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Why, and when, do strings need to be changed?
I'm unsure of the physics behind it, but to me, it's when they gain my attention from their loss of tonal "brightness" and sustain.
When do you change them out... by ear, or by age?
There ought to be, (or is there?) a tool that can be placed in contact with a guitar body to measure sustain, for the purpose of evaluating string decay. It could 'remember' the sustain times when the strings were new, and compare it with their current value.
The device would also be useful for evaluating the resonance of the instrument itself, to evaluate its subjective properties, i.e poly, nitro, tenon length, solid/laminate/density, etc.
You can do it with lab equipment, but I'm thinking of a small hand held device similar to a clip-on tuner.
By ear, we recognize when the strings are dead, but I sometimes wonder, when did the death occur? Do I get used to a slow death and don't acknowledge it until it's too obvious - when the new set is put on, and the spectral difference is immediately apparent.
Ya, tell me Clapton's roadies don't already have something like this.
 

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With most roadies, they change guitar strings out before each gig, from the rig rundowns that I've watched.
That, or at the musicians discretion.

I'll change them when they start to feel sticky/grungy and that depends on the guitar and how much use it has seen.
In a band, I'll change them out a practice before a gig, usually.
 

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When a D chord no longer rings it's time to change. Thats usually how I tell. I love the D chord. I think it's my favourite chord. You can tell I'm bored as I profess my love for the magic D chord...
 

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Wipe your strings down every time you play.

Get to love the sound, new is too bright.

They don't get crusty evenly, it throws out the intonation. I can move my floating bridge around, but eventually you have to give in.

You could measure the sustain in a pedal or on a computer.

You are looking for the time it takes to lose a percentage of energy from the initial peak. I wonder if the percentage of decay is consistent, or does it vary with the strength of the initial input?
 

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I don't know if there is a necessity for a device to determine the age of strings. As sulphur pointed out, many professional guitar players have their strings replaced before every show. I know most woodshedders replace their strings fairly regularly as well.

I only replace my strings when they break. A lot of that comes from the fact that I have played guitar since I was 12 but never lived in a city until I was 25. Strings were semi-hard to come by. I believe Dan Auerbach of Black Keys fame also only replaces his strings when they break. I can definitely hear the difference new strings make but I think that sound is gone after a week or two and I am so used to the settled out sound.

 

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stqnding joke in my Musician circles is:

Hey man this guitar is sweet. How old are the strings?
My answer: which one?

Lol

All jokes aside I change them rarely. Mine don’t oxidize like they used to. Less sweat I guess. And I’ve been using fast fret for years now. Best stuff going.


.
 

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I used to change 'em from time to time, mostly out of a vague sense of obligation. Now I generally don't bother unless a string breaks. Sure, once in a while I'll pull out a guitar and the strings will be so dead and clapped-out (like, years old) that I'll put on a fresh set.At some point, really dead strings don't hold their tune any more and they become too much trouble to keep. But it's pretty rare that I even bother.

Agreed that it's a nice change when fresh strings are so nice, bright and elastic-feeling - but that sensation fades pretty quickly. I'm not a pro player getting up in front of a crowd so I only have to please myself. I save a pile of money that way, too - regularly changing strings for a bunch of guitars and basses gets old pretty quickly. And I find that when I'm recording and re-voicing my guitars through the combination of a DAW and a dedicated guitar software package, the software doesn't seem to care how old the strings are - it all sounds pretty good to my ears nonetheless. Digital emulation has come a long way.
 
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There ought to be, (or is there?) a tool that can be placed in contact with a guitar body to measure sustain, for the purpose of evaluating string decay. It could 'remember' the sustain times when the strings were new, and compare it with their current value.
The device would also be useful for evaluating the resonance of the instrument itself, to evaluate its subjective properties, i.e poly, nitro, tenon length, solid/laminate/density, etc.
You can do it with lab equipment, but I'm thinking of a small hand held device similar to a clip-on tuner.
By ear, we recognize when the strings are dead, but I sometimes wonder, when did the death occur? Do I get used to a slow death and don't acknowledge it until it's too obvious - when the new set is put on, and the spectral difference is immediately apparent.
Ya, tell me Clapton's roadies don't already have something like this.
I think a combination of sustain and harmonics. Those are two things that slowly degrade - and are measurable. You would probably have to calibrate it first with new strings and then as they age, you would see a decrease in performance, as in a meter that starts at 100 and decreases (like a tube tester) as those two factors deteriorate. But everyone would probably have a different 'end of life' point and measurement (say, 30 or 25 or whatever), so you'd have to learn what you like and then you could consistently know when you are getting close to that point and make the change. Or keep track of MTBF (strings breaking), where you could find through experience that your brand of strings breaks at 18 or 15 or whatever. And then change them just before that.

