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When a string Breaks

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Piezoman, Nov 14, 2004.


  1. Piezoman

    Piezoman

    Nov 29, 2002
    Bronx, New York
    What do you do if you are playing onstage and one of your strings snaps?

    Not that it happened but I will be gigging soon so I would like to be prepared(I know your never supposed to stop laying a song).
     
  2. Nino Valenti

    Nino Valenti Commercial User

    Feb 2, 2001
    Staten Island NYC
    Builder: Valenti Basses
    I'd try to play the parts in a different position or I would just change basses. I have a back up with a strap & all tunned up so it would take me about 10-15 seconds to switch basses.
     
  3. CJK84

    CJK84

    Jan 22, 2004
    Maria Stein, OH
    Whether using a pick or fingerstyle, if you play with a light or moderate touch, there's hardly a chance that you'll break a string.

    If you really dig in or pop strings forcefully, however, that may be another story (btw, really digging in is considered less-than-best technique by most).

    Good luck !!
     
  4. lethargytartare

    lethargytartare

    Sep 7, 2004
    Chicago
    Had a BAD weekend, and would love to comment on this problem...played out Saturday, and I broke an E early in our second set, but managed to play through to the end of the song :meh: Swapped to my backup and had a friend restring my primary. Then broke an A on the backup early in a song where I needed it most :mad: But what killed me there is that it fell in right under the D string and I couldn't get grip on it and yank it out of the way to even try to play through...mercifully one of my guitarists pulled the song over, kindly patted me on the back and said "it's ok..." I'm pretty new to gigging, so I was horribly embarrassed. Tuned up the new string on my primary bass and we finished out the night. But breaks have been a pretty frequent problem for me, so I have been trying to spend a little effort every time I play to find alternate ways to play phrases on different strings. Remembering where the octave note is about all I'm good at now, so the sound isn't quite right, but at least there's no dissonance... But if you can locate the octave two strings over (if you slap a lot, this is probably pretty natural), and can locate the 3rd note (which would be 1 string over and 1 fret lower) on the same string, those are two simple points of reference you can build on, and if you keep the root notes of your song in mind, you can probably fight your way through most songs. Of course, knowing scales and theory backwards and forwards wouldn't hurt, but I'm years away from that ;)

    The technique thing is something that I'm going to be focusing on a lot -- I think CJK84 is right that really "digging in" is going to increase the chance of a break...and if you think you dig in during practice, consider that you'll probably be a lot harder on the bass during a show when your adrenaline is all up and you're rockin' out!

    But I guess the moral of the story for us was that sometimes it's better to restart a song and play it well than it is to gut it out and finish it sounding poorly. But if at ALL possible, have a backup ready! Nothing wipes out momentum as much as watching a bassist/guitarist restring and tune up an instrument...if you have a backup, you can get someone to replace the broken string while you're playing your backup, and you're ready for anything again.

    good luck!

    ltt
     
  5. waxbass

    waxbass

    Nov 13, 2004
    Los Angeles
    Yeah, what Nino-Brown said. :smug:

    Trust me, the 15 seconds it takes to grab the back up is way better then butchering the song because you're not used to the finger position you've been forced into due to a broken string.

    Also, bass strings don't just "break". Either YOU break strings or you don't. If it hasn't been a problem in the past why would it be a problem now?

    Regardless, you should always have a back up bass on stage ready to go. Oh, and a back up cable, strap, and whatever else you depend on ;)
     
  6. I agree...if the band is tight you just signal to them...they'll pick up the slack (jump into a solo or something) and then when your ready with your backup...POUR IT ON!

    Take the approach that, breaking strings will happen. Just stay calm and be prepared. And always carry a spare set of strings (one for each bass, if you use different strings).
     
  7. Heh, tell that to Marcus Miller. Sorry, dude. There are sometimes when that kind of playing is appropriate. I'm a hard slapper, and I've only broken one string. If I was in a gig when playing I'd just not use that string.
     
  8. scot_bass

    scot_bass

    Nov 15, 2004
    have to say, in my book, under very very few circumstances should you re-start the song, unless it's after two bars or something.

    In reality, very few audience members will notice if you break a string and have to root/fifth your way through the rest of the song: unless they're looking for a particular bass-line, then who's gonna know that that isn't the way the line was intended? :D Incidently, I always measure a songs "groove level" by that: if I can't drop out and playing something very basic but funky and it still sound phat, then the song just ain't got the groove. imho.

    When you get playing for a while, you'll learn roughly how long a set of strings is gonna last: i can usually tell when one is gonna give way, just through the feel: something just doesn't feel quite right, so i swap the strings out. I also make sure that my strings are changed at least every 8-10 weeks (a contraversial subject, i know, but it's worked for me for years!) :bag:

    I'd be interested to know what gauge you're playing: perhaps your technique is suited to a heavier gauge that will take more punishment?

    anyhoo - good luck fella!
     
