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Thread: Do people ever change their strings?

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    Registered User Newbflat's Avatar
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    Default Do people ever change their strings?

    Ok, a click bait title but Iím curious. Iím a new mandolin player and have been lurking here mostly and reading over old threads. One thing that struck me was the number of people saying things like i only change my strings every 6 monthsĒ or ď I get a year out of them before feeling like I need to change themĒ.... I have read things to this effect a surprising number of times. As a long time guitar player I myself change my strings once a month at least! If I play a lot and hard every 2 weeks. So Iím curious, is it common to leave them on for months? I have had my mandolin for a month and Iím thinking the strings are needing a change. Curious what people think.

    Bill

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    Mangler of Tunes OneChordTrick's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do people ever change their strings?

    I think that the definitive answe will be “it depends” How often do you play, how long for and how sweaty are your fingers. I play for about 20 minutes a day on average and change every 2 - 3 months.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Do people ever change their strings?

    I keep an entire drawer full of strings for various instruments. I change them when I'm in the mood. I just recently purchasde several sets of D'Addario coated strings for mandolin, so I'm hoping that they'll hold their tone longer (like they do on acoustic guitar)

  4. #4

    Default Re: Do people ever change their strings?

    I like to play more than I like to change strings. I change other people's strings several times a week, I leave my own on for months if not years. It's not ideal, I enjoy fresh strings, but I have limited time to play, so...
    I also have dozens of instruments, no way I would have the time or money to change the strings all the time.

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    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do people ever change their strings?

    You will find some folks here on the Cafe who rarely change their strings. Some do so out of laziness, because they can't be bothered, or for economic reasons -- saving money. Other folks genuinely prefer the sound of older strings, and still others use very expensive strings (like Thomastik) that seem to last a good deal longer than conventional sets. Regardless of the reason, I suspect they are all in the minority. The rest of us happen to change our strings fairly often. Sometimes after a month or three. Sometimes after a week or three. Sometimes after just a few days (if heavily gigging, for example, or playing outdoors at festivals). Those among us who change our strings regularly do so because we find that older strings develop a less desirable tone, or intonate poorly, or can't remain in tune. The rate at which string performance decays depends on things like personal body chemistry (the acidity of perspiration), the type and composition of the particular strings used, and how much/how hard one plays. And these things can vary all over the map!

    Your mandolin might well benefit from new strings after a month of serious playing. Mine usually does.

  7. #6
    Registered User Willem's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do people ever change their strings?

    I am in the change them sooner rather than later camp. As soon as tuning issues (A string usually goes first) develop I swap them out; always in the 2-4 week range on my main mandolin.
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    Default Re: Do people ever change their strings?

    I can get 3-6 months out of mine most of the time, but I also have several instruments and still play them all, so it’s not like I’m playing one mandolin for 2 hours a day. On the ones I play most often they last about 3 months for me. I usually change when my A strings become a pain to keep in tune; that takes longer with J75s than J74s, FWIW. I also don’t have terribly acidic chemistry, which also helps, and I’m not playing for a living, so don’t feel compelled to change before every time I play out (which is typically in church).

    I’ll admit, though, that I’ve never been disappointed in a string change, and I usually wait a little too long...
    Chuck

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    Default Re: Do people ever change their strings?

    I think that the definitive answe will be “it depends”
    I think that pretty well sums it up. Many factors involved, including but not limited to:
    body chemistry
    string type/mandolin type
    how often you play/how hard you play
    sound preference - old vs new strings
    cost of strings
    how many instruments you have
    time - change strings vs play...

    I'm in the rarely change them camp - usually every couple of years. I'm regularly rotating with 3 mandolins but I play hard in a loud, bluegrass band. My hand sweat does not destroy strings but my neck sweat destroys shirt collars - I'm ok with that.

    YMMV.

    To quote a Sturgill Simpson song "I don't have to change my strings, dirt don't hurt the way I sing..."

    Kirk

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    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do people ever change their strings?

    I'm with sblock -- i think those who change their strings rarely are in the minority, or at least in the minority of those who post. I change my strings four or five times a year (so every two or three months) but that's an average -- the strings get changed more often in summer than in winter. I also change the type of string. I generally use coated strings in the summer to make them last longer -- the year i used uncoated strings at music camp in July they barely lasted a week before they corroded -- and go back to uncoated strings in fall through spring.
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    Default Re: Do people ever change their strings?

    I am similar to Chuck-- I go 3-6 months, but definitely like to maintain my strings in good shape. I rotate several mandolins and guitars, so they last longer than they would. When I was performing on my old Guild D55 in the 70's and 80's, I changed my strings every two weeks or so. Now I watch for signs that they are not tuning as easily, then I know it is time.
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    Default Re: Do people ever change their strings?

    Here is my rule of thumb. If I have even a slight suspicion my strings need to be changed, I change them. It works out to between 3 and 5 times a year.
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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do people ever change their strings?

    As you can see, you'll get answers all over the spectrum. You just have to make your own decisions because none of us have exactly the same priorities, the same ability to afford frequent string changes, the same hand chemistry, and the same tolerance for the hassle of of changing strings.

    Personally, I hate poor intonation, and intonation starts to fall off from differential fret wear before the tone starts to fade. It sneaks up on you, if you aren't paying attention. I also need good "cut" in the high frequencies to be heard in local Irish/Scottish sessions along with fiddles and pipes. That's already a case of bringing a "knife to a gunfight," so I need every bit of performance I can pull out of a mandolin. Fresh strings are a big part of that.

    That means changing strings every 3 or 4 weeks. Possibly more often ahead of a gig, but I'm not doing many gigs these days. Its mainly making sure I'm heard in a session. I never go longer than a month for changing strings on my mandolin.

