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FrictionandWearResearch,Volume3,2015www.seipub.

org/fwr
doi:10.14355/fwr.2015.03.001

MicroscopicExaminationofPlayWornSteel
MusicStrings
FerhatBlbl*1
DepartmentofMechanicalEngineering,AtaturkUniversity,Erzurum,Turkey
*1

ferhat.bulbul@atauni.edu.tr

Abstract
The wear tests on the strings made from ASTMA228 music wire were performed by using balama, a stringed instrument.
ThesetestsnamedasplaytestswerecarriedoutbyreciprocatingslidingwithfingeronDomajorandcontrariwisescalesfor
different durations at andante moderato speed of 100 beat per minute and by plucking with the plectrum under steady
environmentalconditions.Theincreaseintheelectricalresistanceofthestringprovedthatthesteelstringsufferedamassive
lossasaresultofplaywear.WeartracksobtainedviaSEMshowedthatthelevelofsurfacedamageincreasedandbecamemore
pronounceddependingonthebeatamount.Theresultsofthepresentstudyshowthattribologistsandacoustistsshouldfocus
onwearacousticrelationshipsofstrings.Becausealmostallkindsofdataobtainedaboutthesurfacewearofmusicstringscan
alsoshedlightonallstringedinstruments.
Keywords
Wear;Steel;String;SEM;Music

Introduction
Theoriginofstringedinstrumentsdatesbackmanycenturiesago.Mostoftheancientculturesdevelopeddifferent
stringed instruments. They have played an essential role in the history of music and in the development of
contemporarymusic.Likeguitar,violinandmandolin,balamaisalsoastringedmusicalinstrument,similartothe
Bouzouki, shared by various cultures in the Eastern Mediterranean. Up till now, in many cities of world and
Europe,numerousbalamarecitalsorconcertshavebeengiven,intheleadershipoffamousbalamavirtuosos;in
theserecitalsEasternmusicmelodieshavebeenbroughttogetherwithWesternmusicmelodies,namely,especially
with Spanish music, Jazz music and Classic music. Thanks to these significant works, balama has gained a
universaldimensiontoday.
Solid steel, rope or cable core steel, synthetic, and gut are the most commonly used string core materials for
stringedmusicalinstruments.Eachtypeofcorematerialhasdistinctlydifferenttonalandplayingcharacteristics.
The outer wrapping can be made from a wide variety of materials, including nylon, aluminum, chrome, steel,
stainless steel, tinned steel, tungsten, nickelsilver, silver, silverplate, and gold. Each material provides its own
uniquetonalandtactilecharacteristics,aswellasvaryingdegreesofresistancetowearandcorrosion(primarily
from contact with the players fingers). Steel strings are more economical, and they produce larger, brighter
volumesofsoundwithaminimalbreakinperiodcomparedtoothers.
Thestringsofstringedinstrumentssuchasbalama,guitar,violin,luteandmandolinaresubjecttoexternaleffects
suchastension,pressure,wear,temperature,humidity,dustandlight.Therefore,stringsshouldbecleanedafter
performing,otherwisetheirtimbrewillgetworseandthesoundqualitymaydeteriorate.Despitewhatwehave
mentionedabove,thefailureofstringsisinevitablesincethemusicianappliespressurewithhishandandsliding
causes wearon thestrings,andalso the sweat of handand ambient air havea corrosiveeffect on thestrings. In
time,suchactivitiesspoilthetimbreofthestringscompletelysothattheybecameuseless.Essentially,thestrings
arechangedwithnewones,generallydependingontheplaytime[1].
Although a vast number of theoretical and experimental studies are available on music strings since BC, a great
majorityofthesestudiesareconcernedwiththenumber,gauge,materialandacousticcharacteristicsofstrings[2
13]. Pythagoras [6], the first known string theorist, during the sixth century BC, studied vibrating strings and
musical sounds. He apparently discovered that dividing the length of a vibrating string into simple ratios
producedconsonantmusicalintervals.UsingavibrationmicroscopeproposedbyLissajous,Helmholtzobserved

