So, you got tired of the same old tuning and you’re messing with drop that D, DADGAD, or Open G tuning.
But cranking those tuning pegs, you’ve noticed a tension building up in your shoulders. It’s like winding up that jack-in-the-box toy when you were a kid. You’d crank away and that little demonic booger would snap up and scare the bejesus out of you.
And now you’ve noticed, you’re creeped out with the same feeling every time you wind your guitar back to standard tuning.
How come? Your picking hand has suffered more snaps than the paparazzi on Brad Pitt’s love life.
The first time, you blamed it on a lousy set of strings. Not a bad guess, considering some distributors like to hoard their strings in sweltering warehouses, shortening their lifespan. But let’s assume you’ve got a decent set of strings. What’s the deal then? Well strum bud, fear not. Here’s some tips to help keep your shorts clean.
1. Burr on the saddle.
After years of strumming away or if you bought a used guitar, wear and tear become your guitar’s middle name. One of the areas that suffer is the bridge saddle. You know, that piece of material (probably plastic or bone) where the strings hang out closest to the sound hole? Yeah, that one.
Over time, those strings pressing down on the saddle can create pesky burs along the blade edge. And when you’re tuning up, those strings can snap under the pressure, like a diva throwing a tantrum.
So, take a good look at your saddle. Remove the strings if you need to. Or take a cotton ball and gently rub it along the bridge saddle. If you see any burrs or if the cotton ball gets caught, it might be time to bring your guitar to a pro for a bridge saddle replacement.
2. Too light of a string gauge.
If you’re exploring alternative tunings like Nashville tuning and your string gauge can’t handle the pressure, it’s time to beef ’em up with a heavier gauge. But hold your horses. If you go for a heavier set, you might need to adjust the tension rod on your guitar. Don’t worry, though. If you want to learn the secret of truss rod adjustment, join our e-mail list and grab your FREE report on 16 Reasons Your Acoustic Guitar Can Make a Buzz Sound and How to Fix It.
3. String winding.
Now, this one’s on you, strum bud. How you string up your guitar matters. Too many windings around the tuning post can cause the string to overlap itself.
And when you have a string under pressure, crossing over a previous winding, you’re just asking for a string-breaking disaster. Especially those unwound G, B, or E strings. So, let’s get it right, shall we? Check out our page on the best way to string up your guitar. It’s time to become a string-winding wizard. Remember, you don’t need a million windings to keep it secure. Just a few will do, and make sure they line up neatly without any crisscrossing.
4. Binding between peg and nut.
If you turn that tuning knob, but the string pitch doesn’t budge until you hear a “ping” sound, congratulations, you’ve got some binding action going on. The string is stuck between the tuning post and the nut (that slotted piece at the top of the fretboard).
What a nightmare, right?
Not so. There are two possibilities here. Either the nut slot is too small for your string gauge, or it’s just lacking lubrication. If it’s too small, you might need to file or replace the nut, or go back to lighter gauge strings. But if it’s simply in need of some lubrication, grab a pencil. Yep, a soft lead pencil like a carpenter’s pencil. Slide that pencil lead across the top of each slot, and watch as the graphite drops down, lubricating the slot like a pro. Voila. No more binding.
5 Old strings.
Hey, have you considered that your strings might be old and tired? Give ’em a little pinch between your thumb and pointer finger and slide them up and down the fretboard.
Eeeew, gross uh?
Feel that grimy, rusty surface underneath, it’s time to bid farewell. Those strings have seen better days. Fingers leave salt and gunk, which can build up and start oxidizing the strings. Do yourself a favor and replace them. It’s time for a fresh start.
6. Fret damage.
Now, I’m not saying you’re clumsy or anything, but accidents happen. Let’s say it took an unexpected hit that went unnoticed. In such unfortunate cases, you could end up with a damaged fret. It’s not something you’d easily miss while playing, but it’s not entirely impossible. A burr on a fret caused by a falling mic stand or some other random object can be the culprit behind your string-snapping woes.
When you’re restringing your guitar (which you should be doing regularly anyway, you slacker), take a good look at those frets. Check for any signs of damage or wear. It’s the perfect opportunity for a fret inspection. Safety first, my friend.
But wait, there’s more.
For all you tuning adventurers out there, if you don’t have a spare guitar to keep in alternate tuning, I’ve got a nifty solution for you. Get yourself a partial capo. These babies cover three strings at a time and can be placed at different frets or flipped around to cover a different set of strings. Some are even adjustable, allowing you to choose which strings you want fretted. And if you’re feeling extra wild, use more than one capo.
It’s a whole new level of creative chord exploration without ever needing to retune your guitar. Isn’t that just mind-blowing?
Hopefully this unlocks the mystery of your broken strings. And hey, even if it doesn’t, at least you’ve gained some cool guitar knowledge to flaunt among your buddies. Keep on strumming and exploring. The fretboard is your playground.