Instrument makers have always tried to manipulate string length to optimize tone and feel, but how much is myth and how much is science?

Length, gauge, friction, voodoo? Revisiting the mystery of real or perceived string resistance in a science-y way.

In a previous column, I investigated the relationship between overall string length and its resulting tension ["The Doors of Perception," August 2020]. I cobbled together a crude measuring fixture and determined that the length of string beyond the bridge and nut did not affect a string's (linear) tension at a given pitch. After being assailed with comments and emails loaded with physics lessons detailing the math behind my conclusion, I now know that it was folly to assume any other conclusion. The laws of physics state that string tension is determined completely by the active (vibrating) length of the string, the pitch the string is tuned to, and the string's mass. In simple terms, this means that for a given vibrating length, the tighter you pull the string or the heavier the gauge, the more tension it will have. Nothing else, like peghead length or tailpiece position, matters—full stop. Still, the feeling persisted that I could sense a difference on instruments with long lengths of string between the bridge and tailpiece, such as an archtop jazz guitar. I'm not alone.

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Can an entry-level modeler hang with the big dogs?

Excellent interface. Very portable. Nice modulation tones.

Some subpar low-gain dirt sounds. Could be a little more rugged.


HeadRush MX5


The allure of portability and sonic consistency has become too much to ignore for some guitarists, making smaller digital modelers more appealing than ever.

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Emily Wolfe lets loose, with an Epiphone Sheraton around her shoulders. Her signature Sheraton Stealth was released in 2021. "The guitar is the perfect frequency range for my soul," she says.

Photo by Brittany Durdin

The rising guitar star blends classic and stoner rock, Motown, and more influences with modern pop flourishes in songs replete with fat, fuzzy, fizzy tones from her new Epiphone Sheraton signature.

For so many artists, the return of live shows means the return of the thrill of performing, much-needed income, and, in a way, purpose. The third definitely goes for guitarist Emily Wolfe, who, when asked about her goals, immediately responds, "I just want to play arenas every night for the rest of my life. When I go up there, something could hit me at any point—an emotion that I felt 10 years ago could come out in a bend on the low E."

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