Question: I break strings quite often while playing. Is this normal?
Ozzie: It’s not clear what you mean by ‘quite often’, but if it’s every time you jam and play loud, it’s too often. Assuming that your strings are tuned to A440 concert pitch (and no higher), and are fairly new, strings tend to break because the points that they sit on (the bridge and the nut) are not cut or smoothed right. Next time you break a string, pay close attention to where it snapped. That might give you a clue. Once you’ve identified that a string is breaking at a specific point, you can pay some attention to the cause. Of course, if you play really hard, it’s possible to break strings anyway, especially those tuned to a higher pitch. But why are you playing so hard, so loud? It’s that fiddler and banjo picker standing right beside you, isn’t it? Tell them to cool down the racket. There’s no need to play loud and hard. And if you’re on a stage with microphones or line-in instruments, there’s even less reason to play like that. Less is more.
This column is dedicated to every Australian bluegrass musician who wants to improve his or her craft – and live to play another day. Ozzie J Picker is an Australian who has enjoyed more than 50 years of playing and singing bluegrass, as well as studying the long history of its roots. Ask him anything…