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thestickslipmotionofaviolinstringduringbowing,fromwhichhededucedthesawtoothwaveformofthestring
displacement, now commonly referred to as Helmoltz motion [2]. The 20th century made considerable gains in
string construction. Kondo [14] disclosed a musical instrument string with a core wire and a helically wound
covering wire where the winding pitch was greater than the diameter of the covering wire. The purpose was to
eliminatecontactbetweenadjacentturnssothatfrictionallossesatwindinginterfacescanbeeliminated.Theaging
problemwhichiscriticalforsteelstringswasstudiedtheoreticallyandexperimentallybyAllen[3].Consequently,
itseemedthatthemaincausewastheincreaseddampingduetoforeignmaterialthatquicklybecameembedded
between the windings. Pickering [4] explained that the elasticity (Young) modulus for steel was about 40 times
greaterthanfornylon,andstaticstringtensionswereabout50%greater,sothelongitudinalandtransverseforce
amplitudeswouldbemorenearlyequal.Thephysicalpropertiesofsomewidelyusedviolinstringswerecarefully
measuredbyPickering[4,5,15].Keisuke[16]arguedthatthelevelofthesurfacehardnesscouldberaisedbysuch
methodsasphosphatecoating,vaporplating,flamecoatingorionplatingetc.,whenthebasematerialwasanalloy.
Inaddition,heexplainedthattherepeatedvibrationofthestringincreasedthefrictioncoefficientbetweenthecore
wireandthewindingwire,andthefrictionbetweenthesetwowireslostapartofthevibrationenergygenerated
instrikingorpluckingthestring,sothatthesoundvolumedecreased,andalsothenoisegeneratedbythefriction
wouldcauseadistortedorunclearmusicaltone,whenametalhavingahighductilityisusedforthewindingwire
or the core wire [8]. Goodway [7] reviewed, from the historical point of view, the technology of music metals.
BirkettandPoletti[9]surveyedthehistoricalprocessoftheproductionandindustriallyusageofironandsteelas
musicstring.ByJansson[10],thefundamentalstringtheorywassummarized,i.e.,therelationsbetweenacoustical
properties such as resonance frequencies and vibration sensitivity, and mechanical properties such as the mass
(weight), length, and tension of the string were given. The influence of the string diameter on the string
inharmonicity was demonstrated. Finally the mass increase by winding of a string without making it stiffer had
been shown. Besides, the mechanical and acoustical properties had been presented for violin and guitar strings.
Furthertheprinciplesforthevibrationsofthestringshadbeensketchedfordifferencesinpluckingandbowingof
thestring.Kitto[11]introducedadetaileddescriptionofthespecificdesignissuesinvolvingthematerialsscience
of stringed instruments. Kitto expressed that the material properties and material science were important for
musical instruments and music strings produced sounds because of their elastics constants, densities and
composite structures. Schumacher et al. [12] stated that friction force during slipping showed complex behavior,
not well correlated with variations in sliding speed, so that other state variables such as temperature near the
interfacehadtoplayacrucialrole.Theysuggestedanewconstitutivemodelforrosin(usedasafrictionmaterial)
friction, based on the repeated formation and healing of unstable shear bands. Kucukyildirim et al. [13]
investigated that the abrasion and corrosion behaviors of electric guitar strings depended on playing periods.
Theyhavestatedthattheweightsofconventionalandthenanopolymercoatedstringswerereducedasaresultof
abrasionwearasplayingtimeincreased.However,thesoundqualityofespeciallyconventionalstringswasmuch
worsethanthatofthenanopolymercoatedwhilethecorrosionresistancesofnanopolymercoatedstringswere
better than that of conventional electric guitar strings after playing. As a result, it has been reported that better
abrasionandcorrosionresistanceobtainedstemmedfromprotectivenanocoating.Aninvestigationofanumberof
servicefailuresofthehardsteelstringsofpluckedmusicalinstrumentswasreportedbyOlveretal.[17].Allthe
failedstringswerefoundtocontaintransversefatiguecracks,mostlylocatedneartheendofthevibratinglength
(e.g.atthebridgeoftheinstrument)andextendingtoaboutonethirdofthesectionthickness.Ananalysisofthe
service stresses showed that the strings are subjected to high mean tensile stresses resulting principally from
elastoplasticbendingoppositethefailurelocation.Itisshownthatasmallcyclicaxialtensionarisesfromrepeated
pluckingduringplayingandthiscanleadtofatigueinitiationandpropagationoveralargeproportionofthewire
crosssection.Neithersurfacenorbulkdefects,wearandcontactstresseswerefoundtobefactorsofimportancein
thecasesexamined,contrarytosomespeculation.Olveretal.[17]examinedanumberofservicefailuresofguitar,
electricbassandmandolin,steel(musicwire)stringsbySEM.Theysuggestedthatfatiguewasthemaincauseof
failureandthefailureswereassociatedwithplasticbendingatthebridgeornutoftheinstruments.
As seen in abovementioned studies, none of them addresses the fundamental problem of wear on a string.
Accordingly,thescientificliteratureabouttheeffectofplaywearandothernegativefactorsonthesoundquality
ofstrings,andespeciallyabouttheirpresentmodifications(i.e.depositiontechniques),thecharacterizationandthe
optimization of related parameters etc. have been unfortunately limited. Due to the commercial competition

