Hi all,

Not sure if this was the best place to put this thread but if it isnt, someone who knows what is can move it

Now I have a science assignment for school, and I am doing it on 'the effects of temperature on guitar strings,' yes simple, cold sharpens it, heat flattens, but what is the best way to record that difference. I can't use tuning, say E went to E#, because it doesn't sharpen that much (well not where i live anyway). So I want your help please, what is the best way to record the difference in guitar tuning after being temperature effected for 12 hours? frequency maybe? And also what is the best way (gear) to get that information, and where to get it from, remember, this will be a one off so I wouldn't fork out for some expensive gadget.

thanks a lot guys, I know it will require a bit of thought and knowledge.

Rgds, Michael
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well, you could argueably view the chromatic scale as just a very unconventional scale of frequency - since 440Hz is concert pitch for A (uhh, I'm not sure what octave). The scale is logarithmic, but something like a korg tuner shows how far off you are in sections of Hz anyway.

the other thing you could is record the note on something like audacity, and physically count the number of waves.

you could also use phase cancellation in some way maybe...
how extreme a temperature change are we talking about, if ur testing under normal room temperature conditions i doubt there would be any noticeable change u would need highly accurate equipment to measure such stuff

Also, keep in mind that a guitar may go out of tone based on other factors. The strings may stretch if they're new, they might slip or the tuning gears might turn slowly over time. You need a second (identical) guitar in a controlled neutral environment so you can see to what extent temperature affects the de-tuning.

I recommend you make two identical test guitars out of planks of wood with piezo pickups. You can get piezo crystals from many places: old alarm clocks, electronic toys, etc.

Buy two piezo buzzers at radio shack, carefully take the casing apart, solder the wires to a jack, and you have a contact pickup.

To keep the test fair, both guitars need to be in environments where the temperature is constant. Leaving it outside for 12 hours won't work. Not scientific enough for high school.
Last edited by sashki at Aug 3, 2009,
If you can swing it, try and do your experiments *IN* the environment you want to test at. Which is to say, if one of your test temperatures is, say, 20F... don't just stick your guitar in the freezer and then take it into your 80F "lab" and test it - the string will warm up quicker than you think.

Also, make sure you repeat your tests as many times as you can stomach, so that you can get a good mean performance and std deviation. Those go a long way to making sure that your results aren't just a fluke.
Frequency would not be the most ideal dependent variable for your experiment. I would use tension (measured in newtons) as the dependent variable and ofcourse environmental temperature (measured in degrees kelvin) as the independent variable.

Your school should have thermometers and a newton meter or some other measuring device for tension.

You would have to use your imagination for an apparatus because I cbf typing one out for you.

All you'd need to do is put the apparatus in a fridge of which you know the internal temp of and can manipulate said temp, then wait, record the newton meter readings and do the same leaving it outside the fridge (compare). For more in depth results you should also change the temperature of the fridge at equal intervals for different in-fridge tests.
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Last edited by James13v at Aug 3, 2009,
I would just pull off one of your tuners and a saddle, make up a section of nut and just have one string over a desk or piece of wood with a hole in the desk and a flame or something underneath heating the string, as it heats the pitch will obviously lower. Of course this isn't a real life situation (unless you play guitar and weld at the same time or something) but it will illustrate the phenomenon. You could cool the string too with dry ice and some foam enclosure

To be honest it doesn't sound very interesting.
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I would just pull off one of your tuners and a saddle, make up a section of nut and just have one string over a desk or piece of wood with a hole in the desk and a flame or something underneath heating the string, as it heats the pitch will obviously lower. Of course this isn't a real life situation (unless you play guitar and weld at the same time or something) but it will illustrate the phenomenon. You could cool the string too with dry ice and some foam enclosure

To be honest it doesn't sound very interesting.

Or get a cheap £15 argos guitar, drill a hole in the bottom and put a lighter through it :/
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Or get a cheap £15 argos guitar, drill a hole in the bottom and put a lighter through it :/

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thanks for the help guys, I'm not sure if my school has Newton meters or not, but I'm sure they will. Also while I'm on Newton meters, would a rig-tensioner made for measuring sailing rigs be able to be used on strings? I would assume so, I think it measures in pounds, but I think it's made for thick rope.

Ill try that Zelescope, see how that goes, from what you guys have said I think that I can easily say that Newtons or Frequency are the best options to measure this in.

Thanks a lot, any more suggestions that haven't been said yet will be great.

Thanks again
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I think a rig-tensioner likely wouldn't have the precision to do what you're looking for. I mean, it doesn't really matter what it measures in (pounds, kilograms, grams, newtons, whatever...) but it needs to have small enough divisions to properly capture the changes in tension.

It'd be like trying to weigh yourself at a transport weigh-in station next to a highway ... it'll tell you that you weigh somewhere between 0 and 1000 pounds; not very helpful, y'know?
There would be a lot of factors behind this, Metal shrinks in extreme cold and will expand in warmer temps, Wood also expands and contracts a lot like metal but more extreme. So just freezing a guitar wont give you enough data on the strings being that the wood will be effected also.
What my plan do to is (in steps):

-Tune up or down to standard tuning around 8pm
-Leave it overnight
-Get up at 6am (an hour before temperature starts to rise again)
-Measure the frequencies of the strings, and that I think should give me a result of how to strings change from temperature overnight, as in if they sharpen or not.

I have frequencies for standard tuning.

Not sure if the temperature change is great enough to show any effect but then again that is half the point of the experiment.
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