When should classical guitar strings be changed?

Peter Zalocha, BSS Guitar Instructor

When should classical guitar strings be changed?

Nylon guitar strings are constantly under approximately 90lbs of tension when in tune. That, and daily practice can seem to wear the strings out rather quickly! Generally, bass strings wear out more quickly than treble strings, and it makes sense to purchase extra sets of bass strings. When I buy strings for the guitar I play every day, I try to buy an extra set of basses along with a full set; so I change them twice as much.

You know your strings need to be replaced when they start to lose their tone. In other words, they don’t sound as warm/rich as they used to; instead they have a flat or weak sound. Sometimes this can evade you, and soon strings get visibly in need of replacement (i.e. They look dirty, wear marks over frets, or worse case, the bass strings begin to unravel).

Good strings aren’t cheap, but it could be worse (bassists).  I like to keep the strings fresh so I change them fairly frequently, which is tricky because there is a lot of stretching involved to get the strings to settle within reasonable proximity of standard tuning.  This becomes an endless struggle trying to maintain optimal tone and tuning together. My general rule is that once the strings have settled, it’s time to replace them!

1 thought on “When should classical guitar strings be changed?

  • Hi Peter,

    So the short answer to “When should classical guitar strings be changed?” would be “When they need it.” Ha ha!

    Although my guitar is a “Gypsy Jazz” style rather than “Classical”, it has nylon strings, never the less. I play hours a day, so if I can get a month out of a set of strings, I am lucky. My “solution” was to buy an entire “box” of strings. That at least keeps the per/set cost down.

    The most obvious clue (to me) that my guitar needs to be restrung is that (oddly enough) it begins to “stay in tune” for several days. As odd as that sounds, I think there is some logic to it. That is, fresh strings are very “dynamic”. That is what gives them their special beautiful tonal quality when they are new. The longer they are on the guitar, the less they stretch daily… but in the process begin loosing loosing more and more of the dynamic properties they have when they are new.

    I love the tone of “Savarez New Cristal Corum” strings. This is what came on my Cordoba GK-Studio Negra. After trying a set of compatible D’Addario strings but quickly realized why Cordoba chose Savarez. There was simply no comparison on the sound,with Savarez coming out as the clear winner.

    Of course, this is just one example on one guitar model… others’ mileages may vary.

    Were I “gigging regularly” I probably would change strings at least once a week. I noticed that your article points out that “touring professionals” change their strings once a day. That leads me to a question for you. I am wondering if their are any tips you can offer for breaking in (stretching out) a new set of strings VERY quickly (as one would need to do if changing strings daily.)

    It takes at least several hours after a string change for my guitar to be “playable” with the ability to make it through a full song without tuning up. Were I a touring professional and wanted fresh strings all the time, I only see two alternatives:
    1. As part of the routine after a professional engagement (dare I say “gig”) I would change the strings right at that moment in order to allow the strings to settle in before the next gig.
    2. As most (not all of course) jobs are in the evening, I would swap the strings as soon as I wake up in the morning before the gig.

    But if you have any “quick break-in tips” to share, I would appreciate it.

    In closing, I’ll just mention one more thing. My guitar in particular seems to “eat” D-strings. It is always the first one to go when the frets eat through the winding from the 2nd to 5th frets. I do think I will take my guitar to a reputable shop just to have them check the frets for consistency.

    Other than that, I think my only option is to write Savarez and ask if I might buy a supply of “D-strings only”. It always seems like a waste (especially if I am not gigging and/or recording) to change all the strings when only the D-String wears out. (The other strings still have “pretty good” tonal quality at that point.) I think I could double the life of my strings if I could replace only the D-String.

    Yes, I know (from a tonal standpoint) this is not the best solution. But for “practice time only” it makes sense for me personally to try what I can to extend the life of the strings in this way.

    Anyway, please let me know if you have a “secret quick-break-in” method for strings.

    Thanks for the nicely written and informative article.

    Best regards,

    RJ (Robert)

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