Top 10 Tips To Prevent Guitar Strings From Breaking


Guitar strings break; it’s an unfortunate truth with these stringed instruments. However, there are plenty of things we can do to help keep our strings from breaking, which becomes critical in live performances and studio recording sessions.

Here are 10 tips to prevent guitar and bass strings from breaking:

  1. Have the guitar set up correctly
  2. Wind the strings correctly
  3. Slap/bend in moderation
  4. Wipe the strings often
  5. Wash your hands before playing
  6. Avoid using heavy/sharp picks
  7. Don’t overstretch the strings
  8. Keep the guitar in dry, cool storage conditions
  9. Avoid poor-quality strings
  10. Change strings regularly

In this article, we’ll discuss the 10 aforementioned tips to help keep the strings from breaking on your guitar.

Related articles: What To Do If You Break A Guitar String (Live, Studio & Practice)


Top 10 Tips To Prevent Guitar Strings From Breaking

  1. Check your guitar setup for any signs of possible hazards
  2. Wind your strings correctly
  3. Slap and bend in moderation
  4. Wipe your strings often to delay corrosion
  5. Wash your hands before playing (also to delay corrosion)
  6. Avoid using heavy or sharp picks for prolonged periods
  7. Don’t overstretch your strings
  8. Keep your guitar in dry, cool storage conditions
  9. Avoid poor-quality strings
  10. Change strings regularly

1. Check Your Guitar Setup

Guitars, just as their strings, need maintenance from time to time. Strings consistently interact with the guitar’s frets, tuning pegs, nut, saddle, and bridge. The components will cause slow and subtle yet significant wear/deformation in the strings over time. Furthermore, these components themselves will wear out and develop burrs and dents.

Strings that are attached to guitars with these imperfections are exposed to breakage more often. Some of them are readily visible to inexperienced guitarists and could be fixed with DIY methods. Notwithstanding, in many instances, you might need the aid of a professional luthier to smooth out any hidden rough edges that can cause unexpected string rupture.

It’s recommended to clean your guitar often. Dirt buildup on the nuts, tuning posts, bridge, or saddle can potentially provoke damage to your strings and cause them to snap. Sand is especially something you should be concerned about since it’s harder than metal or nylon strings.

Also, it’s worth checking the truss rod of your acoustic, electric, or bass guitar periodically. At times, an improperly fastened rod (especially when it’s too tight) can lead strings to experience excessive tension or dangerous interactions with the nut and bridge, and, as a result, they could snap.

2. Wind Your Strings Correctly

Some might see this as minutia, but proper winding is crucial for a string’s integrity. Strings should be wrapped around the tuning post at least 3 or 4 times not to cause any accidental slippage.

Be careful not to fold your strings while attaching them to both tuning posts and bridge because they may develop kinks. Kinks are weak points created by accidental folds or bends, which feel bumpy to the touch and progressively create a ridge or breaking point.

3. Slap And Bend In Moderation

Slapping and bending are very stylish techniques that give flavour to a musical piece.

Nevertheless, if you force your strings too much against their “natural” position on the guitar, you will start compromising their integrity as they are constantly in friction with the nut, saddle, and fret. If your playing style demands repeated use of these techniques, you may be required to restring more often, though not necessarily (especially if you follow the other tips in this article).

4. Wipe Your Strings Often

This is especially true with regards to metal strings since metal is prone to rust. Nylon can benefit a lot from wiping as well, but it won’t degrade in the same way metal does (although it can still corrode).

Various agents cause a metal string to rust, but they are almost all related to moisture and oxygen. When metal is exposed to water/moisture and oxygen, its iron particles will start degrading. As a result, the metal’s solid consistency will start giving in to the water’s acidic electrolytes.

Of course, not all metal is liable to rust. In fact, rust (iron oxide) requires iron to form. However, guitar strings are generally made of steel cores (an alloy of iron and copper) for purposes of tensile strength and, in the case of electric guitars, magnetic characteristics (which are required for proper guitar pickup functionality).

Rusting causes strings to lose elasticity and become brittle. Rust spots become snapping points that could trigger at any moment while the guitar is plucked, picked, or fretted.

To delay this, routinely wipe your guitar strings, not only every time you finish playing but also on a recurrent basis. Moisture or other corrosive agents in the environment will often get to the strings’ surface and degrade them.

To wipe them, you should avoid using any type of bleach or detergent. A microfiber cloth should be enough, although some specialized string cleaning products are available on the market that are free of any corroding elements.