  9. lethargytartare

    lethargytartare

    Sep 7, 2004
    Chicago
    Yeah, I'm MUCH more in favor of keeping the song moving...but this one was a matter of my lack of depth as a player and the nature of the bassline...and the fact that I broke the A...if it had been the D or G, I think I could have played through. Maybe I'll beg my guitarists to practice "filling in" so I can swap basses at a time like that instead of trying to play through...

    It all comes back to my newbie-ness, I think...playing for fun every weekend is SO different from practicing and playing out regularly, and I just have to get up to speed. I'm learning :)

    As for technique, I think it's fair to say that I "dig in" -- not 'because I'm a tough-guy, but I think becuase I'm more accustomed to playing in settings where I felt I had to to get heard. Now that I've got decent equipment, I need to lay off a bit. It's not all that different from guitar -- when I started playing guitar, I couldn't use a medium pick without tearing through strings. But after years of playing, I was able to develop a softer, more effective touch, and my strings just don't break unexpectedly any more. So, I play 45-105s, and toyed with different guages, but at the end of the day I think it's more me than my equipment...although I am switching to a better quality of string for a while to see if that helps too.

    Thanks for the feedback and encouragement!

    ltt
     
  10. DWBass

    DWBass The Funkfather

    In my 30+ years of playing, I've never broken a string! I also have an extremely light touch and always play at the neck pickup position [strings play softer there]. To break a bass string you'd really have to be digging in or the string was defective to begin with.
     
  11. waxbass

    waxbass

    Nov 13, 2004
    Los Angeles
    Huh...now that you mention it DW, It seems like whenever I break a string I'm playing right at the bridge to get a little more edge on the tone. I think another thing I do alot of is push too hard on the string I'm using as a thumb rest. :rolleyes:

    wax
     
  12. Do you replace your string regularly or just when one breaks?
    I change my strings about once a year,and I have never broken a string since I started changing them every so often.
     
  13. (Thinks about "Waiting For Guffman", one of his favorite movies)

    "He's here now, lets do 'Covered Wagons' again!"
     
  14. waxbass

    waxbass

    Nov 13, 2004
    Los Angeles
    On my main bass I gotta change em about every 6 to 8 weeks depending on gigging. I'm usually playing out every weekend and the project is very high energy. I have found it impossible to be running around going nuts and not be playing hard......mix in some rehearsals between gigs and I've turned into a string destroyer:p :ninja:

    The guitarist in this project breaks several strings every show. That's just how it is. As a rule, he puts a new set of strings on both of his guitars before every show. I think we bassist have it easy in that respect :smug:

    wax
     
  15. tkarter

    tkarter

    Jan 1, 2003
    kansas
    I would take a magnifying glass to the bridge and the nut on any bass I had breaking strings. Especially the E or A. I don't particulary dig in so I may be thinking wrong here, but I do feel a bass shouldn't be breaking strings when played even what I would call heavy handed.


    tk
     
  16. AngelCrusher

    AngelCrusher Supporting Member

    Sep 12, 2004
    Mesa Boogie, Tech 21, Taylor
    On tour I have my strings changed every other show. I break strings sometimes, which is a fusion of my sweat and some digging in. I have a very light touch, but i will dig in for dynamics. Anyone who says that is bad technique probably doesn't have great dynamics in their playing. also, when i was in a situation that required a pick, i broke strings fairly often, so i would disagree that a pick is easy on strings. especially since many pick players play near the bridge.
     
  17. Nino Valenti

    Nino Valenti Commercial User

    Feb 2, 2001
    Staten Island NYC
    Builder: Valenti Basses
    I play with a pick. I play so aggressive, you think that I'm mad at you. I play, pretty much right on top of the bridge pickup.

    Bad technique? It works for me. :)

    I don't remember the last time I broke a string.
     
  18. teej

    teej

    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    The only time I have ever broken a bass string was when I was puting on a old (4 or 5 months old) set of flatwounds. It was the G string. The metal tape had unwound, exposing the core wire and the string snapped at the tuning key. Other than that, I've never broken a string. Then again, I almost always play lightly or with my fingers. Also, I don't do a lot of "heavy" songs/bands.
     
  19. lethargytartare

    lethargytartare

    Sep 7, 2004
    Chicago
    well, last night at rehearsal I started really concentrating on altering my playing to lighten up on the strings a bit. My amp has plenty of headroom, so I'm able to keep my volume up, but dang, it's hard to drop the fingers LESS hard, but still as fast...it's tough...but I'm going to try to lighten up my style, I brought the bass up on my body a bit to hedge in my desire to wail down on the strings in a high energy moment, I'm using better strings, and I'm gonna follow a better cleaning pattern...criminey, is there anything else!?! I don't feel like a bass player as much as a bass tech :meh: I DO think this will let me get a bit more out of the amp since I can open it up a bit more...we shall see...
     
  20. teej

    teej

    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    I'm begining to REALLY like nylon tapewounds. The tone is great for me since I don't like any bass "growl." It's really smooth and round, great for jazz. Luckily, because of the nylon coating, you hardly ever have to clean the strings. Also, they're super slick, so you can move really fast and not hammer down. You should try them out. BUT... they're not for everyone. I probably wouldn't use them for metal or hard rock and whatnot.