By Constantin Einzmann
Most guitar players feel like they do not need to waste a lot of time when it comes to the task of changing strings. They simply neglect it and hence most guitars in the world are equipped with poor sounding rusted old strings, which is a big mess!
In fact changing strings is one of the mostly underrated things when it comes to great guitar tone and expressive playing. Even many professional guitarists who play in bands and in studios think that this is not a big deal and are completely wrong with that assumption.
Here are six reasons, why it is crucial to change strings on a regular basis:
There are many guitarists playing Gibson, Fender, Musicman, Ibanez, PRS, ESP and other high standard guitar brands which can be pretty expensive (talking about several thousand dollars per guitar here and not about 300$ beginner guitars!), yet the strings on those guitars are often older than a year and have lost all of their brilliance already a long time ago. Here is the price question: What is a 5000$ Gibson Les Paul worth with rusted strings? I think you can guess the correct answer – it is pretty worthless! To be honest, I would rather play a 300$ guitar with new strings than the Les Paul with the rusted ones!Did you ever change the strings of your guitar and then had this „Aha!“ experience, that your guitar sound all of a sudden really awesome and brilliant again? So changing your strings seems like quite a good trick to achieve a good guitar tone!
- Harmonics and Sustain
When you use wasted strings, you will have a hard time to make your guitar squeal like Eddie Van Halen. This is due to all of the dirt, rust and damages which have accumulated over time on the surface of the string. All these flaws have an impact on the internal damping of the material and kill the overtones and high frequencies when the string resonates. The consequence are pretty week harmonics and a way lower sustain rate than if you use fresh strings.
Did you ever wonder why your guitar is not well in tone? Put on some new stings, this can often solve the problem instantly because all the damages on old strings can lead to a new distribution of tension inside of the string which can lead to them being not in tone anymore.Having a good intonation on your guitar will bring another benefit to you: It helps developing your ears because they get used to perfect intonation and will realize any deviation of it very quickly.
- Feeling on your fingers
Playing on rusty and old strings simply does not feel good! Especially if you use a lot of phrasing techniques like bending, vibrato or slides where you apply a lot of force on the strings or have a lot of friction between your fingers and the strings, you will realize pretty soon, that your fingertips get wasted quickly. Avoid this effect by using new strings and you will be able to play and practice longer without your fingers bleeding.
You want your guitar to look good, don’t you? Do rusty and wasted strings look good – definitely not! So give yourself a kick in the ass and get rid of them. Your guitar will be grateful for that service on it!
- It is neither expensive nor is it complicated…
…yet it is the best way to achieve good guitar tone instantly! You may have objections like „I play a shitty 150$ guitar, why should I bother to change strings on that one?“. I can tell you, especially if you have a cheap guitar it will have a vast impact on its tone. Try it and you will see! Nevertheless, if you have the 5000$ axe then having rusted strings on it is like heavily insulting the value of your instrument.You may have other objections like „Changing strings often is expensive“. Come on dude, are you kidding me?! Is your good guitar tone not worth 10-20 bucks per month? I mean if you are an enthusiastic player and enjoy your time with the instrument, then taking the time and spending the money in order to change the strings will definitely be worth the effort. You owe this to yourself and especially to your beautiful wooden friend with the long neck!
How often should you change strings?
Very good question I am glad you asked!
To be honest, there is no definite answer to this question. You will realize (when you change your strings frequently – and by that I don’t mean every six months!) that a lot of the brilliance gets lost already in the first few hours of playing. So do you have to change strings every day? …Hell no! Unless if you are Joe Bonamassa and have your own guitar rookie I will admit, that this in fact is too much effort for the average player.
As a rule of thumb I would suggest you to change the strings of the guitar you play every two to four weeks if you play one up to to two hours per day. Try to get a feeling of when the tone of your guitar has changed significantly compared to when you put on new strings. This will at the same time be a great exercise for your ear and your feeling for good tone.
Which strings should you use
There is also no definite answer to this question.
But if you start to change strings regularly, you can use this as the best opportunity to find out, which strings suit your guitar the best. Check out different string manufacturers, materials, thicknesses, coatings etc. and you will quickly realize what a vast impact the choice of strings has on your guitar tone.
If you found the best set of strings for your guitar, then you are one step further to mastery of great tone!
About the author:
Constantin Einzmann is a professional musician, guitar teacher and skilled mechanical engineer. He is the founder of the ShredFactory, a music school based in Augsburg, Germany.
For more info visit his schools website https://www.shredfactory-augsburg.de