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Steel strings breaking

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by Adam Pultz, Feb 5, 2014.

  1. Adam Pultz

    Adam Pultz

    Feb 4, 2014

    I have been playing gut-like (Velvet and later Gerold Genssler's wound gut strings) for the past many years but recently switched to steel strings, mainly because of bowing issues and the cost of gut.
    I have now completely fallen for steel strings but have a major problem in very frequent string-breaking.
    I play with high action and use a mix of forceful pizz, arco and some preparations and at first thought that steel strings would have no trouble handling this. With Spircore Mittels, however, I have experienced strings breaking every second week and always right at the bridge.
    I have had a new bridge installed and double checked that the string slots are not too sharp. The breakage has happened on both my old and new bridge and all the strings tend to break.
    I recently switched to Spirocore Stark which seem to last almost a month before breaking.
    I have been in touch with Thomastik who analyzed my strings but found no production flaws.
    Do anybody experience the same? This is super frustrating as I cannot go back to softer tensions, now that I have fallen in love with the sound, volume and projection of high action and steel strings.
  2. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    It's something about the bridge. Take it back to your repair guy and have it looked at carefully.
  3. The bridge slots should be wide enough, rounded on both sides to avoid cutting edges into the string. Also the string should only sit in the slot by a third of its diameter. So file down the bridge crown if the slots are deeper.

    Maybe some detail pictures of the bridge of your bass might help us to see what the problem might be.

    I had my very first set of 4/4 Spiro Mittel on my bass for about 25 to 28 years, I think.
    Now they play wonderful but I got some string fever and didn't like the Spiro high C (too much tension). They are still in my string drawer and I would use them again if I ever use a low B.
  4. DC Bass

    DC Bass Supporting Member

    Mar 28, 2010
    Washington DC

    Were you also experiencing breakage with gut and synthetic strings?

  5. Mark Gollihur

    Mark Gollihur Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jul 19, 2000
    Mullica Hill, NJ
    Owner/President, Gollihur Music LLC
    I'm sorry to hear of the breakage! Normally, strings don't break very easily. There might be some other factors at play that might have damaged the string during its usage that have contributed to its failure. Like stated above, the most common issues are nut slots or bridge slots that are too deep. If the same strings are repeatedly breaking at/near the bridge, this should be the first thing you look at. Optimally, the string should sit no deeper than 1/3 the depth of the string into the wood of either the nut or bridge - in fact, we believe that they should be called "dents" rather than "slots."

    What happens is this - the string, every time you tune up, "snakes" through those slots. If they are deep, or have sharp edges, they actually "catch" on the outer winding of the string, causing them to separate/spread on one side, and bunch up on the other. This causes the whole string to eventually fail.

    We host a free FAQ about stringing a bass; it covers monitoring the string slots and nut slots for sharp edges, depth, and even suggests putting a little powdered graphite in those slots as a lubricant.

    Those are the big things to check for. As an aside, you might also check your case - I did once have a customer who had some sort of sharp edge that was rubbing against the string when the bass was in the case being transported, and it was cutting into the outer winding, causing premature breakage.
  6. Polar opposite of my experience. I've had Spiros that were beat to hell with winding separations in the pegbox and at the bridge. They tuned up and stayed intact, and I play hard enough to require bridge slots that are deeper than normal so I don't pull the string right off of the bridge.

    Something else is going on here.
  7. Nathan Parker

    Nathan Parker

    Oct 10, 2008
    Seattle, WA
    This is the part where we all talk about how hard we pull, and therefore, how great we all are because we all pull so hard. Fun times. I like it when we insert fun analogies here like "People often confuse me for a shaved gorilla because I'm literally tearing the bass to pieces in a mannish rage" or "I'm like ham fisted grizzly bear, pulling apart the bass as though it has some sweet garbage inside of it". I hope I get to read some more of those soon.

    That being said, even through all the abuse, your strings should hold out for more than 2 weeks. I've broken some Spirocores in my Man/Bear/Gorilla phase, but never after 2 weeks. I think you should take your bass to a different luthier and have him or her assess the situation.

    Good luck.
  8. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Spiros are the cockroaches of strings. Usually, they almost can't be killed. If you're breaking Spiros, then something is seriously amiss. If you don't address the problem(s), then I suggest that you give up on Spiros and go here. :D
  9. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    +1 You obviously need a different set of eyes/preconceptions/etc. looking at your situation.
  10. Hej Adam,

    it's me- dude with the same color mooradian bass bag than you, having the practice room right beside yours... Well, you know. Mathias.

    One thing's for sure- you're easily the most forcefully playing bassist I've seen. To any of you fellow tb'ers not knowing Adam- bear paws with grizzly powers.

    But that should not happen, breakage at that rate. You mention high action- try and have your bass repair man check the angle of the afterlength to the bridge. Maybe it's just not a wide enough angle and can be cured with a saddle underneath where the tailpiece wire bends over the top (I don't know the english word for that kind of saddle, but it's something I have on my bass as well, for a different reason).

  11. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    I believe you're suggesting a 'raised saddle'. ;)
  12. It's true that Adam beats anything out of the bass that could be beaten out (well, not always, but often). I have seen him at BASS2012 in Copenhagen...

    I can remember that Pirastro (and also SuperSensitive) makes a metal thing to be put between the bridge and the string, probably mainly to avoid thin strings cutting into the bridge. I cannot remember a name for it, even not in german, but I'm rather sure Jake can jump in here and tell us how this thing is named. It is in the sleeve with the string when bought new.
    This might help, but I'm not sure if the diameter of the groove is large enough for the lower strings.

    I only broke one Spiro yet (E) and only because on the EUB the peg was short and the string was clamped to the heads cheek. And this was the string I bought with the used EUB, so it chould have been rather old.
  13. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    HA! :D

    I vaguely remember DRUBB posting a photo of those little metal 'Bridge Savers' not too long ago...
  14. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    Move up to Spiro Starks!
  15. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    James, you might've missed the part that he's breaking his Starks after about 1 month of using them. Yeah, somethings fishy and it ain't the strings.
  16. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Hmm... you might be right. If I posted that, then it would have been a pic of the little felt or nylon washer-type thingies that used to be supplied with Lycons.
  17. Medve


    Mar 8, 2013
    Hi Adam,
    I use plain gut and they do not break. Even with my "heavy" use. :)
  18. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    I remember that. Maybe it wasn't you that posted the photo of the little aluminium spouts. Darn...
  19. I didn't meant a rubber or felt disk with a hole in it (this is for damping the high frequencies), but a kind of a bend half-tube from some kind of metal.

    Since I'm extremly busy for the next ten days I might look for it later and make a photo, but I think I have seen one on talkbass. Even couldn't find one at the moment ...
  20. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    Yeah, the "little aluminium spouts" I mentioned in the post above! ;)