Can You Leave a Guitar With a Missing String?

Imagine you are concentrated on playing your guitar, making a long-lasting solo, and suddenly one of your strings breaks. 

Some players always have a new set of strings as a spare but what happens if you don’t have one?

You may feel that if you leave your instrument with a missing string it could suffer from the lack of tension but let me tell you that is not always the case. 

Just a single lacking string won’t be harmful to your guitar and I will explain to you why.

In short, there’s no problem with leaving or storing your guitar with a missing string. The loss of one string won’t damage your instrument at all. It’s also very unlikely that a setup would be needed after you put the missing string back on.

Maybe, a lot of doubts come up but don’t worry, you are not the only one and we are here to help you. 

In this article, I will try to explain to you every needed aspect about guitars without one string, in the end, you will know everything about it.

Will leaving a guitar overnight with a missing string damage it?

Contrarily as you might think, guitars can take more punishment than you can imagine. 

Although for some musicians a missing string could mean something painful or harmful for the instrument, it is almost impossible for the guitar to be damaged.

As the tension is slightly reduced, the neck could fall back a bit. 

However, that won’t be forever, just something momentary and it won’t be noticeable at all.

How long can a guitar be left with a missing string?

If one of your strings break and you don’t have another to replace it, don’t worry you can leave your guitar with a missing string as long as you need. 

Although many players claim that would be dangerous for the instrument, it is very unlikely that it would cause any issues.

Perhaps, when restringing your guitar you might have to adjust the neck but that doesn’t usually happen, in fact, it is quite rare. 

If you don’t believe that, remember that the talented Rolling Stones’ guitar player Keith Richard has played a Fender Telecaster with a missing string for more than forty years without a problem.

Why do people worry about leaving guitars with strings missing?

This is a common thought among guitar players, they have the belief that the lack of a string will take away the needed tension from the guitar resulting in the neck bending continuously to its natural shape. 

Although a missing string could cause the neck to relieve, guitars are instruments designed with this in mind.

What I mean to say is that just a single missing string won’t affect your instrument at all, we have the example of Keith Richard’s five strings guitar. 

Although your guitar will be extremely affected if you leave it without any string, it won’t happen the same just by losing one of them.

Will a guitar with a missing string still be playable?

In general terms, missing only a single string won’t have a great impact on your playing. 

It always depends on which string you don’t have but your guitar will be still playable, you may feel that you lack something, and could influence your playability but the instrument will be usable.

Besides, the loss of a string is not likely to bend the neck strongly in a way it would ruin your guitar, it will be playable at all. 

Nevertheless, pieces with floating bridges need every string to maintain proper tension and stay in tune.

Furthermore, if you lose a string the instrument will go out of tune constantly and you will become crazy trying to tune it. 

That’s because a missing string modifies the tension plus is compensated by the springs within the body resulting in an almost impossible guitar to tune. 

Would you need to set up your guitar again if you left it with a missing string?

As we have mentioned previously, you can leave a guitar with a missing string and you won’t have problems at all. 

Nevertheless, in some cases, it would need a little setup.

Although it wouldn’t be a big deal, on some occasions your instrument could require some small adjustments, mainly of the truss rod

This is a great reason why you should learn how to set up your own guitar, check out my article on that topic:

Furthermore, in general, you won’t need a setup for your guitar and if it is needed, it will be something basic to keep it playable and have proper maintenance.

What to do if after putting a string back on your guitar feels off?

This could happen because the missing string in your instrument may reduce the tension in the neck. 

However, that is not always the case but some signals will mean your guitar needs to be set up.

Although it won’t be something common, if you feel that the action is off you will have to make your guitar fixed. 

What is more, excessive vibrations or string buzz will also be a signal for a setup.

Can you take out all of your guitar strings at once?

Taking all strings off your guitar at once is unlikely to cause any trouble.

It’s a procedure completely normal when working on the instrument, like for a pickup change or a fret dress.

Guitars, as mentioned earlier, are tougher than many players think, and their design takes these things into consideration.

You can check out my article on this specific subject:

But, in short, and similarly to leaving your guitar without one string, the chances of the neck remaining bent when the strings come back on are slim.

However, if that were to happen, just a simple adjustment of the truss rod will be more than enough to return it to playing condition.