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I've replaced the strings on my old electric guitar for the first time in, I think, 5 or 6 years. In that time, I haven't played my guitar at all.

Now, when I put on new strings yesterday, the sound was pretty clear and bright. Today, they're already quite dull and almost sound 'muted' around the 15th fret. Mostly the 4th string.

I don't know what strings were on the guitar, it's Earnie Ball regular slinky now, though.

Any ideas what could cause this?

Full disclosure: Haven't listened to it through an amp as I don't have one around right now.

  • 1
    I don't feel like I really know what strings sound like without the amp. – Todd Wilcox Sep 18 '15 at 21:25
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Here's one crazy theory:

If you hadn't tuned the guitar in those 5 - 6 years, then it's possible the old strings were very loose. If they were loose, then the neck probably would have straightened and even could have become a little back-bowed, which means you would have much less neck relief (or none at all). So right after you put the new strings on and tuned them up, the neck relief might have still been too little, since necks don't change shape instantly based on new forces applied to them. With less relief, you might have had strings slapping against the frets a little, which can give a very bright sound without obviously being caused by low relief. 24 hours later, the neck has mostly arrived at its new shape and you have the proper amount of relief, so the bright fret slapping noise is gone and you're left with a more normal string sound which seems dull by comparison.

  • The strings were indeed quite loose in comparison. But still, it sounds weird coming from the old strings. Do you perhaps know of a way to 'simulate' and amp on the computer so I can check out if its 'bad' there as well? – Guesterino Total Sep 18 '15 at 21:56
  • I wonder if the neck changed shape with more / less strain of new strings like you suggest, changing the angle at which the strings are saddled vs the string over the frets/pickups. This could affect the sustain as that angle is important to the sustain of a guitar. – Dave Engineer Sep 21 '15 at 9:49
  • The bowing of the neck would also attribute to the fact that Guesterino noticed that the dullness started around the 15th fret - once the truss rod has no tension from the strings, all bets are off in my opinion. I don't think this theory is crazy at all, and is the most likely solution given the time the neck has had to warp. – Matt Taylor Sep 23 '15 at 16:59
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I would suggest getting your guitar set-up by a professional whenever you're doing major changes to it (such as changing string gauge) or when some of the notes are buzzying when they shouldn't buzz. Also, you should always tune your guitar before playing - especially with new strings, as they tend to get out of tune very easily (mid-playing even) for a few days.

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