How Often Should Guitar Strings Be Changed

As a rule of thumb, change your strings after every 80 to 100 hours of playing. For most of us, that’s about three months of playing. How often you should change guitar strings will depend on how soon they become worn, corroded or dirty. Replace them whenever your guitar tone becomes dull or unresponsive.

Your guitar strings go through several phases. When new, they sound bright and crisp. They have a clean top-end sparkle. But after you’ve played on them for a while and they become worn-in, that initial shine fades a little. Like a broken-in pair of shoes, they no longer dazzle, but they still feel comfortable and “pretty new.”

As you play on them longer, the strings become “Seasoned.” They’ve lost the “newness,” but they’re not quite “old” yet. Then at some point, they become “Old.” They gather dirt and become discolored, and corrosion sets in.

Most players will replace the whole set even if just one string breaks.

So how often should guitar strings be changed, and what should we look for as our strings age?

Five ways to tell if your guitar strings are dead

Sure signs that its time to change your guitar strings.

  1. Tuning and intonation problems. Notes and chords further up the neck are out of tune.
  2. Your guitar’s tone has become dull and doesn’t cut through anymore
  3. The strings are discolored and feel stiff or dirty to play
  4. Your strings have kinks or loose windings
  5. They look rusty or discolored

What I do

I try to replace my strings just before I really need to.

If I’m Gigging a lot

If I am playing a lot, 2 or 3 gigs a week, I usually change them every week. This is a habit that I got into because it means that I never ever suffer a broken string on stage.

My Two Rules if I am nOT gigging:

If I’m not gigging all that often, then I have two rules.

1/ If I break any string – I replace the whole set

2/ If I can detect dirt building up under the plain (unwound) strings – I replace the whole set.

Tips: How to Make Your Strings Last Longer

If you buy decent strings, they sound great, but they can be expensive. So to get the most from your budget, here are some tips to help you make your strings last as long as possible.

  • Consider buying coated strings. These strings have a protective coating on them that makes them resistant to dirt build-up and corrosion. I personally use Elixir strings. The manufacturer claims they last 3 to 5 times longer than uncoated strings. I believe them!
  • When you are restringing your guitar, clean all the dirt off of the fretboard before you fit the new set. Keep the frets clean.
  • Always wash your hands before playing.
  • After every gig, take a moment to clean and wipe down your guitar before you put it away. Carry a clothe in your case so that you never forget.
  • Consider using a string cleaner. Ernie Ball and Dunlop both make some excellent products to help out.

The Bottom Line: How Often Do People Change Guitar Strings

Unless you are a serious pro musician and you are constantly gigging, you should expect your strings to last about 100 hours of playing.

That means that if you are an infrequent player, your strings will last many many months. Just follow the tips above, take care of your strings, and enjoy playing some killer licks!

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