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Replacing your guitar strings can be a hassle especially if you have an upcoming gig and you want your guitar to sound crisp and fresh but not overly bright.
Knowing how long guitar strings last and how often they should be changed can actually help you get the best results when it comes to your sound during scheduled performances, and avoid broken strings, as well as the time-consuming efforts to break new strings in.
So, how often should you change guitar strings?
How often you should change your strings depends on the time you spend playing your guitar, how well you maintain your strings and store your guitar. The average set of strings will need to be changed every three months, but professional guitarists that are rehearsing and gigging regularly will change strings much sooner than that.
If you want to be more aware of the signs that tell you your strings need to be replaced, whether that’s on your electric, acoustic or classical guitar, and you want to know how often that may be then keep on reading!
How Long Do Guitar Strings Last?
This is not an easy or straightforward question to answer because there are a lot of factors to consider.
Before we dive any deeper I want to take a moment to mention that no matter what type of strings you have the frequency with which you play as well as your own personal style can affect the longevity of your strings.
While no set of strings out there is immortal certain materials, as well as the construction of the strings can make some of them wear out sooner than others.
Strings made from metal can last on average from two to three months, of course, some guitarists will keep them on for longer, but that really depends on how bright they want their strings to sound and how aggressively they like to play.
Nylon strings can actually last longer than most metal strings with an average lifespan of three to four months, and longer if they are treated properly.
Metal strings are made from different types of alloys like steel, nickel, phosphor, and brass and you also have bronze plated strings. While most of these metals are strong meaning they can take on a lot of tension before they break nylon strings are more flexible which makes them more durable.
Metal strings are also more prone to corrosion and rust while nylon strings are more resilient against humidity. On the other hand, nylon strings can lose their elasticity and go dead if they are exposed to sudden temperature changes while metal strings have the upper hand in that department.
Another reason why nylon strings are more durable and long-lasting under the right condition is the fact that they maintain their tone for much longer, partly because they don’t start off with a bright sound, instead, they sound mellow and warm.
Flatwound Vs Roundwound
When it comes to construction the main difference between flatwound and roundwound strings is that the central core of roundwound strings is wrapped with a wire in a spiral that has a circular cross-section while the wrapping of flatwound strings has a rectangular cross-section.
This difference is easy to spot with the naked eye but you can also feel how much smoother flatwound strings are compared to roundwound strings where you can see and feel the dents and ridges.
That’s why flatwound strings are actually much more durable because the smooth surface is less likely to accumulate oils and dirty which will happen over time even if you thoroughly clean your strings.
Since sweat and grime are what basically cause your string to deteriorate at a faster rate, roundwound strings are more susceptible to corrosion and rust so they won’t last as long.
I also want to add that while roundwound strings start off with much brighter high ends they do lose their brightness much faster compared to flatwound strings that manage to maintain their warm tone for much longer, even if it’s never as bright, to begin with.
Coated Vs Uncoated
If you’re looking for strings that will last you for a long time then coated strings are the way to go, there’s no doubt about it. Under the right care and conditions, coated strings can last you for six to nine months if not longer, including their tone.
Unlike uncoated metal or nylon strings, coated strings are coated with a polymer layer covering that protects the strings from the sweat, dirt, and oils that our hands produce, but also the air and moisture in the environment that causes the strings to oxidize.
Of course, coated strings have a couple of downsides, first of all, they are much pricier so you are paying more for that longevity, and second of all not all players like coated strings because they can feel a bit more slippery and don’t have the same tone.
But I do have to disagree with the last one because it really depends on the brand and construction. As you can read here I’ve talked about Ernie Ball’s Everlast coated strings before and not only do they last a long time but they also feel and sound like uncoated strings.
How Often Should You Change Guitar Strings?
Nothing annoys me more than a string snapping midplay and while you can’t always control when this happens it’s more likely to occur when the strings are at the end of their life.