5. Wash Your Hands Before Playing

This goes in tandem with tip #4. Your hands also accumulate pollutants that could corrode strings, such as the ones produced by your own body (fat and sweat) and those that you use or are exposed to on a daily basis (such as hair products, gels, grime, debris, or food remains).

Wiping your hands before playing is just as important as wiping your strings since the contaminants you transfer to the strings may not be easy to eliminate in just one quick wiping session.

6. Avoid Heavy Or Sharp Picks For Prolonged Periods

Picks (also known as “plectrums”) are useful tools many guitarists take advantage of to improve playability on certain occasions and enable them to perform certain techniques much easier (such as shredding).

Most commonly, guitar picks are made from plastic. However, you can also find more sophisticated metal, wood, and even stone picks, which are supposed to provide additional punches to a guitarist’s performance. These types of picks should be used sparingly, as they wear out the strings and reduce their lifespan. They can also break the strings if you are not careful.

Sharp and heavy picks are often preferred over light and round ones, but they are more taxing especially nylon strings. Their usage should not be discouraged, but the risks associated with it are worth mentioning.

Related article: Can I Play Nylon Strings With A Pick Without Damaging Them?

7. Don’t Overstretch Your Strings

New strings need to stretch to stabilize their pitch and maintain their tune. Usually, without any additional intervention, guitar strings can take from a couple of playing hours to a few weeks to find their right position with respect to the guitar and acquire stability.

However, there are several methods devised to speed up the stretching or “break-in” process. They usually involve over-tuning the strings for short periods or pulling them away from the neck.

While these techniques are normally safe, you may end up applying excessive force on the strings and producing additional unnecessary abrasion with other components of the guitar, such as the nut. It’s always important to do them softly and slowly to avoid breaking the strings.

Overstretched strings also start losing their tune faster, just as what would happen to strings that have been attached to a guitar for a long time.

Additionally, avoid tuning the guitar past its standard tuning if possible. If you’re keen on tuning up, do so slowly, allowing the string(s) to adjust to the increased tension.

Related articles:
How Long Does It Take To Break In New Guitar Strings?
Why New Guitar Strings Go Out Of Tune Faster Than Old Strings

8. Store Your Guitar In Cool, Dry Conditions

Humidity is your guitar’s worst enemy. We’ve stated above how moisture oxidizes the string and, in turn, renders it more susceptible to break.

If you’re using metal strings, avoid damp storage cellars. If your strings are made of nylon, moisture will not degrade them in any significant way, but heat could potentially deform them and cause them to develop weak or breaking points.

Additionally, stow your guitar in a special guitar case or bag, as they can produce an additional barrier against the elements.

For more information on preventing rust in guitar strings, check out my article Top 6 Tips To Prevent Guitar & Bass Strings From Rusting.

9. Avoid Poor-Quality Strings

If strings have been poorly built, no amount of care or maintenance is enough to avoid an eventual breakage. Strive to only purchase strings made from reputable manufacturers as they’re habitually made with the necessary quality controls to ensure longevity.

Before you buy your next set of guitar/bass strings, consider reading about my recommended string brands in the articles linked below:
• Top 11 Best Electric Guitar String Brands On The Market
• Top 11 Best Acoustic Guitar String Brands On The Market
• Top 11 Best Bass Guitar String Brands On The Market
• Top 10 Best Classical Guitar String Brands On The Market

10. Change Your Strings Regularly

Fresh strings won’t break as easily as old strings when subjected to force and increased tension.

As a general rule of thumb, acoustic and electric guitars should be restrung every 3 months or 100 playing hours (whichever comes first). The same goes for the bass notes of a classical/Spanish guitar. Nylon strings don’t have a general rule for restringing, but they usually start losing their pristine tone after 2 months or 80 playing hours.

Bass strings do not break as much as regular guitar strings, though they certainly can from time to time. Basses don’t demand restringing as often as guitars do due to their strings’ mass, but snapping can still occur if they’re handled incorrectly.

There are various other reasons why we need to change our strings:

  • They start losing tension and detuning
  • They begin delivering a duller tone
  • With regards to metal strings, they develop rust

However, as stated earlier, age is not the only factor. There are various other considerations to keep in mind to avoid breakage.


This article has been approved in accordance with the My New Microphone Editorial Policy.

Arthur

Arthur is the owner of Fox Media Tech and author of My New Microphone. He's an audio engineer by trade and works on contract in his home country of Canada. When not blogging on MNM, he's likely hiking outdoors and blogging at Hikers' Movement (hikersmovement.com) or composing music for media. Check out his Pond5 and AudioJungle accounts.

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