How Often Should You Change Your Guitar Strings?

When to change the strings on your guitar, whether it’s electric, acoustic or bass guitar, is a question or a thought that gets tosses around quite a bit. When it comes to changing strings there are a lot of opinions and all kinds of formulas for why and when to change them. Some Musicians on the road with a heavy tour schedule will have them changed before every show, some people subscribe to the once a month or even the once a year theory and I even heard one “old timer” say he has never changed them.

The main reason for changing your strings is that they are usually made of steel. The dirt and oil from your fingers get built up on them and that causes corrosion. It also causes them to sound dull. Humidity also plays a factor with string corrosion, even if you don’t play much at all humidity can cause them to deteriorate over time.

Whatever your choice is there are a few things you should think about when deciding to change strings.

  1. Do you care how bright or how dull the strings sound? It’s kind of a strange thing to consider. I always feel like my guitar should have a bright sound to it so when things are sounding dull, that’s an indication it’s time for a change. Then, there are those who are found of the dull “thud” sound from older strings. They don’t change them as often as some people do.
  2. How do you take care of your strings? Do you wipe them down after every time you play or do you just put the instrument away or back on the stand when you get done. Wiping your stings off with a soft cloth will help them last longer.
  3. How often do you play the guitar? It makes a difference how often you are going to change the strings if you play for several hours a day compared to several hour a week of a month.
  4. How much money do you have? If your budget is tight it may not be economical for you  to change them as often as you would like. Bass guitar strings start at about 10 bucks and I have seen them as much as $99 for a set of 6 strings. Strings for acoustic or electric guitar start at about 2 or 3 bucks and top out at about $30 for a set.
A while back I remember John McCarthy of Rock House came up with a simple guideline on how often you should change strings.

If you play the guitar                                             Change your strings every
2 hours every day.............................................................2 to 3 weeks

30 minutes to 1 hour a day..........................................1 month to 6 weeks

30 minutes to 1 hour...................................................6 weeks to 2 months
3 to 5 times a week

Almost never or rarely......................................................2 to 3 months

Whatever you decide is best for your situation, consider the above thoughts the next time you are wondering if it’s time for a string change.


Matt said...

You basically summed it up. I always tell people "its up to you"! When I started playing I thought there was like a number of hours of play or number of weeks after which you should change your strings but over time you realize that you just change your strings when you dont like the way they sound anymore.

Personally on my acoustic guitar I prefer that softer tone of a set of broken-in guitar strings. But on my electric I like to change them all the time to keep that bright sound.

A few years ago I wrote a post on the same topic on my blog. Maybe your readers would be interested reading it too: how often to change guitar strings.

Sarge said...

Nice Matt, thanks for the additional article.

Anonymous said...

I always tune my high e string then play a 12 on that string if the pitch is off then its time to get new strings. But I do play a lot & I sweat when I play at a gig or sometimes when I play at home & this makes a massive difference. The other factor you need to consider is what has been said above do you like the sound of worn out strings? That being said it is still important that you don't let them wear out too much because they will start to sound bad

Kimmy Lynch said...

that was really helpful information.i have had the same strings for 10 months and i play from around 30-45 minutes a day how often do you recommend i change the strings on my guitar ? its an old '68 fender bronco that was my great grandmothers does it being an old guitar interfere on how often i change the strings ?