    For instruments I don't play as often like octave mandolin and guitar, it's a longer schedule of maybe every 3-4 months instead of weeks. That makes it easier to face the hassle of changing strings more often on mandolin.

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    Registered User CWRoyds's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do people ever change their strings?

    I change strings once a week on average for mandolin, even when using coated strings.
    To me they just sound dead after a few days of solid playing.
    I find they are definitely dead after a hard jam session, so I usually change them right after.
    I don't like the sound fo dead strings, and my mandolin sounds best with fresh strings.

    I have a feeling that some of those who change strings after a number of months or years have mandolins that sound too bright and shrill with new strings, so they like them to be a bit dead so the mandolin is darker. My mando is darker in tone, so I like bright strings.

    Some people just like dead strings.
    I remember reading about Tom Petty wanting his guitar strings to be so old and dead that they are rusty.
    I guess that suited his sound.
    I change guitar strings almost as often as I change mandolin strings.
    I always put on new strings before playing in public.
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    Registered User Brian560's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do people ever change their strings?

    I had been thinking that mandolin strings don’t last that long, and I don’t change them as often as I should. That is because they take time to change, and changing them quickly is a skill I do not have. I always wind out breaking one or two strings in the process, and stab my fingers more times than I would like to admit.

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    Oval holes are cool David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do people ever change their strings?

    For me it depends a bit on the instrument. My Gretsch New Yorkers one flaw is a terrible bridge. So it’s got flatwounds on it. My other man does I change about every six gigs or 10 rehearsals. Or four months. Whatever comes first.
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    Default Re: Do people ever change their strings?

    It also depends on the strings and on time itself. I really enjoy D'Addario EJ74s. I love the creamy sound they get out of my mandolin. But I find that when new they are a little too brassy sounding for me. It takes about a week of playing (I play a lot) to "break them in" before they settle down into that wonderful tone I love. Then I can count on probably 6 to 8 weeks before I notice any compromise to the tone, (and another 4 weeks or more before the tone has degraded enough for me to get off my tailpiece and change them).

    Point being that only playing the strings a week, I would not get the tone I want, and, if I didn't know better, based on how they sound new I would not chose them.

    It certainly is personal preference, and is complicated.
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    Registered User Al Trujillo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do people ever change their strings?

    I’ve owned mine and played it long enough that I l can hear changes in my strings at 2-3 months. Like somebody else posted it’s my A-string that gives up first.

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  24. #18
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    Default Re: Do people ever change their strings?

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    ... personal preference, and is complicated.
    THAT is the definitve answer!

    But since the question was asked from a "converting guitarist" viewpoint (where most of us started, BTW), I can personally state that it makes no difference. My mandolin and guitar strings tend to stay on for some time -probably too long- but I've come to realize that my finger chemistry is more benign than average and, as with others above, I sort of like the sound of broken-in strings.

    Other factors are if you play with others and what kind of music you play, meaning volume and tone to be heard. Even playing in a mandolin orchestra or a small acoustic group (thinking most anything other than bluegrass or jazz w/ horns), relatively dull strings, if they are tunable and actually sound good on their own, can work fairly well, given all the caveats noted above.
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    Registered Muser dang's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do people ever change their strings?

    Practice was yesterday, we have gigs Friday and Saturday so I will change my strings today or tomorrow
    I should be pickin' rather than postin'

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    Default Re: Do people ever change their strings?

    It's not difficult and it does't take long but I'd rather spend a weekend in jail than change strings. Having said that, I do it every couple or three months.
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    Default Re: Do people ever change their strings?

    I have a friend who plays guitar (mostly 7 string heavy, heavy stuff) in a local band named Kairos. He has an excellent ear for tone and is very particular about his sound. Given how hard he plays he changes strings before any public performance, for tone but also to minimize breakage. I change my Mandobird and electric guitar strings maybe once a year, because I just don’t notice the difference like I do on my acoustics and also don’t play them much. And, when I do, there’s usually enough overdrive or distortion that it covers up the imperfections...

    Ironic, though, because the Mandobird, with only 4 strings, is my favorite to change
    Chuck

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    Default Re: Do people ever change their strings?

    I had asked Peter Ostroushko that question years ago........his answer was typical of Peter. "When they break".

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  30. #23
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do people ever change their strings?

    Like on guitar, they get changed when I feel they need it. My ears are more adjusted to a muted string tone. Plus, my Collings now has flatwounds on it. Expect those to last a year or two before they have to be changed.

    To my ears, old strings on an old Gibson oval hole just sound right.

    As others say though, if it's going out of tune, time to change.
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  31. #24

    Default Re: Do people ever change their strings?

    A lot of wisdom here.....

    They will last longer than you think....

    On an electric guitar you can play them until you can't tune them, which may honestly take years, but will happen.

    On an acoustic, they will go "dead" at some point, but some people like the way dead strings sound, for whatever reason...

    Working at a music store, I've changed hundreds, if not thousands of strings over the years, what you don't see is that the underside of the string will be "dented" or kinked where the frets touch it -- doesn't mean its dead, but it ain't new and fresh, either......

    That being said, there is a whole industry of string companies supplying the music buyer...strings, accessories, music books, lessons, and repairs keep music stores in business between instrument sales, IMHO.....

    That and people seem to change their strings more often these days vs what people did in the past.

    My favorite story from an old timer, who bought his brand-new Gretsch Chet Atkins in the 60's......he told me when he bought it, he went ahead and bought three sets of flatwound strings to go with it.......35 years later, he was just barely "into" the 2nd pack.........

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  33. #25
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    Default Re: Do people ever change their strings?

    My rule of thumb is if I slide my nail under the wound strings and can feel where the frets are by the dimples in the string it's time to change.
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