Mudcat Café message #1015620 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #62745   Message #1015620
Posted By: Q (Frank Staplin)
09-Sep-03 - 02:31 PM
Thread Name: How old are steel strings?
Subject: RE: How old are steel strings?
Steve is right. Dies for drawing wire the draw plate- are known from Assyria and even South Africa (1600 years old). Wires for musical instruments were mostly brass-bronze.
The psaltery and other old stringed instruments with wire strings used brass. Otherwise, gut, etc. was used.
Steel goes back a long ways, but not the quality alloy steels of today.
Wires of bronze have been found in Egyptian tombs. The Romans hand-forged small rods down to the required size.

The process of wire production as a cold-working operation by drawing wire rods through a reducing die was first introduced into Great Britain from Germany about the middle of the 19th century, the first plant being established at Tintern Abbey.

In the clavichord, the wires were brass. Too much pressure, and the strings went out of line and out of tune. Cast steel wire was introduced in pianos about 1800, and the steel frame in 1820.

Encyclopaedia makers seemingly have little interest in the development of wire strings. The little scattering above was gleaned by thumbing through several volumes in two sets. I am sure that there is more, but I got tired. I have not looked through the booksellers for something specific.

It must be remembered that steel wire was not a prerequisite for stringed instruments. In biblical times they made do with brass and gut. (Many guitarists still stay away from metal strings). We are just spoiled by modern technology and noise pollution and demand more noise from instruments.