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Thread: When to Change Strings

  1. #1

    Default When to Change Strings

    Please excuse this newbie question. How do you know when it is time to change strings?

  2. #2
    Middle-Aged Old-Timer Tobin's Avatar
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    Default Re: When to Change Strings

    Some folks do it when they start to lose volume. The bass strings will start to sound thuddy instead of crisp, and the treble strings will start to sound thin and twangy.

    But for me, I change them when intonation starts to go south (which happens long before volume/tone issues). I guess I play pretty hard on my strings, because they start to flatten on the fret side and it changes the intonation. And having sweaty hands doesn't help either, I'm sure.

    But I hate the bright sound of new strings. It takes me about 4-6 days to break them in and get them sounding like I want. Then they're good for about 3 weeks before intonation goes sour and I have to do it all over again.

    I'm still amazed by folks that can go 6 months or a year between string changes.

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  4. #3

    Default Re: When to Change Strings

    You'll probably get lots of opinions about this. No right or wrong answer really.
    I do agree with what Tobin said.
    I don't mind the toned down sound of older strings. I don't necessarily like the brightness of new strings (some brands/string-materials are worse than others) so I put off changing them as long as possible.

    What I do mind is the intonation issue. Once you get to the point where they don't tune properly, it's time to put a new set on.

    I'm one of the lucky ones, in that my body chemistry does not react much with the metals in the strings. A set can easily last me 3 months.

    (And not that you're asking, but for me, the DRs seem to last the longest.)

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  6. #4

    Default Re: When to Change Strings

    Thanks, okay let's keep the dumb questions rolling - Should they all be changed at the same time?

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    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: When to Change Strings

    Hey Bob, how do you think we all learn? We were all new at this once and this is a pretty congenial place to get those questions answered.
    I really thinks it not as much calendar time but "playing time". When I was playing a lot, like four sets three to five nights a week, I had to change strings almost weekly, not including breakage. Now, not playing much at all, they can last me several months. Last real gig was in August and I put fresh ones on about a week before to allow for some "newness" to pass. But, as a rule when they start to become hard to tune and they don't respond, it's time to change. I change full sets anymore but, do them one side at a time, many say one at a time. I do one side so I can clean the top a little, be careful about letting the bridge move or, you get the fun project of resetting that.
    Tobin has the right take on it, again.
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  9. #6

    Default Re: When to Change Strings

    I was going to be a smartass and say during the 2nd and 3rd quarter of a monday night football game's my normal go-to time to change strings. I do it about every 3 months. For my"office practice" mandolin, I do it less often. If I play more, I might do it more. I don't mind the strings being a bit duller sounding. I generally prefer it to the overly bright sound of new strings, so I'll probably wait a bit longer than most. I'd guess I do it about 4 times per year, so every 3 months or so-- with the last couple weeks thinking that it's one of those tasks I need to get around to.

    They should be changed at the same session, but don't take off all the strings at once. If you do, the bridge will fall off, and you'll have a new problem. Change each string individually because it's only the tension of the strings that holds the bridge in place.

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    Default Re: When to Change Strings

    A somewhat vague question. Yes, you replace the entire set unless you are just replacing one that broke. But do not take them all off. Your strings hold your bridge in place and if it moves you will have to reset intonation. Smartest thing is to replace all the strings, but one at a time.
    Don

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    Scroll Lock Austin Bob's Avatar
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    Default Re: When to Change Strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob byk View Post
    Thanks, okay let's keep the dumb questions rolling - Should they all be changed at the same time?
    Yes, I change mine all at the same time. But I only take one side off at a time, then wipe down that side and give the frets and tuners a quick once over. I then replace the strings, and move to the other side. That insures the bridge doesn't move. It's a good idea to check your intonation when you're done, but if you are careful, it shouldn't change.

    Changing the stings can be intimidating at first, but after a while it's no biggie. Lots of tutorials on the web and YouTube.
    A quarter tone flat and a half a beat behind.

