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Well... that's about it. D strings (on acoustic nylon guitars at least) break way more often than the others. I guess there's a physical explanation but I wasn't able to found anything on the Internet. Do you guys know why this happens?

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Um, I don't think this is generally true. It depends what you play, how you play, what kind of strings you have ... maybe you're just extra rough on your D string? –  Matthew Read Sep 20 '11 at 18:59
I'm not sure, I've been playing for several years and know many amateur players and we all think this is common. Now I'm not so sure this is true :S –  ign Sep 20 '11 at 19:04
I think I've broken all strings before, with a bias to the higher (thinner) ones breaking more often. Who knows, maybe I'm the weird one :P. –  Matthew Read Sep 20 '11 at 19:12
The most common string to break for me, before I learned to tune, was the E because I overtighten it. Once I got better at tuning, I started first grinding then popping the G string, but that was because I was swinging hard and using a brass pick which was sharpening against the strings, which is not a common case. I only break the low E when there's a problem with the string manufacturer. Which can and does happen. If the D string breaks often for you, talk to your repair guy. –  VarLogRant Sep 20 '11 at 19:51
how about why does the D string never break, in the last 25 years I have never broken one and neither have anyone I know. Causation does not equal Causality –  Jarrod Roberson Oct 10 '11 at 19:44
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5 Answers

up vote 13 down vote accepted

First, I agree with the question, when talking about nylon-stringed guitars - in nearly a half-century of playing classical and flamenco instruments, I find that the D string, the poor thing, breaking more frequently than any the others (other answers and comments are probably based on steel-stringed experience). I've asked luthiers, and even one of the D'Addario sons :-) about this, and there are a number of causes (besides flaws in the guitar itself):

  • The D is a wrapped string, and more likely to break than a solid string
  • It has thinner wire than the other two bass strings
  • It is under the highest tension of the three bass strings
  • It gets more wear than the other three (think about melodies you've played on that string - it's the brass section of the guitar).

Of course, replacing your basses frequently will usually save you the embarrassment of changing strings on stage (I had to do it twice with a D string recently, because I botched the first stringing job - oh well). The goal is to keep them from breaking, until they finally "wear out" - the basses start to sound like rubber bands. So what can you do about that?

  • As I said, change the basses before one breaks. Besides the sound going bad, look for the finish wearing off. And here's a trick - if you take them off before they get really worn, you can put them back on again later, and they will not only sound great for a short while, but because they are "pre-stretched", they will settle in tune much more quickly. It's very helpful to have a "rested" set of basses like this to put on just before a gig (or, gulp, during one...).
  • Make sure that the loop at the bridge is as close as possible to the wood - look at the bass strings in the picture below, note how snug against the wood the loop is. Push it back and down with your nail as you tighten the new string. If you leave it floating half-way between the wood and the ivory, it is putting a lot of pressure on the middle of that short stretch of string, essentially trying to cut it in half. My D's would often break right there, until the luthier/engineer John Gilbert told me what's what.

  • If the D string still tends to break at that spot before it wears out - perhaps because of the construction of the bridge, or because you are using very high tension basses - you can do what I do on a particular instrument, and protect the D string with a very short piece of narrow rubber tubing that can cover the D between the wood and the ivory - the loop cuts into the rubber, but not the string. And where does one find such a thing? Why, strip the insulation off some wiring that's slightly thicker than your D!

Good luck, and may your bass strings always maintain their composure when you are playing for people...

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Great answer, thanks! –  ign Feb 24 '12 at 19:14
This is also assuming it's always breaking at the string, could be up at the nut and the break angle of the D-string nut slot/tuning peg. In my experience, most string breakage on my classical guitars are up at the nut, not always on the bridge. –  Shawn Strickland May 24 '13 at 6:18
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IMO frequently broken strings indicate a mechanical problem. I never break strings and I haven'tt broken one for maybe 30 years.
Causes include:

  1. Too-sharp edge on nut or saddle.
  2. burr or sharp edge on a tuning post, or the hole though same.
  3. Nut slots cut too wide (or maybe you installed lighter strings) allowing the string too much side-to-side movement.

etc, etc...
Of course, if you really flail away at the strings while strumming...

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+1 this is pretty much what I would have answered, I also never break strings. Technique is a factor, however - poorly built/cheap guitars often have such problems out of the factory. –  DRL Sep 21 '11 at 1:20
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From m practice, This is definitely true for nylon strings and this happens because of structure of D-string. The first 3 (E,B,G) are solid, and next 3 (D,A,E) consist of thin nylon fibers wrapped around one more think string. For the D-string the number of fibers is much less then for A and E (because it needs to vibrate in certain range) and this makes it the weakest.

When I would buy strings, I'd always buy couple of spare D-strings...

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OMG, thank you! Yeah, I'm talking also about nylon strings, I'm not sure if that was clear now :S How does everybody think of this answer? –  ign Oct 12 '11 at 14:37
@ign, it really depends on where the breakage occurs. If it's at the nut or bridge then I'd blame the guitar. If it's breaking in the middle then it might be the fiber thing (especially if it's the core that breaks, leaving the wrapper connected like a slinky). But if it's a total snap in the middle, I'd look for a rough fret. –  luser droog Oct 16 '11 at 6:19
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How often is "often"? If you find that your D string is breaking a lot, there could be an issue with the guitar. Does it break near the tuning post? If so, there could be an issue with the nut slot. If it is near the bridge, it could be something in that area - something sharp that is compromising the integrity of the string.

I think most guitarists would say the 1st and 2nd strings are the most common strings to break in the course of regular playing.

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Notoriously more often than other strings. Like... always the first string to bust. Maybe I change only that string and when I have the chance I re-string. Man, I thought this was really common. –  ign Sep 21 '11 at 1:12
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A couple of things could be at issue.

Since it's always the same string, my guess is that there's some tiny discontinuity at either the nut or the bridge (whereever it's breaking) where the string is snagging (unless it's a "locking" system, the string should slide freely). Fix: Whenever you change a string, take a pencil and scribble all over the path of the string (at the nut, bridge, and tuning post. NOT the fretboard or the top!). The graphite will work like a permanent lubricant.

Tuning issues. It may not seem relevant, but have you ever taken a steel spoon at school or camp and bent it back and forth until you can snap the head off? Little mistreatments of the strings can add up quickly.

  • Always tune up into the note. So if you're tuning the D string to a tempered fourth above the A string, tke it to a perfect fourth and nudge up for the temper. But to tune the low E to a tempered fourth below the A string, you need to scoop in from D# and stop short of perfect, obtaining the temper by "subtractive geometry".

  • Always tune to the same pitch standard. If your friends use A-440, use A-440. But if you also want to play regularly with your friend's A-435 piano, you really need a second guitar for that. The strings won't know where their "home" is.

One more thing. There could be something in the atmosphere that interacts badly with the metal of the string. Trying a different metal (bronze, steel, nickel) or a different alloy (the ratio of metals) might help.

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