Over the last 30 years of teaching guitar I have noticed that nearly all students and even many accomplished players simply do not change their strings often enough.
I change strings on most of my guitars after roughly ten hours of use. I have always used Thursdays as a guitar maintenance day. Changing strings on Thursdays gives me enough hours to play the strings in before weekend gigs.
Whenever changing strings I always check for intonation and neck relief. I have always told my students that your guitar only plays as well as you maintain it. It never ceases to amaze me how many guitarists have bad quality, or old strings on an otherwise great guitar. As the string is your note, you need high quality strings; you can only sound as good as your strings will allow. I always use a string winder for even string windings onto the string post and make sure they go low around the tuning capstan, always stretch your strings a few times in the tuning process. I tell all younger players to make sure you change strings at the very least once every 3 months.
On electric guitars (strat scale lengths) the best strings I have used are the D’Addario NYXL – a new type of string that tunes and sounds better than all others, to my ears at least. Other good electric guitar srings include: Ernie Ball, Dunlop, JVB and SIT. I find the best gauge to be 9-46 – this allows for easy string bending in higher registers whilst maintaining a good full tone in the bass register. On Les Paul style guitars I use 10-46 or 10 -48. The accompanying photo to this article is my beloved PRS – 305. I always service my guitars on a soft flat surface, with a neck support.
On my jazz guitars (you can change these a lot less often) I use Thomastik George Benson flatwounds guage 12-54 – flatwounds can sound good for up to a year.
On acoustic steel string guitars I generally use Thomastik – Plectrum 11-50 or Martin SP Bronze - I find the Thomastiks and the Martins to have a nice feel under the fingers and a rich sound in all registers.
On my Gitano Gypsy Jazz guitar I use Newtone – Gypsy Jazz Django Reinhardt – silverplated wound 11- 45 – this gives an authentic gypsy jazz tone.
On nylon string guitars I prefer Savarez – 540J high tension strings – I sometimes use Augustines and Luthiers.
I tend to avoid using many new brand long life strings, I believe they are bad for your guitar’s neck and fretwire health, they might save you money on strings but a re-fret or new guitar will cost a lot more!
If you quote this article you will receive 25% off strings next time you are in the store at Caroline Springs School of Music.
Brendan Hains principal instructor at Caroline Springs School of Music