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Changing strings for intonation

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by Larry F, Jun 30, 2013.

  1. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Nov 5, 2006
    Iowa City, IA
    I was breaking the high strings when bending a few years ago. It turned out my frets were sawing the strings, and I got those replaced. Before I figured that out, however, I started buying GHS Cryos. Even with the bad frets I rarely broke strings anymore. There is nothing worse than bending a string but wondering if it is going to snap. Even now, I kind of grimace and squint my eyes in anticipation. Maybe this is how BB King came to make that grimace with squinty eyes. Hmm, a research topic there.

    Anyway, because I break strings so rarely, and because my hands are generally clean, my strings last forever. However, I notice when I do change them they all have dents where the frets were. How do these dents affect intonation? Do they make the fretted notes sound higher or lower? Even if I don't know the answer to that, do you think I should regularly change strings for the purpose of intonation. I hate that something is always out of tune somewhere on the guitar, but I wonder if I will have better pitch if I change the strings according to a schedule recommended by my TDPRI buds. I use 9-46s which I like for bends and vibrato. I've adjusted my chord playing to take into account the small gauges. If I were to play a lot more rhythm, I would definitely go with heavier strings, but that's not the case right now. I use two guitars: MIK Tele and Epi Dot.

    How often should I change strings for intonation purposes?
  2. piece of ash

    piece of ash Friend of Leo's

    Dec 29, 2010
    Sugar Land, TX
    The dents in the strings probably lower the "modulus"... make them more stretchy. At the same time, the dents make the strings lighter. So, which effect dominates might require all sorts of mechanical testing... or, the effects might nearly cancel.

    What have you observed?

    As always Larry... thought provoking.

    And if your strings are getting that worn... get some new ones! Those rutted areas might be tearing up your frets.
  3. BobbyZ

    BobbyZ Poster Extraordinaire

    Jan 12, 2011
    Snellman MN
    Can you hear a diffirence when you do change strings? If you can't hear it don't worry about it.
    I also leave stings on forever because I hate changing them and I'm too cheap to pay someone to do it for me. When I break one I do change the whole set.
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  5. Thin69

    Thin69 Friend of Leo's

    Oct 28, 2009
    Galveston, TX
    Your right, as strings age intonation tends to change, somtimes dramatically.

    I never have changed the strings as a preventative measure. If a string is out to the point where it is very noticeable I will replace the individual string or set if they have been on for a while.

    I really do not like to set the intonation unless I have installed new strings.
  6. AndyLowry

    AndyLowry Friend of Leo's

    May 1, 2012
    Prescott AZ
    My main machine currently has strings that have been on for almost a month (I change 'em on the first) and have seen about a hundred hours of use, including a lot of bending. You made me curious so I checked 'em with a strobe tuner and they're still spot-on at the octave. They're plain old D'Addario 10-46s. I've never managed to break one, but then I rarely bend above a whole step.
  7. Thin69

    Thin69 Friend of Leo's

    Oct 28, 2009
    Galveston, TX
    Are you using a strobe tuner accurate to 1/10 cent?
  8. alnicopu

    alnicopu Friend of Leo's

    Oct 3, 2009
    I change them when the g string starts to sound out of tune to me. No one else seems to hear it but me. Very strange phenomenon. I can't tell if its sharp or flat. It just doesn't sound right to my brain. I usually get about 2 weeks out of a set if I play daily and I always wipe them down with a cloth I keep in my case when I'm done and wash my hands before I play. I use plain ole D'Addario 10-46.
  9. AndyLowry

    AndyLowry Friend of Leo's

    May 1, 2012
    Prescott AZ
    Peterson says it is, but I don't have a way to test that.
  10. alnicopu

    alnicopu Friend of Leo's

    Oct 3, 2009
    Old saying "guitar players spend half their time tuning their guitars and the other half playing out of tune". You may be able to tune to 1/10 cent open but that's where it pretty much ends. Play, don't sweat the small stuff.
  11. jefrs

    jefrs Doctor of Teleocity

    Nov 20, 2007
    Newbury, England
    For intonation, no.
    But you should get your frets polished out. May need levelling and dressing.

    You probably have very strong fingers and are pressing down too hard then sawing across the frets with the string. Strings are harder than most frets...
    When we started we had to desperately squeeze the strings into the neck to get them down, now the lightest tap of the fingertip is enough but we still squeeze hard enough to crack nuts.
    Idea - it's hard to break habit of a lifetime, get a nylon strung and practice on that (they're fun anyway), they require very little pressure, and let your hands re-learn using less force.

    When strings are past it, they begin to sound off, they have hardened and gone stiff, their elasticity has gone. The plain G often sounds worse first because it is the fussiest one about having the nut slot height just right. If the nut is too high there it pulls-sharp, when the string has gone stiff, less stretch left in it, it pulls even sharper.

