An online guitar kerfuffle I hadn't come across: stretching strings


Not sure how wear defines it. I think you are saying that when I fret, even though I see and feel my finger touching the wood, that nestled up against my finger, the string itself is not actually touching, but slightly tensed up above the fretboard? My fingers is pushed down over the string and touching the fretboard while the string is a bit above? I dunno, man.

Okay. I have sure seen it with a scalloped board, and also exploited the trampoline effect when I play an old guitar with bar (vs. current T-shaped) frets.

Have to think about this one.

Yes. Basically on examination I concluded that my fingers touch the wood but the string puts enough upward tension to be suspended while fretting a note in pitch. If I press down harder I can raise the pitch, and maybe touch the string to the wood, but in normal play it doesn’t happen.

I don’t know why board wear isn’t evidence of this. The string provides plenty of wear on the fret, and if it touched the wood it would as well IMO. The fact that there is wear between the strings and it seems to be from fingers working, and perhaps salt and sweat playing a role, would say to me “If there was strings pressing too it would be radically worn” but it doesn’t seem to be.

Mythology about strings is wide and varied. I can recall thirty years ago some guys wouldn’t cut their strings because they believed they’d lose tone. They had long strands of strings waving around the tuning posts. They could put an eye out.

B-benders are the rage today. Brad Paisley uses McVay Benders. the strings still have tone. :wink:

I gently tug on new strings to stretch them so they stay in tune. I clip off the excess length. They still sound great.

The problem is we need to define our terms. What does “Stretch” mean in this context?

I can’t help but think that there is some actual stretching going on when the string is first installed at the peg and brought up to pitch, although exactly how much I cannot say. A sharpie mark or two or three on the strings could answer that I’d bet.

The backstory for those poor benighted non-musician types is that new strings need to be “stretched” a bit so they settle down into tune and don’t vary in pitch while playing. If the strings are pulled away from the fretboard fairly hard and tuned back up to pitch three to five times say, they are good to go immediately. If this isn’t done the strings will need tuning (up) to pitch for quite some time; and I would agree that this is mostly settling in against the bridge and tuning peg windings.

Not sure about electric guitars, but acoustic guitars need new strings after several hours (maybe 20 or less) of playing. They become difficult to tune, and sound “dead” and prone to breakage. New strings as well have disadvantages and sound too bright or “zingy” so there is kind of a sweet spot time wise where strings sound their best.

I can’t get more than a few weeks out of them, but I tend to like alternate tunings and only have one guitar right now, and tuning up and down kills them fast. People tend to leave strings on far, far too long. If you play regularly once a month is not too often. It’s for the children.

I’ve always found that installing the strings then playing a bit of bendy lead stuff takes care of any string problems. It takes about two minutes and is more fun than pulling at the strings.

I’ve always assumed the strings actually stretch, but this seems like a rather easy thing to test. Just mark a new string in 2 places when you first put it on and then see if, after “stretching” and repeated tunings, the marks get farther apart.

Your strings should last longer than that imho. Are you using a top grade coated string like D’Addario or Elixir? D’Addario 3 packs run about $32 and Elixir is a bit higher with 2 packs for $26. Coated strings last longer because they resist sweat and oil. It takes months of playing for my strings to tarnish where my fingers have repeatedly fretted notes.

I couldn’t afford to change strings every few weeks. Unless I was gigging and getting paid pretty well. I change mine about every 4 months and thats a significant expense.

Its the E and A strings that lose tone first. Bass notes get muddy pretty quick. But thats just how strings are. I wouldn’t try to change strings every few weeks just for brighter and richer bass notes.

Like I said, I change tunings often - open or alternate tunings like open E or DADGAD and back to standard EADGBE. This kills strings quicker. I don’t care for coated strings. I use Martin 80/20s and Pearse PBs. They are as good a string as available. If I tuned to standard pitch and left them they last far longer, but without regard to that people in general leave strings on WAY too long. I tend to change them about once a month when playing an hour or so a day average. Sometimes I might play practically all day without intending to, and go a day or so without playing so it’s hard to say. I guess I should try to go by hours and nail it down closer time wise. But I buy strings in sets of 12 and they lasted a little over a year.

On acoustics it’s the G string that tends to give fair warning and tends to break first. Once any string breaks due to age, it’s time to change them all basically.

edit: I think it’s probably pointless to offer a time period on string changes without specifying how many actual hours of playing that represents. Maybe I play more than an average of an hour a day.

I should add that I pretty much HATE changing strings btw, and if I could get them to last four months (or four years) that would be just absolutely fine by me. It doesn’t work that way. I really need to pick up another guitar to leave in alternate tuning like DADGAD tuning etc.

I never thought about what was actually happening when I do this on a steel string guitar…it makes sense that things are just settling better during the stretch process.

But I originally learned to do this on a nylon string classical guitar, and those strings feel like rubber bands, and quite possibly do stretch. If you don’t prestretch them, a classical guitar will take days to stabilize.

Sounds like a excellent excuse to buy another guitar. :smiley:

I keep my old guitar in Drop D or sometimes open G (Rolling Stones songs). My new one is usually in standard tuning.

A person on the AGF thread posted his example of installing strings into a locking trem like a Floyd Rose. The string’s length is locked down at both ends. They still need tuning tweaks when they are initially installed. Interesting to see how the discussion goes.

Common Tater - not sure what to say. I do leave my strings on for months at a go and play regularly. Again, since my strings die early, I am just rolling with it and have focused on guitars that sound good that way.

I have an old guitar set up in Open G - I am too lazy to change the tuning on a guitar to play a different song. Heck, I can rarely be motivated to put a capo on :wink: I just want to play!

I change them when they break. (As does Clapton I think) I’ve got a Guild. The guitar is much more influential than the strings age on the sound IMO. (Not to mention what songs youre playing!) Plus I used to break a lot of strings and the habit just settled in.

Well, yes it’s pretty much required at that point if you stop and think about it :wink:

True, some people prefer the sound of dead strings and leave them on as long as possible and are loathe to change them. To my ears old strings lack sustain and overtones. New strings on the other hand, sound too brassy and metallic.

When I was young and couldn’t afford anything much less new strings I tried all the tricks I’d heard about, and none of them seemed to work. Dead is dead, and they won’t tune easily and soon break, at least the G and 1st E etc. Every now and then, not too often even a set of new strings might contain a “dead” string that soon goes thump instead of a sonorous pure tone. Not necessarily “bad” but not what is expected and sort of grating.

Just for the record (and since nobody else has said anything), somebody caught that line. Guy Clark is one of my favorites. I assume you know he’s a luthier as well.

It’s more than a little ironic that the song includes the line “I’ve got an old guitar, won’t ever stay in tune / I like the way it sounds in a dark and empty room.” :stuck_out_tongue:

Nice catch! I didn’t know Clark was a luthier, and, yeah, I remember that line - but I am sure he’d agree an old guitar that stays in tune is even better ;).