As a guitar player with years of experience, or a complete beginner, the question comes up a great deal.
How often should you change your guitar strings?
And this is a very good question with many answers! Depending on your guitar or what you play, the answer can be very different.
So this article was created to educate you on the mystery of the guitar string and how to better understand them.
I mean let’s face it, this is one of the most important parts of the guitar.
The sound a guitar produces is a result of the condition and type of string it has been equipped to use.
And with so many different types of guitars and string materials, it’s a good idea to get familiar with what you are using.
This way you will know when it is time to change your strings as this is different for each player.
Guitarists should change their strings based on the sound they make. If you prefer a brighter open sound, change them more frequently like maybe once per month.
Others guitarists might prefer a sound that is rich but not bright. In this case you would want to use them until they dull past this point.
This might be more like 4 to 6 months. Once you do not like the sound anymore, you know it is time to change your guitar strings.
Why Guitar Strings Need To Be Changed
If you are new to the guitar, you might find it odd that a guitar string would need to be changed at all. Especially if its a metal guitar string right?
I mean if it doesn’t break, it should last until it does eventually break.
And yes, this is true. I have played guitars with strings on them that were years old!
But the experience was a dull one. And in some cases, if rust has developed on them this can be dangerous!
And to a guitar player, your fingers are the most important part of your body!
An injured finger could mean a few days without being able to play and that is simply not acceptable.
So let’s look into all the reasons why you might consider changing your guitar strings. Because this is different for everyone, not all of these will apply to you.
But let’s think outside of the box and look into what you might look for. Perhaps there are a few things here you may not have considered before.
Sound of Your Strings
If you have ever played a fresh set of strings, you know that they sound much different than a set of “played” or broken-in strings.
The sound is brighter and seems to “breathe” more if you will. This is generally the case with all strings from steel to nylon.
Now this factor comes down to a matter of preference. Not all players like the sound of a new guitar string set.
Some people prefer the sound of a string set that has been played for a while. The way some people describe a broken-in set of strings is that they have more of a warm sound.
This can be a more appealing sound for certain genres of music over others. For example, if your a blues or jazz player, a warmer sound is usually preferred.
In this case a new set of strings is not going to get you there. It will take a bit of time to break them in enough to lose the bright metallic sound before they warm up.
And once you get them there, you are not in a hurry to change strings again anytime soon.
The type of guitar and string is also another consideration.
If your playing metal strings on an electric guitar through a clean amp, a brighter sound might be your sound.
Where as if your playing a nylon string you might not like the brighter sound and prefer a “played” string set.
How Often You Play
Another large factor is the amount of time you play the strings. If you play every day for a few hours a day the strings will wear out faster.
Most people don’t wash their hands before playing and so dirt, oil and grime transfer to the strings. This can also speed up the wearing of the strings.
This wear is different with steel strings than it is for nylon or classical guitar strings.
With nylon strings, wearing consists of possible flat spots on the strings, perhaps even tarnishing of the silver coating.
The heavier gauge strings or “bass” strings in a nylon set will also tend to last longer than the lighter gauge strings.
With steel strings, you will generally find that grime and oil will be the main reason to restring as the decay of sound and sustain is very apparent.
Rust is also a potential reason to restring unless of course a string breaks before all that happens.
Play Style And Performance
If you play pretty aggressive, then your strings will wear out sooner. A lot of bending, hard strumming or whammy bar action will result in quicker wear.
If your easier on the strings then this isn’t something you need to consider.
What you will tend to notice with a more aggressive play style is that the strings will break or be hard to keep tuned up.
This won’t happen right away and so its important to try and keep a schedule of each string change.
This will allow you to keep track of how much time you are really getting out of your strings.
So if around 4 weeks they break or won’t tune like they use to, you know when to restring.
Another thing to consider is the environment that your guitar spends most of its time. For steel strings this is a bigger deal than nylon and worth considering.
If the environment is humid or damp, chances are the strings will rust just sitting there. This will dictate How often should you change your guitar strings.
It’s usually a good idea to verify that your environment is good for the guitar itself as well.
Some environments will damage a guitar and so it’s worth considering where the guitar as a whole is being stored.
Consider Guitar String Materials And Sizes
There are many different strings available to guitar players in this day and age.
Many different materials and metal types. Some with coatings and some without. Even the many guitar string manufacturers is something to consider.
Each one of them has a string set with a different winding and technique to which they make their strings.
Some perform better than others and some last longer than others. So here are a few things to consider when choosing your strings.
This will help in knowing when it is time to restring based on the string construction.
There are some things you need to consider when it comes to the string construction and frequency in which they need to be changed.
You see, if you are an aggressive player and use light gauge strings, you will get less string life.
Heavier gauge strings will offer more durability and less breakage but not everyone likes to play them.
So if you are a heavy strummer but prefer lighter gauge strings, you need to consider this when it’s time to restring.
Otherwise you might break more strings at inconvenient times.
For Steel strings, there are a few different materials available.
Choosing the material that best suits your sound and your environment is something to consider for string life.
Stainless steel strings are available and will help when it comes to rust issues but are brighter and snappier.
