How Long Do Guitar Strings Last?
When you play the guitar, you learn quickly just how important a good set of strings is. The type of strings you choose for your guitar is very important because they are responsible for the tone and overall sound that the guitar produces.
Because of this, it’s important to change your guitar strings regularly, although exactly how regularly will depend on various factors. Guitar strings become dirty and wear out after a while, directly affecting their sound, which is the main reason why they have to be changed on a regular basis, whether you’re a beginner or an expert.
In general, guitar strings are changed regularly but how often depends on the brand, how often you play, where you play, and how rough you are with the strings. If you’re a beginner and don’t play very often, you might get by with changing the strings once or twice a month. If you play daily or professionally, you’d do better by changing your guitar strings once or twice a week. Once a week is average for people who play regularly, but many professionals who are touring and doing regular gigs sometimes change their guitar strings every couple of days.
How to Tell When Strings Need to Be Changed
If you play regularly and you’re a beginner, it might be difficult to determine exactly when the strings need to be changed. Fortunately, there are ways to tell that are simple even for people who are just learning to play the guitar. These include the following four ways:
- Your guitar is producing a dull tone. When guitar strings are new, they have a bright crisp sound, but the older they are, the duller they sound. If you prefer a mellower tone to your songs, this dullness might be appreciated, but for most people, replacing the strings when the guitar has a dull sound is the smart thing to do.
- Your guitar isn’t holding a tune. When you’re a beginner, properly turning your guitar can be a challenge, but once you get the hang of it, the process is a breeze. If you know you’re tuning your guitar the right way and it just doesn’t seem to be working, the problem could be that the strings need to be replaced.
- Your guitar strings have become stiff. Brand-new guitar strings are flexible and bendable but stiffen over time, mostly as a result of corrosion. The older the strings get, the stiffer they become. Stiff strings lose their bendability and therefore their playability, which means they need to be replaced.
- Your guitar strings change color. When you play the guitar, oil from your hands gets on the strings, which over time will change their color. Steel and nickel strings can turn gray, and bronze strings lose their shine and look dark brown instead. When your strings start to change color, it’s time for some new ones.
Types of Strings and Their Longevity
Guitars typically use one of two types of strings – metal and nylon. Steel strings are usually found on electric and acoustic guitars, while nylon strings are there to accommodate classical guitars. Steel strings are louder and brighter, while nylon strings are softer and mellower in sound. Steel strings come in gauges (strengths/sizes), while nylon strings come in tension ratings.
For regular acoustic guitars, you’ll mostly be playing with steel strings because they produce a much better overall sound. In addition to steel, you can also find guitar strings made out of bronze, brass, and even gold or silver alloy.
As compared to steel strings, nylon strings tend to last longer. If you’re an amateur but still play regularly, nylon strings might last two months, or through 80 hours of playing time. Professional classical guitarists often change their strings once a week or once every two weeks. As you can see, for non-professionals, nylon strings usually last longer than steel strings.
How Gauges Affect the Strings’ Longevity
Gauge sizes are displayed as a measurement of the diameter of the string. The number you see on the strings is expressed in thousandths of an inch. For example, if you see a .011 gauge string, this means that it is 11 thousandths of an inch thick.
For acoustic guitars that use steel strings, the gauges range from extra light, which is .010 thousandths of an inch, to heavy, which is .059 thousandths of an inch thick. In most cases, the lighter strings last the longest, but this can vary depending on which brand you choose and how you treat the strings while you play.
Different guitar strings are also made differently, and this too can affect how long the strings will last. Typical strings include traditional strings, which are uncoated and are good for people that play a lot; coated strings, which are wound with a thin coating of materials such as the coating on non-stick pans; treated acoustic strings, a fairly new product that is usually treated with either heat or cryogenics; hybrid acoustic strings, which are usually called silk and steel strings and are great for beginners; and of course nylon strings, which consist of far more types than steel strings have.
Conclusion – How Long Do Guitar Strings Last
The answer to the question, how long do guitar strings last, is not a simple one because there are many things that can affect the longevity of different strings. Guitar strings are usually made out of either steel or nylon, and things that affect their longevity include how you play, the brand of strings you choose, where you play, how oily or dirty your fingers are, and others. If you’re having problems tuning your guitar or if the guitar sounds dull when being played, it’s likely time to change the strings.
Changing the strings should be done every week or two if you play or practice a lot, and once or twice a month if you only play occasionally. Even if you let your guitar sit for a while without playing it, you may still have to restring it once you start playing again. This is because the temperature and even the humidity can affect the effectiveness and efficiency of the strings. When you learn what to look out for, you’ll be able to replace your strings whenever they need replacing.
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