Have you ever experienced the dreaded “snap” of a broken guitar string while playing on stage or jamming with your buddies?
Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
It’s an inevitable part of life for every guitar player, and knowing the common reasons behind breaking a string can help you prevent it from happening too often.
Whether it’s due to excessive playing, over-tightening, or simple wear and tear, the fact remains that broken strings are a nuisance we must all face.
Now, it’s often easier to just replace a broken string with a new one, rather than attempt to fix it. You can buy individual strings at most music stores.
But what do you do when you’re in the middle of a performance or recording session, and you don’t have any extra strings? You need to know how to fix a broken guitar string on the spot (or learn how to “fake it”, as you’ll see in a moment).
Today’s article features a few different videos to help you fix that broken string like a pro. For each video, we provide a summary along with the transcript, so you can quickly find the most important parts in the video. We included videos for both electric guitar and acoustic guitar strings, too.
- Tools Needed to Fix a Broken Guitar String
- How to Fake Your Way Through a Broken String
- How to Repair a Nylon String on a Classical Guitar
- Fix a Guitar String by Tying a Knot
- How to Prevent Strings From Breaking in the First Place
Tools Needed to Fix a Broken Guitar String
- Some sort of cutting tool (wire cutters, string cutters, nail clippers, etc preferably something that won’t leave a sharp edge)
- String winder (some types let you pull out bridge pins, too)
- Replacement strings (if the entire string is unuseable)
- Guitar tuner
OK we’ll get to the fixing videos in a moment, but first…
How to Fake Your Way Through a Broken String
What happens when some of the world’s most legendary guitarists face this nightmare? They find creative ways to recover smoothly, making it look like a piece of cake!
In the first video below, you’ll see how some of the world’s best guitarists have handled this situation and what strategies you can adopt to continue your performance seamlessly.
Here’s a quick overview:
1. Use a slide
Guthrie Govan is known for his intelligent way to recover from a string break. When a string breaks, there is the possibility that the rest of your guitar strings go slightly out of tune. To overcome this, Govan grabs a slide, which allows him to slide between microtones and continue playing without any noticeable difference.
2. Rely on the whammy bar
When Steve Vai breaks a string on his guitar with a Floyd Rose bridge, which causes all the strings to go out of tune, he immediately turns to the whammy bar. By slightly bending the whammy bar, Vai maintains the correct pitch and tension on the remaining strings and continues playing without skipping a beat.
3. Smooth guitar switch
When Stevie Ray Vaughan broke a string during a live performance, he managed to switch guitars with the help of his guitar tech so smoothly that it was hardly noticeable. The key here is to remain calm and continue playing while signaling to your guitar tech to prepare for the switch.
4. Turn it into a performance
Sometimes, breaking a string can become a part of the show itself, adding an element of surprise and excitement for the audience. Embrace the situation and continue playing, even if it means breaking all your strings.
5. Rely on your vocals
When B.B. King broke a string during a performance, he didn’t let it stop him. Instead, he relied on his iconic vocals and continued to engage the audience while changing the broken string on stage.
Check out the following video for more detail. Then head to the next one to see how to fix a classical guitar string.
Breaking a string while playing guitar on stage can be a nightmare, but some of the best guitarists have found ways to recover smoothly.
Guthrie Govan, for example, grabs a slide to continue playing after a string breaks, allowing him to slide between microtones and maintain the melody. Steve Vai relies on his whammy bar to manipulate the pitch of his remaining strings to stay in tune with the rest of the band. Stevie Ray Vaughan executed a smooth guitar switch mid-song, barely missing a beat. BB King, when faced with a broken string, relied on his iconic vocals to keep the audience engaged while changing the string on stage.
The main takeaway from these examples is to stay calm, have fun, and keep engaging with the audience even when things go wrong.
Have you ever broken a string while playing guitar on stage? It can be quite horrifying. If you have a horror story, why don’t you leave a comment down below? I’d love to live vicariously through your pain. If you haven’t broken a string on stage, if you ever happen to do so, this video should give you some options as far as what to do if that terrible thing happens to you.
So what better strategy to adopt than that of the best guitar player in the world, Guthrie Govan? Let’s see what he would do if he broke a string on stage mid-song. We got some string breakage, so immediately he continues the melody and grabs something. Let’s see what it is. Hans Zimmer is looking on, “What the hell are you doing, man? You’re ruining the show!” Guthrie is pointing at the string flailing in the wind. A very sound strategy, and why I went to Guthrie first. This is a very intelligent way to recover from a string break. He grabs a slide, what better tool to use than one that allows you to slide between microtones? Because we all know when you break a string, there is the possibility that the rest of your guitar strings go slightly out of tune, especially if you have a certain kind of bridge, which we’ll get to later. You saw Hans Zimmer go, “Okay, seems like yeah, that’s why I hired you because you’re the best.” We’ve got a guitar tech coming in, it looks like preparing. I was ready to pounce. Right now, he’s ready to switch that guitar out like a good guitar tech, and he sees his spot. Guthrie indicates with the huge dive-bomb and rips off his strap, not wasting any time. Everyone cheers because they see what’s going on. That’s a really cool thing, the best possible reaction that you can hope for when you break a string. And notice he’s not panicking. When he puts his guitar back on after he feeds his cable through, “Hold on before I start playing, let me adjust my mane.” This is a proper strategy for maybe a slide guitar solo or some sort of ballad like this. Maybe the slide isn’t an option for you, in which case you may opt to simply panic. “Loser!” Probably not the best idea to panic if you break a string while on stage. It doesn’t end well for anybody. I mean, I guess maybe for the audience, just for laughing at you and getting some humor in that way, but avoid if you can.
