One of the easiest ways to make your guitar sound better is to put on new strings! Strings have gotten so reasonable in price these days, you could put on new strings every week and only spend $10 per month in some cases. But which strings should you get? I mean the choices are endless! There are some common guidelines that most guitarists who have been playing for awhile are aware of. But if you are just getting started, be sure to refer to the list of do’s and don’ts at the bottom of the page.
Ask yourself these questions
When buying strings there are only a few questions you have to answer for yourself in order to narrow down the choices:
- How often should I change my strings?
- What’s most important to me - tone quality or ease of playing?
- What kind of sound do I want, bright, warm, etc..
On to the answers:
How often you should change your strings depends on how often you play your guitar. Professionals tend to change their strings every few days depending on how many gigs they have that week. If you pick your guitar up every day and play a little bit and then put it down you can get away with maybe once every week. If you only pick it up once or twice a week, you can probably get away with changing them every month or two.
As for tone, if you are an aspiring blues or jazz player, you’re probably going to be more interested in a thicker, or fatter tone from your strings. The only way to get that is to buy a heavier gauge string, like those that start with a .012 1st string. Stevie Ray Vaughan used a really heavy gauge string and tuned his guitar lower than the standard tuning. Doing that gave him that really fat sound but relieved some of the extra tension that results from using a heavier gauge string. One word of advice- If you currently use a light gauge string and want to try a heavier gauge, be sure to take your guitar to a reputable repair person to reset the action and intonation to better suit the heavier gauge strings.
As for string sounds, strings are made from steel, brass, nickel, etc.. String manufacturers are constantly working on finding materials and methods that improve the sound and performance of their strings. The Dean Markley company has some really good info on their website. Here is their lesson on how to change the strings on an acoustic guitar.
Do’s and Don’t's:
- Do wash your hands prior to playing. Every time if possible.
- Do clean each individual string with a soft clean cloth after playing.
- Don’t overly “pre-stretch” your strings when changing them. Some people do this because when you first change them, guitar strings will continue to stretch until they settle in, making it hard to keep your guitar in tune at first. Which leads us to the next do…
- Do change your strings well ahead of a performance or practice time so they have plenty of time to settle in prior to playing.