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A comparison of viola strings with harmonic frequency analysis

Jonathan P Crosmer, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Many brands of viola strings are available today. Different materials used result in varying timbres. This study compares 12 popular brands of strings. Each set of strings was tested and recorded on four violas. We allowed two weeks after installation for each string set to settle, and we were careful to control as many factors as possible in the recording process. The recordings include individual note samples of 8 seconds each and performances of the prelude from the first Bach cello suite. For this study, we recorded 576 note samples and 24 performances of the Bach prelude. Spectrum analysis of the note samples revealed the relative strengths of harmonic partials in each tone. By comparing the harmonic spectra of the samples, we were able to make some objective claims about string timbre; for example, one string is brighter than another. The harmonic frequency analysis and the recorded performances of Bach will be useful to the violist interested in comparing strings. Supplementary files included: • Recordings of individual notes • Recordings of Prelude from Suite No. 1 by J.S. Bach • AutoHotKey script to extract spectrogram data from all audio samples • Java source code for aggregating harmonic spectrum data • Spreadsheet with raw output of Java program.^

Subject Area

Music|Physics, Acoustics

Recommended Citation

Crosmer, Jonathan P, "A comparison of viola strings with harmonic frequency analysis" (2011). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3449656.