Many guitar players overlook the importance of consistently restringing their guitars. When I first started playing guitar, I struggled to recognize the signs that it was time to change my guitar strings. My guitar would sound dull and flat when I played because I would leave my Ernie Ball Slinky’s on for over six months!
There is nothing better than strumming a guitar with fresh strings. New strings bring out your guitar’s full potential. Unfortunately, even high-quality guitar strings will eventually wear out, break, and need replacing. This is why it is essential to know how often you should change your strings to keep your instrument sounding at its best.
In this article, I will discuss how often you should change your guitar strings and highlight some signs to look out for.
How often to change your guitar strings?
The general rule is to change your guitar strings every 100 hours of playtime. If you are practicing every day for hours, your strings may only last you two weeks, but more casual guitar players can keep their strings on for months.
In an ideal world, a pro musician practicing every day, spending time in the studio, and playing live shows will change their strings once a week. If you are living and breathing music, you want your guitar to feel and sound as good as possible, so new strings are imperative. Casual guitarists picking up the guitar a couple of times a week will be able to keep the same strings for much longer.
The main contributing factor to how often you should be changing your strings is playtime, but other things can affect the lifespan of your guitar strings. Here are some factors that can make your strings last deteriorate faster.
Believe it or not, sweaty people will likely have to change their strings more often. Sweat is highly corrosive to the metal guitar strings. So, when you sweat and touch your strings, the deterioration of the strings is sped up.
Your strings are going to wear out much faster if you are turning the amp up to eleven and playing heavy metal. Heavy strumming and shredding will wear down the electricity of the strings and cause them to break. This is why rock guitarists always bring backup guitars!
High humidity is a nightmare for guitars. Not only does it cause the strings to deteriorate and rust, but humidity also causes the neck to warp. You’ll likely be spending much more on strings if you live in a humid environment.
Rough edges on frets, nut, or bridge
If your strings are breaking much more frequently than usual, you may have sharp edges on the frets, nut, or bridge that are wearing down the strings. To fix this issue, lightly sand the area of the guitar with rough edges to get rid of the abrasive edges.
The string type also plays a big factor in how often they need to be replaced. Nylon strings have less tension and higher action than acoustic guitars, so they tend to last longer. Steel-string acoustic guitars have a much higher tension, so the strings snap more often. Electric guitars have lower action, which means the strings will rub against the frets and wear out faster.
How to tell it’s time to change your guitar strings
It is essential to know when to change your guitar strings. Here are some ways to know that your strings are done for.
If your guitar strings have become darker in color and rusty in some areas, it is likely time to change them. Normal guitar strings are silver in appearance and over time they begin to become brown, black, and copper colored.
Rough or stiff feeling
Old guitar strings will have a sandpaper feel. Old strings will also be harder to bend and slide as the strings have lost much of their elasticity.
New strings have a bright, punchy sound. When the tone of the guitar strings becomes dull and emotionless, you will need to change them.
Hard to tune
A guitar that isn’t staying in tune is an indication that its time to change the strings. Old guitar strings will have a hard time staying in tune. The strings are worn out and will slip on the tuning pegs. Very old strings will even struggle to stay in tune for the duration of a single song.
How to make your guitar strings last longer
Although you won’t be able to make your guitar strings last forever, there are a few things you can do to make them last longer.
Use a higher string gauge
If you are playing heavier music such as heavy metal or punk rock, you may consider using a heavier string gauge. Using a heavier string gauge will not only sound better for this playing style, but these strings will generally last longer than lighter gauge strings. The higher the number, the higher the string gauge.
Use coated strings
Coated strings have a thin layer of polymer that acts as a protective coating. This prevents the string from rusting and deteriorating as quickly. If you sweat a lot or live in a particularly humid region, I would definitely recommend investing in coated strings.
Wipe down strings after playing
When you touch the strings, the oil and sweat from your hands get on the strings. Regularly cleaning and wiping down your guitar strings and fretboard after playing will prevent them from going bad as fast.
Knowing when to change your strings is an important part of being a guitar player that cannot be avoided. To optimize your guitar’s sound and overall experience playing the guitar, you should change the strings every month on average. Just imagine the sweet feel of fresh crispy strings, and you’ll know that the maintenance is worth it!