Now let’s see what happens if another one of the best guitar players ever, Steve Vai, what happens when he breaks the string? Because as we know, he uses guitars with Floyd Rose systems. If you don’t know what happens when you break a string on a Floyd Rose bridge, all the strings kind of go out of tune. And that is because the bridge is locked, and it relies on a certain amount of tension for all the strings to stay in tune. And when that tension is changed, then, well, all the strings become basically worthless. So without a slide like Guthrie may have used, you sort of have to rely on other ways to manipulate the pitch precisely on to the pitch of the rest of the band to stay in that standard tuning or whatever tuning you may be in. In other words, it’s really, really difficult, and you’re pretty much screwed if you break a string while you’re playing a song and you have a Floyd Rose, unless you’re Steve Vai. Let’s find out what he does. Oh, and the string breaks. Uh-oh. Find your equilibrium and immediately to the whammy bar. So you can’t really tell, but he’s slightly bending the whammy bar because the string itself is slightly sharp or flat. I can’t tell, but the point is he’s playing and pushing on the whammy bar, pulling on the whammy bar. I think he’s pushing on the whammy bar and playing in order to keep the tension on his string a little bit less in order to make up for that broken string. This is the highest degree of difficulty that’s going on right now, and most of the audience probably didn’t even realize it happens. You can see the string hanging.
Moving on to perhaps the most famous string break on YouTube, this is Stevie Ray Vaughan breaking a string, and this one I literally can’t even hear different. I don’t even know when the string breaks. I mean, I can see when it happens, but as far as the playing goes, this might be the smoothest guitar switch ever, and that is actually the title of a video that I found on YouTube, “String Break Couldn’t Even Tell.” We’re seeing a little harping on a note, just kind of getting your bearings straight. This is important. I’ve seen each guitar player do this so far when the string breaks. All of a sudden, they’re like zapped out of their musical Nirvana and back to reality like, “Oh,” and so they all kind of hang on a note and they look around for maybe their guitar tech, like, “Hey, something happened here,” but they’re still continuing on with the performance. “Hey, buddy, help me out.” So if you notice here, he flips off his strap and pulls out the jack. Wow, right on time with the song. This dude flies in like friggin’ the Flash, and he’s behind him. It’s like he’s not even there. This guitar is just materializing from thin air. Plugs it in, got the strap on the back of them. Everyone’s cheering. Honestly, that’s better than any guitar solo he could have played right there. I think that seeing that and just the song continuing on like nothing happened, that is so awesome. Let’s watch that one more time. Now look at that. He is starting to play before the strap is even on. He’s not voiced. He’s not missing a beat. Picks it up.
Finally, we come to the last strategy, what to do when you break a string on stage from BB King, and this is easily the most hilarious and awesome of the entire bunch. So right now, he’s bending the string, and he breaks it. During this shot, you don’t actually see it in the video, but it’s broken now. So he’s just bending hard, bending hard. You can see that string dangling there. He’s just like, “Man, I don’t know. I’ll just keep wailing on this note.” And it helps to have a ton of musicians behind you backing you up. Okay, step one, do the BB King laughs. Start singing. When I watched this first time, I’m like, “He’s gonna change the string. He’s gonna literally change the string while he’s playing.” Okay, it’s just the most awesome thing, just changing it, changing the string. So if you can’t play your guitar, rely on your iconic vocals. Good strategy. And he’s such a good frontman that he is probably the only one who could change a string onstage and continue performing. By the way, he started changing the string up at the tuner, so he fed the string through the tuner first, and now it looks like he’s putting it through the bridge somehow. I don’t even know how he did this. He changes string in reverse, like from headstock to bridge instead of through the bridge up to the headstock, tuning it up. So then he maybe realizes his guitar’s not in tune. He’s not even gonna play the notes that he could be playing. He’s just gonna perform, and I think that’s a great way to wrap this video up, is you just have to keep playing or keep singing or doing something to engage your audience. You can’t tense up and go into a shell. Overall, I think the main point is to just have fun. All these people are having fun when the worst thing happens to you on stage, other than maybe your amp blowing up. So with all that said, I hope this was a helpful insight into what happens when you break a string and what options may be there for you. I hope it helps even just one of you. If it does, then my mission will have been accomplished. Thanks a lot for watching, and until next time, keep shredding.
