A guitar string, whether it is an electric guitar or an acoustic guitar, is made of steel, so theoretically it should last forever. However, guitar strings go bad for a number of reasons.
Some guitars are not set up properly and this places more tension on the strings, which will make them go bad sooner than they should.
Sometimes the strings are put on too tightly, which also shortens their life span. The steel can also oxidize, leaving behind gunk that gets into the string and makes it brittle and weak.
How Long Do Guitar Strings Last?
The lifespan of a guitar string depends on many factors, such as:
1) The type of material used
One of the most important factors affecting the lifespan of a guitar string is the type of material which we can usually divide into Nylon and Steel
Nylon strings are made of nylon, a material that is very sensitive to temperature changes.
When exposed to extreme temperatures, such as those found in a freezer, they lose their elastic properties and become brittle. This makes them more likely to tear and/or shrink.
They are durable and can be used for many years. But if they are not kept in the original packaging, they may become brittle and break after a few months.
You will find nylon strings on classical guitars and even on acoustic guitars nowadays.
My recommended nylon strings :
1) D’Addario Pro-Arte Nylon Classical Guitar Strings
D’Addario’s EJ45 Pro-Arte Nylon Classical Guitar Strings are ideal for players looking for a set of strings that will provide a clear, focused, and articulate sound. These premium nylon strings have a higher gauge (thickness) than the more traditional steel strings, producing a brighter, fuller sound.
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2) Savarez Alliance HT Classic High Tension 540J
Savarez classical guitar strings are made from the highest quality materials available. They offer excellent value for money and provide great performance.
In the metal string’s category, the material of the string may contain steel, nickel, brass, and bronze. These steel strings are much more resistant to temperature as compared to nylon strings.
However, these types of strings do wear out over time. Metal strings tend to rust or corrode when left outside in wet conditions.
Poor quality strings can last just a few months (2-3 months). But good-quality metal strings like Ernie Ball, Elixer, Fender, D’addario can last much longer (6 months or more) if you take care of it.
If you play your instrument outdoors often, then you need to change your strings regularly.
I recommend using my favorite metal strings :
1) Ernie Ball Regular Slinky Nickel Wound
A slinky that has been made by one of the industry icons, Ernie Ball! This slinky will not disappoint! This particular one includes 3 sets of strings, with individual packaging, and also recipes created by the industry icon himself.
The string also features an element shield to make sure it remains fresh for longer. Made in California, USA, these strings are made with the finest and freshest materials.
These strings have been used by legends like Jimmy Page, Metallica, Slash, and much more.
2) Elixir Strings 19002 Electric Guitar With Optiweb Coating
Elixir Strings are the best strings you can buy. You get the same crisp tone that an uncoated string would provide, but with the added protection of their patented Optiweb Coating.
It protects the strings against corrosion and debris that will inevitably build up on your strings. Our coating technology is the best in the industry and what sets them apart from our competitors. Buying Elixir Strings is an investment for your guitar that will result in high-quality performance for years to come.
This decision is not one to be taken lightly, but if you are looking for the best strings on the market then it’s time to make a change.
2) How well you take care of your instrument
If you take good care of your guitar strings, chances are they will last much longer. Therefore, it is very important to know how to take care of your strings.
Here are some tips to remember when cleaning and caring for your guitar strings: Use a clean, soft cloth. Never use steel wool or other abrasive materials. These materials can damage the coating on your guitar strings.
Never soak your guitar strings in water or other fluids. This may cause them to rust. Dry them completely before storing them. Never leave your guitar strings in the sun. This may cause them to fade.
Store them in a cool, dark place. Never use an electric or battery-operated device to remove the coating from your guitar strings. This can cause them to break off inside your guitar.
Always remove your strings when you need to tune or set your guitar. This prevents the nugget from getting lodged between the strings. Never pull too hard when removing your strings. This can cause the string to break off inside your guitar.
3) The Environment
Normally, unopened guitar strings like Ernie Ball, D’Addario (strings still in package) can last up to 3-7 years depending on the environment in which it is kept. If stored away from sunlight or other sources of heat, then these strings may last longer.
However, if the strings get exposed to direct sunlight, moisture, humidity, etc., then they start going bad much faster.
Open strings, on the other hand, have a shorter life because once opened, they lose some of their elasticity and become weaker. If you want the best out of your strings, you might need to replace them after 2 to 6 months of use. After 6 months, they tend to be less responsive and harder to play.
But if you are not a professional and just want to play the guitar, the strings can last very long. You can use the guitar strings as long as they will not snap or rusty to the point it is just not possible to play anymore.
What Causes String To Break?
There are several causes of broken guitar strings, including:
Improper storage conditions â€” Improper storage conditions like exposure to extreme temperatures, excessive vibration, improper cleaning methods, poor ventilation, etc. cause damage to the strings. These damages include cracks, breaks, bends, nicks, cuts, corrosion, oxidation, and rust.
