As a player with years of experience, or a complete beginner learning to play, 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. Except of course if it is simply a difference of being either a right or left-handed player!
Guitarists should change their strings based on the sound they make. If you prefer a brighter, open sound, replace them more frequently.
Others players 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.
4 to 6 months is on average a good point in which to change your strings. Once you do not like the sound anymore, you know it is time to replace them.
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 types and string materials, it’s a good idea to get familiar with what you are using. Just make sure to recycle the old strings as you use them to prevent unnecessary waste! This way you will know when it is time to change them, as this is different for each player.
How Often You Should Change Electric Guitar Strings
Most players typically change their electric guitar strings every 3 months or 90 days. This all depends on how much use they get during this period, of course. They will last much longer if not played, but this depends on the environment they are subject to as well.
For someone who only plays a couple of times per week and keeps the guitar clean and dry, the strings can last for 6 or more months. At some point, if a string has not snapped, the sound will begin to dull as they get old. It is normally when this happens that it is time to change them, unless you prefer this tone.
Some of the things that will help you know that the strings are old are:
- Dull sound
- Dirt or grime build up
- Frayed outer wrap
- Bent or deformed
When you begin to experience any of the points above, it is time to change your strings. Some of these things can hurt your fingers or damage the fretboard.
How Often You Should Change Acoustic Guitar Strings
There are both steel and nylon type strings that are used on acoustic guitar types. In order to know when your guitar strings need changing, we have put them into their own descriptive sections. Each type of string is different in many ways, and so they also wear differently as well.
This will help you to know what happens when your guitar strings get old.
Players who use steel strings have many intervals when it comes to changing them. Players that use Elixir brand say that they can get two times the life out of coated types. While others who do not use coated expressed an increase in life with regular 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 fails. Here is the frequency to which people restring a guitar with steel:
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 practice at home 2-3 times per week: Restring every 10-12 weeks.
- Those who play once a week can go over 6 months, maybe even as long as a year.
|Amount Of Use||Hours Used (Total)||String Change|
|Daily (Performer)||24 – 30||Weekly|
|Daily (Practice)||60 – 80||4 – 6 Weeks|
|2-3 Times Weekly||48 – 65||10 – 12 Weeks|
|Once Weekly||48 – 96||6 – 12 Months|
Nylon Guitar Strings
Players who use Nylon strings have expressed that they do not change them as often as steel. Nor do they replace the strings all at the same time.
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. The “bass” strings normally wear out much quicker than the “treble” and are changed sooner.
A large majority of players said they use the “treble” strings twice as long as the “bass”.
Here is the frequency to which most people replace them:
- Players who gig weekly including regular practicing: Two restrings per month
- Guitarists who practice at home every-day: 6-8 weeks
- Players who rehearse twice a week: 3-5 months
Those that only play their nylon strings once a week have stated that they can go 10 – 12 months before a change is needed. And again the “bass” digits are normally the reason.
|Amount Of Use||Hours Used (Total)||String Change|
|Daily (Practice)||72 – 96||6 – 8 Weeks|
|2-3 Times Weekly||80 – 100||3 – 5 Months|
|Once Weekly||72 – 105||10 – 12 Months|
How Often Professionals Change Guitar Strings
Most touring musicians will have a number of guitars available in the case a string breaks. But normally they also have a tech looking after these things. This way they can focus on the performance. But after inquiring with a few touring techs, we found out that normally a guitar will be restrung every show!
That’s right! If the instrument was used at all during the performance, it gets a new set of strings before the next.
There are a couple different reasons for this. First, they do not want to risk a string breaking during a show. The other reason is that a brighter 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 one.
How Often We Suggest You Change Guitar Strings
After doing some research into this topic, I was quite surprised by how frequently players really are changing strings. After asking how often should you change your guitar strings, players normally figure it out.
But some people who claim to replace 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.
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 it is not, you are probably better off waiting until they just don’t sound good anymore. So what do we suggest for string changes?
If you are a performer, then yes, it’s a better idea to restring your guitar more frequently. Along with proper maintenance.
For everyone else, we suggest that you replace 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! It is a good way to stay inspired!
Except for mechanical failures like when they are unable to hold their tune or at the very worst breakage, don’t sweat it.
