“When do I need to change my guitar strings?” While this question comes up a lot, there’s no clear-cut answer that will suit every guitarist. Many famous guitarists actually change their strings completely after every gig, but for most … less-famous guitarists, this might be a bit much. So, how regularly should you be changing your strings? Every month? Every year? Only when one of them breaks? This blog will try to explain the little hints your strings will give you when it’s time to change them. While we’re focusing on steel-string acoustic or classical guitar strings, pretty much every one of the following tips can be applied to an electric guitar as well.

When Do I Need to Change My Guitar Strings?

Factory Strings: They’ve Seen a Lot of Action

When you get hold of a brand-new, factory-fresh guitar, it’s a good idea to change the strings immediately. Factory-installed strings are usually only intended to demonstrate the sound of the guitar, and since they’ve already made the long journey from the manufacturer, maybe to a warehouse, and then onto a shop floor where they might have been played by every man, woman, child, and their dog, they’ve already seen a lot of action along the way. If you immediately replace the strings of your new guitar, the sound and feel will freshen up straight away, and you’ll be more inspired to keep picking it up. New strings sound brighter and clearer, and feel smoother beneath the fingertips. They also stay in tune for longer (once they’ve been stretched a little) and are easier to intonate. Especially in the case of a second-hand guitar, or a B-stock or ex-demo guitar, those weary strings have seen a lot of hands, so swapping them out is probably the first thing you want to do. Removing the strings to install a fresh pack also presents the opportunity to set your new guitar up the way you want it.

Feeling it Out: The Sound and Feel of Your Strings

It’s a good idea to figure out when a set of strings is getting too old for you. So …

  • Does the string coating still feel nice and smooth?
  • Is the sound of your guitar (whether amplified or acoustic) still clear?
  • Is it still easy to tune up the strings every time you play and are they staying in tune?

If any of the answers to these questions is no, then it’s time to change your strings. The sensible thing to do is to change all the strings in one go. Even if only one of the strings breaks after a few weeks, it’s best to change them all since, if you just replace one string, it’ll sound much brighter and clearer than the others, giving you a weird, unbalanced sound. So, always keep a spare pack in your gig bag or case, along with a tuner, string winder, and a set of pliers so that you always have a little rescue kit at the ready and can change your strings in little time, wherever you are.

Prevention is Always Easier Than the Cure

  • Strings can usually take quite a lot of abuse, even when you play a lot or for long periods. If you’re a more heavy-handed player, or you find that strings are breaking regularly, or notes sound a touch higher even though you’re not bending the string, then a thicker string thickness, or ‘gauge’, might be better for you. For example: if you’re playing a pack of .009s, change up to a set of .010s. If you’re already playing a set of .010s, then step up to a set of .011s (here, the ‘.009, .010, and .011’ refers to the thinnest E-string in the pack and is often used to describe the overall gauge of a pack of strings). It’s also wise to adjust the guitar slightly if you do install strings with a higher or lower gauge than the factory strings or the strings you’ve been using.
  • If your hands tend to sweat a lot while you’re playing, then it’s a good idea to wipe the strings down with a non-fluffy dry cloth and use a microfibre cloth to polish up the body of your guitar to remove any visible fingerprints. It’s not a bad idea to do this every time you play, since it’ll prolong the lifespan of your strings.

When Do I Need to Change My Guitar Strings?

When the Going Gets Tough

  • If your sweat is a little more ‘aggressive’ than average, then it’s wise to get yourself some specialised string cleaning fluid and wipe them down with this after you play (and you might as well clean the back of the neck and the body with a compatible polish while you’re at it).
  • Don’t forget to clean your sweat and any finger marks from any hardware of your guitar as well. Any sweat on the metal parts can lead to rust which will also reduce the lifespan of your strings.
  • When the strings have been removed, you can check over the condition of the fretboard and frets. By keeping them in good condition, both your strings and your guitar will last longer.
  • If you want your strings to last even longer, then you might want to invest in a pack of strings with a special coating. These coatings are designed to protect the string and prolong its lifespan, and a good example of strings like this are coated strings made by Elixir and D’Addario.

By following the simple tips laid out above, you can make your strings last a little longer. This not only feels better when you’re playing but it’s actually better for your guitar and way easier on your wallet.

How To Change Guitar Strings and Which Strings Do You Need?

Find the right blog for your guitar:

How often do you change your guitar strings and why? Let us know in the comments below …

See Also …

» Set Up Your Electric Guitar
» How To Tune Your Guitar
» How Do I Become a Guitarist?

» Electric Guitar Strings
» Classical Guitar Strings
» Steel-String Acoustic Guitar Strings
» String Winders
» Guitar Maintenance Kits and Tools

4 responses
  1. Arch says:

    Elixir and D’Addario are 2 separate brands!

  2. Baxter Dunsworth says:

    I have never heard of you before. I often wondered what my name would look like as the logo for a business. Out here in New Mexico, there aren’t many people places or things called Bax. Damn few chances around the world too. I am an accomplished musician. I can play almost sixty different instruments. I love my guitars. Give me a couple of weeks and I can play almost anything. I love music in general even if I don’t love every genre. How cool to stumble across my own name, even if it has older origins than my own.

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