Electric & Acoustic Guitar Strings:
A Recording of Harmonic Content
Ryan Lee, Graduate Researcher
Electrical & Computer Engineering Department
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
In conjunction with
Professor Steve Errede and the Department of Physics
Friday, January 10, 2003
The purpose of this study was to analyze the harmonic content and decay of different guitar
strings. Testing was done in two parts: 80 electric guitar strings and 145 acoustic guitar strings.
The goal was to obtain data for as many different brands, types, and gauges of strings as
Each string was tested only once, in brand new condition (unless otherwise noted). Once tuned
properly, each string was plucked with a bare thumb in two different positions. For the electric
guitar, the two positions were at the top of the bridge pickup and at the top of the neck pickup.
For the acoustic guitar, the two positions were at the bottom of the sound hole and at the top of
the sound hole.
The signal path for the recording of an electric guitar string was as follows:
1994 Gibson SG Standard to ¼” input on a Mark of the Unicorn (MOTU) 896 to a computer (via
firewire). Steinberg’s Cubase VST 5.0 was the software used to capture the .wav files.
The 1999 Taylor 410CE acoustic guitar was recorded in an anechoic chamber. A Bruel & Kjær
4145 condenser microphone was connected directly to a Sony TCD-D8 portable DAT recorder
(via its B&K preamp, power supply, and cables). Recording format was mono, 48 kHz, and 16-
From the DAT recorder, the data was dumped to a PC via a Sony PCIF-5 interface that performs
direct digital-to-digital transfer. Sony PcscanII (version 3.0) was the software used to capture the
data and write .bin files.
Matlab was used to write a .wav file from these .bin files. I have included the code for
rock.m in Appendix I that accomplishes this.
Once I ha