The best way for you to make your guitar sound like crap is to neglect to change the strings when they need to be changed. It’s annoying to pick up a guitar only to find the strings being in serious need of a change. Guitarists will often say that old strings are “dead.” It really is an apt way of describing old strings because they lose all their brilliance and don’t ring out the way they are supposed to when played. You especially hear it on acoustic guitars.
While there is some skill involved and you do have to know what you are doing, changing your strings really isn’t that hard so learn how to do it and change your strings – at least twice a year if you play regularly (4 – 6 times per week). It’s only natural that they wear out. No matter how clean your hands are, there is always going to be natural oil and sweat on your hands and on your fingertips. That oil and sweat transfers to the stings and the body of the guitar, which in turns attracts the dust and dirt that naturally surrounds us. That debris then clings to the gaps and valleys in each string, building up over time and reducing their ability to vibrate and create clear and brilliant sounds.
String changing time is the perfect time to give your guitar a good cleaning. It will sound better, will be easier to play, and will look much better too, after you clean it.
Fortunately for me, my older brother taught me how to play guitar when I was fourteen and he also taught me how to change my strings and clean my guitar, which I started doing early on in my guitar playing career. Many of the things he taught me back then, I still practice to this day, many decades later. Many of my former guitar teachers also harped on this point and gave me important pointers on the topic. I compare it to maintaining a lawn mower. You pay money to have a good lawn mower and you want it to keep on cutting your grass well for many years It’s not that hard to scrape the grass out from under the mower deck after you use it. It’s not that hard to change the oil and change the spark plug when required. Simple maintenance will keep your mower working well for years.
Same with your guitar. You paid hard-earned money for it and you want it to perform well for you, for years to come. Learning to change the strings and cleaning your guitar are relatively simple tasks to keep your guitar sounding good. Besides, I find it kind of relaxing and therapeutic. A kind of way to get to know your guitar better. Guitarists really do have a strange relationship with their instruments.
I recorded a two-part video series of me changing the strings on my Fender Stratocaster. Sorry if my speaking voice is a little soft and mumbly at times. Like I said, changing strings is very therapeutic and I occasionally came across like the late great Bob Ross, the PBS painting teacher, throughout the two videos. In any case, I hope you like these two videos and I hope you I am able to teach you something about this very important facet of guitar maintenance.