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The Science of Stringed Instruments, and Where to Hear Them in Cleveland

BY: Editors | Jul 10, 2015
The Science of Stringed Instruments, and Where to Hear Them in Cleveland

Simply put, Cleveland concerts wouldn’t be the same without the instruments that tie almost all of them together: strings. What concert would be, really? From the raucous guitar licks of a rock band at House of Blues Cleveland to the classical symphonies performed by the Cleveland Orchestra’s harps, violins, and cellos—strings are nearly ubiquitous on the music scene, no matter what you’re into. But have you ever wondered how these instruments actually work? Let’s take an inside peek at the science behind the sound.

Step 1: Vibration

It all begins with a vibration. When a musician plucks a string or brushes it with a bow, it vibrates at a specific frequency, creating a small, almost indiscernible sound. Within the body of the instrument, however, the sound resonates and amplifies, emerging as the full, sonorous timbre.

Step 2: Frequency

The frequency at which a string vibrates depends upon its tightness and length. When a musician presses down on a string, it becomes shorter, resulting in a higher frequency (or pitch). That’s why a guitarist can replicate countless notes with only six strings.

Step 3: The Instrument’s Body

Despite the common underlying physics of vibration and frequency, a variety of factors help to create such a diverse range of sounds among stringed instruments. When playing a fiddle, for instance, the bow simply glides across the strings, resulting in a fluid, even tone. A banjo, on the other hand, has a large round body with a resonating drumhead that creates its characteristic twang. Even something as seemingly innocuous as the type of wood an instrument’s constructed from can have subtle, but distinguishable effects on how it sounds.

Step 4: Enjoy the Music Around Town

Now that you know how stringed instruments work, you can appreciate the music they make even more. Beachland Ballroom and Tavern consistently ranks among locals’ favorite live music venues, thanks to eclectic lineups that feature everything from nationally renowned country singers to heavy metal acts. If your tastes skew more toward the underground, head to the Grog Shop, an intimate space that hosts some of the country’s hippest indie and college-rock acts.