ow often should I change strings on my instrument?
I get this question quite a bit and the answer is different depending on which instrument we are talking about.
On a guitar, I like to change strings as soon as I see them getting a bit tarnished and brown, even if the discoloration is not uniform. Usually, for non-coated strings that happens within a week of putting them on. Coated strings last a quite a bit longer.
If you play your guitar a lot, and by a lot I mean a few hours every day, you may need to change the strings more often and sometimes as often as every day as many touring musicians do.
In general, for guitar and mandolin coated strings, I recommend changing every 2 months tops and for non-coated strings, once a month.
For banjos, I tend to be able to stretch the time to 2 months for non-coated and 3 months for coated.
For classical guitar, ukulele and violin, a 3-6 month span between changes is not uncommon.
Should I learn how to change strings on my own?
Learning to change strings is easy, and it is a way to connect with your instrument.
It also helps in understanding tuning, sound and often can be a time when you can include some care for your instrument such as polishing, oiling the fretboard, waxing and performing other maintenance tasks..
Which gauge is best for my instrument?
Let your fingers decide, but also your ear.
Ultimately, light strings are easier on the fingers but often they do not translate to a better sound.
If you play electric guitar, you may be used to pretty light strings such as .008 or .009 for the high e but on an acoustic, these strings are a bit too light to produce a good sound.
The most common acoustic guitar gauges are 11’s, 12’s for OM Size and 13’s for Dreadnought size guitars.
Another factor to keep in mind is how hard is your playing. If you are a loud strummer you may like the sound and feel of light or medium strings and lighter strings may buzz a little with stronger strumming or picking.
On a banjo though, medium strings are favored by those who play clawhammer style but those who play bluegrass typically like light strings best.
The ukulele universe is full of choices nowadays. Fluorocarbon, Nylon, Nylgut and more. Again, taste is king here too. Higher tension strings are have more a “pop” and are louder and with a deeper low end. Lighter and thinner strings are softer and easier to play and brighter in sound.
Which kind of strings should I use?
80/20 bronze (80% Copper and 20% Zinc have a brighter response but they tarnish fairly fast, Phosphor bronze instead have a warmer sound and tend to last longer.
Nickel bronze and Monel have a warmer and brighter sound and are often used on smaller body guitars as well as mahogany instruments.
Silk and Steel are softer and mellow, easy to play. They’re great for fingerstyle players or for kids or others just starting out, who find it hard to fully depress the strings.
Trying a few different kinds and sizes will also give you the opportunity to listen to all the many different voices your instrument has