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amongstringproducers,generaltechnicalknowledgeabouttheminmarketreflectsanadvertisementcharacteror
doesnotincludemuchdetail.Forexample,thegroupstringssoldinapocketusuallydonotcontainanytechnical
informationapartfromstringgaugeandmaterial.Moststringplayershavetochangetheirstringsinatime,for
abouttwoweekstosixmonthsdependingonplaying.Althoughthestringmaystillappeartobeingoodshape,
over monthsof playing,strings graduallylose theirbrillianceand responsiveness. Finally, thereis unfortunately
notenoughscientificinformationandspecialstudyintheliteratureabouttheresultsrelatingtorealstringswith
theexceptionofasinglestudybyBlblandKaracali[18].Therefore,stillmoreworkneedstobedoneinorderto
obtaincheaperstringsandstringswithbetterfeatures.Oneofthemainaimsofthisstudyistoemphasizethisissue.
Therefore, the present research focuses on the mechanical effects on uncoated steel strings due to playing.
Furthermore,thepresentstudyincludessomespecialpurposes,suchas,toindicatethatmuchmorescientificwork
needstobedoneonthemodificationofmusicstringsandtoprepareagroundontherelationshipbetweenplaying
and wear for the development of new perspectives. Namely, if this relationship is well analyzed and is more
commonly used to gain more accurate information depending on the amount of beat in terms of wearsound
feature,itwillhelptofindtheopportunitytomeettheneedsoftodaysstringedinstrumentalistsaswellasmore
technicalprescriptions.Thatis,thefundamentalinformationgatheredaboutbalamastringscanalsobeusedfor
otherstringedinstrumentssuchviolin,guitarandmandolinstrings.
Inthisstudy,theplayweartestsfor10,30and60minutesatandantemoderatospeedof100beatperminutewere
performedbyreciprocatingwithfingerontheregionsofDo(C)majorandcontrariwisescalesofthemusicstrings
(20 diameter) made from ASTM A228 steel (music wire). Low level resistance measurement was employed in
order to determine the losses caused by wear. Later, some examples of SEM images of the worn regions were
obtained.
Experimental
Medium
Thetuningandtheweartestswerecarriedoutinaquietroom.Therelativehumidity,illumination,temperature
and soundlevel were measured at46%RH, 0.18lux,25C and 20dB by usingMultiFunction Environment Meter
with C.E.MDT88204 IN1 trade mark, respectively. Music stringsare colddrawnspring steelsand show certain
qualities such as high tensile resistance, uniform mechanical and good thermal properties. The material of the
stringsofbalama,whichwasusedinweartests,washighcarbonsteel,whichmeetsASTMA228standards[19].
Thediameter,chemicalcomposition,unitmassanddensityofthestringare0.20mm,0.85%C,0.40%Mn,98.75%Fe,
0.245g/mand7.8x103kg/m3,respectively.Hence,Figure1presentsSEMphotoofanunwornstring.

FIG.1TYPICALSEMPHOTOGRAPHOFUNWORNSTRING

ThePropertiesandTuningoftheStringedInstrument
Astringedbalama,withlongneckmadeofjuniperwood,wasusedasaplayinstrumentandwaspickedwitha
thermoplasticplectrum(Fig.2).Theform(chest)length,stringlength(betweentwothresholds)andnecklengthof

