Jeffrey Imbody is a guitar tech with over 25 years experience maintaining and repairing acoustic and electric guitars.
This week's topic - Guitar strings:
I get asked quite a bit by customers how to care for their strings to insure they last longer, and how often strings need to be changed. The answers to these questions vary a bit from player to player, but there are a few simple rules everyone can follow to insure their guitar strings are in ideal playing condition for the big gig, the campfire sing along, or just for playing around the house for your personal enjoyment.
Keep your strings clean.
When you play guitar, and you are constantly sliding your fingers over the strings, you are leaving oil and dead skin cells on the surface of your strings. Most guitar strings are ridged, and the build-up from your fingers leaves deposit in the string grooves which can cause corrosion. The easiest way to combat this is to use a clean cloth to wipe down your strings to prevent string breakdown. You can use a product like "Fast Fret" which lubricates and cleans your strings, keeping them more slick, and reducing wear and tear. Some players also use coated strings by Elixir, D'addario, ClearTone or Martin to increase string life. Coated strings use a thin layer of material to protect the strings from decay. It is still a good idea to wipe these strings down after playing, but the life span of your strings is increased dramatically
When is it time to change strings
When you put on a new set of strings, you will notice a drastic difference in brightness, tone clarity, and sustain from your guitar. New strings are free of corrosion and dead skin cells, and will vibrate longer, improving your guitar's tone. For the first few days afterwards, you will have to tune your guitar repeatedly,, but after this initial breaking in period, your guitar should stay in relative tune, and minor adjustments should be all you need to make. As time goes on, and strings wear down, you will notice three things. The instrument will lose brightness and projection, and strings will start to sound "dead" generating less volume and sustain. The unwrapped steel strings on acoustic and electric guitars will begin to turn black as the silver coating wears off the steal core. Your strings will also begin to stretch, which will often make it harder for you to keep the guitar in tune.
When you start to notice these things, it's time to look for a fresh set of strings. Uncoated strings will typically last anywhere from one to three months depending on how often you play and how corrosive the oil in your skin is. Coated strings can last up to three times longer.
If you have questions about strings, how and when to change them, and want recommendations on what the best string for your guitar might be, feel free to call us! We'll be happy to help you out!
Come back next week when we'll talk about string action, and how to make sure your guitar plays easily and comfortably!