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Sep 22, 2019 - 5:02:53 PM

Ybanjo

USA

630 posts since 11/15/2009

I know it's been discussed to death, but I was just wondering if anyone has any idea how long strings typically last, measured in playing hours??
Like most of you, I have several banjos and some just don't get played much at all. I usually have one that I play every day. I change to a different banjo after a while, but the one that I'm playing steady gets a lot of hours. I typically play 4 jam sessions/practices every week. Each one being at least 2 1/2 hours. Then, I also practice at home for at least an hour each day. So I'm putting on at least 13-14 hours of playing time every week.

Surely somebody has done some research in this to get "playing hours" on strings.

Sep 22, 2019 - 5:56:04 PM

362 posts since 8/14/2018
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Probably no, because when a string is too dead to play is subjective call.

Sep 22, 2019 - 7:11:45 PM
Players Union Member

rudy

USA

14484 posts since 3/27/2004

quote:
Originally posted by Ybanjo

I know it's been discussed to death, but I was just wondering if anyone has any idea how long strings typically last, measured in playing hours??
Like most of you, I have several banjos and some just don't get played much at all. I usually have one that I play every day. I change to a different banjo after a while, but the one that I'm playing steady gets a lot of hours. I typically play 4 jam sessions/practices every week. Each one being at least 2 1/2 hours. Then, I also practice at home for at least an hour each day. So I'm putting on at least 13-14 hours of playing time every week.

Surely somebody has done some research in this to get "playing hours" on strings.


String life varies widely due to factors such as your playing style, amount you perspire, and your particular body chemistry.  Some string formulations are more reactive to an individual player than others.  It also depends on the tone you prefer.  Strings start loosing their upper harmonics and overtones first, and some folks actually prefer that and dislike "new string tone".

Bottom line, play until you feel your instrument no longer does it for you and change strings.  If I was playing 2 to 3 hours 4 times a week I'd change every two weeks.

Sep 22, 2019 - 7:37:53 PM
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217 posts since 4/10/2008

I don't play a lot, maybe two or three hours a week and don't change my strings very often, maybe once a year. My ears don't tell me that I sound much better after a string change. I'm guessing that there isn't one in a hundred people that hear me play would be able to tell the difference before and after a string change.

Sep 22, 2019 - 8:25:57 PM
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4727 posts since 5/14/2007

I change the when they no longer play in tune—that is, when the open strings are in tune, but do not play consistently up the neck, or the octaves are off. I'm not a fan of of the "bright, shiny new" sound.

Edited by - John Gribble on 09/22/2019 20:28:15

Sep 22, 2019 - 10:06:57 PM

342 posts since 2/5/2014

quote:
Originally posted by John Gribble

I'm not a fan of of the "bright, shiny new" sound.


I, on the other hand, love the sound of new strings. I just switched out a set both on my Sierra and my D-18 Martin. The sound of both instruments is fantastic with their bright chiming tones.

To the OP, I believe that you will eventually hear when the strings need to be changed. 

Good Luck!

Sep 23, 2019 - 6:46:25 AM

Ybanjo

USA

630 posts since 11/15/2009

Just to be clear, I know when to change strings. I can hear a change in the tones. I can't describe it, or know exactly what has changed, but I just know that the sound isn't clean like it should be. So I'm not interested in knowing when to change strings. And I know that string-changing is very subjective. I have friends that only change strings when they get so rusty that they squeak when you slid on a non-wound string! I do set-up work and see it quit often! I was just wondering if anybody had any ideas about how many actual playing hours strings typically would go.

And I like the sound of new strings as well! I don't keep my banjos as tight as many, so they are a little on the mellow side. But new strings really bring out the full range of sounds.

Sep 23, 2019 - 11:22:13 AM

95 posts since 8/25/2009

Many years ago, I put a new set of strings on my Dobson, played it a bit, hung it up on the living room wall of my apartment, and got busy doing other things. Six months later I took it down and the strings were dead, without my having played them again :(

Note: I like the tone of new strings. Also, this was in Cambridge Mass., at a time when there was still a fair amount of industry there. When I was a student and my dorm was downwind I got to inhale a mixture of Brigham's chocolate and soap smell and I still remember the NECCO candy factory over by Central Square.

Sep 23, 2019 - 2:56:35 PM
Players Union Member

rudy

USA

14484 posts since 3/27/2004

quote:
Originally posted by Ybanjo

Just to be clear, I know when to change strings. I can hear a change in the tones. I can't describe it, or know exactly what has changed, but I just know that the sound isn't clean like it should be. So I'm not interested in knowing when to change strings. And I know that string-changing is very subjective. I have friends that only change strings when they get so rusty that they squeak when you slid on a non-wound string! I do set-up work and see it quit often! I was just wondering if anybody had any ideas about how many actual playing hours strings typically would go.

