There is no hard and fast rulebook when it comes to changing your strings. After all, a lot of it comes down to personal preference. Some players prefer their tried and true, gritty strings, while others love the feeling of a fresh pack. Ultimately, the decision is up to you. But there are a few things to keep in mind when holding out on an old pair of strings. Below are a few things to look out for when considering a string change and tackling a break before it happens.
1. Your guitar can’t seem to stay in tune
Now, there can be a multitude of reasons why your guitar is not holding tune — and it can have nothing to do with your strings. A warped neck, an improperly cut nut, or simply bad tuners can all come into play. But if all of these other factors don’t seem to be the culprit, then it could be your strings.
Typically, tuning problems occur with brand new strings or old ones. When you do decide to put on a fresh set, make sure you stretch the strings out a bit the first few times you play them.
2. Your tone sounds dull
Your tone should be as bright as our Slinky packs. So if your harmonics don’t pop and your chords don’t chime, then old strings could be to blame. However, this again comes down to preference. If you prefer a more mellow tone, then properly worn strings are probably your feat. Regardless, being aware of your guitar’s current tone is important to take note of. If you’re about to trek on tour with your beloved gritty strings, be aware that you could be edging towards a break.
3. Your strings have kinks
Kinks occur when your strings make continuous contact with the frets. After time, small dents will start to appear in your strings, increasing the likelihood of a break. But fret not! This is one of the easiest things to look out for when considering a string change. If you spot visible kinks in your strings, then it’s time to pick up a new pack.
Alright. Let’s talk science, shall we? Corrosion is the natural process that converts refined metal into a more chemically stable form. Simply put, corrosion is what destroys your guitar strings. And unless you store your gear in a climate-controlled room, you’re probably at risk of it.
Sweat, oil, dirt, and moisture all play into the process. To make matters even more complicated, everyone’s body chemistry is different! Some people tend to have more acidic sweat, and the more acidic your sweat, the higher the chances of corroding your strings. The solution to this seems rather simple (yet tremendously overlooked): keep your strings clean. If you’re known for putting on a sweaty show, then it’s best practice to wipe down your strings and fretboard after every gig. Ernie Ball offers a variety of instrument care gear. Our Wonder Wipes and Fretboard Conditioner can help keep your rig in it’s best possible condition.
Change in Climate
The glue that holds your guitar together will begin to melt at 150 degrees Fahrenheit. So keeping your gear in the trunk of your car in the dead of summer is probably not the best for its longevity. Ideally, a guitar should be stored between 45 and 55 percent humidity. But because we can’t control the weather, it’s best to just take precautions of changing environments. We recommend keeping your guitar in its case when you’re not using it, as opposed to sitting in open air. Dust and various pollutants in the air will jump start the corrosion process. Keeping it in a clean, dry case will reduce exposure to various elements.
Much like your tone, the color of your strings shouldn’t be dull. An early sign of string failure is discoloration. Nickel and steel guitar strings should give off a silver luster, while acoustic strings should maintain a vibrant bronze. However, some discoloration simply might come from dirt and oil. If your strings are still looking dull after a fresh clean, its a good idea to slap on a new set.