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October 29, 2020

Here’s What Happens When You Put Guitar Strings On A Piano

Restring your piano with guitar strings image

Guitar strings, piano strings – they’re all the same, right? Not exactly, and you’ll see why in the video below. Mattias Krantz decided to restring his upright piano with guitar strings and immediately ran into a number of problems, as you’ll see.

For one thing, guitar strings aren’t long enough, nor strong enough. When you get all 200 piano strings tuned, the instrument is under about 18 tons of tension. All that tension potentially makes the instrument a ticking time bomb if the soundboard is damaged (you can find some amusing stories about pianos being dropped and exploding on my good friend Richard Gibbs wonderful Invisible Arts podcast, especially this episode). Plus most guitar strings will break in that application, as you’ll soon see.

Mattias ended up tying several generic acoustic guitar strings together, but that proved to be a big job in itself. First he had to remove the string end-stop, then manually widen the hole at the end, then mount the string. This part of the job took 28 hours by itself.

While tuning, he regularly broke strings while trying to tension them up, which is no surprise since they’re not intended for this purpose (look here if you want to find out more about string construction).

In the end, Mattias came up with a somewhat playable instrument that really couldn’t be precisely tuned. It sort of remotely sounded like a piano crossed with a toy piano. The morale of the story – kids, don’t try this at home.

Check it out for yourself. The video has a nice sense of humor and very good production values so it’s an easy watch.


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