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Updated: November 28, 2020
Those of us who’ve been playing guitar for at least a few years… we just know when it’s time to change our guitar strings. We can feel it and we can hear it, and it’s blatantly obvious to us.
However, the signs and symptoms that we experienced players recognize are not at all obvious to beginners, no matter how hard we might try to describe them.
So if you’re a new guitar owner wondering how often you should change your guitar strings, I’m going to instead give you some basic timeframes to follow. That’ll serve you well until you gain the experience you’ll need to better judge, based on sound and feel, when it’s time to change your strings.
A Note to the “Highly Corrosive Sweaters” Out There
I’ve met a number of guitarists over the years who have a sweat chemistry that just annihilates guitar strings. It’s like their superpower: within hours or days of installing a brand new set, their strings become severely corroded, even if they’re diligent about wiping their strings after they’re done playing.
If you’re one of these people, you’re not abnormal. It simply means your guitar string bill is going to be higher than it is for us mere mortals. It also means the timeframes I’m going to outline in this article don’t quite apply to you.
For you, I’d highly recommend trying a couple things that may help you squeeze more life out of your strings.
1. Try coated guitar strings. Here are a few suggestions:
- Elixir Coated Guitar Strings
- D’Addario Coated Guitar Strings
- Ernie Ball Coated Guitar Strings
- DR Coated Guitar Strings
A number of corrosive sweaters have told me that coated strings, combined with wiping their strings after every play session with a string cleaner, has really helped them squeeze more life out of their strings. There are other coated guitar strings out there in addition to the ones I’ve listed here, so search around a bit and find the brand you like best.
When to Change Your Guitar Strings
Okay, for the rest of us who have a less corrosive body chemistry, I’m going to lay out some general guidelines and timeframes for how often you should change your guitar strings.
Note: these timeframes apply to regular (uncoated) guitar strings.
The Infrequent Player
If you play: Less than 15 minutes per week
Change your strings: Once a year
You really only pull the guitar out of its case a few times a year–maybe at a rare family holiday. Or, maybe you’re a collector of high-end/rare/vintage guitars that you rarely play. You might spend 5 – 10 minutes strumming some basic chords, and then the guitar goes back in its case (or display case) for a few more months.
Even if you’re one who rarely plays your guitar, strings naturally begin to oxidize over time–they don’t last forever.
The Occasional Dabbler or Learner
If you play: 1 – 3 hours per week
Change your strings: Every 6 – 8 months
You play your guitar a few days a week for only about 15 – 30 minutes at a time, and you’re not very consistent. Perhaps you enjoy playing, but it’s just not a big priority for you. Or, maybe you’re a new guitarist still building your calluses and hand strength, so you can’t yet practice very often or for very long.
The Avid Hobbyist
If you play: 3 – 12 hours per week
Change your strings: Every 3 – 5 months
You’re fairly serious and play your guitar consistently 6 – 7 days a week for 30 minutes to 2 hours at a time. FYI, this is the category I fall into.
The Serious Player or Aspiring Pro
If you play: 12 – 25 hours per week
Change your strings: Every 1 – 2 months (more frequently, if needed)
You’re someone who’s playing 6 – 7 days a week for anywhere from 2 – 4 hours at a time. Maybe you’re a music student, or in a band that plays the odd gig here and there. Or, maybe you just really, really love playing guitar and make time to indulge your passion.
The Pro Musician
If you play: 30+ hours per week
Change your strings: Once a week, or possibly daily
You play guitar for a living, and your guitar is in your hands every day. At any given time you might be rehearsing with your band, recording, giving guitar lessons, or playing a live show (sometimes all in the same day). You eat, sleep, and breathe guitar.
These Are Just Rough Guidelines
How long any given set of guitar strings will last before you need to change them isn’t an exact science. Your mileage may vary from the timeframes I gave above, but if you’re a beginner and aren’t sure when to change your strings, this’ll give you something to go by until you can judge for yourself just based on how the strings feel and sound.
How to Help Your Strings Last Longer
There are two things you can do to help your strings naturally last longer:
- Wash your hands before you play
- Wipe your strings every time you’ve finished playing
Washing your hands before you play may not always be feasible, but if you’re like me and play your guitar at home 99% of the time, definitely give your hands a quick wash before you play. When you’re done playing, give the guitar strings a quick wipe with a clean, soft cloth. Using a string cleaner or a little bit of mineral oil is optional.
You can see my demonstration of how to wipe guitar strings here.
Give your guitar strings a quick wipe after you’re done playing
Ask 10 different guitar players when you should change your strings and you’ll get 10 slightly different answers. There’s a bit of personal preference involved in this, and as you gain experience you’ll start to recognize when your strings are wearing out and need to be changed.
How often do you change your guitar strings? Let me know in the “Leave a Reply” section down below.
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