This might not be a sound you like as a guitarist but it might help with string life. Especially if your guitar is in a humid or damp environment.
Steel strings with a nickel wrap or plating are pretty common.
But they may rust sooner depending on environment and the amount of sweat they see on a regular basis.
In 1997 the Elixir string company introduced what they called coated steel strings.
Its essentially a polymer coating that was designed to keep oil, sweat and dirt off of the strings.
This coating does in fact do what it was designed to do and a longer string life is possible.
However, some players complain that there is a loss of brightness and sustain as a result of the coating.
We haven’t found that to be the case to our ears and love these strings!
The strings are excellent in both sound and longevity.
These are a great choice for any player, but even better for those who sweat a lot or live in a humid environment.
The 4 Phases Of Steel String Life
So at this point it should be clear that strings go through some phases throughout their lifespan.
Depending on where your strings are in their phases is also a way to decide if a restring is required.
Let’s look at the phases a steel string goes through as it wears out.
Phase 1: New. In this phase the strings are bright, lively and crisp. To some players, they are a bit harsh and have more top end.
Phase 2: Worn-in. In this phase the top end has dulled enough to satisfy all players. They still play like new, feel and sound great.
Phase 3: Seasoned. In this phase they have lost their new feel, began to dull even further but are not quite old. The sound has become more of a thud than anything else.
Phase 4: Old. In this phase, corrosion begins to set in, the strings are dull and your fingers potentially begin to smell after playing them.
How Often Are Others Changing Steel Guitar Strings?
Players who use steel strings have many different intervals when it comes to changing strings.
Players that use Elixir strings say that they are able to get two times the life out of coated strings.
While others who do not use coated strings but keep them clean have expressed an increase in life with proper maintenance.
There was so much data around this topic that we had to work out some averages. And we excluded those that do not change strings regularly but simply play them until one breaks.
Here is the frequency to which people restring a guitar with steel strings:
Players who gig nightly (6 days) including regular practicing: Four restrings per month.
Guitarists who play at home daily 5-6 hours: Restring every 4-6 weeks.
Players who play at home 2-3 times per week: Restring every 10-12 weeks.
Those who play Once a week will go over six months even as far as a year.
How Often Are Others Changing Nylon Guitar Strings?
Players who use Nylon strings have expressed that they do not change their nylon strings as often as steel.
Most players who play nylon have stated that they don’t care much for bright sounds. As a result they normally play them until they either wear out or break.
Most players who use Nylon strings have expressed that they don’t restring completely.
The “bass” strings normally wear out much quicker than the “treble” strings and so the “bass” strings are changed sooner.
A large majority of players said they use the “treble” strings twice as long as the “bass” strings.
Here is the frequency to which most people change their nylon strings:
Players who gig weekly including regular practicing: Two restrings per month.
Players who play everyday at home: 6 – 8 weeks.
General Consensus: 3-4 months .
Those that only play their nylon strings once a week have stated that they can go 6 – 8 months before a restring is needed. And again the “bass” strings are normally the reason.
How Often Do Professional Guitarists Change Strings?
Most touring musicians will have a number of guitars available in the case a string breaks. But normally they also have a guitar tech looking after these things.
This way they can focus on the performance.
But after inquiring with a few touring guitar techs, we found out that normally a guitar will be restrung every show!
That’s right! If the guitar was used at all during the performance, it gets a new set of strings before the next performance.
The reasoning for this is a couple of different things.
First, they do not want to risk a string breaking. This one is what you probably assumed was the only reason.
But it is not. It is the main reason for sure however.
The other reason for the change is that a brighter string sound will cut through the mix better.
Performing musicians want to provide the best possible show they can. The sound needs to be optimal so a new string is a louder brighter string.
How Often We Suggest You Change Guitar Strings
After doing some research into this topic I was quite surprised by how often players really are changing strings.
Some people who claim to change them frequently don’t really have a reason as to why they do.
It has just somehow become an obsession and they really don’t put a lot of playing time in weekly.
Now if you like the sound of a brand new set of strings and don’t mind spending the money, then I can understand.
New strings are your sound! But if its not, you are probably better off waiting until they just don’t sound good anymore.
So what do we suggest for string changes?
If your a performer, then yes it’s a better idea to restring your guitar more frequently. Along with proper guitar maintenance of course!
For everyone else, we suggest that you change your strings when you simply do not like how they sound or feel anymore. And this will happen with the frequency in which you play anyway!
With the exception of mechanical failures like not being able to hold their tune or at the very worst breakage, don’t sweat it.
String And Guitar Maintenance
Once you get your strings to the point that you like, you can extend their life with simple tasks.
Most guitar players overlook these things but they can make a huge difference.
And if you can extend their life, you can enjoy their sound longer which should be the goal!
So we suggest that you add these tasks to your guitar practice routine at the very least.
Wash Your Hands
Washing your hands before you play is a great way to keep dirt and oils from building up on the strings.
Your fingers will transfer a great deal of grime to your strings which eventually dull them. This is an easy way to extend the life of your strings.
Some players say that the oil helps their fingers glide on the strings and so they prefer not to wash them.
