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Thread: Breaking a strings way too often...

  1. #1
    Registered User John M. Riley's Avatar
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    Default Breaking a strings way too often...

    i find myself breaking an a string on my mandolin almost every time i play a show or at a jam. yes i play with a heavy right hand. i use j75 strings. and a dunlop nylon 1mm pick. at this point i get a lot of drive with my right hand in my playing... i would hate to have to change my style of playing at this point. is there any set of strings that may hold out a little better? thanks!
    07 Silver Angel Distressed F5
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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking a strings way too often...

    Where do the strings break? The tuner post, the nut, the bridge, or elsewhere?
    It might be a problem with one of those parts of the mandolin.

  3. #3
    Registered User John M. Riley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking a strings way too often...

    good thinking. my first thought was just playing too hard. they are breaking back near the bridge and around my picking area. i guess im still to blame. played 3 one hour shows 2 weekends ago. broke 3 a strings. played once last weekend, and broke 1 a string. went to a jam tonight and broke an a string.....
    07 Silver Angel Distressed F5
    Rigel G-110
    05 Gibson Fern
    74 Gibson F5
    82 Clawson F5
    05 D18 Golden Era
    76 D28 Sunburst
    06 DG Carpathian & Mahogony
    06 Blueridge BR160A
    10 Little Martin LX1

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    Registered User John M. Riley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking a strings way too often...

    i wonder if i should try the john pearse heavy guage
    07 Silver Angel Distressed F5
    Rigel G-110
    05 Gibson Fern
    74 Gibson F5
    82 Clawson F5
    05 D18 Golden Era
    76 D28 Sunburst
    06 DG Carpathian & Mahogony
    06 Blueridge BR160A
    10 Little Martin LX1

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    Default Re: Breaking a strings way too often...

    Quote Originally Posted by John M. Riley View Post
    good thinking. my first thought was just playing too hard. they are breaking back near the bridge and around my picking area. i guess im still to blame. played 3 one hour shows 2 weekends ago. broke 3 a strings. played once last weekend, and broke 1 a string. went to a jam tonight and broke an a string.....
    I'd say there is definitely a problem. It could be a problem with the saddle slots. But I also note you are using a pretty light pick. I wonder if you'd have to play so hard if you were using a heavier pick.

  6. #6
    Registered User John M. Riley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking a strings way too often...

    maybe i can try a heavier pick again. seemed like i could get more volume with this one.
    07 Silver Angel Distressed F5
    Rigel G-110
    05 Gibson Fern
    74 Gibson F5
    82 Clawson F5
    05 D18 Golden Era
    76 D28 Sunburst
    06 DG Carpathian & Mahogony
    06 Blueridge BR160A
    10 Little Martin LX1

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking a strings way too often...

    Maybe you need to plug in!

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    Registered User John M. Riley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking a strings way too often...

    haha, oh lord. my band would kill me. we are so traditional, lol
    07 Silver Angel Distressed F5
    Rigel G-110
    05 Gibson Fern
    74 Gibson F5
    82 Clawson F5
    05 D18 Golden Era
    76 D28 Sunburst
    06 DG Carpathian & Mahogony
    06 Blueridge BR160A
    10 Little Martin LX1

  9. #9

    Default Re: Breaking a strings way too often...

    You might have a problem with the bridge. I don't have much experience but the slots for the string on the bridge are shaped like this \/. They should be a snug fit for the string. After ALOT of playing time the slots start to wear. If this has happened, the string can now move(slightly) in the slot. If it is bad you might need a new saddle. If it is only minor I think you can just file it a little bit, but correct me if I'm wrong Mr. Hamlett

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    Horton River NWT Rob Gerety's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking a strings way too often...

    I play a bit of mandolin in a jam with a lot of fiddles etc and I must say I also seem to play extremely hard in that situation just to hear my own instrument. I haven't been breaking strings but I've been thinking the darn thing sound like #### when I push it that hard. Not sure what the answer is.
    Rob G.
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking a strings way too often...

    Aside from the possible physical problems with the instrument, you could also suggest getting a good monitor system for your PA (I assume that you use some sort of sound amplification at your gigs). One of those personal monitors that go on the mic stand might be just the thing to hear yourself in the mix. Maybe you don't have to play quite that hard, then.
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    ...but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking a strings way too often...

    If it is always the A strings breaking it might have to do with the fact that the A has a lower tension than the neighboring D and E in most string sets. Lower tension leads to more string displacement when the pick strikes and thus to more bending of metal. Electric guitar players often have to deal with breaking strings because of their low tension, on the other hand I had never a string break on me with my tenor-tuned tenor banjo and its high tension strings.

    Bottom line I would try heavier strings giving more tension if the top can bear the load.

    Bertram
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    Default Re: Breaking a strings way too often...

    I would defiantly have the bridge filed as it probably has a sharp spot that is breaking the a strings. Have some one do it that has nut files so the slot is rounded at the bottom and not V. Get the gauge right and don't go any deeper than necessary.
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    Registered User John M. Riley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking a strings way too often...

    thanks for all the input! it could very well be the bridge top. the mandolin is only a few years old, but i do believe someone has fooled around with the bridge top before i got it. ill try to get a new bridge top from the maker. if that doesnt work, does anyone know of any strings that make take more punishment than the j75's??
    07 Silver Angel Distressed F5
    Rigel G-110
    05 Gibson Fern
    74 Gibson F5
    82 Clawson F5
    05 D18 Golden Era
    76 D28 Sunburst
    06 DG Carpathian & Mahogony
    06 Blueridge BR160A
    10 Little Martin LX1

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking a strings way too often...

