Fantastic Electronic Space Sounds from Steel Wire.

Very powerful and interesting electronic type sounds can be made, using a piece of steel wire about 30 feet long, a magnetic pickup (which we describe how to build) and a high gain audio amplifier.

Actual sound of wire (142K .wav file):

The setup is simple. Take a piece of steel wire, about 28 gauge, and connect it to a wooden chair so that the wire bends over the top of the chair. Put a weight on the other end and let it hang over the back of the other chair. Put a heavy weight on each chair to keep them from moving when the wire is tightened. At the chair where the weight is attached to the wire, tape a magnetic pickup to the chair, near the end of the wire, so that the core of the pickup sits about 1/16 inch from the wire.

           O                                               ^O\
           O                                                O |
           O  __                                        __  O O 
           O |  |                                      |  | O 
           OOOOOOOO                                  OOOOOOOO    
           O      O                                  O      O                 
           O      O                                  O      O
           O      O                                  O      O

Plug the pickup into a high gain amplifier and pluck, strike hit or scrape etc. the wire. Hang on to the weight on the end of wire so that you can adjust the tension on the wire as you play.

A good size of wire that works well is the steel wire that is available for stringing indian beads. It can usually be found in craft stores. It is important to get the steel kind and avoid the brass, that is also available, because the vibrations from the brass can not be picked up by the magnetic pickup.

The magnetic pickup can be made from a small magnet and some enamel covered copper wire of about 30 gauge. All that is necessary, is to wind a coil of several hundred turns around the magnet. Connect one end of this coil to the center conductor of a piece of shielded audio cable. Connect the other end to the shield. Connect the other end of the shielded cable to an audio connector appropriate for the amplifier you intend to use. Use electrical tape to hold things together and to mount the pickup near the end of the wire.

        Steel wire.                                                            
            ____         /          \\                                     
   ________| M  |________|   Chair  ||                                                  
    | C    | a  | C   |  |   back   ||                                     
    |  o   | g  |  o  |  |          ||                                     
    |   i  | n  |   i |  |          ||                                      
    |    l | e  |    l|  |          ||                                      
   _|______| t  |_____|__|          ||                                              
         | |____|   |    |          ||                                      
         |          |    |          ||                                   
         |          |    |          ||                                    
         |          |__________________________________________                                          
         |_________|       Cable to Amp or Tape Recorder. ---}                                           
Many ask the question: Can I just use one of those telephone pickup coils that attach to a telephone receiver with a suction cup? The answer is yes, but it is necessary, in addition, to mount a magnet near the wire or pickup. Telephone pickup coils do not normally have a magnet and it is necessary for the wire to be vibrating in a magnetic field in order to generate a signal voltage in the coil.

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