Frequently, folks ask me how often they should change or replace their guitar strings. As with most of my guitar-related questions, my answer is an obnoxious: “It depends…” (see: this, and this, and this)
Whenever you want. Here’s how I break it down:
Scenario 1: Broken String
Ok. If a string breaks, you need to replace it (obviously). If you’re in the middle of a performance, gig, guitar lesson, etc, I’d recommend replacing the broken string and then moving on. If you’ve got some extra time on your hands, go ahead and replace the whole set.
Scenario 2: Gross, Dirty, Rusty, and/or Grimy Strings
If you’ve gotten to the point where your strings are any of the above adjectives, you should probably change your strings. Frequently, I’ll meet with a new student for the first time and they’ll have a guitar that they’ve borrowed from a friend, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, grandparent, etc. The guitar is generally in good shape – but the strings are not. If you can see visible signs of wear and tear on the strings or if they feel sticky or otherwise gross… change them.
Scenario 3: Old Strings
This is where I other guitar players tend to disagree with me. Just as I’m not a huge fan of guitar cases, I’m also not a fan of changing my guitar strings on a regular basis. Here’s why:
- I like the sort of muted and mellow sound of older, worn-in guitar strings
- I usually play rhythm guitar – and again – like the mellow sound older strings produce
- I’m lazy
There are however, a few cases where I’ll change strings more regularly:
- If I’m playing lead guitar (especially true on electric guitars)
- If I have a gig coming up
When I do change my strings I usually use something like these Elixir’s. I think they have a sort of mellow sound – or at least they develop the mellowish sound I enjoy rather quickly.
The bottom line is – you should change your strings as much as you want. Obviously, if you’re playing every day, you’ll likely need to change strings more often.
Or if you don’t like anything I’ve suggested so far… Just change them once a month and you’ll be fine.
(Photo Credit: katsrcool)