Improper setup â€” Some people use incorrect settings when setting up their instruments. This includes using an improperly tuned bridge saddle, wrong intonation, incorrectly adjusted truss rod, etc. All these things affect how the strings sound and play out.
Incorrect maintenance â€” Inadequate maintenance practices lead to premature wear and tear of the strings. For example, playing with dirty hands, neglecting proper lubrication, overuse of picks, etc. all contribute towards early failure of the strings.
Oxidation â€” This happens when the metal inside the string becomes rusty due to exposure to air and water. It’s usually caused by storing the guitar with its case open or exposing it to high temperatures.
Incorrect tuning â€” Tuners often fail to tune correctly due to lack of experience, faulty equipment, etc. As a result, the strings do not vibrate at the correct pitch, causing a loss of tone quality. Also, the strings may break prematurely.
Poor technique â€” Poor techniques while strumming, plucking, picking, fretting, etc.
When Should You Change Your Strings?
This can depend upon many factors and the musician behind the guitar. If you are not a professional guitarist and just want to play guitar as a hobby, then you can use the guitar strings for a long time.
If the guitar still sounds good and playable even after many years, do you really need to change the strings? As strings cost a lot of money, if you are just playing as a hobby, you don’t really need to change the strings that frequently.
However, if you are a professional guitarist and want the best out of your strings. It is recommended that you change your strings in about 3-6 months.
The reason why you should change it in 3-6 months is that, after that, your guitar strings will start losing responsiveness and strength. The guitar strings will sound a bit dull and will not give the sound quality of a new string.
How Do I Know If My Strings Are Going Bad?
You will know when your guitar strings are going bad when your strings start to have discoloration, sound dull, and when they start to feel uncomfortable with your fingers when you play them.
The strings will be harder to tune and will eventually break when you try to keep tuning them. When this happens, you’ll notice that they’re no longer responsive to changes in tension. They also tend to get stiffer and more brittle.
So before the string breaks, you should change the strings if your guitar strings sound dull and getting hard to hold on to.
How To Get Your Strings Last Longer
I have outlined why and how your guitar strings can go bad. Eventually, all guitar strings will go bad after a while. But there are things you can do in order for your guitar strings to last a little longer.
Here are some pointers:
1. Try Using A String Cleaner
There are many products on the market from major string manufacturers that are intended to clean strings.
Some of these products claim to extend string life, but they also reduce string squeaking and corrosion. If you use any such product, read the directions carefully.
Also, since you might be cleaning your entire guitar, you should use a different clean cloths to avoid getting any of the string chemicals onto the finish of the guitar’s body.
Here are my recommended String Cleaner –
1) GHS Strings FAST FRET (A87)
GHS Strings FAST FRET (A87) is an innovative and amazing product that will make your playing experience better and smoother.
It comes in a spray and a liquid, and it is designed for all stringed instruments: guitar, ukulele, violin, viola, cello, mandolin, ukulele, or even a harp.
This innovative lubricant is designed with the help of cutting-edge research and technology to ensure that your strings glide effortlessly.
In addition to that, this cleaning spray doesn’t contain any harmful substances.
It removes dirt and grime from the string surfaces and the fretboard with a single stroke of a feather, so it won’t cause any harm to your instrument. What’s more, this is a silicon-free cleaner, so it won’t affect the elasticity of your strings.
If you’re wondering why you should use GHS Strings FAST FRET (A87), then it’s because they are the only string lube with a patented design.
2) MusicNomad MN145 Premium String Care Kit – 3 Piece
This 3-piece string care kit contains all the tools you need to keep your strings in shape. The ergonomic no-mess applicator can be used to clean and lube your strings with one simple stroke. Use the gel applicator to apply string lubricant on your strings for better performance and longer-lasting playing time.
The performance string cleaner is specially designed to deep clean the string grooves without damaging the structure of the strings. Your last tool is the premium guitar polish that refreshes your strings to their original color. Don’t worry about getting bored with this kit – you’ll find endless ways to use it!
2. Wipe Your Strings
You should always wipe your strings after playing your guitar. This will help in removing dirt and oil buildup in your strings, which could shorten the lifespan of your strings.
3. Keep It Dry
Your guitar strings shouldn’t stay wet for long periods of time. If possible, avoid storing them inside humid places where moisture gathers. Also, donâ€™t store your guitar strings near heat sources like radiators, as these may dry out your strings over time.
4. Use A Guitar Case
Keep your guitar in its case. The best place for it is in its case.
Most guitar cases have very little space around the guitar and no air transfer between the interior and exterior of the case. So the inside of the guitar box is usually the best-controlled environment for the guitar.
So if you are not playing, always keep your guitar in its case if you want your strings to last longer.
Conclusion â€” Do Guitar Strings Go Bad
In summary, if you want to get the most out of your guitar strings, you should pay attention to the elements of the string and the guitar.
You should make sure that your guitar is in tune, and that your strings are properly lubricated, cleaned, and oiled. Proper care of your strings is very important, and not taking care of them can lead to them breaking easily.