Hi there,

Wonder if anyone has experimented with wire/rope vibration or tension that is non metal? Basically anything that doesn't sound like guitar strings but convey's tension or vibration?

9 Answers 9


stretching layered rubber can provide some interesting textures. i.e. latex gloves or balloons...just watch out if you stretch them too far. ;)


I've had some success with rope tension using a green cabbage. Just slice a cabbage in half and dig your fingers in to play around with it. This technique should be handled with care though because it's very easy to "overwork' it. Then in ProTools roll off the highs so it's not so bright.


The ruler-off-the-edge-of-your-desk technique (which has a lot more hyphens in it than I'd expected), or just general wood tension, can be used to accent the tightest points of the tension. Any sort of humming can represent a constant vibration, too.

And don't forget springs -- screen and garage doors and old car hoods generally have nice creaky ones.


  • Guitar-string sound without using a guitar string -- or, better yet, without using a guitar: various types of guitar strings (steel, nylon, gut, bass (if you can afford it), weed whacker wire, bare cable of various thicknesses, nylon rope, or anything else along this path. Anchor your new "string" to a resonant surface on one side (a C-clamp to a counter top) and clamped in a pair of vice grips on the other end, and adjust the tension manually as you record the vibration with contact mics. You can get sweet bends, both up and down, this way. Another option in the same vein is to build a tub-bass just for this purpose and change your string material for different sounds.

  • Plucked piano string

  • Plucked springs, like mentioned above, or hit with a reflex hammer / piano hammer.

  • At my local movie theater, there is a broken handrail -- the top part broke where it was fixed to the wall -- and I could hit it for a great vibration as well. So, various lengths of metal pipe clamped to something solid.


leather gloves and a medium width tree branch with loose bark. maybe wrap some rope around it for leverage and twist away.


To build on Shaun's excellent advice, rubber bands are a common and not that unusual alternative to steel strings or metal wires. Rubber Therabands, used in physical therapy, are also strummable, pluckable...not sure about playability with a bow. Anything rubber can have its pitch changed by varying its tension, i.e., the distance between what's holding each end in place.

Classical guitar strings are nylon, not steel, so stringing one/some between some wooden posts or other objects might yield interesting results, or across resonant bodies.

I've had little to no positive results using fibrous strings and twines. Very little signal from very low tension prior to breaking.


I had some great success scraping a variety of sharp objects over a large sheet of plexiglass, and micing from underneath.


Regarding vibration (rather than tension), I highly recommend you pick up a contact mic of some kind and start experimenting with metals, especially hollow canisters, tanks, pipes, struts, etc. You will find amazing vibrations and resonances which you simply cannot hear any other way.


Try twisting a hemp rope or squeezing a leather jacket


Thanks for the responses everybody! I guess I'm not looking for creaking so much as vibration. Like the strum of a guitar string but not musical?

  • I'll edit my response for more ideas along this route. :) Commented Aug 17, 2011 at 17:30

If you happen to have a Rubik's cube lying around - try twisting a layer around slowly. The springs inside give a nice tension sound. Slow it down and it can sound quite like rope under a lot of strain.

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