An accomplished guitar player knows that you have to take time and effort to care for your equipment correctly. You don’t have to go out of your way to ensure your guitar’s upkeep, but neglecting to do so will affect its tone and playability. Today’s article focuses on caring for your guitar strings. Strings are the vocal cords of the guitar, and much like our bodies, they can benefit significantly from consistent maintenance. We’ve listed a few simple practices below that you can use to preserve your guitar strings effectively.
Your guitar case is specifically designed to help keep your strings protected from environmental wear and tear. Guitar strings tend to pick up dust and moisture that moves around in a room, even between uses. Over time these particles collect and compound on the string and fretboard surface to form grime. This grime lowers the amount of resonance your strings produce, which dulls the brightness and presence of your tone.
A reliable guitar case should have some form of padding on the inside that is resistant to dust and water. Good cases should also seal with zipping or another locking mechanism to help keep your strings insulated between use or during travel. Cases are significant for players who live or work in extreme climate conditions, as this places extra stress on string integrity.
Cleaning your strings regularly will also help to ensure that they stay free from excess moisture or dust. Excessive humidity can speed up the wear and tear of strings and also cause premature rusting. You can help protect your strings from this kind of damage by wiping them down with a soft, non-abrasive cloth between uses. The best types of cloth to use for cleaning have finer thread counts, like silk or satin. Many guitar manufacturers also produce microfiber cloths explicitly designed for treating the strings and surface of your guitar. You should also clean all the surfaces underneath the strings, i.e., the headstock, fretboard, pickups, and body, as residue can collect in these areas as well.
There are many cleaners and conditioners that guitar players can use to take proper care of their guitar strings. It might be tricky to determine which product is best suited to your string needs, so ask the advice of your local supplier. Try not to use the oils or conditioners too frequently as the chemical compounds can also sometimes cause string wear. Guitarists should also be wary of using specific home remedies as replacements for commercial products. Both coconut oil and olive oil are often advised for string use but generally do more harm than good. These oils are acidic and become solid at room temperature, which causes them to attract more dust and other residues.
Aside from environmental wear and tear, the lifetime and quality of your strings can also be determined by their initial setup. Many novice guitar players often don’t take the time to learn how to install their strings properly. This oversight usually leads to strings lacking the correct tensile integrity for consistent long-term playing. Players will have to constantly readjust and retune their strings, which speeds up the rate of degradation. Your local guitar supplier should know how to install your strings properly and should be able to show you how to do so as well. Knowing how to calibrate your guitar set up for optimum performance properly will increase the durability of your strings and make playing much more enjoyable.
It All Boils Down
The final tip on this list applies specifically to bass players and can save them a fair amount of time and money replacing bass strings. You can lengthen the lifespan of your bass strings by boiling them in a pot of hot water. Most musicians should be able to do this from home, and it doesn’t take longer than 15 minutes for most of the unwanted residue to boil off your bass. Do not use any cleaning chemicals or fluids in boiled water, as this will damage your strings. Also, make sure to deep clean your pot once you’re done treating the strings. Let your strings cool down for a while before putting them back on your bass. This type of service can be repeated a few times before you finally have to get a new set of strings. Many bassists are surprised at the incredible improvement in tone and playability that they get from this simple practice.
Taking proper care of your strings is one of the cornerstones of good guitar maintenance. It’s also one of the more fulfilling practices, as the fruits of your labor are usually immediately felt and heard. The steps listed above do not require a huge amount of time and effort to complete, and only you and your listeners will reap the rewards of your good care. Thanks for taking the time to read through our guide caring for your guitar and bass strings.