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Are Stock Guitar Strings Bad?

It’s an age-old question… are stock guitar strings bad? You might have been told by an old teacher, or music store employee that the stock strings that came with your guitar aren’t as good as the ones you buy separately. 

They’re not wrong, but they’re also not really right.

Stock guitar strings aren’t always low quality, especially if you’re buying a higher-quality guitar like a Fender or Gibson. The issue comes more from cheaper guitars that might use lower-quality strings out of the factory. Guitars that have been left sitting out on a showroom floor for a while can also be of lower quality as they’ve been left exposed to the environment and weakened over time.

To stock or not to stock, that is the question. If you’re still unsure about swapping out those stock guitar strings, then let’s answer some general questions about guitar string management.

Should I Replace Stock Guitar Strings?

At the end of the day, it’s up to you. 

Stock strings are a great option for guitarists on a budget and for everyday play, they’ll get the job done with no problem. Depending on the make of your guitar they can actually be pretty high quality with a great sound and feel.

The decision to change your strings should come from a place of wanting to change either the sound or the feeling of the strings.

It’s worth replacing your stock strings if you want to change the gauge or thickness. If you’re the type of player who prefers the feeling of lighter gauge strings, or someone who enjoys the sustain thicker strings offer, then swapping out those stock strings is a good idea.

Also, if your guitar sounds flat or dull, it could be because your guitar was left out as a display piece for a long time, causing the strings to degrade and lose their ‘bright’ sound. Swapping out the stock strings is a good way to breathe new life into a guitar that just isn’t sounding right.

How to Tell if Guitar Strings Need Replacing:

If you’re unsure whether or not your strings actually need replacing, you can check them against these four signs. 

  • Dull Tone – As mentioned before, if your guitar produces a dull tone, the usual culprit is old, weathered strings. Swapping them out is an excellent way to make your guitar sound bright and rich again.
  • Dirty Strings – This one’s pretty obvious. You can tell when your strings are dirty just by looking at them. Typically, strings are bright and metallic in color, but as they collect sweat and dirt they can turn a dark brown. If your strings are looking like they could do with a wash, just swap them out already.
  • Difficulty tuning – Another sign that you should change your strings is if you’ve noticed any difficulty tuning or holding tune. If you’re having to retune your guitar before every playthrough, or even during a session, then it might be a sign that it’s time to switch those strings.
  • Stiff/ rough feeling strings – If your strings feel stiff and almost painful under your fingers, that’s usually a good sign to swap your strings out. Playing the guitar can be a slightly painful experience, especially playing for a long period of time with no rest. But it’s not normal for the strings to feel painful and stiff immediately.

In general, it’s recommended you change your strings every 3 months or so, to avoid string snapping or unwanted changes in the sound. 

Benefits of Replacing Stock Guitar Strings

If you do decide to replace your stock guitar strings, there are a few benefits you can expect to gain. 

Firstly, newer strings will be more durable than the stock ones as they haven’t been exposed to humidity or tension for the same amount of time. This can help you to avoid your strings snapping and we recommend you replace your stock strings before playing any live shows, just to be safe.

New strings are also pretty much guaranteed to sound better, usually with a brighter, more resonant tone than the stock ones. If you’re planning on recording anything it’s worth replacing the stock strings, as new ones will get the most out of your guitar’s sound.

Practicality aside, new strings also just look more appealing. There’s nothing like looking at a freshly strung guitar with that shiny metal sheen staring right back at you.

Replacing your stock strings also lets you customize your guitar and get more control over playability and how it feels in your hands. You can decide to put lighter or heavier gauge strings on, or even completely customize the string setup to whatever’s most comfortable to you.

Which Guitar Strings Are Good for Beginners?

The world of guitar strings can be a confusing one, especially for beginners who don’t know what to look for. It really all comes down to personal preference and the best way to become familiar with the type of string that suits you is to get out there and play a bunch of them. 

If it sounds good to you and feels good under your fingers then it’s the best string for you. Now, there are a few makes and names that are well-known and respected within the guitar community and can be a good starting point for guitarists:

D’Addario XL

With a bright sound and a great feel, the D’Addario XLs are a staple in the guitar world. Their low price tag and wide range of gauge sizes make them a great starting off point for any beginner. 

Ernie Ball Regular Slinky

These nickel-wound strings are the string of choice for guitar legends like Clapton, Slash, and Page, while also being a great starting set for beginners. With a bright and balanced tone, they sound amazing and feel even better under your fingers. 


Hopefully, by now, you understand that stock strings really aren’t as bad as people make them out to be. Of course, replacing them with newer strings will get you a better sound and more durability, but unless your strings are in terrible shape, using the stock strings shouldn’t cause too many problems.