How do I stop breaking strings?!?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by sdhupelia, Dec 18, 2009.

  1. sdhupelia

    sdhupelia Member

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    I was practicing my band's set on Sunday night at home, and broke the low E on my PRS CU24. I play standard tuning, 9-42 exclusively. I knew that guitar was in bad need of a restring and a pro setup, so I set it aside for a planned trip next week to drop off all of my gigging guitars for setup.

    Tonight at a gig, my high E broke mid-song, but luckily nobody could tell and I finished the song with it broken. This was on a PRS CU22. I had my SC245 (can you tell I love PRS), as backup, and was able to pull that out for the last 3 songs to finish our show.

    I play Dunlop tortex or equivalent picks most of the time, and I play several of our songs with a Capo, to bring up the pitch of certain cover songs to match where our singer can hit (especially male vocal songs, since we have a woman singer). My strings are a variety of whatever I happen to have - they were old Dunlop standards on the CU24, and I think DR's on the CU22. I have Clear Coats on the SC245 and they've lasted months, and I'm just now planning on switching them out.

    My thought, at this point, is that it's my capo. I use an old Kyser, it still looks almost new to me even though it's years old, but I'm thinking either I need a replacement and that maybe the soft padding is wearing down or developing grooves. My other thought was that maybe capo'ing in general causes added stress to the strings hence the breakage? I'd never broken a string in 6 years of playing until Sunday night, and I was shocked to break another one mid-gig, but smart enough to have a backup :)
     
  2. Lespaulsignature 74

    Lespaulsignature 74 Silver Supporting Member

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    Were you bending the strings when they broke? Did they break at the bridge? You could try using Big Bends Nut Sause on the saddles and the nut. Some here also use graphite .
     
  3. GuitslingerTim

    GuitslingerTim Member

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    You need to determine where the strings are breaking; you might have a burr in the saddle or the nut. Working the saddle slots over with a fine grit of wet or dry sand p[aper might help, just be sure to not get too carried away and deepen the slots. As noted in the reply, lubrication can help too.

    If the breaking point is somewhere in the middle of the string, consider different strings, and also keep in mind that almost any brand of strings will produce a defective string occasionally. Fwiw, I use Ernie Ball Slinkies and never break strings, but I'm a non-smoker and my strings only corrode over a long period of time. If you smoke or strings corrode for other reasons like body chemistry, you just have to change them frequently and try to find the best brand for you.
     
  4. GM Reszel

    GM Reszel Member

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    For me I usually break a string right at the saddle, particularly the lows. It always breaks on a down strum. This is just a matter of the string surrendering - it's like taking a clothes hanger and bending it back and forth until the metal gives and the thing breaks.

    I'm a very hard hitter and I most often break the 4th-6th, rarely a plain except on extreme bends or hard upstrokes - a hard stroke is quite a shock on the metal. I have a rule and that is no guitar gets more than one full show without a string change. If I get lazy and don't change them it's a 50/50 flip if I get through the 2nd night and 3rd gig - forget it - one of those wounds will break on a strum. Floyd Roses are the worst offenders (for me anyway). I always have a least one spare guitar with a fresh set.

    Things like string saver saddles have helped a bit for me but I prefer metal saddles and I've just gotten used to the fresh string approach. Some guitars are worse than others - my Line 6 Variax 300 was the worst ever - string saver saddles were a must here.

    It is definitely not your capo - that has no bearing on what's happening at the saddle.

    If you're getting quite a few shows on the same set without breakage consider yourself fortunate. If you're getting weeks or even months - shoot, you're in great shape. You mentioned your guitar was badly in need of a restring and I think that is your solution - keep 'em fresh.

    This is my experience, hope it helps.
     
  5. sdhupelia

    sdhupelia Member

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    Thanks guys - so far I'm thinking maybe I'm just wearing these strings out past their lifespan (I'm lazy and cheap about restringing and getting setups), but honestly I'm at the point where I have maybe 4 guitars ready for the shop. I'm tempted to drop them all off at once before Christmas next week and let them sit at the shop, if necessary, a week until all of the work is done.

    I'm thinking the Singlecut's gone A LONG time on the same set of Clearcoats with no issue, I'm going to order a 5-Pack and stick with those, and I've had good luck at home with Elixirs, but never tried gigging them.
     
  6. John Coloccia

    John Coloccia Cold Supporting Member

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    That's the key right there.
     
  7. Chris Scott

    Chris Scott Silver Supporting Member

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    This is me to a "T".

    I don't even try to get more than a maximum of two sets out of my guitars (tele, strat and a LP) for the same reasons.

    ...and you'll find that this is the same story for virtually all players who play aggressively, as nothing shoots a set in the kneecaps faster (unless you have guitar tech waiting in the wings) than breaking a string, especially when the guitar's got springs in the back...
     
  8. sdhupelia

    sdhupelia Member

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    I think it might just be me over-playing before changing strings, the more I read this and think about it. On the CU24 at home, it broke right at the saddle, but the strings were ancient, and like someone said, I think the low E just gave up.

    On the CU22 during my set last night, it snapped right around the 8th or 9th fret. I think it was the same thing, those weren't coated strings and I just got what I deserved for being lazy about maintenance.

    That said, I DID bring a backup last night, so my singer wasted time while I switched guitars and got tuned up, and I managed to get through the last 3-4 songs fine. Also good is that I don't play floating trems, except on the CU24 where the trem is locked down tight, so at least I was able to finish my song when the string broke, and it turns out nobody noticed anything wrong! :)
     
  9. Tony

    Tony Supporting Member

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    I change 'em every show. My hands sweat a lot when I play, so I go thru strings like mad. If I play two shows w/out changing, almost guaranteed I'll break one. At best I'll spend the whole set worrying about breaking one.
     
  10. sdhupelia

    sdhupelia Member

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    Yeah, I'm hoping if I keep investing in the cleartones or the elixirs, that those will stall out the changes to maybe 1 show and all of the next rehearsals after that show, and then restring again before the next major show again (I don't mind the extra cost, if it helps avoid the time to restring, I have to squeeze in time to practice as it is)
     
  11. EADGBE

    EADGBE Member

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    Get a magnifying glass and see if you can find a sharp edge where the string is breaking. If you do you may need to take an emery board or maybe a file and smooth it down some.
     
  12. RvChevron

    RvChevron Member

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    If it occured at the saddles, debur then smooth out the slots, then lube.

    Also, are the saddles cranked up high resulting a steep break angle for the strings?

    Try lower the saddles but raise the entire bridge to compensate for the string height.

    This is a PRS so take extreme caution as the six mounting screws have knotches and they must line up perfectly!!
     
  13. Sean

    Sean Supporting Member

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    The original post says that he has had strings on for several months? I get 1 gig out of a set of strings (and truthfully, they are dead after the 1st set). If you lay into a guitar, the strings are done very quickly. Strings also oxidize over time and sound dead to me- not sure how/if that affects breakage.

    Obviously, thicker strings last longer before breaking. 11's will last longer than 9's (for me, anyway). Also, as everyone else said, check for burrs and lube everything.
     
  14. GtrDr

    GtrDr Member

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    You'll develop a sense of how long your strings last & when is a good time to change strings. PRS's don't usually break a lot of strings, usually.
     

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