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thebalamawerealmost43,91and57cm,respectively.Thetuningwasdoneonthebasisofthebottomstringnote
of the balama accord order (disordered/its Turkish mean is Bozuk or Kara order), which is a wellknown and
widelyusedarrangementforbalama.Accordingtothis,ateachsessionbeforeweartakesplace,thestringswere
tunedtoA3(orthirdoctaveLa)notegiving220HzbyusingbothatunerwithSeikoSQ10088trademarkandNI
LabVIEWSignalExpressTektronixEditionprogramconnectedtotheoscilloscope.Inthiscase,theteststringshad
beenfastenedinwithalmostatotaltensionalforceof4kgonthebalama,wherethetensionalforcewascalculated
fromthefrequencyequationdependingontheforcestringlengtharea.
PlaywearTests
Stringwearoccursasaresultofbothmechanicalwearandcorrosion.Therefore,inordertominimizetheeffectof
corrosionandtodeterminetheeffectofonlymechanicalslidingwearonthestrings,thehandsshouldbecleaned
beforeeachplayprocess.Handswerewashedwithantibacterialsoapandwater,andthenthoroughlydriedwitha
dryer. The effect of sweat in hands was negligible in this study. This treatment was repeated before each test.
Furthermore,stringstabilityisalsostronglyaffectedbytemperatureandhumidity.Thereof,asmentionedabove,a
stable environment for playwear room was preserved. Consequently, all experimental conditions affecting the
stringswerefixedapartfrommechanicalwearprocess.
Therearemanydifferenttypesofscales.Thereisthebackboneofmusic.Amajorscalehas7notes.Inmusictheory,
themajorscaleorIonianscaleisoneofthediatonicscales.Forinstance,insolfegethenotesofDo(C)majorscale
arenamedasDo,Re,Mi,Fa,Sol,La,Ti(orSi)oranothernotationthatisusedisCDEFGAB.Pitchesarealso
named after the first seven letters of the alphabet (ABCDEFG). At first, the only way for the composer to
indicate the speed of composition to the performer was to indicate a relative speed, but these terms are very
subjective. However, metronome indication is a more precise method of conveying the speed of music. The
objective, precise metronome marking is usually supplemented by subjective descriptive words (e.g. andante:
leisurely walking tempo, 80100bpm; moderato: moderately, 100120bpm; allegro: fast, 120160bpm and presto:
veryfast,160200bpm),usuallyinItalian,butsometimesinFrench,GermanorEnglish.

FIG.2(A)SLIDINGABRASIONWEARBYFINGERAND(B)IMPACTEROSIONWEARBYPLECTRUM

Takingintoaccounttheseadditionalmusicalknowledge,thestringswerewornoutbyreciprocatingwithfingeron
totally 14 pitches at once forth Do major scale and once back contrariwise scale (Si, La, Sol, Fa, Mi, Re, Do), as
showninFig.3.Thatis,theactualfrequenciesofeachfrettednoteare130.81HzforDo(C3),146.83HzforRe(D3),
164.81HzforMi(E3),174.61HzforFa(F3),196HzforSol(G3),220HzforLa(A3)and246,94HzforSi(B3).
Table1showsthecontactconditionsforplaywearinsummary.Thehittingonchestandthesliding(reciprocating)
movement on the neck (fingerboard) of string occurs during the playwear of a balama as shown in Fig. 2 (See
SectionSeeSectionWearMechanismsinResultsandDiscussion).Thereciprocatingwearprocessofonecycle
onthestringswasappliedfor10,30and60minutesatandantemoderatospeedof100beatperminute.Here,the
tempowassetbythetuner.Ontheotherhand,thechestregionswerealsostrokedwiththeplectrumwhilethe
first finger touched on the strings by reciprocating. At the end of each performed cycle, the low level resistance
valuesofstringsweredeterminedwithoutdetachingthestrings.Afterdetaching,theirsectionswereexcisedfrom
thewornregionscorrespondingtoDo(Cnote),Fa(Fnote)andSi(Hnote)and,thenphotographedbySEM.

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FIG.3THEPLAYWORNREGIONSANDBEATSTYLEWITHTHEPLECTRUM
TABLE1CONTACTCONDITIONSFORPLAYWEAR

String

Specification:ASTMA228musicwire
Diameter:0.20mm
Unitmass:0.245g/m
Density:7.8x103kg/m
Hardness:45RockwellC

Stringedinstrument

Longneckedbalamamadefromjuniper
Itsfingerboardmadefrombeech(Hardness,Woodindentation:4600N)

Abrasivecounterparts

Leftforefinger(forreciprocatingonneckorstemregion)
Plectrum(forstrokeonchestregion):Madefromathermoplasticnylonmaterial(65RockwellR)

Medium

Relativehumidity:%46RH
Illumination:0.18lux
Temperature:25C
Soundlevel:20dB

Playingparameters

Initialfrequency:A3(3rdoctaveLa)noteprovidingasoundwith220Hzfrequency
Tensionofstring:~4kg
Wearregiononthestring:Domajorandcontrariwisescales(includingtotal14notes)byleftforefinger
Beatnumber:6000
Wearspeed:100bpmandantemoderato
Strokeonthechest:oncedown()andonceup()withtheplectrum

