How to know when to change your guitar strings

Glenn Sutton teaches guitar, electric bass, keyboard, theory and improvisation for over 30 years, he specializes in rock, blues, jazz, Latin, Brazilian, classical, country, and folk.

About Glenn Sutton

As a professional guitar teacher with 25 years of experience (see guitarlessonspoway.com), people sometimes ask me whether they should learn guitar tablature or standard music notation. This article and video explain each form of notation and I also give some guidelines as to which notation guitar students should learn. I have included the video I recorded at the end of this article.

How to know when to change your guitar strings

nylon classical guitar strings

Classical guitar strings

Even though the strings are arguably the most important part of a guitar (just try playing a tune on a guitar with bad strings), few guitarists pay close attention to them. In fact, many wait far too long to replace their guitar strings and suffer both playability and tone issues because of it.

While it is advised to change your strings every few weeks, this is a rule for those that play quite regularly and often – and who have the resources to buy that many sets of strings. For the rest of us, we must rely on our senses to determine if it is time to dispose of our worn guitar strings. By carefully listening to the tone of your guitar, paying attention to the general feel of how it plays, and looking for the signs of string wear, you will stay ahead of the game and know just when to replace your guitar strings.

Listen

If your guitar begins to sound less than pleasant, it may be the strings. Old strings create a muted, dull sound. You will definitely be able to tell the difference when you compare that sound to your guitar with a set of new strings. Suddenly your guitar’s tone will sound brighter.

Feel

When strings start to wear, they may feel tacky or even seem slower to react to your touch. This is a difficult sensation to describe, but you will know it when you feel it. Before you decide if you need to replace the strings, try running a dry, soft rag up and down along the neck underneath them. After removing the buildup of oils from your strings, both the tone and playability may improve slightly. This is only a temporary fix, however. These natural oils will continue to degrade the strings.

Look

As you play your guitar, the strings actually rub against the frets. This causes weak spots in the strings as the friction slowly deteriorates them. Of course, these weak spots are more likely to break, as well. Look closely at where the strings touch the frets and see if you notice any shiny or worn spots. If you haven’t played for a while, your stings may even look significantly corroded.

Repeat

Every guitarist has snapped a string at some point while playing, but it is best to be proactive in avoiding it as best you can. While you may not damage your guitar if a string snaps, you could damage yourself and/or disappoint your audience.

Regular inspections of your strings and the overall health of your guitar will not only save you time and money, it will ensure that the sound quality of your guitar is consistent. Be vigilant, and you may even increase the life of your guitar strings and the guitar itself.

 

Glenn Sutton
Ozzie’s Music
12222 Poway Road,
Suite #27
Poway,
California 92064

Phone 619-306-3664
858-679-6997

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