I was playing my acoustic guitar when the string popped right off - it was time for a string changing anyways.

However, I won't be able to get strings for another two days. Will this hurt the guitar (warping the neck, etc.)? If so, would it be possible to tune the other strings up to compensate for the lost tension, to minimize damage?


It is unlikely to make a bit of difference. Note there some, notably Keith Richards, who consistently play with one string removed. (OK so it's not the same string.) Don't worry.

The biggest worry would be if you have a movable bridge, with greatly reduced tension on most of the strings, the bridge of such a guitar could move. Secondly if you try to twist the neck by detuning three strings on one side, you probably can... after a long time period.

Commonly damage to guitars comes from dehydration, this too will often take time to accomplish.

  • @Cbagdon You are welcome, and welcome to the site. Accepting the answer is another way to say that. – amalgamate Apr 8 '15 at 13:01
  • Worries of this sort may come from string instrument considerations (violas and violins (for example) have sound posts inside the body of the instrument that can come loose when the tension on the instrument is loosened, and they do have a movable bridge as well.). – amalgamate Apr 8 '15 at 13:09

The short answer--leave it alone, restring it when you can, and if you happen to notice any issues then give the guitar a day or two before making adjustments so that the replaced string can reverse the effect.

The reason that it's not a problem is that the tension which was held by the broken string has been transferred to the remaining strings. The overall tension on the neck is more or less unchanged and the distribution of tension is changed very little as well.

  • ...and if by chance any further work is needed then it would most likely just be a truss rod adjustment, which is normal upkeep (mine get adjusted a couple times a year to compensate for the seasons) – STW Apr 8 '15 at 4:08
  • Where in the world do you live for that to be needed? What a pain in the neck... – Tim Apr 8 '15 at 7:03
  • @STW You may be able to mitigate the need for constant adjustments by humidifying the guitar. If you are in a climate where it has a cold winter then the time to humidify is basically when ever the heat in your home is on. If you are in a desert then you are stuck with humidifying on a constant basis. AC can remove humidity from the air, but it is not as bad as heat. I find some of my guitars are thirstier than others (type of wood, type of finish perhaps) – amalgamate Apr 8 '15 at 13:17
  • I live pretty far north and I'm cheap with my heating bill--so even if the relative humidity is kept constant the actual moisture in the guitar rises and falls. The truss rod doesn't have to be adjusted, but it makes a small yet noticeable improvement. For high end instruments, especially acoustics, doing a setup at least once a year is good practice. – STW Apr 8 '15 at 14:39
  • @STW It is also true that in cold conditions the air holds less moisture (constant relative humidity numbers can actually mean different amounts of moisture content depending on temperature) and in a consistently cold environment guitars can become dryer then what is desirable. Adjustments many times a year seems excessive to me, especially if we are talking truss rod adjustments each time. Also the type of heat can be a factor. Radiators are nicer than central air, and you never need to humidify if you have steam heat (not many do any more). – amalgamate Apr 8 '15 at 17:18

When a string breaks, the change in tension will not damage the guitar, but it will cause all the other strings to go slightly out of tune, so if you continue playing you may want to check the tuning. The more flexible the instrument is, and the thicker the strings, the more it will be detuned by the loss of a string. For example, an electric guitar with thin neck and heavy strings (more flexible and under more tension) will change much more than a classical guitar with nylon strings (more rigid and under less tension).

For the same reason, if you tune the strings from top to bottom, if there were some big changes after you finish you may need to go again from top to bottom once or twice again, because changing the tension of the last strings you tune will affect the tuning of the strings you tuned before.

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