Now I’m much better at predicting when my strings are ready to be changed but when I was younger I found it hard to change the strings before it was too late.
It’s also impossible to know the exact date you will have to change your strings, because this number will depend on the type of strings you use and how often you play the guitar.
On average strings will need to be changed at least every two to three months, some guitarists also state that you should change your strings after 100 hours of practice.
But let’s take a closer look at the type of player you might be and how long you might find your guitar strings lasting. I’ll be assuming your guitar is strung with uncoated metal strings just to make things less complicated.
If you are someone who is an experienced enough player who rarely plays the guitar, maybe a few times a year at most, then you might actually get away with changing your strings once a year, considering your guitar is stored in an environment with the right humidity and temperature levels.
For those of you who are just learning how to play the guitar and you spend fifteen maybe thirty minutes a day practicing then you might have to change the strings after three to four months, and maybe more if you store your guitar properly and keep your strings clean and dry.
As a beginner, I actually happened to change my guitar strings as often as I do now, simply because I wasn’t using the guitar techniques properly and I made a few mistakes stringing my guitar that caused strings to break much sooner.
The thing is guitar strings will corrode with time no matter how often or not you use your guitar. However, if you are someone who is an aspiring professional guitarist or you just enjoy playing the guitar regularly and learning new techniques then you are likely to find yourself changing your strings once every two months if not sooner.
The more hours you spend playing and the brighter you want your strings to sound, the more often you will find yourself changing your guitar strings. For a professional guitarist, this process can happen weekly, or every three or four gigs.
How Often Should You Change Acoustic Guitar Strings?
On average, acoustic guitar strings can last you for three months or 100 hours of playing before they’ll need to be changed. But not all acoustic guitar strings are the same and some go dead or break more easily than others.
Let’s start by saying that acoustic guitars are usually equipped with heavy strings that are more resilient and take more force to break compared to thin strings that we see on electric guitars. I also want to mention that cheap acoustic guitar strings are more likely to go bad far sooner.
Brass and bronze are the most common types of alloy used on acoustic guitars. Phosphor bronze strings are made of 92% copper and 8% tin plus a tiny amount of phosphorous and these strings are designed to reduce string corrosion so they can last you longer than brass strings also called 80/20 bronze.
Acoustic guitars can also be equipped with nylon strings that might last you a bit longer than steel strings would. Additionally, if you go with a coated string set then you could have the same strings on for longer than three months.
At the end of the day, the choice you need to make should be based on the quality of the sound and the feel the strings give you. Why would you need long-lasting strings that sound bad?
How Often Should You Change Electric Guitar Strings?
Even though electric guitar strings can also last you for three months, in most cases they will go bad sooner than that. The reason is simply that guitarists who play the electric guitar use techniques like bending, sliding, vibrato, hammer-ons, and so on.
Let’s take bending, for example, string bending is a very powerful technique and it can even break a string.
Even the great BB King who introduced this technique has broken a string or two!
Aggressive playing is not the only thing that makes electric guitar strings wear out faster. Usually, electric guitars are strung with light gauge strings that are much easier to break through the constant friction.
Stainless steel strings usually last longer than nickel strings especially if you use the plated variety. But both nickel and steel strings are more prone to corrosion and rust, as most metals do.
So, out of all guitar strings, I would say that electric guitar strings are the ones that need changing more often, sometimes the strings are not even old, but they don’t sound as bright as electric guitars want them to sound. But that of course will depend on your style and how much you actually play your stringed instrument!
How Often Should You Change Classical Guitar Strings?
Classical guitar strings are strung with nylon strings that can last on average three to four months because they are much more resilient against humidity and can retain their tone much longer than metal strings.
If you are an infrequent player and your classical guitar is stored properly then you can keep the same string on for a year before you’ll find that they need changing.
Obviously, if you play the classical guitar much more frequently than that, like a few hours a week then your strings might last you anywhere from four to six months.