And I like the sound of new strings as well! I don't keep my banjos as tight as many, so they are a little on the mellow side. But new strings really bring out the full range of sounds.


Somewhere between 1 and 100 hours.  Really.

Sep 25, 2019 - 3:30:40 PM

843 posts since 8/7/2017

Strings can be defective, and those don't last as long (or are bad right from the get-go). I've had good luck asking the manufacturer for replacements for strings-bad-out-of-the-package. And some can be made perfectly (these last and last).

Wiping the strings after play extends their life by removing skin oils and salts; I do this religiously (I use a scrap of t-shirt fabric). Even with anti-corrosion coatings they can get rusty (black or red) if not cleaned....but this depends on your own skin chemistry.

Adjusting tension for new tunings also wears out strings faster than if they are left on one tuning, in my experience. I play old time, so changing tunings eats up strings. I have 3 banjos, so keep each in a different tuning, to combat this....that's my excuse and I'm sticking with it :-)

A professional musician I know changes his strings every 3 weeks. He's mostly plays acoustic guitar.

Edited by - BrooksMT on 09/25/2019 15:31:46

Sep 26, 2019 - 10:22:47 AM

395 posts since 1/25/2012

The intonation issue is my main reason for changing strings.

Actually, that's not entirely true: my main reason for changing string is when I start thinking "I'm going to sell this thing--I just can't get the tone that I want out of it."

Took me several years to identify that (usually incoherent and entirely emotional) reaction and connect it with "Ok, so maybe it's time to change strings."

Sep 26, 2019 - 10:40:05 AM

Owen

Canada

4089 posts since 6/5/2011
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This is from Jack Hatfield's Bluegrass Banjo Method (Bk. 1): "Be sure the strings are kept clean and are changed every 25 to 30 hours of playing time."

On one occasion, I changed the set, but usually it's one string at a time, if/when it breaks.   So there you have it... who you gonna believe... me or Jack Hatfield?   cheeky

Sep 26, 2019 - 1:52:19 PM

Ybanjo

USA

630 posts since 11/15/2009

quote:
Originally posted by Owen

This is from Jack Hatfield's Bluegrass Banjo Method (Bk. 1): "Be sure the strings are kept clean and are changed every 25 to 30 hours of playing time."


That's the kind of info I was looking for!  I know nothing about string life is exact, but surely there exist an average.

So, if I'm playing around 14 hours a week, I might need to change strings every 3 weeks or so (based on Jack Hatfield).  Might seem a little excessive, but it just might be pretty close.  And I'm assuming that time frame to guarantee the absolute best sound from strings.  Like many others, I am guilty of delaying changing strings for multiple reasons, even though I know they need to be changed.

Sep 26, 2019 - 2:21:41 PM

7372 posts since 1/7/2005
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I've had single sets of strings on a heavily used banjo for months at a time before changing. And was somewhat disappointed when I finally did re-string. To my ear, brand new banjo strings tend to be overtone-heavy. While older strings help clean some of that up. Of course, old strings can sometimes start losing intonation accuracy, and if that happens I put on a new set. More often, I'll break a string and will change the whole set to maintain consistency of tone. On the other hand, I know players who change their strings every week. I think it is somewhat a matter of taste. Follow your ears.
On guitars, I change sets much more regularly--and usually it's because of the loss of liveliness on the bass strings. Banjos, on the other hand, don't have the thick basses like you find on a guitar.

DD

Sep 26, 2019 - 3:23:20 PM

Owen

Canada

4089 posts since 6/5/2011
Online Now

I trust that players of pianos, hammered dulcimers and instruments of that ilk  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hammered_dulcimer  wouldn't look favo(u)rably at having to change strings every 25-30 hours.   devil

Edited by - Owen on 09/26/2019 15:30:35

Sep 26, 2019 - 9:08:56 PM
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7372 posts since 1/7/2005
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quote:
Originally posted by Owen

I trust that players of pianos, hammered dulcimers and instruments of that ilk  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hammered_dulcimer  wouldn't look favo(u)rably at having to change strings every 25-30 hours.   devil


I don't play piano, but I would guess that since you don't touch the strings with your fingers, they probably don't pick up as much dirt, oil, etc. as do fretted instruments. Plus, they are not re-tuned nearly as often, so are not subjected as much to metal fatigue. 

DD

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