When Should You Change Your Guitar Strings? 5 Signs It’s Time!

As a new guitarist, you have plenty of things on your mind. When should you change your guitar strings is probably not one of them. Guitar notes, chords, strumming patterns, and gear are all important and often take up much more of a priority for a new player.

While there is no one answer that applies to all guitars, certain indicators can help you determine when it is time to change your guitar strings. There are also different factors that play a part in how quickly your strings will wear down.

Oftentimes, adding a new set of strings is the first step in playing better and bringing out the sound you want. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about when you should change your guitar strings!

When Should You Change Your Guitar Strings?

A good rule of thumb to know if it’s time to change your guitar strings is every 100 hours of playing your guitar or every three months. If either of these conditions is met, your strings are likely past their prime, and to avoid dull notes, breaking, or problems tuning, they should be changed.

When your strings have been played for 100 hours or so, they’ve had plenty of wear and tear on them. The pic can wear them down, and even more so the frets take their toll. We’ve seen strings last far past the 100 hours rule, but this is often where you see a dip in performance.

Likewise, after three months the strings have accumulated oils from your hands and dust, dirt, and moisture from the environment. Over time, this can cause the strings to go out of tune, and start to stick all over.

To avoid these problems, you should change your guitar strings around every three months – even if you didn’t notice any changes in sound or performance!

Now, both of these rules apply to players who are learning to play guitar or casual players. Serious players or touring professionals might change strings monthly or even weekly. On the other hand, if you simply play for yourself and for fun, you really don’t have to change strings until they break!

Why do you Need to Change Strings on a Guitar?

The first reason you need to change strings is the sad fact that eventually, they will break. It really isn’t a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Thanks to the tension, movement, and fretting required of strings, they have a shelf life.

Many players will change strings before they break, though. Old strings often sound dull or off-key, they won’t stay in tune, or they build up grime and feel dirty when you slide your fingers on them.

5 Signs That It’s Time To Restring Your Guitar

As you learn your guitar better and the type of strings you prefer, you’ll also learn what a string sounds like or looks like when they need to be changed. In case you’re not sure, here are some things I always look for:

1. Poor Tone

Often the first sign your strings need changing is you notice a change in tone. Instead of the notes ringing out crisp and clear, you’ll have dull fuzzy notes. The first time I experienced this I was trying to learn a new chord and thought I was muting strings on accident. Nope! my B and e strings were simply shot.

2. Dirty or Grooved Feel

A new string has a crisp, smooth feel to it. When you play guitar the oils and sweat from your fingers are left on the strings. Over time, this will leave the strings feeling dirty, and before they break you may start to feel small grooves in them.

While you can continue to play with strings that sound a little dull, a dirty or grooved string will often soon break and should really be changed!

3. Discoloration

The same oils, sweat, and dirt that often make the strings feel different will cause them to change color over time. This can be a little difficult to see in dull light, but in a well-lit room, it becomes apparent.

Look at the color of the strings near the bridge (where they don’t often get played) and compare that to the area in question. A change in coloration is fairly obvious when it happens!

4. Won’t Stay In Tune

Older strings tend to loosen quickly and have stretched past the point where they can hold the correct tension to stay in tune. This will lead to strange sound notes and you having to repetitively tune your guitar.

While some of the other signs are easy to ignore and continue to play through, having to tune your guitar multiple times a session is simply annoying. Change your strings!

5. Stiff Strings

This can often feel like dirty strings, but corrosion on your strings will leave them stiff and hard to move around. Strings should have some flex and bendability to them. If not they are probably past their prime!

How Much Does it Cost to Restring Your Guitar?

The cost of restringing your guitar depends on the type of strings you use and who does it. If you restring your own guitar and use the cheapest strings you can find, you can likely do it for as little as $5. A decent set of strings will cost more like $15-30 though, so that’s what I’d expect to pay. Bass guitar strings also tend to be slightly more expensive, but not by much.

If you take your guitar to a professional many of them will charge a little for the labor involved. Guitar Center charges around $20, so having a professional restring your guitar is likely to cost you between $30-$50.

The Final Note

It is important to note that restringing your guitar should be done as soon as it becomes apparent that the strings have outlived their usefulness. This could be due to any of the five signs, though not every sign may apply and should be taken into consideration.

While you don’t have to restring your guitar until the strings break, this is a fairly unpleasant experience, especially the first time, and is something I recommend you avoid!

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Edward Bell Author

A ukulele player pretty much from birth, Edward has gone on to play banjo, lead guitar, and bass for a number of bands and solo projects! Edward loves talking, teaching and writing about music!