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.

Tone Preference

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

Rick

SeasideFunk.com

 

 

 

 

4 Comments on “How Often Should You Change Acoustic Guitar Strings?”

  1. Great article and a topic I am very interested in. I recently purchased a Martin acoustic guitar and was thinking it was about time to change the strings. This article definitely gave me some insight and things to consider. Nice layout and great looking website!

    • Travis,

      It pleases me you received insight on changing strings. I own a Gibson Songwriter and just today I noticed the strings were worn at the sound hole as a result of my last gig. Time to change my strings!

  2. The topic is very informative. This gives me idea on what to make the guitar sound more beautiful to hear.

    When my father was still alive, we used to play guitar during blackouts so as to entertain everyone in the house. During my college days, I used to sing and play a guitar to my wife. She really loved it.

    But now, I could no longer play a guitar because of numbness in my hand. But when I sing, I am acting as if I am playing a guitar.

    Thank you for this information.

    • Thank you for your comments and your story. I am so sorry about your numbness in your hand. I have experienced cramping in my left hand when playing a long period of time and it is quite scary actually.

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