Guitar String Maintenance
Guitar String Maintenance | learn how to keep your strings in top playing condition and tone and how to double the life of your strings using these tips.
You purchased that great guitar off the wall of a music store or bought one online. It arrived with new strings and when brought up-to-tune, it give you warm fuzzy's every time you strummed it. This probably went on for several weeks and a month or more.
Lately you have noticed that the strings aren't shiny anymore, they sound dead and you just can't tune the guitar like you could when the strings were new. Guess what? you are probably into a string change for the instrument to bring it back to it's original brightness and tone.
This is a difficult question to answer as it usually depends of each individual guitar player.
Some guitar players do not like the sound of "new strings" as they usually do not exhibit a nice warm woody tone that we expect from our prized solid-wood acoustic guitar.
I guess I have to admit that I fall into that category. I usually like the sound of the strings by the 2nd week of playing, up until 3 to 4 days before they have to be replaced.
Strings are discolored. The plain strings are rust-colored or almost black. There is not a whole lot you can do with them once they reach this stage. Cleaners will help, but not bring them back to life.
The winding of your wound bass strings are flat or worn through on the bottoms at fret contact. Again - you cannot rejuvenate this condition. Just change them.
Strings sound "dead": You may be able to bring some life back by using a good cleaner and lubricant. It depends how dead they are. Also see the next point.
Can't keep the guitar in tune. This condition indicates that you really need to change your strings or there is a string installation problem. See the article on String Installation Problems for more on this issue.
You see a slight separation over a fret on a wound bass string. This is an indication that the winding has broken and the string will soon break.
String Breakage: This can actually be caused by several different conditions. There may be a problem with the nut or saddle.
I know when I started playing the guitar at 15, my hands perspired a lot. This condition lasted for many years, and in my teaching career, I have found that this is a common problem with young guitar players.
As a consequence of this condition, you will go through strings very quickly if you don't take special care of them.
The perspiration is very salty and erodes the strings very quickly, turning the plain steel strings of the Acoustic Guitar to rust in a matter of days.
Classical Guitars do not suffer from this with their plain nylon strings, but do share commonality with the problems suffered by the wound strings - and that is getting the little crevices between the windings clogged with dirt, oils and debris.
You may run into many guitar players who swear by the technique of boiling their strings. While I cannot dispute that this method does work, I feel that it is far better and easier to use a good quality string cleaner on your strings.
Boiling usually means you have to take all the strings off the instrument at one time. On a good quality solid wood instrument, this will ruin the tone and volume for at least a day and probably much more.
Also, due to the fact you are removing strings means you are stressing strings that are already nearing the end of their usefullness and they will probably break much quicker as a result of the tension and re-tension.
Here is a check list of things that can dramatically increase the life of your strings. By this I mean you con most likely double the string life (or more) if you practice all of these rules.
Guitar String Maintenance Tip #1: Never play the guitar with dirty or unwashed hands. Always wash your hands thoroughly to get dirt, grime and perspiration removed completely from your hands.
Perspiration will corrode the strings and dirt fills in the little crevices in the wound strings, causing them to go "dead" very quickly.
Planet Waves Microfiber Guitar Cloth: The Planet Waves Micro-Fiber polishing cloth acts like a magnet for dust, dirt, and oils, and lasts considerably longer than ordinary cloths. Woven from microscopic fibers, the Planet Waves Micro-Fiber Cloth is 10 times finer than silk, up to 30 times finer than cotton, and 100 times finer than a human hair.
The fibers are woven into masses of tiny "hooks & loops" which cut through stains, attracting and absorbing dirt, smudges, and microparticles that ordinary cloths cannot reachor remove. Best of all, the Micro-Fiber polishing cloth needs only minimal polish or no polish at all!
Guitar String Maintenance Tip #2: When you are done playing, Wipe down your guitar strings.
This should be a complete wipe-down. Here is how you do it. Always keep a soft cloth in your guitar case. I would recommend a Microfiber Cloth. One for your strings and one for the guitar itself.
First take the cloth and wipe the top of the strings vigorously, for the entire length of the strings. This cleans the top half of the strings.
Second, slip the cloth beneath the strings and pull up on each end to clean the underside of the strings. Don't be too shy about applying upward pressure here as these is where most of the dirt accumulates. This cleans the bottom half of the strings.
If you really want to get the grime off, slip the cloth beneath each individual string, give it a twist or two and slide it up and down the string several times. This tends to get your cloth really dirty, but you know you are getting off the dirt when you look at your cloth.
The above step should be done when you are done playing for several hours or for the day.
The revolutionary design allows for 360 degrees of cleaning power. It features specially designed string cleaning microfiber pads, which are cleanable, so this and is not a disposable item. It can simply and quickly be cleaned with running water and a drop of liquid soap.
Guitar String Maintenance Tip #3: If you really want to get the junk out of your strings, saturate your string cloth with Rubbing Alcohol and wipe them down with this at the end of the day.
Guitar String Maintenance Tip #4: If your hand perspire a lot....You should wipe down your strings about every 20 to 30 minutes, not just at the end of a practice or performance session.
The oils and acids that are contained in our hands is highly corrosive to the guitar strings - especially the plain steel strings. Extra vigilance is therefore called for you maintain your string health.
Guitar String Maintenance Tip #5: Use a good quality string cleaner.
These products are amazing. They make your strings last longer, cleanup the grime on the strings and can even minimize squeaks and speed up action.
See our review page on the Best Guitar String Cleaning Products on the market, along with our reviews of each product.
Guitar String Maintenance Tip #6: Use a good quality string lubricant:
This is a bit confusing as string cleaner also claim to be be string lubricants and string lubricants also make the claim to be string cleaners.
While many of them are good multi-use products, you still can't beat a great cleaner coupled with a great lubricant.