How Often Should You Change Your Guitar Strings?

how often to change guitar strings

How often should you string a guitar with new strings? This article has information on how to keep your guitar always sounding good and in tip top shape!

Want to keep your axe sounding awesome? Of course you do!

The number one thing you can do to keep your baby sounding its best is to make sure that your strings sound bright and clear.

The Importance of Good Guitar Strings

A lot of people out there own guitars. Cheap ones, expensive ones, some vintage, and a ton of brand new ones. Not everyone is as serious about getting as skilled on their instrument as the next guy, and certainly, not everyone makes caring for it a top priority.

If you want to be a great player, or even a good player, it takes practice, dedication, more than a touch of God-given talent, and the right equipment, including good strings.

Why are strings important? Simply put, your strings are the life-blood of your instrument. Let's face it, your skill level is irrelevant if you're playing on dead strings. Dead and dying strings have a dead and dying sound. So the quality of your strings will, to a significant extent, dictate the quality of your sound.

You can have a million-dollar setup, but if your strings are trash, that million-dollar setup will sound like garbage because they'll be lifeless and won't stay in tune.

Why Do Strings Go Bad?

The two big reasons why strings wear out is, firstly, because they get dirty, and secondly, they stretch. Guitar strings are made of coiled steel. When strings are new, they are shiny and clean, and haven't yet been stretched tight.

  • Oil. Your hands deposit all sorts of residue on the strings. When your strings get rusty or discolored, it's only a matter of time before you break one. Oil, sweat, and dirt from your hands all contribute to the condition of your strings. The oilier your skin, and the more often you play, the lower the life-expectancy of your strings.
  • Humidity. Humidity is another factor. Do you leave your guitar outside its case often? This is a quick and easy way to kill your strings in a hurry. Want to save some cash by keeping your strings sounding new as long as possible? Limit your instrument's exposure to humidity. Keep it in the case.
  • Guitar Strings are Not Intended to Last Forever. Old strings feel gross. They sound and feel old. They don't hold their tuning as well, and are prone to breaking. Strings are going to go bad. Always. It's simply impossible to keep them in playable condition forever, but by washing your hands before playing, and by limiting their exposure to humidity, it's pretty easy to lengthen the window of time between string changes.

How to Know When It's Time to Change Your Strings

Anyone who plays guitar for any length of time will begin to develop a feel for when their strings are beginning to lose their zing. This mostly comes with experience. It can be visibly dirty strings or a dull tone. The novice might not notice the slow decline as strings gradually go dead, but you'll be amazed how lively a tone a new set will give you.

Of course, when a string breaks, the decision is obvious. Aside from having a broken string, when to change strings is mostly a matter of personal presence. It's not always a matter of necessity.

Some musicians really dig when their strings sound more "broken-in". While others prefer the crisp, vibrant tone of new ones. Some professional performers insist on new strings before every performance in order to ensure the best possible sound.

Again, so much of "when" to string a guitar comes down to preference.

The Truth About Your Guitar Strings

The simple truth is that whether you play daily, or leave your instrument hidden away in the close most days of the year, strings degrade rather quickly. This can vary depending on brand and gauge, but quality tends to begin fading after a couple of weeks.

Tips for Extending the Life of Your Strings

To string a guitar, even on a semi-regular basis might sound like a fairly expensive proposition. After all, you can expect a new set to cost anywhere from $6 to as much as $40 or so. For the average player, I'd suggest a set in the $12 to $14 range will serve you just fine. Again, it's all about personal preference.

Given the expense of a set of new strings, it might not sound appealing to you to string a guitar every few days, or even every few weeks. So, what are some things you can do to prolong the life and tone of your strings?

  • Wash Your Hands. This bears repeating. It's the easiest thing in the world to do, and your strings will thank you for it. Scrubbing thoroughly with warm water and soap should do the trick. An added suggestion would be to keep a rag at your side for wiping sweat off your hands while playing.
  • Wipe Down Your Strings. Do this before and after playing. I'd also recommend using a string treatment to prevent corrosion.
  • Buy Better Strings. Spend a few bucks on a better brand. Higher quality strings will not only last longer, they'll stay in tune longer, sound better, and make a you a better musician.

Changing Guitar Stringers

The decision to string a guitar with new strings is ultimately a personal decision. This is true whether you are a professional musician who depends on his instrument for making a living, or an amateur who only noodles around on the guitar every few months or a couple times a years. Ultimately there is no right or wrong answer.

The cost to string a guitar with new strings is a small price to pay to keep your instrument sounding great. And applying a few simple habits to keep your strings clean will help it sound great and save you money at the same time.

To read more about quality guitars and strings click here.

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