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When do you know its time to change your strings


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Back in the 80s bright Rotosound strings that were slapped and sounded pingy was one way to go. Times changes and bass tones moved on - the flat re-emerged and became more popular and the brightness wasn't always/if at all,  needed depending on your style of music and what you played - so when do you know its time to change your strings?

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Typically when the open E and B (5 string player here) goes muddy / “out of focus” for me, although I must confess I did not change the strings on my Roscoe all through lockdown and it was played pretty much every day.

 

Just restrung the Roscoe / MTD and Dingwall and do not like new strings but give them some time and I am a happy chappy.

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A couple of years ago I bought a Jazz with the most dead round wound strings on it I've ever heard. The guy I bought it from played with a pick and he must have beaten the fekk out of the strings. 

 

I have to admit I really loved the sound.

 

I rarely change the strings on my bass once they're fitted but I've never got to the level of 'totally fekked', as those strings were.

Edited by gjones
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Fortunately, it's mostly only the top A string on cello that has to be changed with any regularity - they're about £45. Last one lasted 3 years. Glad the C string doesn't need changing too often as they're about £120 each

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With Elixir rounds it’s hard to know but generally after a year or so I think ‘surely they’re dead by now’ and change them, to realise they were fine!

 

Flats - when they start to lose stable tuning or they break!

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Only use SS rounds, so it's generally when either the top end becomes less pronounced on the D & G strings, or when there's noticable wear. These usually happen around the same time, depending on how much use they've had (obviously, over the last year and a half, they didn't get as much use as they would normally get).

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Honestly if I am using rounds and they are not a special coated type or an alloy 52 type or any other type that is known to be long lasting I change them once a month.

 

I know some people would think that is excessive but the way I see it is £20 a month is not a huge amount of money and especially not for the amount of enjoyment I get from playing, I love that aggressive grindy tone you get from a new or newish set of strings

 

Flats on the other hand, the older the better.

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I normally change the strings when I get a bass - the amount of times I've acquired a bass and it feels like it was used for gardening....

 

They need to be clean and grime free as does the fretboard. If they're not something needs cleaning.

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The trouble I have with strings is the slow decline, like the Boiling Frog analogy. It can be hard to notice if you don't have a EQ/effects reference. Am I the only one to get slightly neurotic about it? 🤣

That's a reason I go for Elixirs! 

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I change them when they don't do what I want anymore. I've got a Precision with 15+ year old LaBella flats, and that sounds proper old school. My F Bass has had a set of LaBella Super Steps on for a few months, and they are still sounding pretty bright. On the other hand, I've got another Precision that has had Ernie Balls on for 3 gigs, and is already sounding a bit deader than I like.  I don't particularly enjoy restringing, but I'd rather do it regularly than use those horrible coated strings.

 

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I only change my strings when I start thinking to myself, “my bass doesn’t sound the way it used to” or, more likely, if I simply fancy a complete change of brand/string type.


I’ve just realised that in 10+ years of playing I have never replaced my strings with a fresh set of the same strings I already had on! I seem to always use it as an opportunity to try something new. I guess, being a mostly casual player, I don’t have the pressures of gigs or recording sessions etc holding me to any standard of tonal consistency…so I’m just enjoying the journey through the world of strings at present. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

That would be when my fingers start to 'stick' to the strings around the pickup area 😂.

 

Way back when, before corona when I played function music every day, a set of nickelwounds would last about 3 months of nightly use before playing anything quickly is basically impossible.. and that was with daily string cleaning!! When I have the money I try and change every month. 

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