by Professor String

Which string is better: Hand Wound or Precision Machine Wound?




Consider these two scenarios…

Some of the finest things on Earth are made by craftsmen with a passion for detail and creativity. These craftsmen work with their hands to create works of art. Many luthiers fall into this category. Folks like John D’Angelico, Jimmy D’Aquisto, and Bob Benedetto are names that come to mind when thinking about legendary quality craftsmanship. Some of the best guitars, and most expensive guitars, are made by hand. Seeing examples of premium hand built instruments can put one’s mind into thinking the best things are built by hand.

We see many fine things on Earth built by precision accurate machines. Precision accuracy down to micro fractions of measurement can be attained with machinery. We appreciate the quality of things that are kept to tight tolerances and narrow specifications. Custom race car engine parts that have been precision machined and blueprinted are found in the worlds best performance engines. These engine parts are often the most expensive components on the market. Seeing examples of precision machined components can put one’s mind into thinking the best things are fabricated by machine.

These two scenarios are about things that are built by hand, and built by machine. Both scenarios conclude their own method to be good. Each has its own limitation. Each has its own strength. Which is better? Well, that depends on what you are trying to achieve. Guitar and bass strings are no different.

Many string manufacturers take pride in how they make their quality strings. There are some string company’s who advertise their strings being made by hand. Yet, there are other string company’s who advertise their strings being precision machine wound. Both Scenario I and Scenario II are represented in this manner. So, which is better: Hand wound or precision machine wound? The answer is neither. When it comes to how a string is made, we are talking about a process. As with any manufacturing process, quality is only achieved by consistency and repeatability. If the string is made by hand, then each string should exhibit the same level of quality each time you buy that brand of strings. When you pull out that D string from its envelope, is it every bit as good as the last time you bought and D string from that manufacturer? Is it what you expected? Does it get the performance you had in mind? These are the key questions that beg to be asked.

There is an interesting psychological marketing ploy that string manufacturers do to get business. Their marketing groups are given the task of creating a compelling message or story about their product. The story is needed to get people to “want” their product. As the old saying in marketing goes…Facts tell, but stories sell. In the case of a guitar string, for example, a FACT would be the string is made of stainless steel and is 0.036 inches in diameter. That fact might sell a string, but it will do no justice in telling why you should buy Brand A versus Brand B. The STORY is about what the string is all about. Here is a sample story created to prove the point…

“Each carefully hand wrapped string we make is a work of art. Our strings are wound by skillful workers who take pride in their work. We are the first, and only string company who has mastered the lost art of hand winding. Each string winding is applied with meticulous detail and touch to ensure you get the highest quality possible. You will find no other string on the market delivering this level of high performance.”

The story is about hand wound strings. Is this story true? Notice that relative terms are added to the story. Terms such as “work of art” “high performance” “meticulous” “highest quality” are left for the reader to interpret. What is high performance when you think about a guitar string? How high is high? As a buyer, you are left with an image in your own head of high performance. In fact, you are creating your own interpretation of the story. You actually decide if the story is true or not. If you choose to believe the story, then you are more willing to buy. We could have created a similar story about precision machine wound strings describing how the windings are held to a tight tolerance of 0.0001” gauge variation. The story could have described how quality is achieved by precise laser measurement and computer controlled tension monitors. What is the point of going through the ABC’s of string marketing? The point is this…a hand wound or precision machine wound has a story tied to it. The story helps sell the string. What is the difference between hand wound and precision machine wound string? The difference is process, and the process is merely a marketing story. If a string company cannot get you to buy their strings, then it does not matter how their strings are made. Stories sell, not strings.

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About The Author


Professor StringTM is a leading expert in the musical string business. He leads a development group that specializes in guitar and bass string research for musicians. You can visit their site at