Guitar players are always asking questions about their strings.
These queries go from which is the best brand to which is the most comfortable the gauge.
What is more, there is a rarely discussed aspect about strings when they have just been replaced.
The need for them to be broken in leads to many doubts for players.
As important as breaking new strings in is, unfortunately, there is no fast track to it. Although there are different methods to do it, it usually takes up to 5 hours to completely have a new pack settled. This is because strings need to physically stretch. The most common way of doing so is by just playing.
Having said that let’s dig deeper into this topic.
In this article, you will find helpful information to make this activity less tough.
As many doubts can come up, I will try to clarify each of them, from what is breaking in strings to the different ways to do it.
What is breaking in guitar strings?
When you restring your guitar you must know that the strings need some time to seat properly in the instrument.
Maybe you were told that the strings require to be stretched out but, do they stretch?
Some people claim that guitar strings don’t actually stretch.
They point out that what they do is something different than stretching.
The truth is that strings do stretch, they literally do.
They need to be stretched to get adjusted effectively and if you don’t break them in, you will have some undesired sounds and, what is worse, problems with tuning.
Why do guitar strings need to be broken in?
Installing a new set of strings on your guitar is always an overwhelming task.
Due to the immense tension, the string goes out of tune constantly.
This is because they need some time to adjust themselves.
Depending on the material they are made, they will need more or less time to settle into the proper amount of tension and then to the tuning.
In addition, strings require to be broken in because of their bright metallic tone.
Most players prefer that sound to vanish to get a warm mellow sound.
Of course, this is relegated to each guitarist’s preference but if you want a smoother sound you will need to break in your guitar’s new strings.
How long does it usually take to break in guitar strings?
Perhaps you think that you will need a lot of time if you want to get rid of that tone but don’t worry, you could do it just in a while.
Most quality strings generally take a quite short time of constantly playing to break in.
However, this varies between electric and acoustic guitar strings, electric strings tend to adjust faster whereas acoustic ones require a longer time.
To fully break in strings you will need approximately two to five hours of playing and obviously re-tuning.
Bear in mind that there are a couple of features that affect the process, being them the type of strings (nylon, steel, nickel) and the type of guitar electric or acoustic.
Can you tune your guitar up to stretch the strings?
As we said earlier, to break in new strings you need to stretch them. Tuning them up could help but some other factors also affect the adjustment.
Every instrument is different so, it always depends on its features.
It is important to know that every part of the guitar is involved in this process, tension behind the nut, the tension behind the bridge, and also the scale length of the piece.
Furthermore, although tuning your instrument up would be pretty useful to stretch the strings, the guitar itself also factors in determining the length of this process.
Will boiling the strings help break them in?
After some time playing your instrument, strings can get filthy. That could be because of the dirtiness of the player’s hands.
You may have heard that by boiling guitar or bass strings you can freshen them.
Although it is thought you can revitalize them, it is not completely true.
By boiling your strings you can remove the grease, it is a good way to clean them but the improvement is in fact pretty little.
However, it doesn’t help to break in a brand new set of strings at all.
Furthermore, there is no point in boiling them.
Remember that break in has to do with the interaction between the bridge and the nut and the string stretching.
Is there a way to break in new guitar strings faster?
After all, described before you should wonder if there is a way to get through this task more quickly.
Well, as with everything in life, this is subjective.
Every musician has his or her own method and it is according to what they think works better.
Some of them install strings until they are tight and then stretch them with their hands on the fretboard.
Others just tune half step up and then play for a while and let the instrument rest.
But in reality, there isn’t a way in which you fasten the break-in process.
In my opinion, the best you can do is to tune your guitar to the tuning you regularly use and play until the tinny sound goes away.
However, you can try the method that suits you better.
3 ways to break in new guitar strings
Having explained all the remarkable aspects of this topic, we finally get to the interesting section.
Now you know that there is not a better or faster way to break in brand new string but you can make sure that there are different alternatives to do it.
In this technique what you have to do is tune your instrument half step up higher than the tuning you usually play.
After that, play your guitar for a short time, three or four minutes will be ok.
For this technique try to play aggressively if you can, bear in mind that string won’t hold the tuning.
Then, retune the strings half step up again, and repeat the procedure.
Retune your guitar to the previous tuning once more, but this time don’t play it, just let it rest for approximately ten minutes instead.
Finally, tune every string to your desired tuning, not half step up, and although the instrument should be tuned, it may need re-tuning.
2. Stretching by pulling above the fretboard.
First of all, install a new set of strings and tight them.
Once the guitar is restrung, grab the strings once at a time and use your thumbs as leverage against the guitar’s neck to pull them up and down.
While applying this method you must be careful, try not to overdo it because it is dangerous for the strings and could break them.
Start with the low E string, hold it firmly and bend it at the 12th fret slowly.
Do the same with the rest of the string and once you finish, tune again the guitar to the preferred tuning.
Repeat this process at least one more time.
3. Play the guitar
Playing the guitar for a few hours could be an effective technique, no over-tuning, no stretching, only playing.
Set the brand new strings up and play without any specific style.
Use your ears to listen and pay attention to the tone, retune the strings out of tune and continue with the procedure.
Through this method, you will get your strings broken in simply by playing as you typically do.
None of the previous methods is better or worse than others, you can try each of them to see which one suits you the best.
Maybe if you combined the three techniques you can get your strings broken in faster.
Hello there, my name is Ramiro and I’ve been playing guitar for almost 20 years. I’m obsessed with everything gear-related and I thought it might be worth sharing it. From guitars, pedals, amps, and synths to studio gear and production tips, I hope you find what I post here useful, and I’ll try my best to keep it entertaining also.