You found the ultimate groove, the audience is totally with you and everything is going just the way it does in your daydreams. In a moment that sublime, you want to make sure there’s no need to stop the presses and do surgery on your instrument in the middle of a song.

Fear not. A little preventative maintenance will go along way to never having to say, “hold on a second while I find a string winder and some wire cutters”.

Thus, a few thoughts on an ounce of prevention:

1 Keep it clean.

Corrosion is one of those things that’ll bring a thin piece of metal under high tension (I’m talking about your strings here) to its knees. There are some causes of corrosion you can’t avoid like impurities in the air and oxygen itself. But there are many you can avoid. Case in point: sweat. You make a lot of it and the strings don’t like it. So after you get done playing, a quick wipe down with that rag you’re about to start keeping in your case will go a good long way to extending the structural integrity of those strings.

2 Keep it smooth.

There are a handful of places on your instrument where the string comes in contact with a piece of wood, plastic or metal. Keeping jagged edges at bay will prevent the constant rubbing from sawing through your strings at the worst possible moment. The pressure points are fairly obvious: check places like your bridge saddles, nut, the posts of your tuners and, if you use one, even your pick. Take a few minutes to check these places on each instrument once or twice a month and don’t be afraid to file down any rough spots (not too much, just enough). You can’t prevent the constant rubbing and sliding your strings do on these surfaces, but you can mitigate the damage.

3 When in doubt, change ‘em out.

Ok, this one is fairly obvious. A new set of strings is way less likely to break than an old one. So if you have a really important showcase coming up, spring for a new pack and put them on the day before. Remember: a new set of strings comes with its own pain - like being harder to keep in tune. So, 5 minutes before your big show may not be the best time to put them on. And make sure you follow the manufacturer’s guide to stretching. Some strings - like DR - recommend against it. Some demand it for the best experience.