Thursday, July 9, 2009

How Often Should Strings Be Changed???

This is a question that often remains unasked until a string gets broken. String changing can be time consuming, confusing, and often just plain forgotten. To keep your instrument sounding its best, recommended string changing is as follows:

Banjo - Every 2-3 Months
Guitar - Every 2-3 Months
Mandolin - Every 2-3 Months
Dobro - Every 2-3 Months
Dulcimer - Every 2-3 Months
Fiddle - Every 6-12 Months
Upright Bass - Every 1-3 Years

Does this mean that you can't wait longer, or that you might need to change sooner? Certainly! If you are a heavy sweater or if you have high acid content in your sweat, you may need to change much more frequently. If this is the case, I would recommend an anti-rust string, like Elixer Anti-Rust. (Regular coated strings will not protect against rust -- you need anti-rust protection.) If you don't play much at all, then you might be able to get another month or two out of your strings. Even if you don't play a lot, the strings will be affected by the weather and the humidity. To maintain an optimum sound, you need to change those strings!!

Will it hurt your instrument if you don't change strings? No! I've seen people bring instruments in that have had the same set of strings on for years. They usually brag about how long the strings have lasted and that the instrument "still sounds great"! Well, I think that's a matter of beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Believe me, the instrument would sound even greater with a new set of strings!

Does it matter what kind or brand of strings you use? Yes it does! I'm not into recommending certain brands of strings per se without talking to a person first, but different brands and different metal contents of the strings really DO make a difference. Some strings last longer than others, some sound bassier, some brighter, some are easier on the fingers, etc. In general, medium gauge strings are louder than light or extra light. Light gauge are easier on the fingers. Anything heavier than medium might cause damage to the neck of an instrument, so you need to check with your instrument manufacturer for recommendations if you are unsure. Phospher bronze tends to be slightly brighter than regular bronze. Coated strings last longer, but cost more (not everyone needs these, either).

For upright bass, steel strings are the hardest on your fingers. They are not greatly affected by the weather, they are economical, and they are also the loudest. Gut strings are quite costly and are the most affected by weather, but they give a nice, warm sound. They are not very popular with bluegrass/folk for both of the aforementioned reasons. Nylon strings are easier on the fingers, but tend to be "rolly" and are not as loud. They tend to be popular because they are easy on the fingers and economical. Tape-wound strings (like LaBella 7710 Jazz Strings) are great for bluegrass and folk because they are made for finger picking (instead of bowing), and they are somewhere in between steel and nylon. MUCH easier on the fingers, great full tone quality, and pretty much as loud as steel. They do not hold up quite as well as steel or nylon and they are pricey, but you'll get a nice feel and a good sound that won't cause as many blisters as steel. They are also less affected to humidity.

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