Spider silk violin strings

The violin heard in this video was strung with violin strings made from spider silk. Does it sound different to you? Me neither, but I'm no violin connoisseur. From New Scientist:

(Nara Medical University professor Shigeyoshi) Osaki learned how to coax Nephila maculate spiders to spin out long strands of dragline, the strongest form of silk. He bundled filaments together and twisted them, then twisted three of these bundles together to make each string. The thickest of these, the G string, holds 15,000 filaments…

Osaki tested the new strings by comparing their performance with three established materials: steel, nylon and gut. He says that the spider silk has a unique and "brilliant" timbre, or quality of tone.

"Spider silk spun into violin strings"


  1. Well, sure, violin strings.  But unless you’re listening to them on linear crystal copper speaker-wires, how can you be sure that you’re hearing the full range of sound?  You know what would be awesome?  Linear-crystal copper speaker wires with spider-silk insulation, to evoke the unique and brilliant timbre of your MP3s.

  2. The nylon sounds warmer.  The silk sounds brittle.  But then again the violin and the violinist need to be taken under consideration.  Also the bow, the rosin, and the acoustics, not to mention the method of recording. 

    The picture shows the man playing a half size fiddle, but I imagine that the person playing is using a full-sized fiddle.

  3. It sounds much more hollow to me…like it’s missing some overtones.  But that could also be because the picture shows someone playing a half-size violin.

    Edit: I’ve heard quite a few varieties of violin strings; I play a little bit, and I used to work in a repair shop.

    1. Hollow, yes. It sounds as if its spectrum is shifted up. Missing the overtones one might expect because they’re higher frequency. Less crunchy.  One might expect that, I suppose, if the strings are lighter. But, as everyone points out, unless you’re actually there it’s hard to know what effect the sound processing and sound equipment in between has had.

  4. Double-blind test or I’ll assume confirmation bias. This project took enough effort that anyone involved would desperately want to hear something beautiful.

  5. This doesn’t surprise me much.  In Hawaii, our garden spiders have such strong silk that I walked into a web earlier today, took a shower and washed my hair, and am still finding bits in my hair.  Not all spider silk is created equal.

  6. As a violinist since the age of 2, I definitely hear a difference. Although, “brilliant” would not be my descriptor, more like “slightly pinched.” It reminds me a bit of an erhu (Chinese violin), almost as if the shape of the wood box it’s vibrating is slightly different than a traditional fiddle.

    I also want to know if the violin in the picture is the one in the recording, as that would make a far bigger difference in the tone than what kind of strings were used.

    All that said, I like it, and want some for myself!

  7. The silk is not my preference — it evokes a sense of panicked desperation — but I’m sure it would have its creative uses. But how do we know the spiders haven’t encoded brainwashing hypno-sounds into their silk to achieve their plans for global domination?

  8. It does sound “bright”. The steel strings are more mellow.  Now I’m wanting to hear what spider silk would sound like on a cello, given the difference in timbre you get with a cello’s size!

    1. I was wondering how many spider filaments it would take to make Double Bass strings! ;)

  9. Definitely sounds different to me as well. It’s smoother – one might even say “smooth as silk”. I don’t think it’s better, though; it’s lacking something.

  10. They can twist 15,000 filaments into a violin string, but they can’t capture an actual movie of it?  Nor a close-up of the actual spider strings?

    Anyway, what surprises me is how *similar* to traditional strings they sound.  If they have different properties (breakage, impulse time, different feel) then perhaps you’d want the sound to be pretty much the same.

  11. The research found that spider-silk strings could not withstand the same tension as traditional gut strings. So the problem with the sound quality tests is that you are comparing a violin with different string materials AND different tensions. I suspect the timbre differences come largely from the different tension used. A fairer test would be to use different string materials but the same string tension.

  12. The violin is actually a full size violin.  It only seems small because his head is too big!  Typical violinist…  That is a joke of course!
    I am not impressed with the sound, seems like a mere novelty.

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