How Often Should You Change Acoustic Guitar Strings?
How often should your change acoustic guitar strings is an interesting topic. I get asked this frequently by my guitar playing friends who are just getting started.
There is no one single answer. I happen to play a lot of gigs so I change my acoustic strings often (for every gig actually). It is more important to know what signs to look for to decide to when to change out your strings.
For the purposes of this article, we will focus on steel strings versus nylon.
Many factors impact how often your change your acoustic strings including:
- The type of strings your use
- Tone preferences
- How often your play
- The environment your play in
- Your style of play
Strings Are Made of Steel
Kind of obvious but important to note that strings are made of steel. Dirt, oil, sweat coming from your fingers only accelerates string wear so, to the best of your ability, keep your hands as clean and dry as possible.
Deteriorating strings will:
- Have a deadening sound tone
- Tend to go out of tune frequently
- Have discoloration near sound hole
- Have a tendency to break easily (not good when performing)
Type of Strings You Use
There are seemingly infinite string manufacturers and they all produce high quality strings. My acoustic guitar strings are D’Adarrio phosphorus bronze light gauge. I really like their strings but what I am discussing here is the type, not the manufacturer.
Light Vs Medium Vs Heavy Gauge
How heavy the string is will impact the frequency of changing. Light gauge strings are easier to play but have a shorter life compared to heavier gauge strings. If your tend to really wail on the guitar, light gauge strings have a higher risk of breaking. Even if you aren’t a Rocker, light gauge strings will break down faster compared to heavier gauge strings.
Coated Vs Non-Coated
Most string companies offer coated acoustic guitar strings. Elixir claims to deliver warmth and sparkle together with extended tone life a longer string life using their product. My experience with Elixir is I don’t particularly like the feel of the strings and the sound is not as bright as non-coated D’Addario Phosphorus Bronze. As far as string life, for the price, I am not convinced that I changed strings less often because of a coated string.
My Source For Strings
My single source for strings and accessories is Strings and Beyond . They are second to none for selection, great deals, free shipping, and superior service.
I usually get my order within 2-3 days. If it makes a difference, I have been a customer for about 15 years.
A good tip is to note the date your changed strings. This will help you plan your string purchases so you don’t break the bank. I also suggest buying in sets of 10. It really brings down the cost.
For me, there is nothing like a new set of strings to bring out the best in my acoustic guitar. I change my strings a day before my gig to give them a chance to stretch out. Changing right before a gig results in constantly having to check your tuning after each song.
That is my opinion.
Tommy Emmanuel changes his strings about an hour before show time. Hard to argue with one of the best finger style guitarist on the planet. Maybe having multiple guitars in the rack alleviates the tuning concern :-).
How Often You Play
By far the number one reason comes down to how often your play. Makes sense right? More exposure to dirt and grime and stress from your picks accelerate the deterioration. Washing your hands before your play will help but if your are doing a 3-hour gig, your strings are going to take a beating, trust me.
Environment – Cold, Hot, or Humid
The environment you play in will impact string life. Hot and humid conditions result in sweaty hands not to mention the strings stretching making it hard to stay in tune. Colder conditions also can be difficult as well The strings are rigid and can literally snap in a colder environment.
No matter what environment, keep your guitar in the case as much as possible with a humidifier in the sound hole. Besides getting longer string life, this is essential to avoid your guitar from drying out or warping depending on the environment.
Style of Play
Are your the next Pete Townsend on acoustic guitar? I played in an acoustic band where the rhythm guitarist broke a string (or two) every night. He played so freaking hard! I have never broken a string on stage (yet) because I tend to play with a light touch.
I play with a pick which does put more stress on strings near the sound hole. Finger style guitarist don’t usually worry about breaking a string but will increase string deterioration from the left and right-hand putting oils and sweat on the strings.
Thanks For Your Time
I appreciate your taking the time to read this post and I welcome your comments on your experience. Please leave your comments below.
To Your Guitar Success