How to Repair a Nylon String on a Classical Guitar
Have you ever been practicing your classical guitar and accidentally broken a string? Or have you tried changing one of the nylon strings, only to have it snap again as soon as you tightened it up?
In the following video, we’re dealing with a nylon string on a classical guitar that has broken at the bridge. The winding is still attached, but most of the string has popped up, revealing the inner silk core. Let’s take a look:
The core concept is to use the excess string wound around the headstock to re-tie the string at the bridge. To do this, you’ll need a nail clipper or something to cut strings and a peg winder (optional but helpful). First, cut the broken string close to where it unwound, then remove it from the bridge. Gradually loosen the string at the headstock until you have enough length to tie it around the bridge.
Make sure to wrap the string underneath itself and create a secure knot. It’s essential for the excess string to exit from the underside of the bridge for a stronger hold. Once you’ve done this, use your peg winder to start winding the string and tune it back up to the desired pitch.
This trick works for all instruments that use wound strings around a core material, so keep it in mind next time you face a string emergency! And remember, always leave some excess string when tying your strings to the headstock, so you have enough to work with when salvaging a broken string.
Hey friends, I was just teaching a guitar lesson when I heard a loud bang. I realized I had broken another string, so I’ve had a pretty unlucky two weeks here. I was about to cut it off when I realized I could save this string. I decided to film this because I think it’s a great tip for all guitarists out there. This tip can get you out of a pickle if you don’t have an extra string on hand before a recording session or maybe you’re about to walk out on stage.
A few weeks ago, I broke a string as well and made a video with a couple of tips on how to stop breaking strings. That string broke in a very different way. It was my B string and that was made of gut, a bit more prone to breaking. This is a very different break and it could be a very different tip as a result.
Here, I’m using nylon strings on the cedar top guitar by Says Guitars. The nylon string bass strings on classical guitars are basically a silk core, a bunch of silk threads wrapped with some type of metal. This break happened right at the bridge. The winding is still attached, but most of the string popped up. I can actually see and feel the inside of the silk now, but it looks pretty bad. The string is flopping all over the place.
If I was less experienced at this point, I would say, “Oh, I just have to cut off the string and find a new one.” It would take a long time, and what if I didn’t have an extra string and had to go on stage? I would be seriously in a pickle. Two things you always need in your guitar case are nail clippers or something to cut strings and a peg winder.
To salvage this broken string, we’re going to find where it sort of unwound and cut as close as we can to salvage as much of the string as possible. We’re going to try to save this thing. We’re left with this string tied to the bridge, which we can just get rid of. Now we grab this long string that’s tied to the headstock and we’re basically going to kind of pull this down and re-tie it.
For this to work, you have to make sure that when you tie your strings on, you don’t cut off all the excess string. If you clip all the excess off, you can’t do this trick. All I need to do now is gradually loosen the string here and I’ll get more and more length out of it. Once I have enough, I can tie it at the bridge.
If you’re enjoying this guitar tip and want to see more tips like this, you can head over to my Patreon page where I have lots of exclusive tips and behind-the-scenes content.
This is taking a little bit long, so this is where I can grab my peg winder. Let’s say the audience is waiting, hold on guys, and then just keep bringing this all the way down. If I can get it so that the nod is still there, that’s even faster. If I have to, I can just put it back through the slot and re-tie. We keep loosening until we have some string that goes quite a bit past the bridge.
Now we wrap it underneath itself like so and put it back underneath itself. Depending on the string, you might want to go back again underneath itself one more time. Now we pull a bit to have a bit of a knot to stop the string. The last part of the string that leaves the knot should be on the underside of the bridge.
That string’s not going anywhere, which means now we can grab our peg winder, start winding, and attach the string. I first usually tune it up until it sounds like the E. I usually use my ear training to tune it up.
I know that was a long explanation, but to actually do that takes maybe a minute or two on stage. Next time you’re about to cut off a string and throw it away, double-check that you can salvage it first and get back to playing. See you next time.
Fix a Guitar String by Tying a Knot
And with this next short video, the musician also shows how to tie a knot in the string for his acoustic guitar:
How to Prevent Strings From Breaking in the First Place
- Ensure the string tension is appropriate and not too tight for whatever tuning you’re in.
- Regularly check the guitar for any damage that could contribute to string breakage (like sharp edges on the bridge or guitar nut, or a busted bridge pin).
- Choose the correct gauge of strings for your guitar based on your playing style and preferences.
- Store your guitar in a suitable environment, avoiding extreme temperatures and humidity.
- Replace the entire set of strings when one breaks to maintain consistent sound and avoid gauge mismatches (this is also a good time to clean your guitar fretboard).
- Always have spare strings on hand for quick replacement when needed!