As an experienced learner and an aspiring professional flamenco or classical guitarist, you might find yourself changing your nylon strings every one to three months.
And for those of you who are professional classical players then you are more likely to change your strings weekly, or a few days before a scheduled gig.
How Often Do Professional Guitar Players Change Strings?
For someone who plays guitar for a living, this question can be tricky because I don’t have one simple answer. There’s no right or wrong answer here and I can’t give you one set number that you can follow.
I know that professional classical guitarists don’t change their strings as often because nylon strings take more time to break in and hold their tune.
Some of them I know will change their strings a couple of days before a performance so the strings have time to settle down, but if they don’t have several days to do so between gigs then they are more likely to keep the old strings on.
As someone who mainly plays an electric guitar, I will change my strings a day or the night before a gig, because I still want to break in my steel strings and for them to stay in tune.
But if I don’t want my strings to sound bright then I won’t change them right before a gig, so I will go with the more mellow tone of slightly worn strings.
I kinda have a similar approach to my acoustic guitars. One thing that I do try to avoid no matter what kind of guitar strings I use is to change my strings right before a gig or a studio recording simply because I don’t want my strings to lose their tune.
So, when it comes to most professional players that spend four to eight hours a day practicing, rehearsing, and performing, they will be changing their guitar strings at least once a week, if not much sooner.
How Often Should You Replace Strings When Not Played?
The more you play your guitar the more the strings will wear out, but that’s not the only reason guitar strings go dead.
The moment strings are out of the pack they are exposed to the air and moisture in the atmosphere and that causes the metal to oxidize which in turn causes them to corrode and rust.
Basically, once your guitar is strung the timer is set off and they will gradually degrade even without use.
If you store your guitar properly and protect the strings from humidity and temperature changes that accelerate the process of corrosion then you could keep the strings alive, maybe for half a year or even a year, but there’s no real definitive answer.
Why Should You Change Your Guitar Strings?
No matter what strings you end up going with or what type of guitar you play on you will have to change your strings eventually, so let’s take a look at the signs that tell you it’s time to let your old strings go.
There is a stark difference in sound between old and new strings and it’s so easy to spot the moment you put on a fresh set on your guitar.
Old strings sound dead, meaning that the tone is dull and flat, and they lack sustain, while new strings are bright, clear, and crisp.
As strings begin to wear you will notice that initial brightness wearing off as you break the strings in, but they will still not sound lifeless as they would at the end of their life, and that’s a sign that it’s time to change your strings.
Of course, some guitarists enjoy the sound of older strings, but there’s a difference between old strings that are still playable and can hold their tone compared to dead strings sounding lifeless.
Bad Tuning Stability
Apart from sounding bad another sign that you need to look out for is tuning stability. As your strings will start to wear out you will also notice that they can no longer hold a tune and you will constantly have to retune them.
Part of this problem is caused by the loss of flexibility and the other part is caused by the windings that begin to loosen and your strings end up having issues both with stability and tuning.
There can be multiple reasons why your strings feel tight, but if your guitar has been equipped with the same strings for a while then this could be another sign that it’s time to change them.
Old strings as I already mentioned lose their flexibility and pliability so they become stiff.
They Look Dirty
Old strings don’t just sound or feel bad, but they also look bad. All that dirt, grime, and sweat we leave on our strings will cause the strings to corrode and rust and change color over time.
You may also notice the grime flaking off of the strings as you play and you might even see your fingertips turn black as the residue begins to transfer to your skin after each session.
When you change your strings you will notice the contrast between the shiny new strings and the dull, discolored, and splotchy old strings. You will also feel the difference when you play them because dirty strings will feel less smooth and more grippy
If you’re still not sure your strings need changing then perhaps a broken string will do the trick. However, I do think it’s best to replace your strings before they wear out to the point of breaking.
Strings can snap because of the corrosion and rust that has deteriorated the metal, you may also notice the wire wrapping around the string develop kinks and dents which can also cause the strings to break because of the constant friction against the metal of the frets.
