Imagine being in the middle of an amazing solo, making those notes scream as the crowd gets wilder and louder -- only to greeted by the awful sound of a snapped string. Not only is the performance going to take a hit but unless you have a spare guitar, you're going to waste valuable time just to get your ax restrung. While broken strings can’t be completely avoided, there are a few things you can do to better prevent their occurrence, especially if the breakage is caused by things other than the strings themselves.
Although all strings will break with enough pressure, the amount of they can handle lessens with their age; as strings get older, they begin to corrode and develop stress points from all that picking and bending, making them much more prone to breaking. The answer for this problem is simple: change your strings regularly. If you play gigs often, you should be changing your strings at least once a week, otherwise, once a month should do.
While you should always change your strings regularly, you can lengthen their life by regularly cleaning them after you play. As mentioned above, strings get weaker as they corrode and the sweat from your hands accelerates the process. A microfiber cloth will get the job done but if you really want to give your strings a deep clean, string cleaners such as Ernie Ball’s Wonder Wipes are great to have around.
Another factor that can lead to snapped strings is poor stringing: less experienced players sometimes make the mistake of bending their strings inside the tuning posts without leaving any slack. This method will weaken the string and make it prone to breaking at the bend. If you are going to bend your string, make sure you leave about two inches to wind around the post.
If you begin to notice that your strings seem to be breaking at the exact same spot, chances are that it’s being caused by a rough edge or burr on either the nut, saddle or frets. You might have unknowingly bumped your guitar on a hard surface, causing the rough spot. It is at these rough edges that strings are more likely to break. The good news is that these rough spots are usually fixable with just a bit of sandpaper to smooth things out. With the nut in particular, it is also a good idea to periodically clean it out. As gunk and dirt build up in between the crevices, they can create increased friction which can also cause rough edges. Switching to high gauge strings can also cause rough spots as it cuts into the nut. A fine grain file or even a wound string can be used to gently remove the gunk and soften up any rough spots.
While all strings will eventually break if you play them long enough, by following these tips and practicing them regularly, you can make sure their occurrence is kept to a minimum.
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