ResistanceMeasurement
Theelectricalresistanceofanobjectisameasureofitsoppositiontothepassageofasteadyelectricalcurrent.An
object of uniform cross section will have a resistance proportional to its length and inversely proportional to its
crosssectionalarea,andproportionaltotheresistivityofthematerial.TheresistanceRofaconductorofuniform
crosssectioncanbecomputedasR=./A(whereisthelengthoftheconductor,measuredinmeters;Aisthe
crosssectional area, measured in square meters; is the electrical resistivity (also called specific electrical
resistance)ofthematerial,measuredinOhmmeter.)
Resistivityisameasureofthematerialsabilitytoopposeelectriccurrent.DCvoltage,DCcurrent,andresistance
are usually measured with digital multimeters (DMMs). Generally, these instruments are adequate for
measurements at signal levels greater than 1V or 1A, or less than 1G. However, they do not approach the
theoretical limits of sensitivity. For low level signals, more sensitive instruments such as electrometers,
picoammeters, and nanovoltmeters must be used. However, instead of these systems, which are very expensive,
thetwowiremethodsforelectricalresistancemeasurementscanbeusedtoday.Thecurrentisforcedthroughthe
test leads and the resistance (R) being measured. The meter, then, measures the voltage across the resistance
throughthesamesetoftestleadsandcomputestheresistancevalueaccordingly[20].Thatis,voltageisreadby

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keepingfirmthecurrentandelectricalresistanceiscalculatedfromR=V/Iequation.
To determine whether any mass loss is caused by wear, even if it is very small scale, the following low level
resistancemeasurementcircuitwasbuiltderivingfromR=/Aequationusedformeasuringlowlevelresistance.
Accordingly,theresistancemusttheoreticallyincreaseasthecrosssectionalareaisreduced.Inthepresentstudy,
thelossoccurredbyweardamageisexperimentallyatnanometerlevelandsotheresistanceincreased.Thiscross
sectionalchangecanbemeasuredbylowlevelresistancemeasurement.
ThecircuitiscomposedofaDCpowersupplywithGWInstekGPS3303tradeMarkandtwodigitalmultimeters
withBrymenBM837RStrademark.Accordingtothis,whileoneofthemultimetersservedasavoltmeter,theother
functionedasacurrentmeter,andbalamastringwasalsousedasaresistor.Theresistanceaftereachplaywear
session was measured, provided that two poles of the electrical resistance were between lowerthreshold and
upperthreshold.Fig.4showstheconstructedcircuitschema.

FIG.4THESCHEMATICALLYDISPLAYOFCIRCUITCONNECTIONASSEMBLEDFORLOWLEVELRESISTANCEMEASUREMENT

SEMStudies
Before microscopic evaluation and dismantling, plastic molds with a radius of approximately 0.1mm channels
were placed under the locations of the strings that correspond to Do, Fa and Si frets, embedding such locations
insidethosechannels(Fig.5).Afterthat,themoldswerefixedwithastrongglueandtheywerelefttodry.After
theydried,thestringswerecutthroughandtheirphotographsweretakenusingSEM.Theseactionswererepeated
foreachabrasionprocess.

FIG.5STRINGSEMBEDDEDINTOMOULDS

Results and Discussion


ExaminationofWearTracksbySEM
SEMphotos(Figs.6to11)wereobtainedfromthestringpartschosenbymakingsamplingbothfromDo,Fa,Si
pitchesabradedbyfingerandfromthechestregionsstrokedwiththeplectrum.

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FIG.6SEMIMAGESTAKENFROM(A)DO,(B)FAAND(C)SIPITCHSTRINGSWORNFOR1000BEATS

Neckstrings

FIG.7SEMIMAGESTAKENFROM(A)DO,(B)FAAND(C)SIPITCHSTRINGSWORNFOR3000BEATS

WhentheimagesobtainedfromneckstringsinFigs.6to9areexamined,itisunderstoodthatthestraighttracksin
differentdirectionsweregeneratedasaresultofthemicrocuttingofthestringbyfingerskin(hornycelllayer)and
theabrasionbywearparticlesseparatedperhapsfromfingerskinand/orsteelstringsurface.Sugishitaetal.[21]
touched on the same reasons for tactile wear on a metal. While ploughing (lowstress) or plowing, in one of the

