the string (which is equal for all six strings in the guitar’s resting state), its thickness and its tension. The material from which the string is made also plays a role, but that’s moving into the realm of timbre – and every element of the guitar contributes to the overall sound in some way.

Looking purely at notes, all notes can be described in terms of frequencies – the conventional reference pitch is A4, which vibrates at 440 Hz (440 oscillations per second). If you halve the length of the string, the frequency will double – on a guitar, you can change the length of each string by pressing it down on the fretboard, which has preset divisions that allow you to change the string length in a manner which is compatible with the western chromatic scale.

From The Inside Looking Out

The below video provides a nice example of how vibrating guitar strings match up with musical notes; lower notes present longer wavelengths/lower frequencies, and high notes vibrate much more quickly, with correspondingly shorter wavelengths:


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