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If you’ve never had a guitar string break midplay then my friend you haven’t known fear and if it happens a few times too many then playing the guitar will begin to feel a little too much like Russian roulette.
Jokes aside breaking a guitar string is not uncommon but it also shouldn’t be a given, sure it can happen once in a blue moon under the most unfortunate circumstances, but if a broken string has become your norm then something is not right.
So, how often do guitar strings break?
Most guitar strings will last around three months before the likelihood of them breaking starts increasing. Depending on how regularly you play the guitar, your play style, the quality of the strings, and the type of guitar you use guitar strings can last a week or six months before breaking.
Let’s find out how often electric, acoustic, classical and bass guitar strings break, whether that’s something to be expected and if there’s a way to stop it!
How Often Do Guitar Strings Break?
Strings are meant to endure a great deal of tension, and most well know companies keep that in mind when they manufacture their strings. This doesn’t mean that strings can’t break under certain circumstances (or even randomly on their own), but how often can you expect that to happen?
Since there are different types of strings made for different guitars we need to take a look at them separately.
I think electric guitar strings tend to break much sooner compared to other guitars simply because electric guitarists use many techniques that end up shortening the lifespan of strings.
Don’t get me wrong electric guitar strings are quite resilient and they are made to withstand the tension we apply to them. But while steel strings are strong it’s quite common to use light gauge strings on electric guitars and they are much easier to break.
How often you will end up breaking the strings on your electric guitar will mostly depend on how aggressively you play, their quality, and the quality of your electric guitar.
Under normal circumstances, your acoustic guitar strings shouldn’t break at all during their lifespan, which is three months on average.
That’s because acoustic guitars are usually equipped with heavier strings and most guitarists avoid bending them or using other techniques that can wear the strings down to such an extent that they will end up breaking.
Even though acoustic strings can go a long time without breaking that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t change them. After all, old strings won’t sound or feel as good as new ones will.
If you experience your acoustic guitar strings breaking constantly then you need to make sure you store your guitar properly and you should also check your guitar for sharp edges at the points where the guitar and strings meet.
Unlike electric and acoustic guitars, classical guitars are strung with nylon strings that can actually last a little longer if treated properly. Nylon strings are also more flexible and so they can stretch much easier and they can take more of a beating before breaking.
However, if there are any sharp points on the saddle, nut, frets, and tuning posts then these points could damage the strings more easily and cause them to snap. It’s easy to spot if any of these areas are at fault because you’ll notice that the strings keep breaking at the same spot every time.
As you can already tell this is a difficult question to answer simply because there’s no way of predicting how often guitar strings can break. One thing is certain though, it shouldn’t happen often and repeatedly.
Especially when it comes to bass guitar strings, the chances of breaking a string are even less, and some bass players can go for a year without breaking a single bass string.
That being said bass guitars can break if you play aggressively, if the strings are improperly tuned or if the guitar itself causes the strings to break due to sharp frets, tuning posts, the nut, and the bridge.
Is It Normal For Guitar Strings To Break?
While it’s normal for guitar strings to break at the end of their life, guitar strings should not break very often even for those of you who play and practice the guitar on a regular basis.
When I first started playing I had a fairly cheap and used guitar, plus I made a lot of mistakes when stringing my guitar and in retrospect, the strings I used were not that great so I a few of them would break occasionally.
So, keep that in mind if you’re also new and the fact that you still have a lot to learn about playing the guitar or any instrument can lead to a few mistakes, including breaking a few strings.
The more experienced you get the fewer strings you break simply because you have a better feel for when the strings need changing and you get better at detecting and fixing any possible issues that stem from the instrument itself.
Why I Keep Breaking My Guitar Strings?
Just because the average lifespan of a guitar string is three months that doesn’t mean they should start breaking once they exceed that lifespan. So, you should be able to play on strings without them snapping even if they’re much older than that.
If you keep breaking your string guitars while they are still fairly new then there is definitely another problem that’s causing this that is not string related. It could be your aggressive style or perhaps you’re not using the guitar techniques properly which can put too much tension on the strings and wear them out way too soon thus causing them to break.
As we’ll see later on your guitar can also be responsible. You might end up seeing the same string or strings break constantly if a tuning post is too sharp, the frets are used, and have sharp edges, as well as the nut and bridge.
You can expect your strings to break much more often if you are not properly stringing your guitar or you are not making sure the strings are clean and dry after each session, or you don’t protect your guitar from the humidity by storing it in a controlled environment.
How Often Do Electric Guitar Strings Break When Bending?
Bending strings is one of my favorite guitar techniques and I must admit that I do use it quite a lot on my electric guitar, even though it can definitely strain the strings to a point of breaking them.
