String resonance

String resonance occurs on string instruments. Strings or parts of strings may resonate at their fundamental or overtone frequencies when other strings are sounded. For example, an A string at 440 Hz will cause an E string at 330 Hz to resonate, because they share an overtone of 1320 Hz (3rd overtone of A and 4th overtone of E).

Electric guitars can have string trees near the tuning pegs to mute this type of reverberation. The string length behind the bridge also must be as short as possible to prevent the resonance. String resonance is a factor in the timbre of a string instrument. Tailed bridge guitars like the Fender Jaguar differ in timbre from guitars with short bridges, because of their (extended) floating bridge. The Japanese Koto is also an example of an instrument with occurring string resonance.

String resonance in instrument building

Sometimes string resonance is used in the construction of the instrument, like for instance the Sympathetic strings in many Eastern instruments.


According to a 2007 Grove Music Online article on "duplex scaling", Steinway developed a system of Aliquot stringing to provide sympathetic resonance, with the intention of enriching the treble register of the piano. In the "octave duplex" piano by Hoerr of Toronto, each note had four strings, of which two, three or four could be struck by the hammer depending on the depression of any of four pedals. Steinway’s duplex scale was inspired a half century earlier by an experiment conducted by the German piano maker Wilhelm Leberecht Petzoldt, in which a small bridge was placed behind the standard larger one with the intention of maximizing the potential additional resonance of a sympathetically vibrating additional length of string.

Overtones due to string resonance on the koto

The following table[1] [2] shows the created resonating overtones on the koto for various positions on a stopped string (the proportion being between the "played" portion of the string and resonant portion, the remaining length of the string).

Resonating string

length/Played string

resonating harmonic cents reduced
1/1 P0 0.0 0.0
8/9 Just major tone 203.9 203.9
7/8 Septimal major second 231.2 231.2
6/7 Septimal minor third 266.9 266.9
5/6 Just minor third 315.6 315.6
4/5 Just major third 386.3 386.3
3/4 perfect fourth 498.0 498.0
2/3 P5 702.0 702.0
3/5 Just major sixth 884.4 884.4
1/2 P8 1200.0 0.0
2/5 2P8 + just M3 1586.3 386.3
1/3 P8 + P5 1902.0 702.0
1/4 2P8 2400.0 0.0
1/5 2P8 + just M3 2786.3 386.3
1/6 2P8 + P5 3102.0 702.0
1/7 2P8 + septimal m7 3368.8 968.8
1/8 3P8 3600.0 0.0
1/9 3P8 + pyth M2 3803.9 203.9
1/10 3P8 + just M3 3986.3 386.3
1/11 3P8 + just M3 + GUN2 4151.3 551.3
1/12 3P8 + P5 4302.0 702.0
1/13 3P8 + P5 + T23T 4440.5 840.5
1/14 3P8 + P5 + septimal m3 4568.8 968.8
1/15 3P8 + P5 + just M3 4688.3 1088.3
1/16 4P8 4800.0 0.0

Instruments that use string resonance


  1. BAIN ATMI 2002: Cents/RatioToCents Appl
  2. Stichting Huygens-Fokker: List of intervals

See also

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