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With the risk of being a duplicate question of How often should I replace the strings on my guitar? I'd like to ask the same thing for bass guitar.

Bass strings are pricier than guitar strings, so I don't want to replace them more often then I should. I try to keep them as clean as possible (FastFret + occasional cleaning with 90% alcohol). However 4 months in (and about 40-50H of playing), and I'm starting to feel they don't sound that great. There are also fret marks on the high G

How often (playing hours or chronological months) should good quality bass strings be replaced?

I have a 4 string electric bass, and I use round-wound strings.

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Are you asking if they should be replaced more often that you're currently replacing them? Because if they sound bad you certainly wouldn't want to keep them longer. –  Matthew Read Jun 6 '11 at 20:56
    
I'm asking what's the "normal" rate in which one would replace Bass strings. They currently don't sound bad, just not as good as they used to. –  yeeeev Jun 7 '11 at 11:00
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13 Answers 13

up vote 10 down vote accepted

I change my strings when they start to sound stale, about every 4-6 months. As a gauge, I play about 5 hours a week in my church, plus an additional hour or two of practice on top of that. When I used DR coated strings, they would last a bit longer than that, but even with the extra life I had a hard time justifying the extra cost.

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What is DR coated? –  musicwithoutpaper Jun 14 '11 at 22:25
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They are a brand of coated strings. Strings degrade in part because your fingers bring chemistry which corrodes them and funk which embeds between windings. Coating protects them, but changes the tone in ways some musicians don't like. More here: music.stackexchange.com/questions/1629/… –  VarLogRant Sep 25 '12 at 14:27
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As guitarist who plays bass occasionally, I can tell you that bass strings just seem to be pricier. But they also last much, much longer. Of course after some time, they loose some brilliance but after that they usually keep the sound for a long time. The sweat-production of your hands also reduces the life of your strings. In general I'd say that bass-strings lives about 5-10 times longer than guitar strings, which makes them as cheap(/expensive) as guitar-strings.

If you want to keep the brilliance of your sound, you have no choice to either use coated strings or to change your strings more frequently. (And of course keep a good maintenance) If you can live with a 'dull' sound, you can generally keep uncoated strings on for over an year or longer. (unless they break^^)

As you can see, there is no basic yes or no to your question, you need to decide for yourself what you expect from your sound. [ I know, I hate such answers, too. ;) ]

I hope that helps, but keep in mind that the life of guitar/bass-strings can vary drammatically. It's all about how often you play, your hand-sweat, your maintenance and the material of your strings (+coat). So bass strings last from roughly 1 month to 5 years. ;)

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If our old open-mic club is any indication.... Never. The "house" bass wore the same set for at least 10 years.

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Yeah, but I'm assuming here that I want my bass to sound reasonably good ... :) –  yeeeev Jun 7 '11 at 10:59
    
Not something that could be said of the bass in question...It also had a short and would shock people... –  M. Werner Jun 8 '11 at 21:41
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This sounds like a joke... lasted ten years... nobody would use it because of the short... that might be why it lasted so long :) –  musicwithoutpaper Jun 14 '11 at 22:34
    
I used a set of strings for 10+ years also. Changed them when they broke. –  Dan the Man Aug 5 '13 at 17:53
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It is usually stated that James Jamerson, legendary Motown bassist, never changed his strings. This was generally considered to be a part of his sound. He also used flatwound strings which last longer than roundwound (although I don't think they're intended to last a whole career!)

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I'm going on 8 years. –  Ash Machine Sep 23 '11 at 5:19
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As some people have said already it depends on how you want to sound. Depending on how often you play your strings will sound a lot more dull after some time. I personally think that if you're slapping, newer strings sound much better. They just have that bright punch to them. If you're using a pick I also think newer strings sound better.

For most things though, I like a duller, rounder sort of sound that I think older strings give after they lose their shine. It could be a combination of my amp settings and play style, it could also be the fact that I haven't broken a G string in quite some time so I just haven't bothered to change them and forgotten what it sounds like.

I would not be worried about the fret marks on your strings. I estimate I used to practice ~4-6 a day when I first put the strings on, this was pre-college. I switched majors about half way through and I didn't play as much. The strings have been on there for going on 7 years I'd say. The last 4 of which I play at most 10 hours a month maybe with no serious practicing just recording little things here and there.

I'd say part of this is luck. I use DR but I don't remember the exact kind and they were whatever the lightest guage they had at my local shop.

One thing to note is that if you are playing old strings it's good to wipe them down after you play, it's good to do this anyway actually. I can't imagine how disgusting they are and rather not think about it but besides that old strings will kill whatever sort of sustain you have and if that's something you're worried about I'd definitely change them as soon as they start to get a dull sound or start to get build up on the strings. There is no exact time period for this and it depends on how much you play and the humidity of the area where you keep your instruments.

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Welcome to Music SE! Thanks for your advice. –  American Luke Oct 1 '12 at 18:43
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I have known rock bassists who play nightly, practice during the day, and change their strings before every single concert. These are players who insist on a very bright sound with prominent overtones, and play with a pick much of the time. This seems wasteful to me, but people do it.

