How Often Should You Change Your Guitar Strings?
Posted by Michael Mueller on June 9, 2015 at 10:27 AM
People frequently ask how often they should change the strings on their guitar. They know strings don’t last forever, but it’s a bit of a mystery knowing when to get new ones. Like most things with guitar, the exact answer varies and it’s more art than science.
Not all guitarists play the same. We all have different playing habits and environments that impact how often our guitar strings should be changed. Even the tone quality you want from your guitar plays a factor. In practice, most players either change their strings every month, before every gig, or once the strings break.
Why guitar strings need to be changed
Strings are generally made of steel, so they are prone to rusting. The dirt and oil from your fingers helps speed up the corrosion process. They also get weaker through use, and eventually they lose their strength and snap. Check it out in the video below, he’s playing great and has to call it quits because his strings couldn’t keep up:
The more often you change your strings – the less likely this will happen!
Factors that affect how often strings should be changed
• How often you play. Playing for hours every day is going to wear down your strings faster than if you played once a month.
• Cleaning your strings. If you wipe them with a cloth after playing, you’ll remove the oils from your hand and reduce their wear. Similarly, if you wash your hands before playing, you reduce the amount of dirt that gets on your strings.
• The weather. Humidity plays a big role. The more humid an environment, the faster your strings will wear. Keep in mind that the wood in your guitar is also prone to drying out if there’s not enough humidity, so don’t store your guitar in a location that is too dry.
How to tell it's time for new guitar strings
The obvious answer is – if a string is broken. But here are a few more signs that it’s time to restring your guitar:
• The guitar can’t stay in tune. If you’re having trouble keeping your guitar in tune, or if it goes out of tune after a few days, then it means your strings have lost their strength.
• The tone is dull. This one is hard to tell, but newer strings have a brighter tone. If your strings are old and you feel that the tone is dull and mellow, consider changing your strings. Some people like that dullness and want that sound, so in that case – don’t get new strings!
• The strings get discolored as they age. Your thickest three strings (low E, A, and D) will lose their bronze color. Your thinnest three strings (high E, B, and G) will show grayness. Once you start seeing different colors on any string, you know it’s time for new ones.
• Dirty strings. If your strings are dirty and greasy, and wiping them down doesn’t help – it’s time to retire them.
Inflexibility. As strings age, they become stiff and it’s harder to slide, bend, and fret. If the strings feel rougher, and inflexible, it’s probably time for a restringing.
So, how often should guitar strings be changed?
A good rule of thumb is to change them every month. That’s assuming you’re playing often, i.e., every few days. If you’re playing schedule is more sporadic, you can get away with every few months. Many people change their strings before every gig. There’s also the other extreme – only changing strings when they break. Since all players are different, your best bet is to check your strings and look for the warning signs that appear when they’re wearing out.
Finally, if you’re picking up an old guitar that was lying around your house and you’re not quite sure how old the strings are – it’s probably best to go ahead and put new strings on. The sound will be brighter, and it’ll be easier on the fingers.
Thanks to Alexander Soto for providing this content.