Have you ever had the misfortune of one of the strings on your guitar breaking right in the middle of playing your favorite song? Taking your guitar for repairs at your local music store could cost you hundreds of dollars. Why not avoid the hassle of taking it in and save yourself money by doing it yourself? It is easy if you have the know-how, so read on if you want to know how to properly restring a guitar.

What causes a broken guitar string?

All guitar players will have to eventually change their strings, no matter what genre of music you are playing. If you happen to break one, do not fret! Breaking a string is very common among experienced and novice players. But the main question is, why did my guitar string break? It may seem randomly, but if you get to know why guitar strings break, you can learn how to prevent strings from breaking mid-session. Here are some common causes why guitar strings break on your guitar:

Old Strings

Yes, guitar strings age, and how fast the strings age is based on how much you play. The more often you play, that sooner you would have to change your guitar strings. Your body produces sweat and oil that stains the strings which eventually cause the strings corrode. The elasticity on the strings will become fragile due to the outer wrap wire unraveling. You can tell your strings are getting old by the color and how they feel on your fingers. Old strings will lose their shine and will have a buildup of grime which will feel gunky and stiff. Your guitar strings should always work with you by feeling flexible and bendable.

The Plectrum

A heavier pick will produce a darker sound but at the same time it will weaken the strings with every pluck and strike.  You should consider the string gauge when you are picking the thickness of your guitar pick. The thicker the string gauge the thicker pick you can have, while the thinner the gauge string you have the lighter pick you should have. Thick picks are considered over 1mm while thinner picks are less than 0.55mm. If you have a favorite pick, it might have developed a sharp point after constant usage. Always check to see if the pick is too sharp. If it is, it is time to retire it. Besides the thickness of the pick, the material of the pick will also cause damage to the strings. Materials like metal will cause the strings to snap more frequently than softer materials like plastic.

String Quality

The quality of the string you purchase will also determine how long it can last. We will go over more of the material and qualities of strings later on.

A rough fret can also cause problems

The frets are the metal strips located on the guitars neck, right below the strings.  Before replacing the strings on your guitar, take a minute to look at the fretboard and run your finger across each fret. Have you noticed that the strings break on the neck of your guitar? The frets can become sharp due to the lack of moisture in the environment, or the frets aren’t properly secured in. Sharp fret ends can catch a string and cause it to pop and snap.

If the edges of your frets are sharp, you can smooth them down with a piece of sandpaper or a small metal file. The fret ends should be flat to the fretboard. Another thing to look out for on the frets is scratching noises when you bend a string. Older guitars will have damage frets due to the constant pressure when playing, the pressure creates bends or burrs that create friction and eventually wear away your strings.

You are using the wrong strings on your guitar (1)

Besides getting the correct guitar string type, you must also choose the correct guitar string size, which measures the thickness in gauges. For example, bass guitar strings have a higher gauge size than a guitar, so these should not fit in. Certain strings are made for certain guitars. Just as you would not put acoustic guitar strings on an electric guitar, you should only use strings that are compatible with your guitar.

Different sized guitar string gauges will produce different sounds so no matter how much you tune they will not reach your desired pitch. In this case, too much tuning can cause too much tension and lead to a string snapping. The average guitar player will stick to 8–10-gauge size but the decision is up to you and your play style. Play with all the different string thickness till you get the correct gauge that will produce the sounds you want.

The tuning posts are burred or rough

Tuning posts are located on the head of the guitar and are small cylinder shaped with an opening where you thread the string. The inside of the cylinder could have burred edges which can cause the string to disintegrate while you tune. If you find that your string snapped near the head of the guitar, check the hole for sharp edges. Normally, guitar factories use cheap tuning pegs so we recommend to upgrade them whenever possible. An easy solution if you do believe this is the problem is to simply smooth the tuning post with a small metal file or an old wound string by going in a circular motion.

Another reason your strings may break in this area is because you may have winded them wrong. When the wire is kinked, the string will rub on itself and create friction and unnecessary stress to the strings. A solution to this is to do a few extra wraps to alleviate stress on the string, but not to many, an extra 2-3 times will suffice.

The bridge is too sharp

The bridge, the section of the guitar that holds the bridge pins, has direct contact with the strings. If your strings are breaking towards the bottom of the guitar, we can assume that the bridge is to blame. Overtime, the metal on the bridge will corrode and may develop burrs which will cause an uneven surface. Marks will be created on the saddle over time from the string and lead to sharp edges that will cut these already tense strings. The uneven surface can warp the strings causing them to break. Worn out bridges and saddles should be replaced by a professional.

What Are Guitar Strings Made Of? (2)

Before you replace your broken string, it is essential to identify the best string type for your guitar. As mentioned above, using the wrong strings on a guitar can cause them to break easily. The strings you use on your guitar affect the sound quality and tone produced when strumming or picking.

There are strings designed specifically for acoustic guitars and those designed for electric guitars. Choosing the right strings can be tricky, but let’s break it down and help you choose the best strings for your guitar.

Acoustic Guitar Strings

There are two types of strings designed for use on acoustic guitars. These are 80/20 bronze strings and Phosphor bronze strings.

  • 80/20 Bronze strings are the most common strings used on acoustic guitars. They are made from 80% Copper and 20% Zinc. They are durable and hardwearing and create a clear tone that musicians can use to play any style of music.
  • Phosphor strings are 92% Copper and 8% Tin/Bronze. The traces of phosphorus in these strings protect them from corrosion and make them highly durable, even more so than the 80/20 bronze strings. They create a light, mellow tone that is great for folk, pop, and light rock songs.

Electric Guitar Strings

The big difference between electric and acoustic guitar strings is that electric guitar strings are magnetic. There are four types of electric guitar strings. They are Nickel-plated strings, pure nickel steel strings, stainless steel strings, and cobalt strings.

