Changing strings is like changing the oil in your car. You need to do it to maintain your vehicle … or in this case, your guitar. Personally, I’m terrible with changing my guitar strings regularly. So, why should we be diligent with changing our guitar strings?
Why you should change your strings regularly?
My top reason would have to be the sound. When strings get old, they simply don’t sound good. They don’t stay in tune and they lose their intonation. Strings also break over time, and its quite embarrassing to be playing in front of friends or church and have your strings break. Also, finger sludge on your guitar strings just isn’t cool.
How often should I change my strings?
The real answer to this is “it depends”. It depends on a number of factors such as the type of strings you use, how much do you play, how hard do you play, how sweaty or oily your hands are while playing, etc.
When should I change my guitar strings?
There are a number of signs to look and listen for.
- deadened tone
- decreased sustain
- intonation is effected making chords sound out of tune
- noticeable dirt and grime on strings
- noticeable wear on strings at fret locations
- string(s) breaking
What kind of strings should I use?
Type of strings depends a few things. The type of guitar you have, the sound you like and the way it feels. First and foremost, you should use strings designed for your type of guitar. If you have an electric, you should use strings designed for electric guitar. If you have an acoustic, likewise.
Strings have various materials used in their construction and manufacturers also use different techniques which effect sound, strength and tone. Classical guitars use nylon strings for the E-B-G strings. Acoustic strings can be made of bronze and brass with additions of zinc, copper or tin. The ratio of materials effect the tone. Electric strings are made of stainless steel, nickel plated or pure nickel due to the magnetic response of the pickups. Then there’s a whole slew of manufacturers using various coatings on the strings to prolong life and tone (ie: Elixir nanweb and polyweb strings)
How do you decide which to use? It really comes down to your preference. It would be great if the stores had your exact guitar strung up with different types of strings, but that isn’t likely. So trial and error may be the only way to find out. Whenever you change strings choose a different brand or style and make note of the sets you like the best.
Does string gauge matter?
Absolutely! String gauge is simply the measurement of string thickness. Thicker strings produce more sound due to their mass which is why many players depend on thicker guage strings for better tone. Tone is great, but if thicker strings make it harder for you to do bends or cleanly fret your chords, it may not be a good move. Also, changing your string gauge will effect your guitar’s setup (intonation, neck bow, etc). If you change string gauges, it would be wise to get your guitar set-up again.
OK, I’ve changed my strings, now what?
This is the easy part … play … and play some more.
Guides to Changing Strings:
- Taylor Guitars Guide to Changing Strings (.PDF)
- Elixir – Change Strings video
- Youtube video – Acoustic guitar
- Youtube video – Electric guitar
- Changing classical guitar strings
What are your favorite strings and
How often do you change your guitar strings?