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I have had a few strings (maybe 4) break on my guitars; always when I was not playing. That is, I come home in the evening (or wake up in the morning), and one of the strings is broken. I don't have a dog or anyone else who could do it.

It seems a bit unusual for me - shouldn't the tension on strings be higher when playing?

I am talking about the wound strings here (E, A and D); I have never had the simple nylon strings broken.

Is it the expected way strings should break near their end of life?

  • Need to know if they all broke at the same place i.e. at the nut, at the saddle. Do you leave the guitar where it is exposed to sunlight during the day? It sounds like it's a classical guitar - true? Tuned to concert pitch? – Tim Jun 10 '14 at 10:08
  • The last one broke at the nut (I don't remember about the previous ones). Yes, it's a classical guitar (actually, two of them) with standard tuning - and no, no sunlight. – anatolyg Jun 10 '14 at 10:14
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    Do you have a musical mouse? :-) – Carl Witthoft Jun 10 '14 at 11:59
  • Maybe add "classical guitar" early in the description, title and/or as a tag? I come from steel string electric and acoustic guitar, and thought that might come to play until I saw "nylon". – Dave Jacoby Sep 4 at 14:12
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I have noticed that the only string that ever breaks on my classical guitars is the D string. And like you, I can only remember this having happened when I'm not playing them. Conversely, I only seem to break the top string on my electric and acoustic guitars, and this usually happens while I'm playing.

As far as classical strings go, I think it is most likely to be a statistical phenomenon. When playing classical guitar, the strings are barely under any more stress than when you are not playing. You are unlikely to be adding extra stress to the strings by bending them (or by using a pick?). So, the majority of the stress on the string is its own tension, which is always the same, being played or not. Statistically, unless you are a very committed player, you will spend more time not playing your guitar than playing. Therefore, all things being equal, the strings are more likely to break when you are not playing.

As I say, I create a lot more stress on my electric guitar strings when playing (and they are stronger anyway?), so I'm not surprised that they break while I'm playing.

EDIT: this previous post adds information about why D strings break more often on classical guitar. It has a lot of useful information, but these three points seem to be key:

  • The D is a wrapped [wound] 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

However, if you do notice that your A and E strings break regularly too (this certainly doesn't happen for me), it may be a problem with your guitar (usually bridge or nut), or something to do with how you store it.

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  • why would the D be under any more tension than the other strings? It's thinner,so this should make it about the same tension, surely? – Tim Jun 10 '14 at 11:20
  • Well, I had a quick look online, but couldn't quickly find tension guides for classical guitar strings. But, from experience, it always seems that a D string on classical needs a LOT of tuning up - so it must be pretty tight... – Bob Broadley Jun 10 '14 at 11:25
  • Hello again @Tim, the three sets of Savarez strings at this link all have greater tension on the D: savarez.fr/anglais/cantiga_alliance.htm That's the only individual tension lists I found so far - there are loads of lists and diagrams for the tension of full sets of strings. – Bob Broadley Jun 10 '14 at 11:33
  • thanks for that @Bob. I'd have thought that tension on each string would be virtually equal. This shows less than 10% more, not a lot. On my electrics, I use a weird combination, not available in sets, but that's to make bends easier- not something you do much on classical guitars. – Tim Jun 10 '14 at 12:04
  • Right! Do you know what the relative tensions on "normal" electric sets are…? (I have no idea, BTW!) – Bob Broadley Jun 10 '14 at 12:11
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Perhaps:

  • Your lower string (6th, 5th, and 4th) is rusted
  • Your string isn't good enough
  • You put your guitar in damp temperature
  • You play the guitar with greasy hand
  • The string is kinda old
  • You bring your guitar outside without case
  • You often change your tuning
  • Your guitar can't hold the string's tension

How to fix it: do the opposite.

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    another option you could add to the list: a burr at the nut, causing extra damage to an already weak area of the string – Doktor Mayhem Jun 10 '14 at 10:28
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Yes the D string just snapped a little above the nut on my nylon guitar whilst hanging on the wall. Savarez. Seems to be a thing.

The way the string 'excesses' are sequentially knotted at the base of the bridge means I have to replace all strings now. There goes Friday evening as I am new to the nylon string world! And then the whole rigmarole of playing the new strings in seems to be a whole lot more than with steel strings.

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Is it the expected way strings should break near their end of life?

Yes it is normal to happen at the end of life (for G,B,E strings most of the times as they are delicate than others)

I would like to propose a way around by which you can ensure long life of your strings and avoid breaking the strings when you are not playing guitar. All you need to do is: un-tune the guitar strings a little after you finish playing the guitar and you are not gonna play it for couple of days (say 5 or more) So all you will need to do is: put extra 10 minutes when you again resume playing the guitar for tuning purposes.

I have also gone through the same stress of my guitar's strings getting break even when I am not playing them but after I started untuning the guitar, this didn't happened even once. Hope this info would help you ensure a bit longer life for your guitar strings.

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  • In that case normal life can be measured in years. It may save strings, but probably won't do the guitar body/neck a lot of good tensioning/loosening the strings. Strings are, by definition, sacrificial. – Tim Jun 11 '14 at 7:04
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    loosening and retensioning the strings is actually likely to break them, and damage the nut through friction wear - and for many guitars (especially those with floating bridges) tuning can require days to settle down. – Doktor Mayhem Jun 11 '14 at 7:08
  • @Tim Yes I second you over this. Its true that lot of tensioning/loosening is not good for the body/neck but all I am asking is to loosen the strings just a little so that its also easy to re-tune it and won't harm the neck & body too. I'm using my guitar since 3 years using this trick and its quite reliable so far. – Rahul Dhangar Jun 11 '14 at 7:13
  • @DrMayhem sorry, but I don't agree with you over this; as per my experience I've got no problems with the slight untune guitar. And let me requote that I am not asking to untune the guitar everyday; its only in the case when one pick his guitar once after every 5 days or long. This is a little tricky but will be beneficial if done correctly. – Rahul Dhangar Jun 11 '14 at 7:19
  • I've been playing professionally for over 25 years - some of my guitars have been with me nearly that long - and trust me, nut wear is enough of a problem that you really don't want to do this unnecessarily. As regards tuning, I'm talking about floating bridges - they are all susceptible to this, and while you can minimise it (by prestretching strings etc) they do take time to settle. – Doktor Mayhem Jun 11 '14 at 7:23
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I have never had this happen to an electric but it does happen often to my classical.

What is more common for me is to have a string snap while I'm playing either at the bridge (Gibson tune-O-matic) or at a fret when bending by an extreme amount, Maj 3rd or P4 up. I my experience these are due to a sharp edge on a fret or the "V" notch in the bridge piece. This is easily corrected and I can say that the issue has only happened for me on a new guitar or a guitar that has had new frets that were not properly dressed. A little work with a file fixes this. Once that's done I've NEVER had it happen again.

On the classical you need to understand that the strings are a different material. The wound strings especially are soft, filled with some type of stringy fiber and wound with metal wire. The winding it fairly thin. For me the wound strings break while in the case either at the bridge or near the 3rd fret. And only if they are old strings, it's never happened to a new set. Classical strings wear quickly and over time the metal winding will fray a little. This weakens the string making it unstable. When it's in the case the body probably goes through some expansion and contraction due to temperature and humidity changes and if the string is already frayed it will not take much to make it pop. I suppose the same thing could happen with an electric or steel string acoustic but I've not had that experience.

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