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When To Change Strings On Electric Guitar

When to change strings on electric guitar and how to use old strings to your advantage

When it comes to playing the electric guitar, players regularly face a specific challenge: Rusty strings.

Of course, it is not a good feeling to play on old strings, so let us get clear on what is the right time to change strings.

The frequency in which you should change the string varies on your situation as a guitar player and how you treat your guitar. If you are just a hobby player who occasionally plays guitar, you might not need new strings for several months. If you are a professional guitar player or just a very dedicated player who practices every day, you probably need to change them after a month.

However, if you are playing on tour with shows on every day, there is not much tolerance for used strings and I know professional players who let their guitar strings change after every show!

How is this helpful? At this point… almost not at all. So let us look a little closer: What are the factors, that determine, if you should change the strings?

The most important one: YOUR own tolerance. If you are fine with playing older, used up strings and with the sound they make, that is fine. If you like the feeling of new strings, you probably want to do a string refreshing a bit more often.

They way I approach string changes goes like this:
There are three stages.
The first one is completely new strings, freshly wounded and attached.
Then there is a time frame (or string quality frame) in which I do not see it necessary to change the strings, but I COULD change them, because you see and feel slight traces of usage.
The third stage is rust.

In the second stage, there is room for tolerance. When I got nothing important like concerts or auditions coming up, I let the strings stay on the guitar. When the third stage is reached, I change the strings. No excuse. But I do not just go along and cut the strings and replace them. Before I do that, I put in a little bit of special practice time.

That means, that I deliberately try to break a string while I improvise or play a longer solo, so that I can be prepared for this situation when playing live. That gives me a lot more confidence for stage performances, when I need to find ways, to keep on playing in tune and the right notes with a string missing.

If you want to keep your strings fresh for a longer time, I recommend washing your hands and drying them thoroughly every time before you touch the guitar and cleaning the strings with a soft cloth afterwards.

I hope you found this useful and that you like to incorporate this into your daily guitarist life.

About the Author:

Michael Korte is a professional guitarist and composer in Finland and also teaches guitar in Tampere. Highly recommended if you are interested in learning how to compose or if you just want to learn the essential skills to be able to join a band.