How often do I need to change my guitar strings?

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Well, it’s kind of like changing the oil in your car. Meaning that, keeping them fresh keeps the guitar in overall better condition, but more importantly… a fresh set of strings will always sound “crispier” (once they’ve thoroughly stretch out – will discuss more on this later)… I wanted to say “better,” but not everyone prefers a new set of strings for every occassion…

It’s up to the guitar player really

There’s no real set time as to when to change your guitar strings. Deciding to swap out your old strings for new ones depends on a lot different factors; however…

Bottom Line: Whenever you have the time and the money and you feel the sound of your guitar is “wavering a bit,” just change ’em out and be done with it… & I recommend changing them “ALL” out with strings from the same pack / gauge rather than just one, or two – this will maintain a more consistent sound…

Some will say change them every two-to-three months… Others will say every week… every six months… You see, there’s just really no set time frame for changing out your strings.

There are several things to consider before changing them out; however, again… when in doubt, just change ’em out (I didn’t actually mean for that to rhyme)…

Things to consider before the change

01) First and foremost, the sound – How’s your guitar sounding these days (today)? Give it a strum and / or a pick a just see if you still like the echos its producing. Maybe their fine for now. Especially if you’re just sitting around the house.

02) Do you notice any damage to your current set of strings? – Look for strings that might be coming unwound. This could definitely be an indication of a string that’s about to break on you.

To be perfectly honest, to this day, my heart still skips a beat when a strings breaks while I’m in the middle of playing. If you’re like me and you’re going to be playing a while, you might at well change them out. I say “them,” because whenever I need to change one string, I just change them all out. Of course, there’s the times when you are playing out somewhere and you only have time to change the one that just broke on you. But whenever possible… I just change them all – this provides more of a consistent sound…

03) How often do you play? – It goes without saying that, the less you play (more-than-likely) the less you will have to change out your strings; however, it also depends upon your playing style as well I guess…

Do you play with a pick all of the time? If so, are really strumming the heck out of those chords… Or, are you a lighter player? Perhaps you’re more of a finger picker, or hybrid picker, etc. … In this case, there’s usually less stress applied to the strings and perhaps they’ll last longer…

04) Are you about to play a live show? – Unless, you don’t mind quickly changing out guitars, I would certainly consider changing your strings if you are about to put on a show of some sort (unless of course, its just the backyard bonfire gathering…)…

05) Are you about to record something? – Although the urgency isn’t there like it is during a live show, it’s still a nuisance when you’re motivated to lay down a track when all of a sudden… “pop…” and that “flow” you had going for the recording just got put on pause for several minutes…

06) Do you have the right set of strings available at the moment? – As I had mentioned earlier, I generally like to change out all of the strings instead of just one or two. So I (normally) don’t change my strings unless I have full set of the right gauge strings available to do so…

07) Do you have the right set of tools available? – Tools can be improvised, but you must careful when doing this. You don’t want to damage your guitar. In particular when changing the string on an acoustic guitar.

I prefer to use a bridge pin puller whenever pulling these little, fragile, plastic things out. But, you can always use some pliers (or even your fingers maybe) – again, just be careful… Like anything else, if there’s a tool designed for a particular function, there’s usually a reason for it and perhaps you should consider using that specific tool…

Electric guitar versus acoustic guitar strings

Sometimes it just depends upon which type of guitar you’re dealing with at the time. From my experience, electric guitar strings tend to break on me more-so than acoustic guitar strings. But there’s probably a couple of reasons for this…

One, I bend strings a lot more on an electric guitar than on an acoustic guitar. Also, I tend to finger pick more than using an actual guitar pick when I’m playing an acoustic guitar…

Taylor acoustic guitar - strings tend to break less when finger picking

Due to the overall style(s) of playing an electric guitar, “most” players will agree that their strings tend to break more frequently than acoustic guitar strings. For example, most all sets of electric guitar strings have an unwound “G” string (versus a wound G string for an acoustic set) that is a commonly “bent” string. And, of course, bending tends to be a common reason for a break…

After you change your strings

If you do decide to change out a set of strings, one of the main things you’re going to have to do is stretch them out a bit, which will eventually help them to stay in tune more consistently for the life of the strings.

This shouldn’t be an overly physical process. You’re just “flexing” them a bit so that they are properly loosened up for playing (kinda like a runner stretching for a run). After properly stinging up all six strings, give the guitar an initial tuning, then start stretching them out by gently pulling on each one… re-tuning… then repeat as necessary until the guitar stays “more-or-less” in tune…

Setting your guitar up for success

Now that you have a new set of strings on your guitar, remember to maintain it properly when you’re not playing it by doings things like:

  • keeping it stored in its case – this not only keeps it protected from unwanted things hitting it, but also (mostly) keeps it protected from environmental changes (humidity / temperature changes, etc.)
  • store an acoustic guitar with a humidifier – this is post primarily about string health; however, since I just mentioned “storage,” I feel I should add this bit for acoustics… The humidifier helps protect the wood of the guitar as well…
  • wiping the strings down after playing – this will help to keep the strings from corroding too fast by removing the oils from your fingers

In the end its a matter of personal preference

As mentioned earlier, there’s no real set time for when you need to change your guitar strings. If you like a crisper sound, then you’ll probably want to change them more often (every 60-90 days or so…). If you’re not that concerned about always having a crisp sound, then…. just “play it by ear” and change them whenever you see fit to do so…

Hope this was helpful…

Bye for now,

stephen-ruppe-signature

S. B. Ruppe

I like writing and recording music and other audio , checking out new music and recording gear, experimenting with tonal qualities, and just about anything-and-everything related to the subject of audio (music, or other wise)...

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