Do Guitar Strings Go Bad And Lose Their Tone Over Time?

Guitar strings affect the tone of your guitar significantly. That’s why it is important to know some facts about them. If you’re a beginner, you may wonder if strings lose their tone after some period of time.

Do guitar strings go bad? Do they lose their tone over time? Yes, they do. When they are new, just out of the box, they sound bright and loud. Over time, due to humidity and dirt accumulation on their surface, they start to sound dull and not so bright.

Why Do Guitar Strings Go Dead?

There’s nothing that’s 100 % immune to environmental changes and conditions. Guitar strings are no exceptions to this rule. When you play your guitar, you press your guitar strings with your fingers.

Oil from fingertips transfer to everything we touch. Every time you play your guitar, your strings absorb that oil from your fingers. Not only oil, but sweat, dust, and all kinds of dirt.

Check out the article from this page about how to deal with sweat on your guitar, here.

Also, if the relative humidity of the room your guitar is in is too high, your strings can absorb the moisture from the air. If there’s an excessive amount of moist in your guitar strings, they start to sound dull, not so fresh as before.

That’s why it’s important to monitor relative humidity level in your room. To find out more about humidification of your guitar, check this article.

All of that affects the sound of your guitar strings.

What Happens When Guitar Strings Get Old?

There are few signs by which you know your strings got old. First, the corrosion and rust. Strings tend to corrode as a result of humidity, over time. Also, plain strings tend to rust, as they often don’t have any protective layer around them.

If you want to know how to protect your guitar strings from corrosion and rust, check this thorough guide on that subject, here.

Do Guitar Strings Have A Shelf Life?

Guitar strings don’t have a shelf life. But that does not mean they won’t expire over time, if not stored properly.

Again, inappropriate humidity can damage guitar strings, even if they’re not opened from the box.

On the other hand, if they are stored and kept properly, they can be opened from their box even decades later and still sound as fresh as new.

How Do You Keep Guitar Strings Fresh?

There are few crucial tips you must sign up to in order to keep your strings fresh. First, wash your hands every time before you start to play your guitar.

It’s simple. Hands are our dirtiest part of the body. They are collectors of dust, dirt and oil. Everything we touch with our hands become dirtier than before.

Washing your hands can significantly improve duration of guitar strings.

Second, wipe them with microfiber cloth every time after you stop playing your guitar. That shouldn’t take more than 10 seconds, and yet it is really helpful for string maintenance.

You may even consider getting yourself coated strings. Those strings are coated with protective polymer layer. That’s why they last 3 to 5 times longer than regular, uncoated strings.

However, their sound is not as bright as it’s the sound of uncoated, regular, strings. Anyway, take a look at this comparison between those two types of guitar strings, here. It is another article from this page.

Do Guitar Strings Affect Sound?

Guitar strings can affect sound to some extent, but there are many other factors that affect the sound much more.

Of course, high quality strings have better sustain, and brighter tone. That’s for sure. But really, you shouldn’t put your hopes in strings, as far as the sound is concerned.

String gauge can affect the tone of your guitar, but just a little bit. It affects the feeling you have when you play, which consequently could affect your playing sound, which, again consequently, could affect the tone.

Anyway, to find out more about how string gauge affects tone, action height, fret buzz etc., check the article from this page about it, here.

How Often Should I Restring My Guitar?

There’s no straight answer to this question. That’s because it depends on too many factors. How much do you play your guitar? Do you play every day for a few hours?

If that’s the case, then you should restring your guitar every month or two. It depends also on what quality are strings you have? If you have some cheap trash, of course they are going to lose their tone fast. So you’ll have to restring your guitar more frequently.

And finally, it depends on how much effort do you put in the maintenance of your strings? Do you wash your hands regularly, every time before you play?

Do you wipe them after you’re done playing your guitar? It’s obvious you’re have to restring your guitar more frequently if guitar strings tend to get dirty faster.

Do Old Guitar Strings Go Out Of Tune?

Every guitar string goes out of tune from time to time. It is inevitable. However, older guitar strings often go out of tune faster than new ones. That’s because they lose their elasticity and corrode.

Do Old Guitar Strings Hurt Fingers?

If you’re a guitar beginner, every guitar string is going to leave marks on your fingers. Older guitar strings may hurt your fingers more, because they are more prone to corrode and rust.

Rust is eating the string away, so the string itself can become sharp. Sharp string can be tougher to press, so yes, old guitar strings can indeed hurt your finger with higher probability.

Are Metal Or Nylon Strings Better?

Neither metal or nylon strings are better than each other. They both have their unique sound, which is not better or worse in comparison with different type.

Nylon strings are meant to be put on a classical guitar. Classical guitar sounds warmer, not so bright and sharp as an steel (metal) string acoustic guitar.

Metal strings provide more tension to the neck, and they are somehow “heavier” than nylon strings.

Either way, both metal and nylon strings represent two different types of strings, and both sound equally good.

If you wonder whether you can put nylon strings on an acoustic guitar, or metal strings on a classical guitar, check out the article from this page about that issue, here.

Do New Guitar Strings Sound Better?

Of course they do. New guitar strings are clean, fresh and elastic. They can only start to sound worse and worse over time. However, that doesn’t mean you should restring your guitar every time you play it.

It would be tedious and boring to do so. However, with proper care, guitar strings can sound fresh and great enough to last for at least one or two months.

What Type Of Guitar Strings Are Best For A Beginner?

It is probably best to go with light gauge strings if you’re a beginner. That’s because lighter strings are easier to press on a fretboard. Heavier strings are wider, heavier, so you’ll have to use more force to bend them.

However, over time, when you gain strength on your fingers, it won’t be an issue anymore. Again, check out the article from this page about lighter vs. heavier strings, here.

How Much Does A Guitar String Cost?

There are hundreds of different guitar string brands out there. There are low quality guitar strings which are usually cheap. You can get some packs for only 5-6 dollars. On the other hand, there are high quality guitar strings which you can get for 30 to 40 dollars or more.


As you probably know by now, strings do lose their tone over time. But it is nothing to be worried about. It’s reality. Not only do they lose their tone, but they also go out of tune from time to time.

The key is to properly maintain your guitar strings, so they sound fresh as long as it is possible. I know this is something we take for granted, but that’s just the way it is.

If you find this article helpful, I’m happy about it.

Don’t forget to check out some other interesting articles I wrote!

Cheers, and rock on!

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