Why Do Guitar Strings Break?
Make sure your ripping solo isn't interrupted with this handy checklist of reasons why strings can break.
By Mike Duffy
Guitar strings break. Often at unfortunate times. There are factors that contribute to why, but luckily most string breaks can be avoided.
It just takes a little vigilance and maintenance once you figure out the issue.
Here are a few reasons why your strings might break:
Guitar strings are made out of steel (unless you’re using nylon). Steel contains iron, which rusts when exposed to oxygen. Now, leaving the strings out on the table won’t cause them to irreparably oxidize, but that process is helped along by the residue left behind from your fingers. Humidity is also a friend to the oxidation process.
But guess what? Regularly cleaning your strings will keep them stronger for a longer time. Get some string cleaner and wipe them down with a special wipe, or just use a polish cloth to keep things clean.
Exactly when you should change your strings is up for debate, but there is no doubt that you should switch them out if they feel or sound dead, are discolored or flaking, or won't stay in tune.
The Tuning Pegs
Burred edges inside the tuning posts where the string passes through can also cause breakage. Dirt buildup will also affect the longevity of your strings.
Think about taking a cotton swab or an old wound string to work it through the hole to smooth it out.
If your string consistently breaks around the nut, guess what, it is probably an issue with the nut.
Grime that accumulates in the grooves can not only lead to breakage, but it’ll derail your tuning efforts. In addition, Heavier gauge strings wear on the nut, leaving behind rough spots.
Periodic inspection of the nut will ensure that you catch the offending dirt, and just remove it with a gentle file or wound string.
Some bridges can be relentless on strings near the ball end because the saddles are just too sharp. So if your string keeps breaking down by the ball end, take care of those unforgiving edges with a file (or a bit of sandpaper) to allow the string to slide in the saddle properly.
Sometimes, frets can develop burrs that will damage the strings when fretting. It’s a safe bet a rough fret is the issue if the string breaks on the neck, but a little sand paper can quickly and easily smooth it out.
How thick and sharp your pick is plays a part in your string’s lifespan.
Since you can’t very well play a guitar without strings, it’s pretty important that they don’t break.
Any of the above issues can contribute to that unfortunate “pop”, but keeping the strings fresh and clean and making sure your guitar is properly set up will get ahead of the situation.