As guitarists, it’s happend to us all. You’re in the middle of playing a song for someone, showing off all that skill that was hard-earned from all those years of practice. You’re in your zone and you attack the strings with strength – then all of a sudden the string snaps. As a signer/guitarist, missing a vital string can immediately throw me off. The tone becomes incomplete and the guitar feels like it’s putting out way less. While still playing,the mind races into control mode as to what to do. Here we look at some of the common mechanisms for dealing with this situation.
1) Stop playing and do the slightly embarrassed joke about the broken string. Hey, everyone has done this and it’s especially true if you’re just playing for fun for a couple of people.
2) Pretend like nothing’s wrong and continue playing what notes you can play (after all, most people won’t notice a broken string, especially if they’re more than five feet away from you). Chances are that if you have a full band, or you’re playing metal or hard rock and have enough instruments in the mix, your string won’t be sorely missed. Sure, it might affect that solo you were planning to play but you can always wing that.
3) Compensate – The mind of a musician is an incredible thing. Switch to a lower or higher scale. If you lose your high E or B string and you’re playing chords, switch to power chords.
Breaking a string doesn’t slow Slash down.
Steve Vai loses a string with his Floyd equipped guitar but uses his whammy to compensate for his strings being out of tune.
4) Wear it like a badge of honor. Ledbetter, one of the founders of the Blues and Rock n’ Roll, used to play parties with his twelve-string as hard as he could all night long and break every single string. Even with one string left he’d be plucking that guitar and pounding his feet.
5) Work it into your act. Being able to be funny and react will earn you admirers. Here’s Buddy Guy showing how it’s done.
6) During a recent Oz Noy performance at the Seymour Duncan NAMM booth Oz broke a string and quickly changed scales to compensate. Having someone to help you out in the event of a string break is always advised. Seymour Duncan’s own Scott Marceau quickly provides Oz with a new guitar and goes in to change the string.
Share with us in the comments your stories of the least convenient times you’ve had a string break and what you do when it happens.