The Old-Time Herald Volume 13, Number 1

Feature
Handmade Strings: To Make Music Out of a Cat and a Horse’s Tail
By Dan Margolies
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Handmade strings are made today by only a few craftsmen across the country. They make strings as part of the search for the best possible sound and playability for committed players of fine instruments. In many cases, these handmade strings are made by luthiers for their own handmade instruments. Both the strings and the instruments they sound fill an alternative niche amidst the global wash of machine-made instruments and standardized parts.
Surprisingly, although there are currently a number of people and companies making strings by hand, one at a time, for acoustic instruments, none of the makers I spoke with are focused on selling to the old-time music market. Though old-time music is in so many ways deeply engaged with handmade sound and handcrafted instruments, with preserving old ways and respect for tradition, the music is in fact being picked and sawed in the vast majority of cases on machine-made strings coming from a handful of larger manufacturers. Much of the uniformity is hidden in nicely-designed packaging, giving an illusion of craftsmanship or difference.
There seems a disconnect between those who prize handmade instruments but ignore the equal worth of handmade strings. Just what is it about handmade strings, made with precision and attention to acoustics, that makes them worth understanding? It is a whole field of endeavor that gets precious little attention, though it deserves more.

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