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To be honest, it all depends on your ear. I myself love the Marcus Miller Fat Beams, but after only a couple months (2-3) of playing, the initial "out of the pack fresh" brightness is already gone. Even though it can be more expensive, I tend to replace them at this point because I love the way that they sound when I play. If you are using strings that you think still sound good 1 year later, then there is no reason to replace them.

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Thanks! I usually break the G string after 4-6 months, so never tested the strings for a whole year. Anyway, I'm glad to see I have justification to change them after 3... :) –  yeeeev Dec 15 '11 at 7:54
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I play TI jazz flats and I love the sound. I have had them on my bass for about a year and they still sound good. My preference, my opinion.

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Is there any trace of the "fret marks on the high G" that OP was concerned about? About how many hours of playing (rough hrs/day is sufficient) does this represent? Would you expect the same results from Thomastik's roundwounds (OP uses rounds)? –  luser droog Sep 23 '12 at 16:57
    
Welcome to the Site! Don't get me wrong! I love Thomastik Jazz Flats to death (I get about 5-6 years out of a set of George Benson's). But, as a "late answer", we're looking for a little more substance. ... I'm certain that facts will bear out your claim. :) –  luser droog Sep 25 '12 at 5:16
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How do you know if you need new guitar strings?

For Acoustic and Electric guitars Couple of questions to answer:

  1. Have you had the same strings on for over 2 months?

  2. Are your strings rusty?

  3. Are your strings rough?

  4. Do your strings sound dull?

  5. Had a string break recently?

If you answered yes to any of the above, its probably time to replace your strings.

Because of moisture on your fingers and in the atmosphere, strings corrode and rust over time and their ablility to vibrate diminishes. This not only causes the sound to dull but even worse, the feel of the strings becomes rough and will hurt or even damage your fingers.

Strings can also become brittle from too much vibration, just think of how a paper clip snaps if you twist it too much, the same happens to strings - especially if you use a lot of different tunings.

If you play a lot, say for 2 hours a day every day, then you should look at changing your guitar strings every month. If you play less, but still strum most days, the max you should leave them on the guitar would be 2 months.

Strings are quite cheap, about £5 for a set of 6.

There is an alternative to changing your strings this often. You can buy coated strings. These last longer due to a coating on the strings that prevent dirt build up and corrosion. Coated guitar strings tend to last 3 to 5 times longer than normal strings, so you can leave them on for longer. These still need to be changed though. At least every 6 months these should be changed as they are also prone to breaking because of the vibrations of the string as explained earlier using the paper clip analogy. Coated strings do cost more, about £12 for a set of 6, but last longer, so can work out more cost effective.

Ernie Ball Coated Strings have titanium reinforcement to make them stronger and less prone to break.

For Bass Guitars, the strings are much more substantial and tend to last longer and hold their tone. Change bass strings at least once a year.

For Classical Guitars with nylon based strings, again because of the way they are made, they don't rust, so last longer. They do age though, so do need replacing. When they age they tend to stretch and become hard to keep in tune. If you don't want to wait till this starts happening, you should look at changing them every 3 to 4 months.

So to summarize:

  • Change your Electric / Acoustic uncoated strings at least every 2 months.

  • Change your coated Electric / Acoustic strings at least every 6 months.

  • Change your Bass guitar strings at least once a year.

  • Change your Classical guitar strings at least every 4 months.

Details of guitar strings can be found at the Guitarbitz Guitar Strings page.

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Per the FAQ, "you must disclose your affiliation in your answers." Also, "the community frowns on overt self-promotion and tends to vote it down and flag it as spam." This is just a reminder (your username gave it away). Good answer on the whole, though. –  American Luke Sep 25 '12 at 14:30
    
Guitars and basses are entirely different beasts. But some things do apply. –  Kyle Sevenoaks May 26 at 8:50
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Basically it depends on how often you play. The more that you play the more often that they need to be changed. I play daily and tend to go through a set of strings a month, but I like to have a very bight tone. One thing that can be done is boiling your strings every so often. I have done that on occasion when money is tight. This can make your strings sound new again.

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I play my Gibson about 24 -30 gig hours a month plus practice 8hrs a week. Let's call that 60 hrs a month and change my strings monthly. I prefer a brighter tone, but my bass is natually deep, so the balance is perfect.

My Jazz bass has flat wounds and rarely change the strings. Maybe ever few years. But I don't play it as often either. Maybe 3-4 hrs a month.

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If you can't afford new strings and there not so old that they have stretched. Try boiling stainless steel strings in water to steam clean, remove oils, it should sound brighter.

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Always change strings before recording at least. We borrowed a same brand, same model bass, but with different tuning when we were recording. The strings were bass-"fresh", a month or so. It sounded very muddy compared to the other which had really fresh strings. Changing strings got the sound back. (It should be common wisdom to change strings before recording, but it's also common knowledge that bass strings last "forever"...)

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