Would there be a market for this? Of course there would. At least for a decade or so. Guitar players love toys. I've seen lots of things I thought were crazy.

Would I want one? No. It's a bit overly fussy, a cure looking for a disease, like the robo-tuners. This thing would probably be hundreds of dollars and a set of strings is, what, 6? You can change a lot of strings a bit early before you ever make that box a practical tool.
 

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Ditto on what you said about robo-tuners. Just a gimmick that adds weight and bulk to the headstock as far as I can see.
 
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I wind up changing way more often than I need to due to playing different tunings all the time. Hopefully it settles down as I acquire more and more guitars and can just leave them all set up for something different.

Otherwise I don’t suppose there’s really a reason for any kind of device to determine when you need to change.. if you can’t notice it yourself and aren’t playing live shows, does it really matter?
 

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Tone and feel are my deciding factors. Ie, when they get dull sounding and/or show any signs of corrosion, especially if intonation is affected. I'm not hard on strings.
 

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When they don't want to stay in tune & sound dead or look dirty or pitted...

that's when I play a different guitar to avoid changing them...
& eventually get around to changing them.
 
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I used to change strings before every gig. The last 10 years or so, I only change the strings if they break. And I don't break strings like I used to either. The strings on my main guitar is at least 5 years old now which is pretty much how long I've had it. LOL It was replaced when I had it set up. Haven't changed them since.
 

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I try to change once per year; with my current rotation, that’s about how long my strings last anyway. If I favour one guitar for 3-4 months, I’ll change after that. I like my strings bright and snappy, but it’s pretty much a non issue under a lot of the gain I use when I play.
 

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When not on the road I change them when they feel gross or break. When on the road after two shows I've usually sweat the unwound strings down to near-black condition, so I change them. When tracking, more often than I'd like hahaha.
 

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D'addario string I ruined in 5 minutes with my fingers - they rust immediately. Hence I am using Elixirs. But some guitars I got did not have D'addarios not elixirs and those strings are still good. Unfortunately don't know which are they :(
 

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D'addario string I ruined in 5 minutes with my fingers - they rust immediately. Hence I am using Elixirs. But some guitars I got did not have D'addarios not elixirs and those strings are still good. Unfortunately don't know which are they :(
Sounds like you need to try the D'addario NYXL's. You must have more corrosive sweat than I do!
 

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I find new string take a long time to settle down for good tuning.
Changing strings just before a practice or gig has to be an invitation for playing out of tune.
OR having to tune up between each song and thats a definite no no for me.

Unless there is some serious rust or a huge build up of gunk, there really is no reason to change them
and plenty of reasons not to change them at the wrong time.

by the way...just a small shout out for Elixir strings....if you don't change strings too often like me,
might as well play all that time with a real nice set of strings.

G.
 

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It's a bit overly fussy, a cure looking for a disease, like the robo-tuners. .
some folks like saying that, but it's because they completely do no "get it". the point of robo tuners is not so that you can keep your guitar in perfect tune all the time. i mean, sure, they'll assist you with that, but is not what their intended use is. i will give you one example of how those robot tuners can be a useful tool. i do not own a guitar with them, because the system hasn't been perfected yet, and they will probably change design several times before they finally find one that has the correct balance of cost, accuracy, ease of use, and reliability. however, if i were going to purchase a guitar that had them, i would use it this way:

sometimes when i practice, i put on wmp. i have a playlist i run through to excersize certain techniques, and to slowly develop or perfect others. it takes about 3 hrs to get through this list, there are quite a few songs on it, various types of rock, blues, and..a few things i don't really know how to classify, but are definitely not rock or blues. some of those songs are in standard tuning. some of them are in E flat. some of them are in open G. some of them are standard tune, not not E flat or E standard. somewhere in between. some are drop D. right now i have them grouped by tuning because it's a pain in the ass and eats time to constantly change tunings. when i had 2 guitars that helped some, but not much. now, if i had a robo tune guitar, i could play that same list grouped by mood or feel or what ever you want to call it. i wouldn't have to pair up high voltage with chinese erhu music. because the robot tuners go from one to another in just a few seconds. it can remember specific pitch settings for records like high voltage which are some weird flat standard tuning that doesn't match anything else. or even if you are playing with a piano that isn't quite in perfect tune. you don't have to remember alternate tunings, or search for the correct pitch of something. hit a button, and 10 seconds later, you are there with no double checking or guess work involved. if i was in a gigging band, i would absolutely own them.
it isn't for lazy guys who don't know how to tune a guitar. it's to allow you to tune to anything quickly and accurately
 
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