Violin strings made out of spider webs

Its been an interesting time for exotic violins. A couple of weeks ago, we looked at the world’s largest violin, which will be on show at Musikmesse 2012 later this month. Now a researcher from Japan has managed to produce violin strings made from spider silk.

Shigeyoshi Osaki from Nara Medical University in Japan has been studying the ‘dragline’ silk that spiders dangle from for some years and has now created the unique instrument, which has a “soft and profound timbre”, the BBC reported.

The task hasn’t been easy work, with Osaki spinning between 3,000 and 5,000 individual strands of silk to form a single bundle. Three bundles are then needed to form each string before the scientist tests the string for their tensile strength.

He found that the spider strings were able to withstand less tension before breaking than a gut string, like the type used on old violins, and more than commonly used aluminium and nylon string.

The news provider cited research by Osaki, who explained that while many scientific studies have been conducted into violins, few have focused on the strings of the instrument.

“Not all of the details have been clarified, as most players have been interested in the violin body rather than the properties of the bow or strings,” he wrote.

On testing the spider strings with professional violinists, he found that the musicians preferred the timbre they gave.

“The violin strings are a novel practical use for spider silk as a kind of high value-added product, and offer a distinctive type of timbre for both violin players and music lovers worldwide,” he remarked.

Indeed, Osaki found that the silk strands, once bound together, compress into many different shapes that leave no gaps between them, creating a more whole sound.

He had to use 300 Nephila maculata spiders which are known for creating complex webs.

Up until the early 20th century, violin strings were made of catgut (although they came from a sheep), which was stretched, dried and twisted. Some violins used to play music from the Renaissance and Baroque periods still use gut.

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