when to change acoustic guitar strings

The second most popular question I get asked as a guitar teacher is: “How often should I change my guitar strings?”

(Note: The MOST popular question I get asked is: “How long does it take to learn to play the guitar?“)

 

So how often should you replace the strings on your guitar?   I usually recommend once a month, or as needed. 

If you have strings like this, they’ll probably last a little longer.

If you’re not sure if you should change your guitar strings, here are some of the most common questions about replacing them:

How do you know when it’s time to restring your guitar?

 

There are two factors I consider when deciding when it’s time to change my guitar strings:

  1. Playability
  2. Sound

Playability.   This is just another way of asking, “How do the strings feel when you play them?”

In general, the strings should be clean and smooth (aside from the wrapped lower strings).

If I’ve been playing with a set of strings for awhile I will notice that certain spots of the strings become discolored (from a lot of finger movement).

I may notice that the strings will be worn around certain frets.

In really bad cases the strings will feel rusty – or you an actually see dirt/grime on your guitar strings.

If this sounds like your guitar…. it’s time to change the strings.

Sound.  A new set of guitar strings will usually sound bright.  As the strings get older they tend to make your guitar sound more mellow.

I personally like the mellow sound of strings.

When I change my acoustic guitar strings (which is not very often) it takes me a week or two to get the strings to sound how I like them.

When I change my electric guitar strings (usually once a month), I love the sound and feel of the new strings.

Again: it’s really about personal preference.

 

What guitar strings do you recommend?

 

I recommend you try different brands of guitar strings – and different styles/materials/gauges of guitar strings until you find a set that you like.

However, I usually recommend the following guitar strings:

For Electric Guitars

beginner electric guitar strings

I like these Ernie Ball strings for electric guitar.

Again – it’s all about personal preference.

If you find someone who tells you they’ve found the best electric guitar strings – they’re lying.

Your best bet is to try different brands out – I’d start with these.

For Acoustic Guitars

best acoustic guitar strings

For Acoustic guitar strings, I like D’Addario strings.

I used to almost exclusively recommend Elixir strings – but for some reason switched over to D’Addario.

Both strings use a coating which (I think) mellows the sound of the strings a bit (which I like).

However, the Elixir’s coating used to wear and flake off (which I don’t like).

They may be better now.  Either brand will be great.

 

Do I need any special tools to change guitar strings?

 

The only tool I use is a string winder (also know as a peg winder).

This is the kind I use:

best string winder

It’s less than $2.00 and saves so much time.

It also has a little divot (not pictured) that helps to pop out the bridge pins of an acoustic guitar.

This is my favorite guitar multitool.

You could also try this Planet Waves string winder.  It’s more expensive but it also has a wirecutter built in (which is handy when trimming your strings after you’ve replaced them.

I don’t like the Planet Waves winder as much as the cheaper Dunlop winder – I’ve found it difficult and ineffective to use the bridge pin remover on certain guitars.

 

I broke a guitar string… what do I do?

 

Stop freaking out.

Now replace the string.

That’s it.

 

I broke a guitar string… Do I need to change all of my strings if I only broke one?

 

No.

Replace the one that’s broken.

Unless the strings are old anyway.  Then go ahead and change them all!

 

Where do I go to get guitar strings replaced?

 

You can go to just about any music store.

Or your guitar teacher can replace them.

Or better yet – you can replace the guitar strings yourself.

 

Can I change guitar strings myself?

 

Yes.

You do not need a guitar store to change or replace your guitar strings.

You do not need your guitar teacher to change your guitar strings.

There are thousands of guitar string replacement tutorials online.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Go to YouTube.
  2. Type: “replace guitar strings on [your type of guitar: acoustic, electric, classical] + [your brand of guitar]”
  3. Watch the video. 
  4. Change your strings. 

 

For example:  If I needed to change the strings on my Fender FA100 (and didn’t know how),  I would go to Google or YouTube and type in “replace guitar strings on a Fender FA 100”. 

If that didn’t bring up my exact guitar make and model – it would bring up something similar enough that would work.

Watch the tutorial a few times, then change your strings.

 

How long does it take to replace guitar strings?

 

For me?  Five minutes.

For you?  45 minutes.

When you first change the strings you will make mistakes.

That’s part of it.

We all did it.

But you’ll learn from your mistakes and begin to change them faster each time.

 

Where can I get guitar strings?

 

Any music store will have them.  Though I suggest buying your guitar strings online with Amazon or another retailer.

They’re usually cheaper online – and there is a wider selection.

If you’re looking to buy guitar strings do yourself a favor and buy an extra/spare set.

That way, when you break a string you’ll have an extra string on hand.

If you find that you’re constantly breaking the same string – you can always buy a bunch of individual strings like this.

 

How Often do Change my Guitar Strings?

 

Yikes.

You got me against a wall here.

I’m terrible when it comes to changing my acoustic guitar strings.

Like… months (or longer).

If I have a gig or a show coming up, I’ll keep them fresh.

If I’m doing some recording, I’ll probably change them.

Otherwise….. every few months.

On the other hand – I change my electric guitar strings at least once a month.

I think new strings on an electric sound better and feel better (which I think makes me play the guitar better).

Again – it’s all personal preference.

That’s it!  I hope this was helpful.  Let me know in the comments below if you have questions.

My thoughts on guitar strings don’t always line up with the thoughts of most guitar teachers/players.  Let me know if you agree/disagree…. or have suggestions of your own!

 

(Jake Posko does Online Guitar Lessons and Coaching as well as in-home lessons in the Annapolis, Maryland area including: Annapolis, Edgewater, Severna Park, Pasadena, Crownsville, Arnold and Kent Island, inquire about lessons by e-mailing him at jake@jakeposko.com).

(Photo Credit: Keith Ellwood)