Why Guitar Strings Need To Be Changed
If you are new to the guitar, you might find it odd that a string would need to be changed at all. 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 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 the box and look into what you might look for. Perhaps there are a few things here you may not have considered before.
If you have ever played a fresh set of strings, you know that they sound much different from a set that has been “played” or broken-in.
The sound is brighter and seems to “breathe” more. This is generally the case with all materials, 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 is that they have more of a warm sound.
This can be a more appealing sound for certain genres of music than others. For example, if you are 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 again anytime soon. The type of guitar and string is also another consideration. If you are playing metal music on an electric through a clean amp, a brighter sound might be your tone.
Whereas if you are playing a nylon string you might not like the brighter sound and prefer a “played” set.
Amount of Use
Another large factor is the amount of time you play the strings. If you play every day for a few hours a day, they will wear out faster. Most people don’t wash their hands before playing and so dirt, oil and grime transfer to them. This can also speed up the wear.
This wear is different with steel than it is for nylon. With nylon, wearing consists of possible flat spots, perhaps even tarnishing of the silver coating.
The heavier gauge strings or “bass” in a nylon set will also tend to last longer than the lighter sets.
With steel, you will generally find that grime and oil will be the main reason to change them, as the decay of sound and sustain is very apparent.
Rust is also a potential reason to change them, unless of course a string breaks before all that happens.
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 you are easier on them, 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 it is 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 them. 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 in. For steel strings, this is a bigger deal than nylon and worth considering.
If the environment is humid or damp, chances are they 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 instrument itself as well. Some environments will damage a guitar, and so it’s worth considering where the instrument as a whole is being stored.
Guitar String Materials And Wear
There are many strings available to guitar players in this day and age.
Many materials and metal types. Some with coatings and some without. Even the many string manufacturers is something to consider. Each one of them has a 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 change them 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 strings, you will get less play life from them.
Heavier sets will offer more durability and less breakage, but not everyone likes to play them. So if you are a heavy strummer but prefer lighter strings, you need to consider this when it’s time to replace them.
Otherwise, you might break more of them 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 is 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 player, 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 company introduced what they called coated steel strings. It is a polymer coating that was designed to keep oil, sweat, and dirt off. This coating does what it was designed to do, and provides a longer string life.
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! They 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 they are in their phases is also a way to decide if a change 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, begun 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.
Increasing String Life
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 big difference. And if you can extend their life, you can enjoy their sound longer. 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, which eventually dull them. This is an easy way to extend their life span.
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 you are 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 after you play. Even if it’s one cleaning a week, this can help give them 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.
This product closes around your strings and gives them a good scrub, easy and effective.
This product is similar, but also adds a lubricant to the strings and fret board. So not only does it clean, but 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 instrument is used, it can become a string eater! As you press strings against the frets, they 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 instrument might need some work if it is 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. When asking how often should you change your guitar strings, you have to know what is best. Not every set is created equal.
Some are great, while others are not, and you get what you pay for. If you have already found your brand and love them to pieces, that’s great!
If you are newer to the instrument and are not sure what is good, we have a few suggestions for you. These are the brands that have created a name for themselves because of the quality. They are also the string brands we use on our guitars and find them to be the best.
Electric Guitar Strings
- Ernie Ball Regular Slinky Nickel Wound Sets, .010 – .046
- D’addario NYXL Nickel Plated
- Elixir Electric with Polyweb Coating
Acoustic Guitar Strings
Nylon Guitar Strings
How often you should change your guitars strings comes with many questions, below you will find answers to the most commonly asked.
Should You Change All Guitar Strings At Once?
If your guitar has a bridge without a Floyd rose or springs, normally you are 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 change. 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 change them. Not impossible, 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 to 4 wraps, while treble 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 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 changes are not a terrible experience for you.
Let’s face it, the faster you can do this, the better the experience and the more guitar you will play in the end! That’s what it is all about!
Here are a few good string winders on Amazon, grab one with your new set.
Thanks for reading, we hope you were able to take a lot from this article. If you are asking How often should you change your guitar strings, this should have given you lots of resource.
But don’t stress too much over your strings, just keep your focus on playing and enjoying the instrument!
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.