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abrasivewearmodes[22],indicationsareobservedinthemodeofstraightlinesonthestringtakenfromDopitch
(Cnote)(inFig.6a),thequantityandthedepthofthetrackincrease,anddebrissproutasabrasionproductsonthat
ofSipitch(Hnote)string(inFig.6c)attractattention.AsshowninFig.7a,itseemsthatasiftheweartracksare
closedandpartlyflattenedduetothereciprocatingactionthathashappenedintheprevioussession.Namely,for
Fanote,aclearwearregionisformedasaresultofrepetitivereciprocating(Fig.7b).However,itappearsthatthe
depthoftheweartrackshasbecomebiggerforespeciallySi(Hnote)string(Fig.7c).
Figs.8and9showthetracksbelongingtoDo,Fa,andSipitchstringswornfor60minute(frayedstringof6000
beats),respectively.Thepitsandabrasiveparticleshavingthediameterofsome1020monDopitchstringrose.It
drawsattentionthattheweardebrisforFapitchstringaredraggedalongorcarriedtowardsthesidesofthestring
dependingontheincreasingbeatamount(Fig.8).Namely,theweartrackviewofthestringfrayedonFapitchwas
morestableaccordingtothatofothers.However,theweardamagewasnoteworthyforSipitchstringfrayedfor
6000beats(Fig.9).Fromthis,itcanbesaidthatthewearonDoandSithestartingandfinalepitches(points)of
theDomajorscaleandcontrariwisescale,respectively,andasiftheyareknotpointsismoredrasticthanthatof
Fastring,butSipitchstringhasthemostdamagedregions.Asaconsequence,theamount,depth,dimensionof
weartracksandabrasivedebrisincreasedgraduallywiththeincreasingbeatamount.

FIG.8.SEMIMAGESTAKENFROM(A)DOAND(B)FAPITCHESONTHESTRINGWORNFOR6000BEATS

From SEM views, it is evaluated that a variety of wear actions from ploughing abrasion to chip formation and
dragging,clusteringandseparationsintheformofflakesriseduetothebeatamount.Itisbelievedthatstickslip
hasanimportant effect on theformation and transformation of these wearphenomena on the surfaces ofstring.
Namely,thestickmechanismismoredominantthanthesliponDoandSinotestringswhiletheslipmechanism
onFapitchstringismoreeffective.ItisconsideredthattheweartrackstakenfromFapitchstringaremorestable
and smoother due to the factors mentioned above. Furthermore, the wear damage of Si pitchstring is the most
drasticofall,whichproducesthemostabundantandthebiggestweardebris.Thepossiblecausesofthiswouldbe
thatsinceSipitchisonlyaknotpointandgreaterdamagesattheSipositionalmostcertainlyarisebecauseof
greaterslidingbetweenthestringandfretatthisposition,whichisnearerthecentrepartoftheopenstringlength,
amongothers,Siisanotesoundingatthehighestfrequencyinadditiontothedominantstickmechanismtogether
withslipdeveloping.Inaddition,thefrequencywillalsoincreaseasthevibrationnumberincreasesalongstringas
the string reduces locally its diameter, thus, the mass, due to the beats depending on playing time, which is
confirmedbyMersennesequation(seenextsectionforthedetailsoftheequation).Consequently,moreacoustic

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energy dissipation and tonal losses occur. Because, an increase in the vibration based on increasing frequency
resultsinthedisclosureofmorephonons(asmatter)andmoreacousticenergy,takingintoaccountrelativityand
superstringtheories.

FIG.9.SEMIMAGESTAKENFROMSIPITCHONTHESTRINGWORNFOR6000BEATS

Cheststrings
ThemicrographstakenfromthechestregionstringsbySEMareshowninFig.10for1000,3000beats,andinFig.
11for6000beats.Henceinsuchregions,thelevelofweardamageincreasesasthebeatamountincreases.InFig.
10a,itisseenthatthewearproductstaketheshapeofadroporaflakeandarepartlyclusteredtowardstheedges.
From Fig. 10b, it can be said that the heterogenic tracks are developed in diverse directions and they are more
prominent,andtheamountoftheclusteredweardebrisincreases.

FIG.10.SEMIMAGESTAKENFROMCHESTREGIONSOFTHESTRINGWORNFOR(A)1000AND(B)3000BEATS

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Fig.11showsthattheclusteredweardebrisisbrokenoffintheformoflayerswiththeplectrumstrokestogether
withthebeatamount.
Thebasicwearmechanism,whichoccurswiththestrokesofplectrumonthestring,areerosioncausedbyhitting,
whichhappensasaresultofrepetitiveimpactsonoppositedirection.Thus,smallchipswerebrokenofffromthe
stringsurfaceasaresultofthevibrationcausedbythestrikingofpolymerplectrumrepeatedlyonthesameregion
ofchest.Therefore,thewearonthecheststringwasmoreintensethanthatofneckregionwherestickslipwasthe
featured mechanism. As a result, it can be said that the cheststrings had more wear product than that of neck
strings.

