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When to change the strings

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(@anonymous)
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I was wondering how to tell when to change the strings. I have had my guitar for almost 2 months now, along with the strings that are currently in them. I would assume that the strings being in there for almost 2 months, they would be pretty much done. But I can't hear any different in sound or see any difference in color. Mind you, I haven't been paying much attention to either. So, are there any other ways to tell when its time to change the strings?


   
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(@anonymous)
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Change them when they start sounding dull.
The only problem with that for a beginner is the sound changes gradually as the strings wear so until your ears get more used to it you wont notice the change.
When you put a new set on though you will definately notice the change.
The sound will be more vibrant.
After a few changes you will get to know when they need it.
Also as I remember you are fond of playing power chords with a fair amount of distortion. The sound change will be even less noticable.


   
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(@ricochet)
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Basically, when they start sounding dull or when you see much visible tarnish and corrosion. Nickel electric strings last a LONG time, and the plain steel strings getting rusty tells you when it's time to change them. With brass and bronze acoustic strings it's the tarnish on the wound strings that shows up first, usually. There are all sorts of string lube/preservative substances sold that help prolong string life. I've long used olive oil, rubbing the strings (and fretboard) down with it at string change time, wiping the excess off with a cloth or paper towel. Makes 'em nice and slick for bending and sliding, and they last a lot longer. Wiping the strings down with a cloth whenever you finish playing is a good idea, too. Gets corrosive perspiration off.

"A cheerful heart is good medicine."


   
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(@anonymous)
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Topic starter  

Thank you for the help. Should I have an extra set of strings (apart from the ones I'm putting on) in case I break one trying to change them?


   
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(@ricochet)
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Yes, I think it's always a good idea to have a spare set with you. I stick 'em in the case with the guitar.

"A cheerful heart is good medicine."


   
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(@anonymous)
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You should always have an extra set or two anyway. Aside from possibly breaking one changing strings you can also break a string playing.


   
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(@chris-c)
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Ditto to everything said above. :)

I'd add though, that it's a matter of personal taste, even among professional musicians. Some pros apparently like to change strings after every performance, others leave them on for quite a while.

The only real answer is when they sound bad to you.

My own preference is for strings that are fairly well down the track. I don't actually like the sound of new strings - too bright and metallic for my taste. I much prefer them when they start to age and develop a bit more character and mellowness.

Apparently some performers will "play in" a set before they use them on stage. They'll also play in another set and then take them off and keep them for spares.

You probably won't know for a while what's best for you, but after a few changes you will start to get a feel for how often suits you and what the signs are that "it's time".

Cheers, Chris


   
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(@anonymous)
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Good advice. Thanks for the tips. I prefer the harder, brighter more metallic sound myself so I will probably end up changing the strings quite a bit. Though I've also found changing from mellow to hard is just a matter of changing the equalizer settings on my amp.


   
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(@chris-c)
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Though I've also found changing from mellow to hard is just a matter of changing the equalizer settings on my amp.

Good point. I play mostly acoustic now, so I'm much more aware of where the strings are in their life-span. I'm also getting a lot better at being able to tell which aspect of the sound is due to string condition and which is just due to poor technique on my part.

As you say, you can mask the condition of the strings by fiddling with the amp. But I'm sure that the more experienced electric players can still tell fairly easily when their strings are starting to get dull or lose their vibrancy.

One of my electrics still has the original strings on from when I bought it 10 months ago. :shock: It hasn't been played much recently, but before I change the strings I'll have a good listen and maybe even record it. Then I'll listen again (with the same amp settings and new strings) and see how much difference I can pick out. It will be interesting to hear what I learn about how they sound at different stages of their life.

Cheers, Chris


   
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(@rip-this-joint)
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Man i LOVE new strings. Everytime i put them on, my playing seems to greatly increase. There is nothing like new strings


   
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(@anonymous)
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if you play with old strings long , they get rusted and smelly too :evil: .Time to have a welcome change of strings :P


   
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(@chris-c)
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Ugh... rusty strings....

Sometimes when you pick up a guitar in a shop the strings are in shocking condition and the high E string feels like razor wire instead of nice and smooth. Partly caused by time, and partly by too many previous sweaty paws. :?

Apparently the speed at which strings deteriorate depends a lot on the hands that play them. Not just how hard they've been belted but how acidic, oily, flaky, or whatever the skin is.

A friend of mine who is a very good classical trained player tells of letting somebody he knew play his guitar for only twenty minute or so. He describes being absolutely staggered at the condition of the strings when the guitar was handed back. He reckons they looked like somebody had rubbed a hamburger up and down them. He promptly threw them out and fitted a new ones, even though they were a recent set. :shock: :cry:


   
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(@ricochet)
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He reckons they looked like somebody had rubbed a hamburger up and down them. :shock: :cry:EEEEEEEEEEWWWWWW!!! :shock:

"A cheerful heart is good medicine."


   
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 Nils
(@nils)
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He reckons they looked like somebody had rubbed a hamburger up and down them.
I am trying to envision this Chris so tell me was the hamburger cooked or raw? If it was cooked was it rubbed on there when it was still warm or was it cold like it was laying out on a picnic table overnight or something. Also, was it a plain burger or was it a cheeseburger and did it have other stuff on it? I just want to make sure I understand this and never do it.

I may never get the picture of the burger strings out of my head now :lol:

Nils' Page - Guitar Information and other Stuff
DMusic Samples


   
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(@anonymous)
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After this thread I will never let any of my guitars anywhere near a hamburger :o


   
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