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A Minute with Miles
Mary Noble Ours
SC Public Radio

The strings of stringed instruments—violins, violas, cellos, basses, guitars, and harps—may be made of steel, nylon or other synthetics, or of gut. Often the steel, nylon, or gut serves as the core of the string, and around the core is a tight winding of very fine wire—wire of steel, aluminum, or silver.

Piano strings are made of steel, but on the lowest, longest, and thickest piano strings, copper wire is wound around the steel. I should add a word about gut, sometimes called catgut: it’s not from cats. Catgut is made by cleaning, pickling, and drying the intestines of sheep, or lambs, and twisting the fibers together under high tension. But don’t worry, because these days synthetic strings are much more popular than gut. Synthetic strings are not as sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity, so they stay in tune better, their sound is more consistent, and they last a lot longer.

A Minute with Miles is a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation. 

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Miles Hoffman is the founder and violist of the American Chamber Players, with whom he regularly tours the United States, and the Virginia I. Norman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Chamber Music at the Schwob School of Music, in Columbus, Georgia. He has appeared as viola soloist with orchestras across the country, and his solo performances on YouTube have received well over 700,000 views.