FIG.11.SEMIMAGESTAKENFROMCHESTREGIONOFTHESTRINGWORNFOR6000BEATS

ResistanceofPlaywornStrings
TheresultsoflowlevelresistancemeasurementbeforeandafterthewearingofstringsaregiveninTable2,and
Fig.12alsoshowstherelationshipbetweenthebeatamountandelectricalresistance.Itisseenthattheresistance
valueincreaseswiththebeatamount.Whiledeviationinroughnessislessthan0.5%Ra(averagesurfaceroughness),
the difference between RM (the resistance obtained from multimeter) and Raverage (average resistance) is 5 digits,
whichmeansthat5zerosfromtherightofthecommaaresignificant.
TABLE2.LOWRESISTANCEVALUESOBTAINEDDEPENDINGTOTHEBEATAMOUNT

Beatnumber

1000

3000

6000

ElectricalResistance

7.18533

7.19458

7.20039

7.20647

It has attributed to the resistance to be inversely proportional with the crosssectional area decreasing with the
increasing beat amount. The reduction in crosssectional area was not homogeneous for the whole string with
regard to the nature of the abrasion mechanism. Thus, variable section areas led to the nonuniformity of the
section. If these section areas are represented as having different resistance values, then they will gather, get
stronger and increase the total resistance, considering that they form a serially connected system. Mersenne[23],
referred as the father of acoustics, has explained that the fundamental frequency of a vibrating string is
proportionaltothesquarerootofthetensionandinverselyproportionalbothtothelengthandthesquarerootof
themassperunitlength.Intheequationof=1/2(F/m)1/2,isfrequency(Hz),isvibratinglengthbetweentwo

10

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thresholds(m),Fistensionforce(N)andmisthespecificmassofstring(kg/m).Thefrequencywillalsoincreaseas
the vibrationnumber increased along stringas the string reduceslocally its diameter, thus, the mass,due to the
beatsdependingonplayingtime.Consequently,theacousticenergymoredissipatesandtonallossoccurs.Because,
an increase in vibration depending on the increasing frequency means that more phonons (as matter) and more
acousticenergyareemitted,takingintoaccountrelativityandsuperstringtheories.

FIG.12.BEATAMOUNTRESISTANCERELATION

WearMechanisms
Itisafactthateverythingwearsoutintime.Forinstance,thestairsarewornbysteps,theglassesarerubbedout
bycloth,thecarbonnetiswashedbypressuredwater,thestonesareerodedinflowingstreams,keys(ofapiano,
typewriter,etc.)arewornbyfingers,etc.Repetitionismoreimportantforthewearmodessuchaspitting,fretting,
spalling, impact, brinelling, solid particle impingement, liquid impingement, cavitation, and slurry erosion and
partly polishing. Although thermoplastic plectrum is softer than steel, the damage on string is inevitable due to
reciprocating sliding movements and repetitive impacts. Fig. 13 illustrates the characteristics of the scratches
formedonastringsurfaceasaresultofslidingabrasionbyfingerandimpacterosionbyplectrum,andthefactors
ofplayweararegiveninTable3.Thereisaverysimpleexplanationforwhysoftmaterialswearawayeasierthan
the harder ones. The world is a dusty place and all surfaces will have some dust particles on them. If the softer
materialismovingfasterthanthehardermaterial,thehardermaterialwillberemoved.Thisiswhyyoucanpolish
diamonds. Some polishing wheels are made of cloth. One of the abrasion wear types is also polishing wear.
Polishingwearistheprogressiveremovalofmaterialfromasurfacebytheactionofrubbingfromothersolidsin
suchawaythatmaterialisremovedwithoutvisiblescratching,fracture,orplasticdeformationofthesurface.Itis
putinthecategoryofabrasivewearbecausepolishingproducesmicrochipremoval.Rabinowicz[24]proposeda
mechanismofmolecularremoval.Atomsormoleculesareindividuallyremovedfromthesurfacesbytherubbing
counterforce. It is obvious that polishing can occur by repeated rubbing of almost anything. Steel handrails on
wellusedstairsoftenarepolishedfromtherubbingofpeopleshands.Thelikelymechanisminsuchcasesmaybe
somethingakintoRabinowiczsproposal.Inanycase,polishingwearisasignificantwearprocesswithuncertain
mechanism:butincaseswherehardsubstancesarepartofthewearsystem,materialrulesoflowstressabrasion
(ploughing) apply [21]. Here, the abrasion wear process applied by finger on the neckstring is also a polishing
wear, because the finger appears to play a role as a fine scale abrasive. Furthermore, the mechanism of wear
applied by the plectrum on the chest string is the impact erosion, which is one of the types of erosive wear.
Accordingly, scratches appear due to both abrasion sliding wear by repetitive reciprocating movement of finger
anderosivewearbyrepetitiveimpactsofplectrumonthestrings.
If spiny lobsters stick and slip mechanism, suggested by Patek [25], and Patek and Baio [26], is compared to
balamastringedinstrument,itcanbesaidthatthefingerfunctionsasaplectrumwhilethestickslippedstringacts
asafile,becausethetactilewearwiththefingerwilloccuronthestring.
Oneofthemechanismsdebatedaboutthenatureofthepolishingabrasionprocessisthemeltingofsurfacelayers.