  • Nickel-plated strings are the most common strings used on electric guitars. They are made from 92% steel and 8% nickel. They produce a great sound, can be used to play all styles of music, and are softer on the fingers. Nickel helps prevent corrosion.
  • Pure nickel steel strings are among the most durable strings you can use on an electric guitar. They are made from 100% nickel and have a more responsive tone. These strings are harder to play.
  • Stainless steel strings are corrosion-resistant and last longer than any other string type. It creates a bright tone but can be hard on the frets of your electric guitar.
  • Cobalt strings are made from an alloy of cobalt and iron. They are more responsive when played, more precise, and have a better tone quality. Cobalt strings vibrate more, which produces a fuller sound.

While no one string is better than the rest, it is essential to consider what you want from a string. It would be best to choose a string that is easier to play and is not too hard on your fingers for a beginner guitar player. String type can also influence the sound you want to create, for example, jazz, blues, country, folk, or heavy metal. See which strings can be used for which style of music, and choose the strings that suit your music style best.

How to Fix a Guitar String

How to Fix a Broken String on an Acoustic Guitar

Fixing a guitar string does not require soldering or gluing it. It is removing the entire string and replacing it. Before you start the process, identify which string it is broken, and ensure that you use the exact same string when replacing it. If you want to change your music style, now is the chance to replace your strings. Before you get started make sure you have the appropriate tools and kits to change a guitar string.

The materials you will need are: wire clippers, string winder (optional), strings, and if you have an electric guitar, a screw driver. Please note most string packs come color coordinated so you will know what string (E,B,G,D,A,E) goes where. Do not lose the instruction of the guitar string kit so you will know what color is what string. The fattest string (low E string) should always be left side if you are facing the guitar. Followed by E, A, D, G, B, e. The high “e” should be on the last string on the left of the guitar. Guitars that have pegs on both sides of the headstock should be: the top left should be D,A, and E, in a descending order.

On the other side it should start on the top right as G,B, and e in a descending order.  Now that you know where the strings go in order to tune, here’s what you need to do to replace a guitar string.

Step #1: Remove the broken string, starting at the top with the tuning post. Uncoil the string manually, and make sure that you remove all the broken bits from the coil.

Step #2: Do not yank the string to release it from the bridge pins. Remove the bridge pins on the guitar’s bridge, depending on what guitar you have, you may need to purchase a pin removing tool from your local music shop to make the job easier. Remove the ball of the broken string from the pin.

Step #3: Discard the old string. Take the new string, ensuring it is the right one, and insert the ball edge of the string on the bridge of the guitar. You can insert the string about 1-3 inches in. Next, re-insert the pin, using a bit of effort to make sure it is in place properly. Make sure when inserting the pin that the open ridges is facing the fret board and that the string is also in this crevasse. Pull the string after inserting the pin to make sure the string is secured in the bridge.

Step #4: Pull the other end of the string up to the guitar’s headstock, ensuring the string is not twisted or knotted. Gently guide it through the hole into the missing tunning peg. Make sure the string is on the nut grove. We want to leave a little bit of slack to work with so we can tune it up easily. A great measurement to go by is the length of the next string tree.

Step #5: Place your pointer finger right below the tunning peg you are working on. Start rotating the tuner knob clockwise. If you have a string winder, you should use it here instead of having to turn it manually.

Step #6: You can lift your index finger after a few turns, you will be able to feel the string tense. Tighten the string and tune it to match the rest of the strings. New strings may take some time to “break in,” and it might sound a little off until then. You will want to use a tuner to get back the correct pitch of the note you broke.

Step 7: Lastly, use wire cutters to snip the remaining excess off.

Repairing a Broken String on an Electric Guitar

Step #1: Turn the guitar around to reveal the back plate. Depending on what brand of guitar you have, you may have to remove the back plate to have access to the bridge block.

Step #2: Remove the broken old string, from the bottom of the bridge. Flip guitar over and pull it out of the bridge block. Once that’s removed go to the head stock and you can see the remaining half of the loose string. Untangle it and unravel it and remove it.

Step #3: You will want to push the new string from the back of the guitar starting with the end that does not have the ball. Feed the new string through the bridge back and it will come through the saddles. Flip the guitar to pull the rest of the string through.

Step #4: Now you must attach the strings to the machine head. Straighten the string to the appropriate machine head. Measure two machine heads length and cut the excess.

Step #5: Feed string through the hole in the peg. Pull back and put some tension on the string leaving about an inch of string through the hole.

Step 6: Grab string winder, if you have one, and turn the knobs clockwise. The last winding will be on the bottom of the peg to give it proper alignment over the nut. Adjust tuning to desire tension by playing while tuning. Keep in mind your new string will be out of tune until you break it in.

How to replace guitar strings

If a string is not broken and you just want to change the set of string because you feel like its time to change them, the only difference is you must loosen the tension of the strings before cutting. You do not want the string to bounce back and hurt you.  Turn the tunning peg counterclockwise to loosen them up. You can now clip or cut them near the neck pick up or mid pick up of the guitar. You can now follow the rest of the steps of how to change a broken guitar string mentioned above.

Final Thoughts

Congratulations, you have now successfully changed your own guitar strings with no professional help! You have also gained knowledge on how to spot problem areas on your guitar when a string breaks. You can now troubleshoot and properly fix your guitar strings. Even if it hasn’t happened yet, it is great to have this information. Guitar strings will break, which you can be sure of. But you need not rush off to your local music store to have it repaired. You can do it yourself with these easy steps.

References

  1. Using the correct strings
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGXj_NQONYM
  2. What are guitar strings made of?
    https://www.sweetwater.com/insync/what-are-guitar-strings-made-of/

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