Getting ready for a gig can be a bit stressful, particularly if you haven’t played a lot of shows before. You need to spend some time checking to make sure that your materials are all in line–an extra 9V battery or two, a functioning, clean sounding guitar cable, and of course, your guitar strings.
However, you should never change the strings on a guitar the day of a performance. Here’s a look at why this is, and what you can do to have a brilliant, clean guitar sound at all of your gigs.
Tuning Issues – The biggest problem with fresh strings is their tuning, which you might have noticed after switching out an old rusty set of strings. The new strings will sound good, but they’ll go out of tune very, very quickly. This is because the strings are still adjusting to your guitar. They’re stretching out–after all, they were just in a package for a few weeks (or even a few months), coiled around each other. Now, they’re on your guitar. They’re made out of metal, and they need to warm up and stretch out.
The trouble is, when strings stretch, their pitch flattens. For the first twenty four hours or so after a string switch, your guitar will go out of tune after even a few minutes of play.
No problem, right? You can always tune on stage. The trouble is, you don’t want to tune between every song. It’ll throw off your performance, especially if you’re in a rock band. Minimizing the time you spend between each tune is crucial. Anything that inhibits your ability to do this is a liability on stage.
There’s also a good chance that brand new strings will snap if you’re playing them especially hard right out of the package. They need time to adjust, especially the wound strings.
The Solution – You don’t want to play old strings on stage, that’s for sure, especially at a major gig. Your solution is to change out your strings 48 hours before a show, and play regularly (but not too hard) to get the strings settled.
However, you need to make sure that you’re changing your strings properly before you tackle a string change, even if you’ve been switching out strings for years. Make sure that you’re using the right amount of string for your guitar. A good way to do this is to draw the string through the tuner and pull it tight (relatively, you don’t have to pull too hard). Hold the string where it crosses the next tuner, or where the next tuner would be if you’re on the last string on your headstock. Push that amount of string back through the tuner, and tune up, applying downward pressure on the string where it crosses the nut.
That’s really all there is to it. Make sure that you’re using the correct gauge of string for your playing style, and wait a few hours before clipping the strings off at the tuner (again, to give the strings time to adjust). You’ll have better sounding strings for your show, and you won’t look unprofessional by showing up to the gig with a set of strings that you’re trying to quickly put on your axe.
Do you have any other string changing tips for a guitar? What do you do to prepare your guitar for a gig? Post in our comments section below.