I bought a ukulele close to 10 years ago and I didn’t know anything about the strings or how often to change them. A couple years later, someone suggested that I get my instrument restrung. At the time, I didn’t think it would make that big of a difference in the sound but obviously going from several year old strings to brand new ones, makes an instrument sound sooo much better. So I’ll be talking about why you need to change your strings and how often is good to change them. Plus, I’ll include factors like how much you play and where you live and the style you play. 

I can’t go throwing around blanket statements like: “change your strings every 2 days” to every person that asks. It’s like asking how long a pair of shoes will last. Walking an average distance everyday, they’ll be good for about 6 months. While a marathoner’s shoes would be good closer to 3 months or less. If you have someone who plays guitar for 2+ hours every single day, they are going to need to change strings much more often than someone who plays for 30 minutes 3 times a week. So with this in mind, let’s see if it’s way past the time when you should change your strings.

First, let me tell you some tell tell signs that you’re past due for new strings. If your guitar strings have tiny little hairs or look a little fuzzy, that’s one sign. The fuzz means the coating is fraying and coming off your strings. Another sign is, if the strings are discolored (especially where they meet the frets) or feel dirty. The last sign I’ll mention here to show that new strings are overdue, is if your strings sound dead or the tone is dull, which means the strings aren’t resonating properly.

There are things that affect the longevity of your strings like the humidity and atmosphere where you live, what style you play and maintenance. If you live in an area of the world with high humidity your strings will start to corrode faster just because of the effects of moisture on metal. I know what you’re thinking, “you told me to keep my guitar humidified, and now you’re saying it makes my strings wear out faster?” I’ll tell you, you’d rather have your guitar humidified and have to change your strings more often. Strings will break down and rust no matter what you do but you don’t want your guitar to dry out and crack. I promise. 

Playing a lot of metal type music where you’re bending the strings, can make your strings become brittle faster. In addition, tuning your guitar over and over from standard to drop tunings and back again, influences how long your strings last too. Also the oils, dirt, and sweat from your own hands make your strings go dead faster. The care and maintenance you give your strings will help make your strings last longer. Some guitarists wash their hands before playing just to clean dirt or grime off that could transfer into the strings. Another good maintenance tip is to wipe down your strings each time you’ve finished playing, with some kind of cloth to remove the oils and dirt. I’ll be honest though, I’ve never regularly wiped my strings down. Maybe I’m super lazy because it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to do but I just haven’t ever had the habit, but it’s still something that could help your strings. The last thing to keep in mind is, do you have more than one guitar? If you’re like me and have many instruments you play regularly, you don’t need to change the strings as often because you might be practicing everyday but not on the same guitar.

A general rule of thumb for an average guitarist is to change strings around every 8 weeks, unless you only pick up your guitar once every 6 months. By average I’m talking about people who play a couple times a week. Professional guitarists change their strings every week or more. A lot of guitarists don’t worry about their strings until one breaks and then they just replace all of them at one time. Ultimately, you have to listen to the tone and pay attention to how your strings feel and decide what your preference is. Whatever you decide, just keep on playing. This world will never suffer from too many guitarists. 

-Lindy Schuebert