Can a Whammy Bar Break Guitar Strings?

A whammy bar is a metal lever used to bend a guitar’s strings to create a unique sound effect. Though the tool can help guitarists get creative and achieve new melodies, it has always generated controversy among musicians, especially those who consider themselves purists. One of the arguments against whammy bars is that they can break guitar strings; however, is this true?

A whammy bar (tremolo bar) can break your guitar strings; however, this is not common. When using a whammy bar, the tension applied to the strings changes, causing them to stretch. If they’re not qualitative or lubricated enough, they’ll eventually break.

With that said, as long as you take good care of your strings, there’s no reason why using a whammy bar should adversely affect them. So, read on as I explore the instances in which a whammy bar is more likely to break your strings and how to prevent accidents like this from happening in the first place.

When Can a Whammy Bar Break Guitar Strings?

If there’s one thing to take away from the introduction paragraph above, it’s that there are certain circumstances that make string breakage more probable. So, let’s explore them a bit more in-depth below.

The Strings Are Old, Low-Quality, or Worn-Out

It’s always a good idea to ensure you’re working with high-quality strings before using a whammy bar. Otherwise, you risk having them go out of tune, suffer from structural damage, or even break. These types of issues are also common with old, worn-out strings.

That’s because if excessive force is used, the tension caused by the whammy bar will cause the strings to stretch and vibrate. They’ll eventually snap when they cannot withstand this type of pressure. 

The Guitar Is Not Set Up Properly

This is a common issue with lower-end guitars that have never seen the inside of a professional guitar shop. How an instrument is set up can notably affect its performance and structural integrity; otherwise, the strings will be held at a tension level that’s not likely to withstand the additional stress of a whammy bar.

Similarly, incorrectly installing the whammy bar incorrectly can lead to similar issues since the pressure applied to the strings will be excessive. That’s why I recommend working closely with a professional to set up your instrument or learn how to use a tremolo bar on it.

You’re Not Using Proper Technique

How you play your guitar affects much more than simply how you sound. Learning how to execute proper techniques can save your strings from a lifetime of damage, so try your best not to take any shortcuts, especially at the beginning.

If possible, I always recommend consulting with a professional guitar teacher until you get the hang of things and can rest assured that the way you’re playing the guitar isn’t causing any damage to it.

Since, by now, you already know that a whammy bar holds the strings under higher tension than usual, using the improper technique will only push the issue over the edge until the strings eventually break.

Irregular Maintenance Routine

As much as we’d like to, owning a guitar isn’t a one-and-done type process that ends the moment you exit the guitar shop. You’ll have to look after your instrument regularly to optimize its performance and longevity.

Otherwise, you’ll end up with an instrument that’s out of tune and a set of strings that desperately needs to be replaced – not a good combo when you’re about to use a tool that will apply even more pressure on them. 

Though I’ll dive into the importance of looking after your guitar, especially your strings, in the following sections, remember that a good rule of thumb is to replace your strings every time they surpass 100 hours of playing.

Poor Hygiene

Even those who take their guitar to a professional to get it tuned every month sometimes underestimate (or forget) the importance of keeping the instrument squeaky clean. That means wiping it off after every playing session.

That’s because dirt and bacteria can quickly pile up and affect the structural integrity of the strings, which need to be at their strongest when you’re using a whammy bar.

How To Prevent a Whammy Bar From Breaking Guitar Strings

The good news is that all of the factors mentioned above are preventable, which is why most musicians are able to use whammy bars without any major issues. So, let’s review some of my top tips on keeping your strings in good shape so they don’t break under the pressure of a tremolo bar.

  • Replace the strings regularly.
  • Use locking turners.
  • Avoid using a whammy bar regularly.
  • Use a locking nut.
  • Make a point always to use proper technique.
  • Invest in high-quality strings.
  • Have the guitar properly set up.
  • Use the right gauge of strings – they need to be thick enough, so they don’t break under pressure but thin enough to remain flexible.
  • Use a lubricant to keep the springs springy and in good overall shape.
  • Look after your guitar as a whole by storing it in ideal conditions, following a strict maintenance schedule, and tuning it as needed.

The aim of these tips is to keep the strings structurally sound enough to withstand the added pressure. With that said, though a whammy bar can be a great tool to help you bring your creativity to life, I’d advise against using it regularly. Even the strongest, most well-maintained strings will sustain some damage if kept under high tension for prolonged periods, so proceed cautiously.


Though, unlike what some purists say, a whammy bar won’t destroy your sound or your guitar, it’s still a good idea to be wary of its potential effect on the strings and take necessary precautionary measures to ensure a fun, issue-free experience with this tool.

By learning about the factors that make string damage more probable and how to counteract them effectively, you can rest assured that your tremolo bar won’t weaken or break your guitar’s strings.

If you found this article useful, you may want to save this pin below to your Guitar board.


I have been playing guitar since 2004. As long as I can remember I always had a huge passion for rock music and I extremely enjoy playing it. Helping people on their rock journey is what drives me to keep on playing. Read More About Me

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