Many guitarists wait far too long to change guitar strings. While there is no set rule as to when you should change strings, there are a few indicators that can tip you off when it’s time to think about new strings. Rely on your senses: do they look dull and corroded? Do they feel slow and tacky? Do they sound lackluster and muted? If any of these apply, there’s a good chance you need to change your guitar strings, which can not only improve playability, but also overall tone.
As your strings rub against the frets, they slowly deteriorate, causing weak spots in the strings themselves. These weak spots damage tone and provide thin areas that are more prone to breakage. While there is no set timeline that indicates when to change guitar strings, it is a good idea to change strings every few weeks if you have been playing regularly. This provides optimal tone and ease of playability. However, for those of us who do not have the money to change guitar strings that often, keep an eye out for the tell-tale indicators.
The most obvious way to know if you need to change guitar strings is your tone. The tone of your guitar suffers the older and more worn out your strings get, and you will notice your guitar sounds duller, less brilliant and bright. If this happens, do an inspection of your strings. If you notice build-up on the undersides of the string, take a rag and place it underneath the strings. Run the rag up and down the neck to clean them. This can improve tone slightly and give your strings a bit more life, but as the oils from your fingers build up on the strings, eventually you will have to change your strings.
Take a look at your strings where they make contact with the frets. If you notice they are shiny and worn at those spots, chances are your strings are getting worn. While little or no damage will occur to your guitar if the string breaks, it is an inconvenience, especially while playing live shows. To avoid this, be sure to inspect and change your guitar strings often. Doing regular inspection of your strings will lead to longer string life and better tone, and wiping the strings to remove oil from your fingers will keep your tone brighter longer.