How often do you change guitar strings?

Guitar Noises #8: June 11, 2021

Change your guitar strings every 100 days

You might be wondering how often you should change guitar strings?

The most common advice is to change your guitar strings every three months. I like to round up to 100 days to make it more of a milestone. Changing strings usually involves a trip to a music store, plenty of browsing, getting distracted and maybe a little excited before finally making a decision. Because it’s an infrequent chore, restringing usually ends up being the highlight of my day. I make a whole ritual out of it with some special tea and take my time admiring the lucky instrument that is being pampered.

There are tons of online videos showing the best way to change strings. Here’s a few things to consider:

  • Change all six strings. If you only broke the high e-string, go ahead and change every string. This gives you a chance to wipe down those hard to reach places.

  • If you play a serious amount of guitar you’ll need to change your strings more often. 

  • Nylon strings don’t need changing as often. You might get years out of a set.

  • If you’re not sure whether or not your strings need changing - they probably do. You’ll notice how different everything sounds when you put on some new strings.

  • If you don’t play, don’t change your strings.

What goes into choosing a set of strings?

Many strings are specially coated for longevity and some metals last longer than others. But string life shouldn’t be the selling point you worry about. Regardless of how little you drive your car, you’ll need to buy new tires sooner than you think. It’s similar with guitar strings.

You will enjoy whatever strings you go with a little longer if you remember to wash your hands before playing guitar. We’re already washing our hands all the time anyway, right?

Hand sanitizer should have no negative effect on guitar strings. In fact, it kills the bacteria that can muck up your strings over time. Sanitizer also dries out the natural oil on your skin. Dirt and oil from your fingers will age your strings faster than any climate or atmospheric conditions like humidity.

So here are a couple of quick videos you can check out. If you’re uneasy about changing strings or need a refresher, check out The BEST Way to Change Acoustic Guitar Strings on YouTube. It’s basic stuff but you may pick up a few handy tips. I would ignore the part about changing your strings every month unless you’re made of money.

Classical guitars and nylon string guitars are a little different. If you find tying knots challenging you will find Martin Guitar’s Restringing Your Classical Guitar a big help. There’s no shame in getting your nylons restrung at the store, but after bookmarking this video you won’t have to anymore.

How do you remember when it’s time to change your strings? Guitar string subscriptions are an easy way to make guitar upkeep a part of your routine. If you’re spending money on a regular supply of strings you’re unlikely to let them pile up. See? Spending money is a good habit.

Do you have a favorite brand of strings? Is there a string subscription you’d recommend? I’d like to hear your opinions.

This is a photo of Cosmo Music Superstore, where I usually go for strings and guitars and everything in between. It’s the first music store in the world to have a Starbucks inside the store, which only makes it cooler. I’m not doing a paid placement here. I just really like going to Cosmo Music. I’ve even enjoyed picking up my online orders from their loading dock during recent lockdowns.

Timed nicely with this newsletter, Cosmo’s retail store is finally reopening for in-person shopping on Wednesday, June 16.

And that has me thinking, is there anything I really need….?

1% Improvement

I’ve mentioned before that the 10,000 hours of practice rule is really just an arbitrary number. It’s not a terrible idea to practice guitar for that many hours if you have the time. But it’s such a far off goal that you’re not as likely to enjoy the little milestones you pass along the way.

I prefer making up my own numbers. And honestly, 1% is the number I aim for. I want to get 1% better at whatever I’m learning every day. It’s a small, achievable number. I’ve tried this out with musical instruments, new languages, and even trying to listen to others better. Put this progress together over days, months, and years and it adds up to a lot of improvement.

As Bob Dylan sang:

Follow the river
You get to the sea

Marchin’ to the City, Bob Dylan c.1997

It’s always good to remember: the sea refuses no river.

Thank you for reading.