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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.
Though there is a somewhat objective answer, this can vary wildly:
After every 100 hours of playing your guitar, you should change the strings because they are getting used and worn. Another rule of thumb is every 3 months because even while they’re not in use, they will wear with the elements and the moisture you left on it from your fingers when you played it last.
Why You Need to Change Guitar 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.
If you are someone who rarely ever plays their guitar, picking it up at most for 15 minutes a week or so, then you may as well only change your strings once a year or so.
Sure, the elements will have a say in the negotiation of how long a set of strings should stay on a guitar and how often they should be changed, but the principal effect will be the contribution of the dead and dry skin on our fingertips and the way that they meet the fingerboard.
Thus, if someone is rarely ever picking up their guitar and keeping it in a relatively safe ambient environment, then to change strings for new strings seems wholly useless, especially the act of doing so on a relatively regular basis (doubly so if the strings being used are coated strings which are more impervious to the elements and sticky fingers in tow).
If you are a guitarist who plays accumulatively for a few hours per week, one that dabbles in the instrument so to speak, then you would do best changing guitar strings every 6 – 8 months.
So much can happen in this span of time, so it really is not that regular an amount of time. This category will especially apply to those who, though they might play an accumulative amount of a few hours per week, will not be incredibly consistent with it.
This means that, though there is that accumulative amount, they might be more inclined to play more one day than another, leading to an imbalanced practicing schedule that can mess with the need to change strings regularly.
This category will especially apply to the dabbler and learner who is not yet playing in a professional environment – such as, say, a concert stage, beneath the hot floodlights – where one is inclined to sweat a whole lot, the kind of environmental interference that can gravely affect the life of a set of electric guitar strings, for example.
In these contexts, the same strings might not last from one night to the next.
Ahead of the dabbler is the so-called hobbyist, one who plays for anywhere between 3 – 12 hours a week and who, thus, ought to change their guitar strings every 3- 5 months.
I believe the increase in the frequency of changing out dirty strings is relative to the increase of playing guitar that this category ultimately fulfills.
This is an important thing to remember, for the number of times changing strings becomes necessary and the frequency in which it needs to happen for are always relative to the amount you play and the kind of environments that you play in regularly.
This category represents a fairly serious musician who is taking their practice and musicianship earnestly, practicing as they do almost every day of the week for at least 30 minutes at a time.
This is at the point where a guitarist is free to practice for longer periods of time thanks to the callouses that they will have developed along the way (worth checking whether fingers hurt from guitar regularly). Thus, the aspiring shredder might play for 30 minutes, though they might, if feeling particularly inspired, play for up to 2 hours at a time.
The Aspiring Pro
Following on from this, each hobbyist who sticks to their craft long enough is bound to become an aspiring pro, the kind of guitarist that plays for 12 – 25 hours per week and who, thus, will need to change their strings every month or two, though this can change if the strings age particularly fast or if a string breaks.
Players in this category will be playing every day of the week, excusing a day or two here and there, and all for a couple of hours a time at least.
This will, therefore, be the reserve of those taking their craft particularly seriously and who have the time to do so – i.e. students of the guitar or those doing gigs regularly enough to warrant so frequent a practice.
I did, however, have a housemate recently who was neither of these things but who simply loved guitar enough to play at least this much every day, if not more.
He would constantly be picking and plucking, whether in his room or in our shared living spaces chatting with us simultaneously, even going so far as to watch TV or watch a film with us while playing guitar.
So, finally, we reach the domain of the professional guitarist, where each previous step might have led had those in it taken their craft as seriously as these guys.
Playing guitar for a living essentially, the professional guitarist will likely be playing upwards of 25 hours of guitar per week, so they will therefore need to change their strings around once every week or two (even once a day if they are playing particularly vigorous styles of music).
This might seem a little extensive, but a guitarist in this category will probably have changed their strings so many times already that they do not really even remember how many times they have done, even forgetting each experience of restringing as soon as it has happened.
The professional will be using their guitar(s) every single day, rehearsing or practicing each day and at practically any given moment. Thus, it is no surprise why those dirty strings need to be changed regularly!
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.
FAQs How Often Should I Change My Guitar Strings
This will very much depend on what sort of level you are at with guitar and how often you are playing. This can range from anywhere between changing one’s guitar strings once a year to even once a week or once a day depending on how hard one plays and how vigorous the styles of music that one plays are. The guitarist who plays infrequently will be on the former side for they will be exercising the strings less, whereas the professional will be on the latter, stressing the strings with their frequent usage.
Playing guitar for a living essentially, the professional guitarist will likely be playing upwards of 25 hours of guitar per week, so they will therefore need to change their strings around once every week or two (even once a day if they are playing particularly vigorous styles of music). This might seem a little extensive, but a guitarist in this category will probably have changed their strings so many times already that they do not really even remember how many times they have done, even forgetting each experience of restringing as soon as it has happened.
There is no metric for assessing these things, so my best advice would be to use your own years to suss it out for yourself. You will get a feeling for when a set of strings is so dead that it is no longer of use to you. And, even if the strings are objectively dead, they might not seem so to you; in this case, you can keep using the strings, for they fit your own ears’ conception of what sounds good (or sounds bad) and just.
This will very much depend on what sort of level you are at with guitar and how often you are playing. This can range from anywhere between changing one’s guitar strings once a year to even once a week or once a day depending on how hard one plays and how vigorous the styles of music that one plays are. The guitarist who plays infrequently will be on the former side for they will be exercising the strings less, whereas the professional will be on the latter, stressing the strings with their frequent usage.1324