I often asked myself the question – how often should I change my guitar strings?
So I thought this would be a great topic for a post on SixStringAcoustic.com.
Why You Need to Change your Strings
Strings on an acoustic are made of steel – and as much as you treat them well they will eventually rust and deteriorate.
Dirt, oil and sweat from your fingers plus moisture in the air (particularly in more humid environments) will all contribute the deterioration of your strings.
Deteriorating strings will:
- Have a deadened sounding tone
- Be at greater risk of breaking (not something you want, well ever really, but particularly not if you are in the middle of a performance or recording)
- May not stay in tune properly or for long. Of course this could also be due to a host of other things (such as poor or warn tuners, incorrectly cut or deteriorating nut (if it’s plastic) or a warped neck to name a few) but trying the strings first if they’re old is the best first thing to try.
How Often Should you Change Your Strings?
Like with most things the answer is depends. There is certainly no hard and fast rule – it will differ from person to person.
However, it is usually a good idea to not just wait to change them when one breaks – and changing your strings all at once is a good idea too to keep a consistent tone (unless you have broken a string shortly after a change).
How often you change them will depend on a number of factors including:
- The type of strings you use
- Tone preferences
- How often you play
- The environment you play in
- Your style of play
The Type of Strings You Use
There are a gazillion different types of strings out there these days – from different manufacturers, using different materials and with different construction techniques.
For example some strings are coated with a protective layer that resists sweat and oils from your fingers which means they decay slower and keep their tone for longer.
Different materials will have different life-spans too.
Also (if you like the sound) construction techniques that create semi-flat tops for example tend to last longer.
For more information on different types of strings with regards to materials used, construction techniques and gauges check out the posts below.
This is completely down to personal preference.
Some people love the sound of fresh strings and if this is you then changing your strings more often will help you enjoy your playing more and better produce the sound you are looking to create.
On the other hand some people prefer the sound of “played in” strings. If this is you then you can probably leave your strings on for longer.
How Often you Play
Naturally, the more you play the more often you will need to change your strings. The more you play the more strain that is put on the strings, and more dirt, sweat and grime will be being applied to the strings.
This will be speed up decay, loss of tone and rusting of the strings.
Tip: To help your strings last longer it’s a good idea to wash your hands before you play – this will also help to keep the fretboard clean.
Even if you don’t play that often this is a good idea but it’s an even better idea if you play a lot.
The Environment you Play In
If you live in a house that is damp or in an environment that is naturally humid then this can contribute to the life of your guitar strings.
If you are in a damp or humid environment you will need to change your strings more often as they will be more prone to rust and decay quicker.
Even if you don’t play that often your strings will deteriorate reasonably rapidly in these environments.
Tip: If you are subject to humid or damp conditions try to store your guitar in the driest room of your house. The extra moisture in the air will not only contribute to faster string decay, it is also bad for your guitar in a lot of other ways.
It can lead to warping of the wood on your guitar or even to mould growing on your guitar!
I had this happen once on a guitar that I had left in its case in a damp room and hadn’t played in a couple of months. The fretboard was covered in mould! I managed to clean it off and conditioned the fretboard with lemon oil but you could still see the stains left on the fretboard from it – not cool!
Your Style of Play
If you do a lot of bending and/or hard strumming etc then your strings will wear out quicker than someone who has a less aggressive style.
If you play aggressively and notice your strings deteriorating quickly, breaking regularly or going out of tune quickly then you may need to start changing your strings more regularly.
Tip: It’s a good idea to take note of when you last changed your strings. Then choose a date when you think is best to change them again (which will of course depend on all the things in this post) maybe it’s 4 weeks, maybe 6 maybe 2 months.
Then make a call as to whether that seemed like a good time, was too late, or was too early. Experiment and take note of when the best time is for you. Now you can change your strings consistently and don’t have to wait until something forces you to change.
Thanks for reading
I hope this post has helped you to determine how often you should change your guitar strings.
If you aren’t sure about how to change your strings, or could do with a refresher, check out the link below.
How often do you change yours? Do you have a set time or do you play it by ear (pun intended!)?
It’d be awesome to hear from you in the comments section below about how often you change and any other opinions or ideas for how often you should change and/or how to prolong the life of your strings.
All other questions or comments very welcome too.