Change the strings of your guitar. It’s something every guitar player should do, but people often disagree on when and how often it should be done.
When to change the strings on your guitar is a question we are often asked, and once there is really no answer. Some people change their guitar strings more often than others, and personal preferences certainly come into play.
If you’ve been wondering how often to change guitar strings, hopefully, I can give you a good answer here.
Surprisingly, not everyone agrees on a “correct answer” so let me start by providing some background on why guitarists disagree with this.
There are many factors that affect when you should change the strings of your guitar, so we created this useful guide for you so that you can make the best decision for you and your acoustic or electric guitar.
Here are the top 5 things to consider when trying to decide how often should you change your guitar strings.
Table of Contents
How Often to Change Guitar Strings
Most guitarists should plan to change the strings once every 3 months or 100 hours of practice, whichever comes first.
If you’re late for a while, it doesn’t matter. Your chains can last twice as long or longer. They will continue to be used and you can continue to use them, as long as they are not broken. This is just a “rule of thumb”.
Other guitarists prefer the worn sound of a well-used string set. For those guitarists, it’s perfectly fine to use the same set of strings for six months or more.
You should change your strings as soon as you don’t like how they sound or how they feel.
Like the shiny, metallic sound of a new string set? So you should change your strings frequently. As soon as you notice the shade starting to turn off, changing them will bring that bright, shiny shade back to you.
When I play rock, metal, or similar styles, I like the sound of a new set of strings. The new strings have a sharpness that enhances the distorted tone that I intend when I play those styles of music.
Do you like the smooth, worn sound of a well-played string set? So there is no problem to keep the strings on the guitar for longer.
When I play blues, I prefer the sound of a worn string set. A new set of strings (even guys who claim to be soft) sound cold and sterile to me when I play the blues.
A worn set of strings gives me a warmer, vintage blues sound. So while this goes against typical advice, I don’t replace the strings on my blues guitar very often.
Why You Might Want to Change Your Strings
While the biggest issue with the strings is the way the pitch changes over time, there are other reasons why you might want to change the strings.
Older guitar strings are more likely to break than newer strings.
Each time you press a string with your finger, the string rubs against the fret. Over time, this creates dents in the strings. On an old set of strings, if you remove the string you will see marks where the frets have been wearing down the strings.
If you find that you keep breaking strings, it may be a problem with your guitar or it may be because the strings are aging.
A new set of strings feels slippery because they are completely clean. They feel effortless to slide your fingers in and you may find it easier to lick and bend.
Over time, the strings begin to degrade and can start to feel different.
As explained below, dirt build-up and oxidation begin to change the way the strings feel. They may even begin to feel a grip against your fingers.
If you’ve ever bought a second-hand guitar from a pawn shop and disliked how the strings felt, that’s what happens with old strings. If your strings start to feel different when you play, it’s a sign that it’s time to change them.
If you use coated strings, you may start to notice that the layer starts to peel off after a while. When the coating on the strings begins to disintegrate, it is a good time to change them as you will quickly lose the benefits that the coating provides.
Over time, the windings can start to loosen and cause tuning and stability problems.
Old acoustic guitar strings can suffer from winding problems when they begin to loosen against the core of the string. If you notice that a string is having trouble staying in tune or if you see some gaps in a string’s windings, it is a sign that you need to change them.
If you play an acoustic guitar with nylon strings, you will most likely notice that the coils start to loosen over time.
Why Guitar Strings Degrade Over Time
It doesn’t take long for a new set of guitar strings to start to degrade. This happens because of the oils and dirt on the fingertips. The more you play, the more dirt and grime will accumulate on the edges of the strings.
The oils from your fingers also affect the strings. You may start to notice strings discoloration in the areas you play frequently.
For example, if you play a lot of chords, you will see that the discoloration starts at the first three frets of your guitar strings.
If you are just beginning to learn the position of the first frame of the pentatonic in A minor, you will start to see discoloration around the fifth and seventh frets.
Why Some Guitarists Replace Strings Too Often
If you are a performance or recording guitarist, it might make sense to change your strings after each concert or recording session.
In those situations, you want to get the best tone for your recordings or minimize the chances of breaking a string during a concert.
But for everyone else, does it make sense to change the strings every week or a few times a month?
The more often you change your strings, the more money guitar string manufacturers make. So while they can really try to make strings that last a long time, they are very happy to hear that many guitarists change their strings on a weekly or monthly basis.
Can I change just one guitar strings?
If you break one string, it hardly makes sense to replace all the strings. If you regularly break one string, replacing all the strings can quickly become expensive.
The only downside to changing just one string is that you may notice a big difference in pitch between the new string and the other strings.
If the other strings are quite old, they will sound very dull compared to the bright sound of the new string.
How to Change Your Guitar Strings Properly
How to Help Your Strings Last Longer
There are two things you can do to make your strings last longer naturally:
- Wash your hands before playing
- Clean your strings every time you finish playing
Washing your hands before playing may not always be feasible, but if you’re like me and you play guitar at home 99% of the time, definitely wash your hands before playing.
When you’re done playing, wipe the guitar strings quickly with a clean, soft cloth. The use of a string cleaner or a little mineral oil is optional.
Clean your guitar strings after playing
Simply wiping your guitar strings with a cloth after each playing session can extend the life of your strings. Cleaning the strings removes a lot of dirt, oil, or sweat that would otherwise begin to build upon the strings and affect their tone.
Keep a simple microfiber cloth nearby and clean your strings after playing.
Wash your hands before playing
For many guitarists, this is an exaggeration, but if you really want to get the most out of your strings, it doesn’t hurt to wash your hands before playing. Washing your hands with soap and water removes oils that would otherwise go directly to the strings.
Use a string cleaner
There are some products designed to keep your guitar strings clean. Products like Fast Fret or Dunlop String Cleaner (link to Amazon) create a layer of oil on the strings to help protect against corrosion.
|Ghs Guitar Cleaning And Care Product (A87-2 PACK)||277 Reviews||Buy on Amazon|
|Dunlop 6582 Ultraglide 65 String Conditioner||774 Reviews||Buy on Amazon|
Personally, I am not very convinced of the efficacy of these products in prolonging the life of the strings, but some guitarists trust them.
Learn more about all of this in my guide on how to clean guitar strings here. Includes more tips on proper cleaning of guitar strings with or without products.
By now this guide will have given you a solid understanding of how often should you change your guitar strings and the steps you can take to maintain and keep them in good condition.
If you were to ask 10 different guitarists when you should change their strings, you will most likely get 10 relatively different answers.
However, the fact is that you will be able to know when you need to change your strings as you gain more experience with the guitar.