How often should I change my guitar strings?
Well, the short answer is – as often as you can afford to. If there is one single thing you can do to improve the sound of just about any guitar, it would be to change the strings. This is especially obvious if you live in an area like I do that features hot, humid weather. Even those of us with the best personal hygiene (i.e., clean hands!) have to deal with sweat when we play and that will turn those chiming, crisp sounding strings into something akin to the sound of rubber bands in no time at all. Not only is this annoying (and slightly depressing!) but it can also effect your playing. When your ear adjusts to sound of dead strings it’s easy to get a bit sloppy in your technique. You may overlook thuddy tone that could be corrected by better finger placement. You may play harder than is necessary to try to compensate for the dead tone and lack of volume. Bad habits to be avoided, for sure!
So change those strings! If I’m backed into the proverbial corner, I guess my answer to how often would be at least every two to three months if you play daily. But much shorter intervals may be necessary. You spent hundreds or even thousands of dollars on that guitar. Doesn’t it make sense to keep it sounding the best it can? Spending less than you do for lunch at a fast food restaurant for new strings is an investment in musical pleasure.
I’m taking a trip and I want to take my guitar. Can I bring it on the airplane or should I check it with my luggage?
Hoo boy, that one is tough. There have been long discussions about this on the various guitar forums but there is no general consensus. Supposedly, in the U.S. there is a new law that requires airlines to allow passengers to use their guitar as a carry-on item. That law may be in place but with all the stress of modern air travel – including dealing with the pushing and last minute positioning as the plane is beginning the boarding process – you very well may encounter a surly ticket taker who refuses to allow your guitar on board as a carry-on. I’ve seen this happen (not to me, thankfully) and it is an ugly scene.
Ultimately, it is just a crap shoot. My own observations over the last year or so of air travel is that most of the time guitars make it on board. I think you can up your odds of success by using a padded gig bag instead of a hardshell case but of course there is some risk of damage involved. We’ve all seen the guy who brings on an overstuffed “carry on” suitcase and with the strength of someone who should be a professional wrestler, try to jam the thing into the overhead compartment. I certainly don’t want my poor guitar to be anywhere near that! But you are also running a slight risk of that cranky ticket taker STILL saying no, you must check that guitar. Now you’re in real trouble – that poor guitar in a gig bag cannot be expected to survive the brutal treatment that luggage receives from the baggage handler gorillas. If you haven’t seen this video (very funny but very sad!), check it out:
United breaks guitars!
So take the chance if you’re a gambler. I know that I feel pretty lost without my guitar if I’m going to be away for more than a week. Or better yet, if you know you’re going to travelling frequently, invest in one of the latest “travel guitars” on the market. Some are surprisingly good sounding and easy to play, and will easily fit in the overhead. Some are even designed to collapse via a hinged neck and fit in a special oval shaped padded case. In any case, I sincerely wish you luck and would love to hear from any readers with recent air travel with guitar experiences.
More questions and answers in the next few days.
Peace & good music,