Guitar strings have to be changed from time to time (at least!). Sometimes, there are situations when you have to take off strings from your guitar to fix or replace something else.
Also, sometimes there are situations when you have to leave your guitar without strings for some period of time.
But is it safe to do so? Will leaving your guitar unstrung damage it in any way?
Can you leave your guitar without strings?
Yes, you can. Your guitar will be just fine unstrung. However, if you plan to leave your guitar alone for more than a few months, it’s probably better to leave it with strings on (slightly loosen). Just in case.
Is It Bad To Leave Strings Off A Guitar?
As it’s been said, you can remain calm about this. The main concern about this is possible back bow of guitar neck. Some guitar players are afraid that their guitar neck will be bent backwards if there’s no string tension to equalize it.
In reality, most guitars are stable enough to withstand without strings. Just take a look at how they are made in factories. All over the world, guitar bodies in factories are left without strings for some time. They wouldn’t make them like that if the impact it has on the neck was significant.
However, it’s not advisable to leave your guitar unstrung for a longer period of time. Some guitars are stored improperly and the lack of counter tension strings provide can make their neck to bent backwards.
But that effect can take place eventually only in situations where guitar is left unstrung for a longer period of times. I’m talking about months and years.
It probably won’t do any damage if you leave it that way. Storing your guitar is far more important than leaving it with or without strings.
Should Guitar Strings Be Loosened When Not In Use?
Yes, it is a good practice to loosen your guitar strings when you leave your guitar alone for some time. Especially if you have heavier gauge strings.
Heavier strings exert more tension to a guitar neck, since they are – heavier.
If you want to know more about effect string gauge have on intonation, stability, fret buzz and so on, check the article from this page about it, here.
You can calculate the tension of your guitar here. It is StringJoy String Tension calculator. As you can see, the average total tension of the strings is around 114 lbs. Converted to Newtons (N), it is around 1120 N.
For a 12 string guitar, the force on the neck by tension is doubled.
Of course, guitars are designed to withstand the string tension. Most of them have a truss rod built in, designed to provide counter tension to a guitar neck.
Again, this is not something of a significant importance. The way you store your guitar is much more important than this. Still, to be 100 % sure, it is advisable to tune off your guitar strings.
But not totally. One step, or half a step is enough.
Anyway, it’s worth mentioning that having a good quality strings is also important. Good quality strings are more durable and more resistant to dirt. IMO, Elixir strings, coated with NANOWEB ultra thin material are the best. (Again, that’s just my opinion – I haven’t tried all of the string brands).
The main reason I like these strings is the fact they last longer than usual strings + I don’t have to clean them very often.
Check them out on Amazon for more details. (You can adjust the gauge, depending on your preference). Here are the ones for acoustic guitar.
And here are the ones for electric.
How Do I Stop My Guitar Neck From Bending?
Primary concern of leaving a guitar unstrung is the fear of a neck getting bend.
In most of cases, your neck will be just fine. However, to be completely sure, you can slightly loose off a truss rod. Truss rod is designed to provide a counter tension to a guitar neck. In other words, strings exert tension in one way, and truss rod exerts a tension in opposite way.
That way it is ensured a guitar neck won’t bend in any direction.
When you leave guitar unstrung, you may be concerned that a truss rod will cause your neck bend backwards. Again, there’s no real danger, but if you want to be completely sure, you can loosen your truss rod.
How to do it? It’s easy. Just turn your truss rod nut counter-clockwise. If you have an electric guitar, that nut is located at the headstock, behind the neck nut.
If you have an acoustic guitar, truss rod nut is located just inside the sound hole, under the end of your guitar neck.
You’ll only need one regular screwdriver. Do not loosen your truss rod too much. Usually no more than 30 degrees of turn in counter-clockwise direction is needed.
Should I Change All Guitar Strings At Once?
If you need to change only one string, then you can change only one string. There’s no need to change all strings if only one string on your guitar snapped, for example.
If you’re restringing your guitar, then it’s obvious that it is the best to change all strings at once.
How Long Should You Leave Guitar Strings On?
There’s no definite rule. You leave your guitar strings on your guitar as long as they are in a good shape. Good shape means your guitar strings are not corroded, they sound fresh and so on.
It also depends on how often do you play, and what’s your playing style. If you, for example play every day for a few hours straight, then you need to change your guitar strings more often.
Some players naturally sweat more so they are forced to change them more frequently.
If you have the problem with the sweat on your guitar, I recommend you to check out the article from this page about how to deal with sweat, here.
Also, it depends on what’s your tolerance. Some guitar players change their strings every two weeks. Some change them once a year.
It’s optimal to change them once every two or three months. You may consider having coated strings instead of uncoated. Check the comparison of those two types described in the article, here.
Remember – Storing Your Guitar Is More Important!
Storing your guitar properly is far more important than this issue of leaving your guitar without strings. Humidity change, sunlight, temperature and so on – all of this is far more important to maintenance of your guitar.
Humidity can ruin your guitar badly if it’s not monitored regularly. For more information, check the article from this page about it, here.
Also, temperature change can affect the shape of your guitar body. Sunlight also.
Leaving a guitar in a car is also devastating for a guitar. For more information, check the article about it, here.
If you plan to leave your guitar from playing for a long period of time, the best thing you can do is to put it in a case or in a bag.
I ordered myself Cahaya bag last year. It’s great because I can store not only my guitar but also a lot of accessories that go with it, in its big front pocket. (for example, I stored my thumb picks and tuner in it). It’s also a waterproof on the outside. (Of course, you can’t just pour water on it, but it protects from accidental spills etc.)
Check it out on Amazon. It’s a bag for acoustic guitar, but nonetheless, you can easily put your electric guitar in it, also.
Final Words On Leaving Your Guitar Without Strings
The bottom line is following. You shouldn’t worry about leaving your guitar unstrung. Instead, you should worry about other things, such as: Is the humidity of the room my guitar is stored in too high, or too low?
Is the temperature too high, or too low? Is my guitar too dirty?
And many more.
Anyway, I hope this article provide you some valuable information about this issue. I hope you enjoyed reading it.
Learn How To Play Guitar Like A Pro
I encourage you to take a look at the JamPlay site for online guitar lessons. It has a ton of teaching videos from world class instructors. In the course, you’ll learn everything you wanted – from scales, rhythms, strumming patterns to various guitar techniques.
Cheers, and rock on!