Be honest with yourself – how long has it been since you’ve last changed your guitar strings?
The longer you’ve been playing, the easier it is to intuitively know when the right time is to swap them out for a new set. However, most non-professional guitarists are probably changing them a lot less frequently than they should be.
The truth is, there are a lot of benefits to changing them at the appropriate time.
But how frequently should you change your guitar strings? It depends on a number of factors. In this article, we’ll go over what each of these factors are, so you can determine for yourself what the right timeframe is for you.
Why Should You Change Your Guitar Strings?
Before discussing how frequently you should change your guitar strings, let’s first look over why it’s important.
Because truthfully, there are no rules. You don’t have to change your guitar strings. Old strings on their own will not damage your guitar in any way, and therefore many people who are unbothered by them will stick with old strings until one breaks.
However, guitarists that play regularly likely will want to change their strings due to the benefits that new strings can provide.
Some of these include…
1. A Smoother, More Comfortable Feel
Over time, dirt, grime, and sweat build up on the strings. They also start to corrode and may begin to oxidize and rust. This causes them to feel rough and gritty, and generally less comfortable to play.
New strings are smooth and feel nice. You can slide your fingers over them more quickly and easily, and the whole experience just feels nicer.
2. A Richer, Brighter Tone
When you replace your old guitar strings, you’ll immediately notice that the tone changes as well. It could be described as ‘brighter’, ‘sharper’, and richer. This isn’t to say you couldn’t add some of that brightness back with settings on your amp, but throwing new strings on your guitar is one of the quickest ways to immediately improve its tone.
This is also why many people prefer to replace entire sets of strings when one breaks, rather than just that one string – it maintains a consistent tone across all of the strings.
If you don’t mind the difference in tone, than this one may not matter as much. However, studio musicians or guitarists recording an album may wish to change their strings several times a week for consistency’s sake.
3. New Strings Stay In Tune Better
I wouldn’t say this difference is significant, but newer strings stay in tune a little bit better than older strings.
I personally have a habit of excessively tuning anyway, so I don’t notice this one as much. Still, it is a minor benefit that new strings provide.
4. They’re Less Likely To Break
This one is particularly important for performers.
After putting on a new set of strings, you can have much more confidence that they’re not going to break anytime soon.
For the gigging musician, this confidence is important as you certainly don’t want any strings breaking during a show.
The natural damage to strings as time goes on increases the likelihood that they’ll break. Regularly changing your strings – especially if you play frequently, prevents this from happening at an inconvenient time.
How Often Should You Change Your Guitar Strings?
Keeping the above in mind, you’ll start to get a feel of when you could benefit from changing your guitar strings.
However, there are also a few general guidelines to keep in mind that can help you pinpoint some estimates.
1. Length Of Time
As a general rule of thumb, you may consider following these rules:
- Occasional / casual guitar players may wish to change their strings every 1 to 3 months, or every 100 hours of playing.
- Daily guitar players / enthusiasts often change guitar strings every 1-2 weeks.
- Professional players may change strings daily, and before each gig.
These are only rough guidelines to go off of, and there are no hard rules. Again, if it’s not bothering you, you are free to change them as frequently or infrequently as you like.
2. The Grime Test
When grime starts building up on the strings, this is a clear indication it’s probably time to change them.
One way to tell is to run your finger underneath one of the non-wound strings – such as the G, B or high E. If a large amount of dark gunk builds up underneath your fingers, you should probably change them.
Likewise, if there is visible rust on the strings, this is also a clear signal that you should put new ones on.
3. When One String Breaks
If a string on your guitar breaks, you have two options.
If you’ve recently put on a new set of strings and you just got unlucky, you can get away with only replacing that single string that broke.
Otherwise, you’ll probably want to replace the entire set, so there is consistency across all of the strings.
Some people wait until one string breaks before deciding to replace them all, which is fine.
How To Make Your Guitar Strings Last Longer
I commonly hear people talk about how much they loathe restringing their guitars, and I can’t say I blame them. Although the satisfaction of new strings is usually worth it, the process does take a lot of time and can be tedious.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do in order to help your guitar strings stay in ideal condition for as long as possible.
1. Wipe Them Down Before And After Playing
This one alone only takes a few seconds, but can dramatically increase the lifespan of your guitar strings.
Gently wipe down the strings with a microfiber cloth (suggestion below) and you’ll keep them in pristine condition much longer.
2. Use A String Cleaner
If you want to take things a step further, you can also use a string cleaner to really keep them clean, and prevent corrosion. We recommend GHS Fast Fret – it lasts for ages and you can keep it in your guitar case.
If you choose to get a different cleaner, make sure that you get a product that does not contain silicone as you do not want silicone anywhere near your fretboard.
3. Play With Clean Hands
This one is kind of obvious when you think about it, but it’s easy to forget.
Try to make sure your hands aren’t dirty or grimy before you start playing. When possible, avoid eating messy food in between songs.
If you do, at least try to wipe the strings down afterwards.
4. Consider Coated Strings
Coated strings are strings with thin layer of polymer on top of them, helping to protect them against corrosion.
They tend to last longer than uncoated strings, but many guitarists do not prefer them as they feel the tone is less desirable. They also do not tend to resonate quite as well.
Still, this is certainly an option available to you.
This option may be particularly attractive for guitars that don’t get played very frequently. For example, you may wish to use uncoated strings on your primary guitar, but coated strings on guitars you only pick up every so often.
Ultimately, how frequently you wish to change your guitar strings comes down to personal preference.
While there are no set rules for doing so and you won’t cause damage to your guitar by leaving old strings on, the benefits that new strings provide are worth it for many guitarists.
I hope that you’ve found this article helpful. If there are any questions we can answer for you, please feel free to ask them via the comment form below.