    A set is supposed to be evenly balanced and modern sets are much better at this than they were in the 60s/70s, and a lot cheaper too.
  12. JayFreddy

    JayFreddy Poster Extraordinaire

    Nov 6, 2006
    Dallas TX USA
    As strings age and oxidize, they gradually get thinner. The intonation of an older, thinner string will sound flat compared to a fresh one.

    If/when you can hear that the intonation is out, that's when to change them. Since oxidation is the key factor here, it depends how much you sweat.

    I can usually go a month on a teaching guitar, more like 3 days on a gigging guitar...

    EDIT: Many times dents in frets are caused by closing the case too tightly on top of the guitar, or trying to squeeze a guitar strap into the case, laid out flat on top of the strings....
  13. TieDyedDevil

    TieDyedDevil Tele-Holic

    Sep 8, 2006
    Portland, OR
    My body chemistry doesn't seem to affect the metal, so my strings last a long time, at least insofar as corrosion goes.

    However, I have noticed that intonation begins to suffer after a certain point. I never dug into exactly what was happening (sharp vs. flat); I just became aware that the guitar didn't play in-tune with old strings.

    As I paid more attention to this phenomenon, I noticed that I could get twenty to thirty hours of playing on a set of strings. This held true for over ten years. For half of that time I used D'Addarios, then I switched to generics (from, IIRC). No difference whatsoever regarding longevity.

    I, too, noticed divots where the wound strings met the frets. This seems to have something to do with the intonation issues with aging strings. Note that both the D'Addarios and the generics are hex-core strings. This is important...

    At the beginning of this year I switched to round-core strings. I'm using DR Tites. The useful life of these strings is at least three times that of the hex-core strings that I had been using. Rather than changing strings about once a month (which is what it takes me to accumulate twenty or thirty hours of playing time on a guitar), I've been changing the DR Tites once a quarter. They could probably go longer. I change them more because I get nervous about having old strings; the intonation is still good.

    When I change the round-core strings, there are no divots where the string meets the fret. Apparently, having the windings fully supported makes a difference.
  14. JayFreddy

    JayFreddy Poster Extraordinaire

    Nov 6, 2006
    Dallas TX USA
    FWIW, If you take a piece of white paper or Kleenex and run it up and down the length if the string, the black color that comes off on the paper is caused by the mixture of salt, nickel, and oxygen. I.e., oxidation. It doesn't look like iron oxide, aka rust, because it's the nickel and salt, not iron...

    While I have seen fret divots caused by overly exuberant playing, in my experience, more often than not, it's caused by packing the guitar in the case too tight. Of course, no one wants to admit that they caused several hundred dollars worth of damage to their own guitar... But it's something to be aware of. :idea:
  15. alnicopu

    alnicopu Friend of Leo's

    Oct 3, 2009
    Interesting. I always figured it was just were and tear on the frets. Gonna try some of this round core strings. Thanks for the tip. No one (that I know of) enjoys changing strings especially me. Probably the reason I don't own a 12 string. I'd have to pay someone to change them.
  16. teletwanger48

    teletwanger48 TDPRI Member

    Jun 28, 2013
    St. Lous, Mo
    I hear that too.. When I hear that. I know it is time to go get a cup, shades and pencils and raise funds to buy a new set.... btw, I like Ernie Ball Strings.

    For your tele, buy 8s... throw the B (.011) and G (.013) and replace them with a .010 and .012. You will have to learn to play in tune again as the strings will feel very sloppy.. but if you do a lot of steel licks, these are the ones for you..
  17. Thin69

    Thin69 Friend of Leo's

    Oct 28, 2009
    Galveston, TX
    I know people will freak over this but for decades I have sprayed plain old furniture spray wax in a flannel rage and wiped the strings down periodically as I play and always after I am finished playing. I believe that the wax slows string corrosion, keeps strings slick and is easier on the finger tips. I wipe my finger tips too as I play. Hope it's not too toxic.
  18. Thin69

    Thin69 Friend of Leo's

    Oct 28, 2009
    Galveston, TX
    I think they are fantastic. I have 3 different models of their stroboscopes and they all seem to read the same.
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2013
  19. alnicopu

    alnicopu Friend of Leo's

    Oct 3, 2009
    I use pledge on everything. Found out it works on CV boots, dashes and tires when I worked in cars. Keeps stuff from cracking, unlike armourall. I also use it on rosewood fretboards instead of straight lemon oil works great. Ill have to give that a shot on strings. Works great on guitar cases and leather as well.
  20. Toto'sDad

    Toto'sDad Telefied Ad Free Member

    Jun 21, 2011
    So, you're thrifty, aren't you?
  21. TellySavalas

    TellySavalas Tele-Meister

    Feb 8, 2013
    I change em every month. Used to change em every 3-4 gigs but I don't play that often these days. Love the feel of clean new strings.
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