Trade Secrets: A tool to measure string tension

Fig 1b

How luthiers can create a device to find the optimum tension of a string – and a few good reasons to use it

By Robin Jousson

Luthier based in Geneva, Switzerland

All violin makers and musicians who play stringed instruments, be they plucked or bowed, know that string tension is one of the fundamental features of their instrument. Modern string makers offer a wide variety of products, and the diversity of technologies and materials used follows the trends in musicians’ tastes and needs. But the whole gamut of tension is generally reduced to a choice between low, medium and high, even when different string sets are substantially different. When I broadened the scope of my work to include ‘historical’ instruments such as violas d’amore and Renaissance violins, the issue of tension took centre stage. Like many of my colleagues, I started to use a small electronic ‘tension calculator’, which quickly became an all-important tool. But its inherent limitations soon prompted me to devise another, mechanical in nature and very simple in design…

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