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Thehightemperaturesgeneratedbecausefrictionsoftentheasperitiesofthesurfaceoftheworkpiece,resultingin
a smeared surface layer. However, it cannot be said for playwear system on the string because melting and
softening on string do not occur due to low compression loads that the finger applies onto string at low sliding
speedsandalsohittingoftheplectrumonstringbysmallforces.

FIG.13.CHARACTERISTICOFSCRATCHESFORMEDONASTRINGSURFACEASARESULTOF(A)SLIDINGABRASIONBYFINGER
AND(B)IMPACTEROSIONBYPLECTRUM
TABLE3.FACTORSOFPLAYWEAR

Playwear

Externaleffect

Mechanical

Environmental*

Wearinstigator

Finger

Plectrum

Tear,dirt,sand

Directionofmovement

Reciprocating()

Repetitivestroke()

Wearregion

Neck(stem)

Chest

Overall

Basicwearmechanism

Abrasion

Erosion

Corrosion

Specificcategory

Lowstressabrasion(slidingor
ploughing)

Impact

Oxidation

Specialdefinition

Stickslip

Hitting/Stroking

Tribocorrosion

*Environmentaleffectswereignoredinthepresentstudy

Conclusions

Playwearasaspecificterm,which,sofar,hasnotbeenreportedbytribologistsoracoustists,isusedin
literatureinthisstudyalongwithpreviousstudyforthefirsttime[18].

Theabrasionwearprocessappliedbyfingerontheneckstringcanbedefinedasapolishingwear.Because
thefingerrubsrepeatedlyasareciprocatingfinescaleabrasive.Thereby,thismovementmeansslidingor
ploughingwear.Furthermore,hittingbytheplectrumisappliedonthecheststring.Thiswearmechanism
is the impact erosion which is one of the types of erosive wear.Accordingly,the scratchesappeardue to

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bothabrasionslidingwearbyrepetitivereciprocatingmovementoffingeranderosivewearbyrepetitive
impactsofplectrumonthestrings.

Wear tracks obtained by SEM showed that the level of surface damage increased and become more
pronounced depending on beat amount. Accordingly, the playing damage was noteworthy even if the
wearorthebeatamountwasnotveryhigh.

Thestringreduceslocallyitsdiameter,whichincreasestheelectricalresistance,asmusicsteelstringsuffers
wearduetothebeats.

The stickslip mechanism for stringed instruments, described by Patek, is analogous to balama.
Accordingly, the finger, the abrasive counterpart, corresponds to a plectrum, while the string served as a
file.

Wecanrealizethesignificanceofthedominantstickeffectofthestickslipmechanismatthestartingand
thefinishingpointsofthestickphenomena.Still,forapluckedstringedinstrumenttheslipeffectexistsat
every point of the reciprocatedstring. It is interesting that the wear damage in Si pitch (H note)string is
more intense than that ofDo (C note)string.A reason for that could be the Si (H note)string having the
highestfrequency.Because,anincreaseinvibrationduetoincreasingfrequencyresultsinthedisclosureof
morephonons(asmatter)andmoreacousticenergy,takingintoaccountrelativityandsuperstringtheories,
thuscausesmoretonalloss.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT

ThisresearchisapartofaTUBITAK(TheScientificandTechnicalResearchCouncilofTurkey)projectsupported
by grant no:107M647. The author would like to thank TUBITAK forfundingthe project. Besides,author thanks
AtatrkUniversity(grantno:2007/151)forprovidingpartlyfinancialsupportsandAssoc.Prof.Dr.TevhitKaracal
forhishelp.
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Ferhat Blbl is an associated professor of Material Science at the Department of Mechanical Engineering of Ataturk
University. The current research interests include: Solid lubricant coatings, hard coatings, sputtering deposition, electroless
deposition,tribology(frictionwearlubrication),andwearatstringedinstruments.

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