How To Help Your Guitar Strings Last Longer?
Your strings won’t last forever, but this doesn’t mean you can’t prolong their life in terms of playability and sound.
Use High-Quality Strings
You don’t have to buy the most expensive strings on the market for them to last you a long time, but try to avoid mass-produced strings from obscured brands.
Big names like Elixir, Fender D’Addario, and many more are known for their high-quality strings and they also have sets that are quite affordable, we’re talking less than ten dollars.
If you don’t mind spending more than that and you tend to sweat quite a lot then you could try coated strings that are much more resilient. Changing your strings for a medium or a heavier gauge can also help since light strings tend to be more sensitive and can break easily.
Keep Strings Clean
The key to long-lasting strings is actually keeping them clean and dry. You can do that by washing your hands thoroughly before playing your guitar. Even if you think your hands are clean chances are they’ve already accumulated some sweat, oils, and dirt which will be then transferred onto your strings.
Remember to always keep a microfiber cloth nearby when you’re playing so you can wipe your strings every time you’re done playing. I usually wipe them clean during each break, whether we’re talking about a live gig, a recording, or just practicing in my room.
Because even if you wash your hands they’ll still sweat during a session, and by wiping your strings clean you are removing any substance that can and will cause them to corrode and rust, thus prolonging their life.
Store Your Guitar
Storing your guitar properly whenever you’re not playing it is what can truly help your strings as well as your guitar to last a long time.
So, whenever your guitar is not in use, whether that’s a couple of hours, days, weeks or months make sure you store it in a waterproof hard-shell case that is specifically designed for your guitar. Hard cases can protect your guitar from high-impact accidents, but also against humidity and temperature changes.
Since the levels of humidity should be maintained around the 45-55% range and the temperature shouldn’t fall below or over 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit, you also need to make sure you keep a humidifier as well as a hygrometer inside the case.
Whether we’re talking about short or long-term storage make sure to keep your guitar strung at all times and the strings should remain in tune unless, of course, it’s a classical guitar.
If you’re worried that during long-term storage the impact of the string tension may cause the neck to bend, you could loosen them one or two half steps, but you will also need to loosen the truss rod.
Can You Change One Guitar String?
If your strings are still quite fresh and one of them suddenly snaps, then instead of replacing all of your strings for a new set you can simply replace the one broken string for a new one.
You can find most strings sold individually online or possibly at your local store. Like most guitarists, I find that my high E string is more likely to break before my strings go dead, so I make sure to stock up on them.
Should You Change All Your Guitar Strings At Once?
This is another guitar question that is up for debate because there are guitarists that will tell you to change guitar strings one by one and there are guitarists that will tell you to remove all of them at once.
For the most part, I would say changing one string at a time is a safer option, especially for your guitar. Since strings exert a good deal of tension on the neck and the sudden loss of that tension could hurt the neck.
I do remove all of the strings from my guitars once or twice a year so I can thoroughly inspect the frets, and clean and oil the fretboard before restring my guitar with a new set.
Whatever option you choose to go with my advice would be that it’s best to avoid cutting the string when removing them, if you do want to cut your strings then remember to use proper tools and most importantly detune the strings first so the strings don’t snap back and whip you.
When it comes to string replacement there’s no definitive answer as to how often you should actually do it.
Of course, you have signs that will tell you when it’s time to change your strings like corrosion, dull sound, tuning instability, and breakage among others, but the time it takes for a string to become dead and unusable varies.
On average strings can last up to three months, but even if you don’t play your guitar regularly the outside elements like humidity and temperature changes will cause the strings to deteriorate.
Then again if you are a professional or an aspiring pro guitarist then you might find yourself changing strings every other month, or week, if not sooner.
In my opinion, relying on averages made by the general public is not always a trustworthy method of knowing how often you should change guitar strings, instead, you need to make your own calculations to create your own average.