That being said, if you use the bending technique correctly and your strings are not old then they shouldn’t break. If they do then perhaps you need to check the strings for signs of rust and corrosion, or the bridge, nut, frets, and tuning posts for sharp edges that could cause the string to snap.
I also want to mention that your strings should feel loose enough that you can bend them one step higher up the fretboard, but they should also feel tight enough so they maintain sustain.
Since bending requires you to apply force in order to move the string perpendicularly to the length of the fretboard having the strings overly tight can cause them to wear out much faster and eventually break.
Let’s not forget that most guitarists use light strings for bending because they are more flexible, but they are also sensitive and can break more easily compared to heavy strings.
If your strings keep breaking when doing bends then perhaps you need to consider switching to a high-quality set or spend more time perfecting your technique.
Can Guitar Strings Break When You’re Not Playing?
It’s not common for strings to break when the guitar is not in use, but it’s not unheard of especially if we’re talking about classical guitars.
Since classical guitars are most commonly equipped with nylon strings you need to be very careful where you’re storing your guitar. While nylon strings are less prone to rust and corrosion they are very sensitive to temperature changes which can cause them to lose their elasticity.
For example, if your classical guitar is just sitting in your room, and it’s really hot or the strings are exposed to direct sunlight then this can quite possibly cause them to break.
It’s also not uncommon for the D string on classical guitars to spontaneously snap on its own. That’s because the D is a wrapped string and can break more easily than a solid string, plus it has a thinner wire and it’s under constant pressure compared to the rest of the strings.
If you keep experiencing issues with your D string then consider buying a few spare ones to keep yourself covered. Additionally, if you’re storing your classical guitar for a prolonged time then consider loosening the strings one or two half steps otherwise the neck of your guitar could bow forward.
As for electric and acoustic guitar strings or even bass strings, it’s highly unlikely for them to break when a guitar is simply stored away. If it does happen it could be due to bad storage, the strings being old and rusty, or badly manufactured.
How Can You Stop Your Guitar Strings From Breaking?
The truth is that you can’t stop your strings from going dead, and you can’t 100% ensure that your guitar strings will never break, however, you can minimize the potential of your strings breaking by following the suggestions below.
Change Your Strings On Time
The best way to prevent your guitar strings from breaking is actually changing them before the inevitable snap happens.
If you’re new to guitars then knowing when is the right time to let go of an old string set might be difficult, but all you have to do is pay attention to your strings.
Old strings will sound dull and lifeless and as they begin to wear out you will notice that they can’t hold their tune. Since old strings lose their flexibility over time they will also feel stiffer.
You should be able to tell that guitar strings need changing just by looking at them. Old strings will look dull, discolored, and splotchy because of the rust and corrosion that is caused by the accumulation of sweat, oils, and dirt.
Guitar And String Maintenance
Keeping your guitar strings dry and clean won’t necessarily stop them from breaking but it will slow down the process of corrosion and prolong your string’s life.
Rust can creep up on your strings and the constant friction between the strings and frets can cause the strings to suddenly snap, sometime even when you’re not playing.
That’s why you should wipe your strings with a microfiber cloth after each session. You should also store your guitar in a hard-shell case with a humidifier and a hydrometer so you can have complete control over the environment your strings are in so they don’t end up deteriorating as fast.
Remember to also keep the case in a room that is not damp or overly dry, but also store it away from direct sunlight or freezing temperatures.
Use High-Quality Strings
I’m not here to tell you that you need to spend all your money on some “unbreakable” strings because even expensive strings will break at some point.
However, buying from established brands like D’Addario, Fender, and Elixir which have tons of guitarists that buy from them and love their strings can ensure that you’re getting a quality set that will last you much longer.
You can also try coated strings that are much more resilient against humidity, and they don’t accumulate sweat and dirt as quickly as uncoated strings do.
Use Heavy Gauge Strings
As a new guitarist starting off with a set of light gauge strings can be very helpful especially if you don’t have much finger strength and pressing down the strings feels impossible.
But lighter strings are also more sensitive and can break much more easily compared to heavier strings. Instead of going too light or too heavy consider using medium gauge strings also known as 13s on an acoustic and 11s on an electric.
Medium strings have a fuller sound compared to the brighter tones of light strings and they are quite popular in blues and rock because they still are flexible enough to do some bends.
Change Your Pick
When you suddenly have new or fairly new strings breaking out of nowhere you need to examine the possible reasons this keeps happening.
You might end up blaming the strings and the manufacturer but perhaps it’s your guitar pick that’s at fault here.