    Actually, lighter strings are less likely to break because they have lower tension. Strings seldom break because of bad bridge slots, but it is possible. Bridges are usually ebony, and though ebony is a very hard wood is is wood, and wood deforms from the string pressure. If the slots start out V shaped or if they start out round, it doesn't take long for the strings to form their own grooves. This is one time when I suspect hard playing is more at fault than the instrument itself.

    You might try J74s, or just get some A strings that are a couple of gauges lighter and put them on with the rest of your J75 set. If the problem improves, you've found your solution, if it doesn't, then the bridge is still suspect.

  16. #16
    Registered User John M. Riley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking a strings way too often...

    hmmm... so lighter strings may take more punishment without breaking?
    07 Silver Angel Distressed F5
    Rigel G-110
    05 Gibson Fern
    74 Gibson F5
    82 Clawson F5
    05 D18 Golden Era
    76 D28 Sunburst
    06 DG Carpathian & Mahogony
    06 Blueridge BR160A
    10 Little Martin LX1

  17. #17
    Registered User John M. Riley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking a strings way too often...

    or maybe its just that they will give or bend more without breaking
    07 Silver Angel Distressed F5
    Rigel G-110
    05 Gibson Fern
    74 Gibson F5
    82 Clawson F5
    05 D18 Golden Era
    76 D28 Sunburst
    06 DG Carpathian & Mahogony
    06 Blueridge BR160A
    10 Little Martin LX1

  18. #18
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking a strings way too often...

    Lighter strings don't have to be "pulled as tight" to get them to pitch. There's less tension in a lighter string so it can take a little more hard playing before it breaks.

  19. #19
    mandolin slinger Steve Ostrander's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking a strings way too often...

    At least you have a few spare...mandos
    Chronic MAS

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    Purveyor of Sunshine sgarrity's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking a strings way too often...

    If you're really breaking them because you're playing too hard I think it's time to have a conversation with the band about dynamics. If you're a performing band you shouldn't have to pound on your mandolin that hard just to be heard. When I start having to pound on my mando just to hear myself in a jam, the mando goes back in its case!

  21. #21
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking a strings way too often...

    Do you bring several mandolins to a gig , John M, so as to have another to grab to finish the set?
    Notice you have a number of F5 s to put in service on the signature list.

    A try dropping from the 0.0115" of the J75 set , to the 0.011'' of a J74 set.
    a thicker string is put under higher tension to reach pitch , it's a fact.

    if you are having a hard time hearing yourself in the band and laying into the strings
    hard for that reason, perhaps a pickup is not such a bad Idea .. monitor as a hearing aide ..

    There are small things like the Rolls' Personal monitor, small black boxes ,
    which you can put in the cable to the mic you play into, and tap the mic signal
    and put the monitor in your ear . small wired, ear buds.. low cost pocket and visually..

    Not effecting the band mix that way, at all, or adding more to the sound level on stage.

    ..or it might be time for the 'Miracle Ear' .. hows your hearing, in general ?

    Birthdays Happen ... checked with an audiologist of late?
    Last edited by mandroid; Apr-17-2009 at 11:17am.
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  22. #22
    Registered User Dan_dolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking a strings way too often...

    Hi John,

    Sounds like you're playing "heavy handed" to compensate for some volume too. I believe a good setup from a pro would help in all aspects. They could look at the bridge situation for proper string alignment or whatever may be causing breakage and also look at the bridge for the "sweet spot" for volume, tone and playability. Probably nothing to gain but good!

  23. #23
    Ben Beran Dfyngravity's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking a strings way too often...

    I would also recommend going to a lighter string gauge like J74s.

    Maybe also lighting the grip you put on your pick, I find that when my grip gets a little to tight I hit the strings too hard.....or visa versa.

  24. #24
    Registered User John M. Riley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking a strings way too often...

    i think i may try the j74s, at least on the a strings. i was just taking the caveman approach and thinking a thicker string would be harder to break, haha.. i doubt the band will tame it down much. my brother plays a frank neat stanleytone arch top banjo and plays about like ralph and then we get ole junior blankenship to play the guitar with us some (if you all remember him playing lead for ralph back in the 80's). and yes, i have been carrying a double case and bringin 2 mandos due to breaking the strings so often
    07 Silver Angel Distressed F5
    Rigel G-110
    05 Gibson Fern
    74 Gibson F5
    82 Clawson F5
    05 D18 Golden Era
    76 D28 Sunburst
    06 DG Carpathian & Mahogony
    06 Blueridge BR160A
    10 Little Martin LX1

  25. #25
    ...but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking a strings way too often...

    Well, as for thicker/thinner I stick with what I said above. If you hit a string hard enough to produce a certain volume, that string gets the same certain impulse, be it thick or thin. The difference lies in how much it moves. Normally, the metal core of the string should perform only elastic deformation, i.e. reversible; but where the camber gets too sharp, like at the saddle grooves, it becomes plastic deformation, slowly destroying the material structure on a microscopic scale (like when you bend the handle of a spoon forward and back until resistance fails and it breaks). The less the oscillation amplitude by a given impulse, the less those deformations should be. Higher tension makes smaller amplitudes.

    If I am wrong, experiments should show it. But then I wouldn't understand why it is the A string that keeps breaking, seeing as it has a low tension (compared to D) already.

    Bertram
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