This may be your preference as well and that is fine. But consider that your finger calluses do most of that heavy lifting and not the oil from your fingers.
But if your set on not washing before you play then at least perform this next task.
Wipe Or Wash Your Strings After You Play
This next task is quite simple to do.
If you have ever wiped your strings down at any point you know how dirty they get. This dirt can be prevented by cleaning your strings after you play.
Even if its one cleaning a week, this can help give your strings a longer life.
At the very least you may find they get some sustain back as the dirt is removed.This can be done using a rag and just giving them a good wipe down.
There are also products on the market that make this a snap.
There are many players who swear by some of these products because of their ease of use. Plus they are effective at providing string life so they pay for themselves in no time.
Click the title for more info at Amazon!
This product closes around your strings and gives them a good scrub easy and effective.
This product is similar to the string cleaner but also adds a lubricant to the strings and fretboard.
So not only does it clean the strings but it also lubes them.
Another product we recommend is the Dunlop string conditioner.
Again you get a good cleaner and string lubricant.
Applying this to the string cleaner tool above would be a great combo for a quick cleaning.
Keep Your Guitar Maintained
And finally you will want to make sure your guitar is in optimal shape. Over time as your guitar is used, it can become a string eater!
As you press strings against the frets, the frets will begin to wear and dents develop.
This can be harder on your strings as they press against these dents in the frets.
Over time this can result in strings getting damaged and breaking prematurely.
So make sure to inspect your frets with each string change and replace frets as they wear.
The bridge can develop sharp edges as well. So if you find that your strings are breaking at the bridge quite frequently, you will want to get it fixed.
This can be easy to do on your own but a tech can also help get things sorted.
Just don’t ignore your guitar when strings break. This is normally a sign that the guitar might need some work if its breaking strings regularly.
Not only is this a pain because it means more restrings, it is also expensive.
There are many guitar string brands on the market today.
Some are great, while others are budget get what you pay for string sets. If you have already found your brand and love them to pieces, that’s great!
If your newer to the guitar and are not sure what is good or not, we have a few suggestions for you.
These are the brands that have created a name for themselves because of the quality of strings they make.
They are also the string brands we use on our guitars and find them to be some of the best.
Electric Guitar Strings
Click the link to find more information at Amazon.
How Often Should You Change Your Guitar Strings FAQ
Do Guitar Strings Have a Shelf Life?
This will depend on the packaging the strings are in. A lot of manufacturers have good packaging that is sealed.
Its also sealed so well that its hard to accidentally tear or rip during transport.
These strings will be fine until you open the sealed package. Even if the environment is humid they will be good for many years!
If on the other hand the package is not sealed well and maybe the plastic tears during shipping.
This is now at the mercy of the atmosphere they sit in. if humidity can get inside the packaging then there is a good chance they will rust.
So if you buy strings in large quantities always make sure they are sealed well.
Do Unused Guitar Strings Get Old?
This will depend on whether or not they are exposed to the atmosphere they sit in.
If they sit in their sealed packaging, they will not age. However, if they sit outside of the packaging or on an unused guitar, they will age.
Either the humidity in the atmosphere will begin to corrode them, or they will oxidize. The rate in which they age depends on the environment.
Should You Change All Guitar Strings At Once?
If your guitar has a bridge without a floyd rose or springs, normally your good to just change them all at once.
This will give you the opportunity to clean your guitar.
The fret board could use a good cleaning and no better time to do it than during a restring.
You do not need to worry about the neck or tension causing any issues or damage.
The new strings will need a period to stretch anyway and so the neck will re adjust during this time.
The only exception might be the night before a show, then you may want to do one string at a time.
If you have a Floyd Rose set up or springs in your bridge design, one at a time might be easier.
The springs will pull the bridge right back if you take all the strings off which could make it harder to restring. Not impossible of course but more work than necessary.
Is It Hard To Change Guitar Strings?
Changing strings is not hard. But like anything in life, it does take practice.
If it is your first time, I might suggest that you do one at a time.
This will make it less overwhelming and will prevent too much movement in other parts.
Take one off, put a new one on and tune it up. The one thing you will want to keep in mind is that the wrap around your tuners is the most important part.
Bass strings will need roughly 3 – 4 wraps, while treble strings will need 6.
Keep the wraps even and make sure they don’t cross over one another.
Then tune it up. You will find that it will be hard to keep tune at first.
The string will need to stretch and usually needs some time to do so.
Can You Change Guitar Strings Without A String Winder?
Absolutely! But it also depends on how hard you want to make this process.
Tools have been created to make the job easier. And I would suggest you invest in a string winder so that restrings are not a terrible experience for you.
Lets face it, the faster you can do this, the better the experience and the more guitar you will play in the end! Thats what its all about!
Here are a few good string winders on Amazon, grab one with your new string set.
Thanks for reading, we hope you were able to take a lot from this article. If your new to guitar just keep at it, use this article to continue to learn.
But don’t stress too much over your strings, just keep your focus on playing and enjoying the guitar!
If you know of other players who could benefit from this article, be sure to share it with them! Links are below for the most used social platforms.