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The guitar strings you choose – and how you care for them – can make a huge impact on your playing ability! Here, Warner Robins, GA teacher B. Greg C. shares the three mistakes that can hinder your learning…
As any guitar player knows, the strings of your beloved instrument will eventually need to be replaced—usually because they sound dull and lifeless. This is no big deal as long as you know what you’re doing.
But if you’re a beginner, restringing your guitar can be a daunting task. Here are three common mistakes beginners make when replacing their strings that can lead to some epic fails!
Can You Ruin Guitar Strings?
Absolutely! In fact, the life and quality of your guitar strings is largely determined by how you use and maintain them:
- Over time, dirt and dust begins to build up on strings, which can reduce their long life – as can improper tensioning or tuning.
- Other factors such as exposure to extreme temperatures or too much moisture can cause corrosion and premature string breakage.
- If you want long-lasting strings on your guitar, it’s important to keep them clean by wiping off finger oils and dust after each playing session.
- Also, you should regularly check the tuning and tension on your guitar strings in order to ensure you get a long-lasting string setup that sounds great!
If you want to learn more about the most common guitar stringing mistakes, be sure to ask your guitar teacher for advice. If you’re not signed up for guitar lessons yet, be sure to do so. Learn more about the benefits of guitar lessons below:
What Happens if You String Your Guitar Wrong?
If you string your guitar incorrectly, it can lead to several problems that might affect the sound or feel of playing.
For instance, if the strings are too tight, they won’t vibrate freely which affects the sound your guitar makes, potentially creating a buzzing noise or even muffled notes.
If the strings are too loose, fret buzz and poor intonation can occur due to a lack of tension on your strings.
Both scenarios could be damaging for your instrument since an out of tune guitar could cause physical problems including stretching or warping the neck and reducing resonance of the body.
It is therefore important to make sure all strings are strung correctly and securely into place in order to prevent any damage and produce good music!
3 of the Most Common Guitar Strings Mistakes
As a teacher and as a musician, I have found time after time new players making the same three big mistakes with their guitar strings. These issues may seem small, but when it comes to learning to play the guitar, these amount to huge failings. Beginning players already have a hard time and enough frustration to deal with learning fingerings and fatigue of the hand. Handling these three issues will help alleviate some of the frustration and help make playing and learning easier.
Not Keeping the Guitar In Tune
The first mistake is not keeping the guitar in tune. Some new guitarists may not hear the tonal differences right away while playing, but most will wonder why the chord sounds slightly foul, or more foul than usual. Tuning the guitar with a tuner before any practice session helps a great deal in the quality of the chord. When two or more strings are not correctly tuned the chord can have a quality to it that simply frustrates you compared to what you remember hearing during your lesson. This adds to the frustration of checking fingerings and the structure of the chord. Tuning should become a habit before you play — give it a shot before you start practice!
Choosing the Wrong String Gauge
String “gauge” or thickness is a touchy subject at times. While your instructor should be aware of what music tastes you have and what sound you want to get when learning, be wise in your choice of strings. Using a light or extra-light gauge on acoustic guitars and medium-light or light on electrics will make learning as a beginner much easier. The smaller diameter of the strings makes learning the motor skills and muscle memory easier. The lighter gauge strings also make finger fatigue less of an issue. You won’t be fighting the strings and trying to understand why that new chord is buzzing (from lack of pressure) or why the strings do not sustain as well. After you start to get the skill and muscles built up, then worry about going with the fat juicy sound of heavier-gauge string sets!
Not Remembering to Change the Strings
Last but not least is knowing when to change your guitar strings. Uncoated strings “die” or “deaden” over time and some break, and even coated strings die eventually. As a beginner, you should consider changing uncoated strings once every month if you are practicing 30 minutes for three to five days a week. If you are practicing less you can go a little longer; if you practice more then consider changing them more often. To keep the strings clean, be sure to wash and dry your hands prior to playing, as this reduces the oils, dirt, and sweat accumulating on the strings that cause the metal in the string to deteriorate. You can also wipe the strings with a dry cloth or a string wipe, which helps remove some grime. When a string deteriorates it will not stay in tune well, has a chance of breaking, and does not sustain as well. Coated strings can be great for beginners, but uncoated do tend to have a different sound and a different feel. Whether you choose coated or uncoated, be sure to look them over and change them when they need it.
How Do I Know if I String My Guitar Wrong?
Trying to determine if your guitar has been strung incorrectly can feel overwhelming if you’re a beginner.
Fortunately, because guitars are constructed to achieve a specific sound, there are a few key things to look out for that can help you tell if it’s been strung correctly.
First, make sure that the strings aren’t too loose or too tight – they should have the appropriate tension so that it is comfortable to press the strings down onto the fretboard.
Listen for uncharacteristic buzzing when playing certain chords or notes; this indicates that the string height may be off.
Finally, tune your guitar regularly so that you know what it should sound like when everything is in order – this will make it easier for you identify any irregularities in its sound once it’s fully strung.
Restringing your guitar may seem intimidating if you’ve never done it before, but it doesn’t have to be! Just keep these three tips in mind when replacing your strings and you’ll have no trouble getting back on stage in no time!
As always, just remember practice makes perfect—so don’t get discouraged if it takes some time before those new strings are sounding just right. And be sure to ask your guitar teacher if you have any other questions. Good luck!
B. Greg C. teaches guitar and music theory in Warner Robins, GA. He is a 2010 Graduate of Berklee College of Music’s Guitar Program and has been teaching students on and off since 2005. Learn more about Greg here!
Photo by veni markovski