If you are using your long nails instead of your fingertips then you can expect the strings to wear out faster, but guitar picks can be more damaging, depending of course on the pick’s sharpness and thickness.
Perhaps your pick has also seen some wear and tear and the surface is no longer smooth, so sudden dents and sharp points can wear the strings even more and cause them to break unexpectedly.
Check All Points Of Contact
If your guitar strings keep breaking no matter what kind of brand, gauge, or pick you’re using then your guitar could be causing this issue. That’s why when your string break it’s important to check where the break keeps happening.
The main areas that you need to check are the frets, tuning posts, the nut, and the bridge. Sometimes these areas are not as smooth as they should be on new guitars, or the constant friction can make them sharper and create kinks and bends on their surface.
Sharp edges can cause your strings to wear much faster and eventually break. So, when you remove your strings inspect those areas and use a sandpaper or small file to smooth the areas down.
Check Your Guitar Setup
Another thing that you might want to look out for is the setup of your guitar. You could take your guitar to a technician so they can assess what’s causing your strings to break, or you could do it yourself if you are familiar with how guitars work.
You should start by checking the action of your guitar since a high action can make strings feel tighter and the increased tension could potentially break the strings or harm the neck of your guitar.
It’s also possible that your guitar’s neck is not properly aligned and you might have to readjust the truss rod.
On the other hand, you also need to check the intonation, in which case you might find that the bridge or saddle is too high, thus adding unwanted tension to your strings.
For the same reasons you need to also be careful when stringing your guitar, you need to make sure the strings are tight enough but not too tight so they end up breaking.
Work On Your Guitar Techniques
I’ve broken a lot of strings in my time, and I can admit that my strings or my guitar were not the ones to blame. Of course, I’m also not blaming my younger self for not knowing how to play the guitar properly and neither should you.
However, realizing that you’re doing something wrong and that you need to work on your guitar techniques can help you improve your skills and save you some strings.
If you’re a self-taught guitarist then perhaps you could take a few lessons just to see if your bends or vibrato and other possible more aggressive techniques are causing the strings to break.
It’s also possible that your techniques are perfect as they are but you are not performing them on the right strings that can handle your aggressive play. Perhaps you need to change your strings more often if you have a heavy hand.
When Should You Change Your Strings So They Don’t Break?
Predicting the day and time your strings will break is impossible but with time you get so attuned to your instrument that you get a feel for when the strings should be changed.
That being said, you shouldn’t just change your strings because you’re afraid they are going to break, instead, you need to change guitar strings when they don’t sound or feel good anymore.
This will of course depend on your experience level, how often you play the guitar, the type of guitar you use, and your personal style.
An average guitar player will most likely have to change their guitar strings at least every two to three months, or after 100 hours of practice.
If you rarely play the guitar then you might get away with changing your strings once a year and not see any of them break, given that the guitar and strings are maintained and stored properly.
If you are a guitar student who spends thirty minutes every day practicing then your strings might last you three or four months before breaking if not more, and if you are an aspiring pro who plays their guitar for six hours a day then your strings might not last longer than two months.
Professional guitarists can end up changing their strings before every gig and as a professional myself I rarely break a guitar string anymore simply because I know when it’s time to change my guitar strings by paying attention to the signs of wear and tear.
So, Are There Unbreakable Strings?
As crazy as it may sound Ernie Ball has a line of guitar strings called Paradigm and they are supposed to be the most durable and unbreakable strings out on the market.
They definitely are excellent strings in terms of quality, durability, and tuning stability. According to Ernie Ball, these strings are made up of ultra-fine grain high-strength steel using Ernie Ball’s new state-of-the-art wire drawing process.
While all of that might sound like gibberish to some this basically means that the Paradigm strings can take a lot more punishment. Allegedly Ernie Ball is so confident that the Paradigm strings are unbreakable that they will replace any Paradigm strings that break or corrode within 90 days.
Now I hate to break it to you but even Ernie Ball Paradigm strings will break if you push them too far, but as you can see in this video they are incredibly resilient and stretchy, you basically can’t compare them to any other string on the market in terms of durability!
As you can see there’s no definitive answer as to how often guitar strings break, but it definitely shouldn’t be a common occurrence, especially if you’re an experienced guitarist who is familiar with their guitar.
It’s not normal for guitar strings to break on a regular basis, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. But if you find yourself flinching every time you pick up your guitar then perhaps you need to start changing them before they break, or consider taking your guitar to a luthier to see if there’s another reason this keeps happening to you.
As a guitarist the last thing you want to do is experience fear when playing the guitar, the fear could be that a broken guitar can ruin your gig or even hurt you.
Hopefully, this article will unjinx you and help you enjoy your guitar with no string casualties!