Letter #1 —
Our friend Charlie from St. Paul, Minnesota writes:
“I’ve read that YO LA TENGO are baseball fans. I’m a Minnesota Twins fan, AND a YO LA TENGO fan. Discuss.”
We are fans of the New York Mets and not the Twins (did you insist on calling your ex-first baseman Doug Mankiewicz like we do?), but at least we are all Yo La Tengo fans!
Letter #2 —
Will Goodman writes to Ira:
“I am amazed how hard you play your guitar and you never break strings. I play a Les Paul and a Jaguar and I am constantly breaking the D and G strings . I have tried to go up to a gauge as high as 12’s, but I still break them . What kind of strings/gauge do you use? I tried the tip that your guitar tech gave on Jaguar bridges on my Jaguar and it worked like a charm . Do you or your tech have any advice on my string breaking problem?”
And you know what that means: another installment of Totally Gil! Take it away, Gil . . .
First things first. It’s a common misconception that when having problems with breaking strings go to a higher gauge of string. It is however the opposite that is true. The thicker the gauge of string, the more tension the string will have when tuned to pitch. With the added tension, the string will have more resistance, so when you pick hard, the string’s tension makes the string break, instead of giving like a lighter gauge would . . . .
(We’ll skip the part where Gil tries to insert a little product placement. I know it was part of the question, but nevertheless, the name of the column is Totally Gil, not Totally Shill.)
Your string breaking could also be caused by saddle burrs. Those are small barbs in the string groove that cause strings to break. Getting rid of them is easy. Use any light thin file or sandpaper and lightly file the string groove. A few light strokes will do. Once the groove is filed down, I use a graphite paste from Stewart MacDonald. It works well for lubricating the nut as well.
You can find it here.
(We’re going to let this one pass, but before you click on the link, we accept no responsibility if it turns out that “lubricating the nut” has nothing to do with guitars.)
Doing the above will cure you of your string breaking dilemma.