Different Strings Have Different Life Time
How frequently do you change the strings on your guitar? It can be highly individual – some players change strings for every concert. That can be every day. If you are recording in a studio you can even change strings a couple of times during the day. In that case it's very useful to have the spare strings attached to another guitar so you always have some pre-stretched strings at hand. In my experience the steel strings last about 100 hours of playing
, classical guitar strings a bit less. So after 2 weeks of playing they are dead for sure. The exception are the gut bass strings on my theorbo (an European lute with a neck extension) which can last as long as 2-3 years without any noticeable change.
When Is The Right Time For Replacement
The first sign of the strings wearing out is loss of their bright tone. The next call is if they cannot be tuned any more - either they are not vibrating evenly or parts of the string are so corrupt that the tuning changes when moving up and down the fretboard. It's easy to check it by comparing the open string with a stopped one at twelfth fret. Last call is a broken string. Of course, a string can brake without warning at any moment. On classical guitar I always change the basses more frequently than trebles. Sometimes my set is made up from 3 different brands.
The Strings My Wear Out So Gradually That You Won't Notice
In the context of tuning the strings are an important topic because they are directly responsible of letting you to produce a nice and even sound (or not). The process of ageing is always so smooth that it is difficult to notice when do the strings exactly lose their tone. A simple experiment that you can try is to record a piece of music just before you replace your strings. Then after allowing the new strings some time to stretch record the same piece again under the same condition. Now compare those two recordings and you'll be surprised. Note that some strings need some time to become stable in their tuning and to start produce normal sound. So the sound quality of a string could be visualized as a curve: first it takes some time for them to start to make a decent sound and after reaching the peak they will gradually lose their qualities again.
Are There Alternatives To Changing The Strings?
Not really. The only thing you can do is to make your strings last longer by washing your hands before playing, cleaning the strings and using only smooth picks and fingernails to pluck them. A sharp ended pick or unpolished nail will damaged the surface of a string. The only good reason for not changing that I can think of is the fret noise that new strings make. But on the other hand, there are playing techniques to avoid that annoying sound.