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Why You Should Change Your Guitar Strings

by Joel Ramirez

 If you're a guitar player like me you probably don't look forward too much to changing your strings. I too use to not see the benefit in changing my strings until I started listening a little closer. 

Changing your strings is not only a matter of having the best sound, or at least a fresh vibrant one. It affects a few more things: Intonation (how accurate each note is at each fret) tuning stability ( how well your guitar stays in tune) String tension and sustain. 

Tuning stability is affected by the age of your strings. The older and more corroded your strings are, the worse it will be able to hold its tune. So simply put it, fresh strings can help you keep everything in tune and help you sound your best. 

String tension is another factor. I've found from personal experience that older strings are like shoestrings, they lack elasticity. They lack that rubber band bounce back that is healthy for playing, and for producing sustain. New strings with good elasticity will have more sustain, which means you won't have to use as much distortion or effects to get long sustain. Furthermore, I've found from experience that new strings with good elasticity and tension have a sort of "push back" effect on your strumming/picking hand. Why is this good? It really helps you conserve energy. The string pushes back against your pick and also returns to its neutral position faster than an old string. I really think this helps your hands get less tired, as you are fighting the string less to get it to "talk" 

Lets talk about intonation. Intonation is how accurately your guitar can play the notes that you are asking it to play. Most electric guitars have adjustable intonation at the bridge. You can adjust your intonation by moving back and forth the saddle pieces of your bridge on your guitar.

 The picture below show us these saddle pieces, they're the blocky tooth looking things. Notice how they aren't all perfectly aligned with each other, some are closer to the bottom of the screen and some are further up. This ability to move the saddle up or down is what affects intonation. Moving the saddle up or down affects the string length. Which affects our string intonation. The way to check this is to play a harmonic at the 12th fret, and check it with a tuner. Then compare the fretted note at the 12th fret, they should be identical. If there is a difference between the notes then you need to adjust your intonation. 

So for example if you play a harmonic at the 12th fret and it says "E" and the fretted version of the note (also at the 12th fret) says "Eb" then you have to adjust your intonation so that both notes read "E"

There are a few healthy exceptions to having new strings. Older strings tend to lose some of their high end bite, producing a warmer, mellower tone. If you like this sound go for it, but remember that theres a balance and at some point your strings just may be too shot. 

So change your strings regularly. How often you change them depends your own personal factors. Like how often you play your guitars, or if you tend to work up a good sweat in all the excitement. Sweat is the biggest enemy on your strings, because water and salt are highly corrosive, and sweat is full of water and salt! If you play daily, (you will get better faster this way!!) and play for 1 to 4 hours a day or more change your strings weekly. If you only play daily for less than an hour then every 2 to 3 weeks should be fine. 

Key Points:

Change your strings every 2 to 3 weeks if you play daily for at least 20 minutes, weekly if you play a lot.

Fresh strings will help you sound and play better.

Sweat is a killer! You might not be able to sweat less (i know ways of controlling sweat, if this is the problem, come talk to me) Sweat corrodes and destroys strings, its full of 2 of the most corrosive substances on earth, salt and water. 

Check your intonation