The strings on your guitar are not a permanent part. When you first buy your instrument, they usually don't mention you should change them out once in a while. The strings should be treated as a disposable item. You're expected to change them frequently.
Signs your strings should be replaced:
- Heavy discoloration or rust - they should be shiny and somewhat clean looking. Nickel strings should be nickel color. Bronze strings should be bronze color.
- Coating peeling off - if your strings are coated and the coating is peeling off, it's time to replace them.
- "Dead Strings" - Dead strings don't have any pop or sparkle to the tone. They make more of a thud and a muddy sound. They won't hold a tune very well, and intonate poorly. If your strings seem to have lost all the treble, then they're dead. Note: Sometimes a brand new string can be dead. It will buzz everywhere - usually even on open notes. Intonation will be poor. (sounds out of tune when you fret it after you've tuned it open)
- Breaking strings - If the first sign you need a new string is you broke one after a few years of ownership - It's time for a whole new set. Playing heavily on good strings can break one, but if you run them so long they just give out - don't change the one string. Put on a new set. Most strings are inexpensive.
- Buzzy guitar that used to play clean - As the strings die, they get buzzy and floppy. Many times a new set of strings will clean up the sound a bit.
How often should I change my strings?
This depends on a few factors:
- How hard you play - This one is obvious.
- How often you play - While unused strings will go bad, they go bad faster as you play
- Type of strings you use - Coated strings generally last a lot longer
- Weather/Environment - Most strings are metal and very susceptible to moisture
- If you keep it in the case - Weather will have less effect and generally preserve the strings a little longer
- If you wipe down the strings after play - Getting your sweat, acids, and oils off can save them
Knowing when to change your strings is going to be something you have to figure out for your individual situation. It varies from player to player. If you're using standard steel strings with nickel or phosphor bronze winding: expect to change them anywhere from a few weeks to a couple months at a time. If you're using coated strings: you may get away with a few months longer. Pay attention to the signs of bad strings listed up top, however. Setting a schedule is nearly impossible when there are so many factors involved. If you're unsure, we can tell you.
Nylon strings will last substantially longer than steel strings. Those used on classical guitars and ukulele take a long time to stretch out, break-in and start to stay in tune. It would be a real hassle to change these strings too often. Our advice is that if they're holding up pretty well, leave them on until the sound starts to deteriorate. If you run your finger underneath the string and feel indentation marks from the frets, that's a sign they're worn out.
Note: Nylon strings are not intended for guitars built for steel strings. They do not fit the nut or bridge properly. The neck is much too narrow for the fatter strings. They won't play well or sound nearly as good as the steel strings. If you want to put easy-to-play strings on, consider Extra Light Phosphor Bronze or Silk & Steel Strings. We stock both of these. Also, if your guitar has high action, bring it by for a setup. We'll make it easy to play with proper strings on it.
Never put Steel Strings on a Nylon String guitar. The guitar is not built with proper bracing to withstand the tension the steel strings apply. The top will flex and bend out of shape. The bridge will eventually rip off the top. The neck can twist or bow to the point it's unplayable. The standard nylon guitar strings all have a nylon core. The three lower strings are wrapped with metal, but they are still nylon strings.