How long do guitar strings last? Generally, guitar strings should have a lifespan of about three months. However, this is only for average players. Professional musicians and those who use their guitar often might have to restring their guitar more frequently. Additionally, how you take care of them will also affect the strings’ life.
So, you’ve been playing your guitar for quite some time, and you’re unsure whether or not the strings are still in good condition. Sometimes, they might hurt your fingers. Other times, they might look worn down. Should you replace them as soon as possible?
Some people restring their guitars every two to three months. On the other hand, there are also those who don’t replace the strings until they break. What is the general rule of thumb when it comes to changing the strings?
In this article, we’ll teach you how long guitar strings last and the various factors that affect their lifespan.
The Lifespan of Guitar Strings
The thing is, your strings will keep vibrating and therefore produce sounds even if they’re old and beat up. This means you can keep using them until they break. However, as the quality of the strings diminishes, so does the quality of the sound.
So, how do you ensure that your strings are in their best shape? First, we have to look into the type of strings you use.
Roundwound string is the most common type of guitar string there is. While it would still vary depending on the construction, material, and maintenance, roundwound strings often last an average of 3 months before the quality of the sound is affected. The same is still true even if you regularly wipe the strings free of dirt and dust.
Flatwound strings are a bit more durable and resistant than roundwound strings. That’s because its construction and design prevent dirt, oil, and skin from accumulating on the strings. It’s not as bring sound as compared to roundwound strings. However, it’s more consistent with its sound. This means that the inevitable wear suffered by the strings will be less noticeable.
Of all the different types of strings, coated ones are perhaps the most durable. That’s thanks to the layer of barrier that coats the strings, hence the name. This surface shield prevents your fingers from making direct contact with the metallic part of the string, therefore reducing its wear and tear. They’re also easier to clean than the other types of strings on this list.
When to Replace the Strings
If your strings have suffered the inevitable wear and tear after a while, you might be wondering if you should replace them immediately. This is almost always based on personal preference. However, if you need a quick guide, here are some signs that you might want to restring your instrument.
Let’s start with the most obvious. You have to replace the strings when they’re broken. Sometimes, even if you’ve just replaced the strings, one or two will break, especially if you play the guitar heavily. You can replace the broken string only. However, it has to be the right string note. On the other hand, you can also replace the entire string even if only one string is broken if you want them to sound as a set.
Restoring the Original Tone
As we’ve mentioned, old strings will lose their sound quality because of dirt and debris. That’s why if you want to bring back your guitar’s original tone or make it sound brand new, you need to replace the old strings and let them retire.
Change in String Action
Aside from the sound, the action on the strings will also indicate if they are in need of replacement. If you notice that you often have to retune your guitar to a higher frequency, that’s often because the strings are losing their stretchability.
Try to obtain a general feel of the strings on your hands and see if they are somewhat loose. If that is the case, be sure to replace the strings immediately. In some cases, strings losing their stretchability leads to them snapping.
Replacing them beforehand helps avoid accidents or injuries.
We all have our own preferences when it comes to a guitar’s vibrance. Some want their guitars sounding bright, while others prefer the slightly dampened effect. Different types of strings provide different tones and vibrance.
If you don’t enjoy how your strings currently sound, try replacing them with a different type or brand until you’ve found the one that suits your taste.
How to Prolong Your Guitar String’s Lifespan
The good news is that you don’t have to just sit around and wait for your strings to wear down. There are various things you can do to extend their lifespan. Here are some maintenance tips for taking care of your guitar’s strings.
The first thing you want to make sure of is that you have clean hands when playing your guitar. While oil from your skin is inevitable, there’s something you can do about the dirt you transfer to your strings. Cleaning your hands before playing the guitar will prevent other elements from clinging to the strings.
Regular Wipe Down
Whether you regularly play the guitar or not is not an issue here. Providing your guitar with a general wipe-down is of the utmost importance. This will prevent dust, dirt, oil, and moisture from mixing up and accumulating on the strings.
Lastly, make sure that you have proper storage for your guitar. If you don’t regularly use it, invest in a soft or hard case to protect it from harmful elements in the environment. Keeping it in a safe spot where there’s a lesser chance of people bumping into it is also helpful. Due to the tension on the strings, your guitar falling down to the floor might cause them to snap, or worse, break the body and neck.
The strings are the most high-maintenance part of your guitar. They need constant care to ensure that they produce the best quality of sound and maximize your guitar’s potential. Be sure to visit this article once in a while if you ever need help with restringing your guitar.
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.