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    Registered User avaldes's Avatar
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    Default Re: When to Change Strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob byk View Post
    Thanks, okay let's keep the dumb questions rolling - Should they all be changed at the same time?
    I change them one at a time except once a year or so I remove them all to clean stuff up, oil fingerboard, check frets, etc. I usually do this over Xmas closing. Given some recent discussion on here, maybe oiling fingerboard (I use VERY little oil) is not a good idea. If you change them all at once, you will have to set intonation, which can be intimidating the first time. As a starting point, mark your current bridge position with the blue masking tape (leaves less residue). And when you are done, be sure your bridge is perpendicular to the top. It is very easy for it ti get pulled towards the nut. Hold it vertical as you tighten up the outside strings, then check as you put on more strings.
    Last Sunday I changed strings, and my wife wound some balls of knitting yarn on a contraption she has for this. She complained about what a pain it was. I told her she would get no sympathy, and that changing mandolin strings is like changing whiskers on a cat.

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    Default Re: When to Change Strings

    I usually change when he A strings become a pain to tune or the intonation gets off...
    Chuck

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    Default Re: When to Change Strings

    Quote Originally Posted by CES View Post
    I usually change when he A strings become a pain to tune or the intonation gets off...
    Except for me, it's the E strings. I have an additional problem. Something in my system reacts to the strings. It has all the earmarks of corrosion. It seems to affect the intonation so I end up biting the bullet and changing strings about every month and a half or so. I'd rather be set on fire for 15 minutes but you gotta do what you gotta do.
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  17. #12

    Default Re: When to Change Strings

    Thanks all - my question about replacing all was vague. I assumed that all should not be removed at the same time. Thanks again for the education. Can't thank everyone enough. I'm sure I would have screwed something up. Maybe I will take it in and have a "pro" show me how to do it.

  18. #13
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: When to Change Strings

    Procrastinator , bronze wound, the windings on the D flatten against the frets
    and start to be loose ... that's a Sign.

    With the harder Nickel Alloy windings on my D'jangolin I've replaced the Es as they Broke, but the
    Since others stay Bright and so fall into the 'If It ain't Broke dont fix it' Niche.
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    Default Re: When to Change Strings

    Quote Originally Posted by multidon View Post
    A somewhat vague question. Yes, you replace the entire set unless you are just replacing one that broke. But do not take them all off. Your strings hold your bridge in place and if it moves you will have to reset intonation. Smartest thing is to replace all the strings, but one at a time.
    It depends on your strings.
    I use Daddario EFW74
    http://daddario.com/DADProductDetail...&productid=297
    The low flatwound strings last considerably longer than the bare steel high strings. I buy singles of the E and A strings and change them about once a month. The D & G strings last me 3 to 4 months.
    This also can sometimes be done with the coated strings like the EXP74, depending on how hard you play.

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  21. #15

    Default Re: When to Change Strings

    I practice 2-4 hours each day, so I change them once a month, although every 2-3 weeks would be ideal. If I get a call for a session in between, I might change them a few days ahead...EXP74CM is my choice on both mandolins.

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    Middle-Aged Old-Timer Tobin's Avatar
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    Default Re: When to Change Strings

    Quote Originally Posted by colorado_al View Post
    It depends on your strings.
    I use Daddario EFW74
    http://daddario.com/DADProductDetail...&productid=297
    The low flatwound strings last considerably longer than the bare steel high strings. I buy singles of the E and A strings and change them about once a month. The D & G strings last me 3 to 4 months.
    This also can sometimes be done with the coated strings like the EXP74, depending on how hard you play.
    I do that sometimes too. My plain strings may get changed twice as often as the wound strings because they wear out or rust while the coated strings are still ok. But when I change the wound strings, I always do the plain strings with them.

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    Default Re: When to Change Strings

    There is a product on the market and sold at most music stores called "Finger Ease", when I put on new strings I rub some of the wound strings and it takes away some of that new sound that not many of us like when we do change strings...Also after every gig I play I wipe the strings with it and that seems to make them last longer, I guess it gets rid of the acid in the fingers or what ever it is that cause them to go bad sooner...

    About intonation, and this will cause some discussion I am sure, but a well known very excellent mandolin player once told me that he found that new strings intonate sharp if he leaves the bridge in the same place, on one mandolin that I have I have found that to be true but I did use a different brand of strings on it then I usually use so it might not be rule of thumb just the strings being different but the were listed as the same thickness as the ones I always use, I don`t know...

    Willie

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    Default Re: When to Change Strings

    A hint - get yourself a string winder to use when you do it - they are not that expensive and it is a very helpful item.

