Revolutionary guitar string rocks the guitar world

September 22, 2017, University of St Andrews
Credit: University of St Andrews

A revolutionary guitar string developed at the University of St Andrews has struck a chord with some of the greats of the music world.

The invention by Dr Jonathan Kemp, Head of Music Technology at the Music Centre who also lectures in the School of Physics and Astronomy, allows electric guitar strings to be balanced in sensitivity and feel in a way that has never been achieved before for an instrument with standard hardware.

Among those who have shown an interest are: Guthrie Govan, David Torn, Paul Masvidal (from the band Cynic), and Pete Malandrone, guitar technician to Queen guitarist Brian May.

Guitarist Mark McGuigan of with more than 8 million views on YouTube said: "The new strings are awesome fun and provide fantastic new creative opportunities for your whammy bar."

Dr Kemp's work is the subject of a paper called "The Physics of Unwound and Wound Strings on the Electric Guitar Applied to the Pitch Intervals Produced by Tremolo/Vibrato Arm Systems" published in the journal PLOS One (21 September 2017).

Dr Kemp said:

"While string sets have been available before with balanced tensions, those strings have featured different sensitivities, with all strings bending through different pitch intervals when the player performs identical movements.

"The laws of physics prevent equalised feel between different plain steel strings. With the new strings the properties are controlled to ensure that four of the strings (the plain G and the overwound D, A and low E strings) on a standard electric guitar bend through the same pitch intervals for identical player control changes, whether that be through conventional pitch bends (dragging the strings through a certain distance along a fret to increase tension) or through use of a tremolo/vibrato arm.

"The clearest demonstration of this is through listening to chords played on these strings during tremolo arm use."

The new strings mean that chord bends can be achieved that have not been possible before on standard guitars, such as Fender Stratocasters with standard tremolo units or guitars with the Floyd Rose locking tremolo system.

All electric guitar players can benefit from the new strings (not just users of tremolo arms) as the optimised sensitivity means that the D string is no longer more difficult to bend than its neighbours and the low E no longer goes more sharp than the rest of the strings when played hard.

Temperature related tuning problems are also reduced.

Dr Kemp said: "The new strings are as cheap to construct as existing designs and all in all this amounts to a breakthrough for electric performance and one that doesn't require any expensive changes to players' existing instruments."

Explore further: The physics of lead guitar playing

More information: Jonathan A. Kemp et al. The physics of unwound and wound strings on the electric guitar applied to the pitch intervals produced by tremolo/vibrato arm systems, PLOS ONE (2017). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0184803

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not rated yet Sep 22, 2017
anything that uses wound strings, is the guess..l.can have this solution applied.
not rated yet Sep 22, 2017
We've all heard what this innovation...we've all heard it before.

We've heard it faked via synthesized guitars.

We've never heard a real guitar do it.

In the final analysis, it is a huge difference, as now the guitarist can do the same.... and do far more with it than any synthesizer operator can.

the newness factor is ruined due to the synthesizer fakery of the past 30 years.
not rated yet Sep 23, 2017
You mean I have to relearn stairway to heaven again? Darn
Da Schneib
1 / 5 (1) Sep 23, 2017
What an interesting idea. I might buy a set when they become available.

@Sonhouse, sounds like it will work for acoustics too, as @KBK says.

@KBK, I have a guitar synth on one of my axes, and it's capable of exactly tracking on the string frequency if you don't quantize the notes. I generally use it in that mode unless my synthesized tone is inherently quantized, like a piano. Sounds like you had a bad experience a while back and should try the newer ones.
not rated yet Sep 23, 2017
But will the specifications be made publicly available or sold to the highest bidder? If so, what's to stop Ernie Ball or D'Addario or whoever licenses the design from charging some kind of premium for these strings even though "the strings are as cheap to construct as existing designs"?
Da Schneib
1 / 5 (1) Sep 23, 2017
Did a little research and it turns out D'Addario has sets of balanced strings, which is unfortunate because I stopped using their strings because they break too easily. Oh, well. Maybe GHS will pick up on them after a while.

@koitsu, the prices I found seem in line with regular string sets; you can find them online at Sweetwater for well under US$10.
Whydening Gyre
not rated yet Sep 23, 2017
Did a little research and it turns out D'Addario has sets of balanced strings, which is unfortunate because I stopped using their strings because they break too easily. Oh, well. Maybe GHS will pick up on them after a while.

@koitsu, the prices I found seem in line with regular string sets; you can find them online at Sweetwater for well under US$10.

Maybe I should try them. ANYTHING would make my guitar playing sound better..;-)
Of course, they prolly can't make me sound better than not playing at all...:-)
not rated yet Sep 24, 2017
Who do these synth, auto-tuned pieces of crap need with guitars today?

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