Pull any music CD off your shelf and you can bet there will be stringed instruments somewhere in the recording. From the most ubiquitous tunes of the pop charts to indigenous music played by people in all the far-flung corners of the earth, stringed instruments appear in all sorts of fascinating shapes and sizes. Historians argue about the earliest evidence for stringed instruments, but there is no doubt that by 2450 BCE, the people of ancient Ur had complex and beautiful harps or lyres that were played in the royal court.
Modern Stringed Instruments
From the Korean Ajaeng to the western Zither, there is a whole alphabet of fascinating and unique stringed instruments from all around the globe. Some are plucked, bowed, strummed, blown, struck, tapped, or even, in the case of the magnetic resonance piano, activated by electromagnetic fields, but they all share common features which make them recognizable as stringed instruments.
Stringed instruments work because the strings are kept tight so that they vibrate when moved which creates a sound. Most stringed instruments then have some sort of sound box or resonator that amplifies the sound and adds tone. In the west, most people recognize the stringed instruments used in an orchestra like the violin, cello or double bass, and a lot of people know about guitars and bass guitars, but there are so many more different stringed instruments around the world, each with their own style history and sound.
Facts about Stringed Instruments
Stringed instruments are a massive area to talk about, but here are a few quick fun facts fun facts to enjoy!
1. Violin bows, which are drawn across the strings to create a long vibration are made with horse hair, taken from horses tails. Each bow can have up to 150 strands of horse hair. In professional orchestras, the higher voiced stringed instruments like the violin will use hair from white horses, but the bass instruments like the cello and double bass use the hair from black horses because it grips the thicker strings better!
2. The largest guitar ever made is thirteen meters long! It was made by the Academy of Science and Technology in Texas and is the same length as a bus. It is a fully working instrument and was designed in the shape of a Gibson ‘Flying V’.
3. The guitar company Fender produce about 90,000 guitar strings every day, which would mean that they produce 20,000 miles of guitar string every year, which is enough to circle the entire globe!
4. Stringed instrument players who could master their craft have always been important, and in traditional Gaelic society harp players were especially respected. Each chief or clan would have an official harpist who would create songs for important occasions. This is why the harp became the symbol of Ireland and now features on the standard of the United Kingdom.
Getting Your Stringed Instruments
If you are a budding musician or an expert, visit Curvy Sounds in Newcastle for all your stringed instruments and equipment!