  25. #19
    F5G & MD305 Astro's Avatar
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    Default Re: When to Change Strings

    I change them every time they break.
    No matter where I go, there I am...Unless I'm running a little late.

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    Registered User Mike Snyder's Avatar
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    Default Re: When to Change Strings

    Like colorado, I use the flatwound strings from d,Addario. The wires rust long before the wound strings get flat spots from fret wear. Also, having two mandolins has made a big difference in string life and fret wear. Changing strings is good therapy for the impatient. Very difficult to do neat even wraps in a hurry.
    Mike Snyder

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    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: When to Change Strings

    I like the sound of new strings (but then I play an OM, that's different), and I can keep them near that condition for 2 months. After that time, the statistical probability of breaking rises, so I change them as a preventive measure. I like to change my strings in a relaxed mindset of spiritual union with the instrument, not as an emergency in the middle of a session.
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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: When to Change Strings

    About 15 minutes ago,i finished re-stringing my Ellis "A" style with GHS A270's. I was playing it yesterday & although it sounded fine,the strings behind the bridge were black & the strings around
    the 12th fret area were looking a bit dirty as well. I had a look at my case notes & saw that i hadn't changed them since Dec.14th last year. I keep a record of my string changes & brand/gauge of strings for reference. As i say,i just re-strung it & as per usual,it sounds a 100 times better than it did before. We seem to forget just what a huge difference new strings can make because the deterioration in tone is so gradual. I used to notice the same thing with my banjo - it sounds good,but change the strings & - wow !!. Maybe it's a tribute to the way the Ellis sounds,but i usually change strings every 3 months,or,since i've been using DR strings on my Weber & Lebeda,maybe every 5 months. After almost 12 months with GHS strings on it,the Ellis still sounded pretty good,it just looked a bit grubby,
    Ivan
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    Mediocre but OK with that Paul Busman's Avatar
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    Default Re: When to Change Strings

    I have two questions about old strings:
    1) Why should the unwound steel strings need changing ever? They're solid steel- no windings to accumulate finger residue or wear out on the frets. Why should they start becoming harder to keep in tune? (OK, that's two questions)
    2) Why should intonation change with old strings? The scale length and bridge positions don't change so all components are still in the same relation to each other.
    I'm not being snarky-- I'm genuinely curious.

    I have flatwound strings on all of my mandolins and haven't changed them in ages. I still think they sound fine.
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  32. #24
    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: When to Change Strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Busman View Post
    Why should intonation change with old strings?
    I can only guess, since I never let strings age long enough to see it happen:

    The player does not touch the strings equally often along it's length, so there may be parts of the string more thoroughly corroded than other parts (corrosion changes the steel's response to elastic deformation and tensile stress). Also, windings may be damaged at certain points from banging on frets.
    Fret spacing, however, is designed for strings with equal physical properties all the way from nut to saddle - if that condition fails, anything is possible.

    I too have a mandolin whose strings are decades old, and which still sounds acceptable; but then, I play it only once every other year, approx.
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    Middle-Aged Old-Timer Tobin's Avatar
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    Default Re: When to Change Strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Busman View Post
    I have two questions about old strings:
    1) Why should the unwound steel strings need changing ever? They're solid steel- no windings to accumulate finger residue or wear out on the frets. Why should they start becoming harder to keep in tune? (OK, that's two questions)
    2) Why should intonation change with old strings? The scale length and bridge positions don't change so all components are still in the same relation to each other.
    I'm not being snarky-- I'm genuinely curious.

    I have flatwound strings on all of my mandolins and haven't changed them in ages. I still think they sound fine.
    The strings will change with time and playing. There is an initial phase where you tune the strings up for the first time and they take a few hours, or a day or so, to stretch in and settle to their tuning. Then, over time as you play, they stretch even more. When humidity and temperature cause you to re-tune your strings, you are adjusting the tension up and down. Every time you pick the string, it stretches just a little bit.

    But the short answer is that there is something that we engineers call "creep". A material subjected to long-term stresses will deform over time. The constant tension on the string causes molecular realignment and the wire continues to try to relax that tension. As the wire stretches, its physical diameter gets smaller. This is a continuous process, and eventually it will reach the point where you can hear that it will not intonate the same as it did when it was new. That's where you start to hear the dissonance when playing, say, the A strings at the 7th fret next to the open E strings. When that starts to sound sour, it's time to change your strings.

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