A brand new guitar, with strings, properly wound, produces a bright and live sound thatâ€™s pleasant to the ears. Besides, such a guitar stays in tune. However, with time, most guitarists complain about their guitars.
Often the bright tones change to muffled sounds. When the condition worsens, it may force you to change the strings. And often, it isn’t an easy task.
There are many reasons why guitar sound may degrade. That includes tarnished, poorly wound, or rusty strings.
So Do Guitar Strings Rust?
Yes, guitar strings rust. However, some strings rust very quickly and thus calling for a replacement sooner than you would expect. Others take a considerable amount of time before they eventually begin to oxidize.
But you shouldnâ€™t be quick to conclude that it’s rust. It could be just a tarnished color. Most people often confuse a tarnished string with a rusted one. A string that has tarnished is easy to clean and thus presents a brand new look, but not so when it’s rusty.
Moreover, itâ€™s beneficial to know about the factors that hasten the rusting of guitar strings.
Why Do Guitar strings Rust?
Guitar strings may rust, corrode, or worse, experience both processes. The key influencing factors are the string quality and storage condition.
For rusting to occur, iron (or its compound), oxygen, and moisture must be present. Oxygen and water (humidity) are present in the air, though at different levels.
So that means the materials often used in making guitar strings matters. Common materials include steel, bronze, brass, or a combination. Also, it can be a plain or wound string.
In most cases, the strings are either of plain steel or have steel as the core material. Brass or bronze then acts as a top layer. Steel has some elements of iron and so it rusts.
On the other hand, bronze and brass donâ€™t rust but degrade in quality. However the the inner steel core rusts.Â So steel guitar strings with brass or bronze coating slow down rusting considerably.
How to Stop Guitars Strings from Developing Rust Quickly
As pointed out earlier, rusting of the strings requires moisture and oxygen. Thus keeping your equipment in an environment that has a high level of humidity quickens rusting. If the room develops steam on the windows regularly, then its relative humidity is above the optimal level.
Unfortunately, relative humidity isnâ€™t something you see with naked eyes. Nevertheless, you can use a simple and affordable humidity monitor like theÂ ThermoPro TP55Â to know the suitable room to store your guitar. Relative humidity between 40 to 50 percent is ok.
But in case you canâ€™t locate a room with a required relative humidity level, consider investing in a dehumidifier for the room where you keep your equipment. Also, make use of the guitar storage case.
Washing Grease and Sweat from Your Hands
Refrain from the habit of picking and playing the guitar with dirty hands. Make it a habit of first washing and drying your hands thoroughly.
Prewashing your hands removes sweat and greasy substances from your hands. Sometimes you can’t stop your hands from sweating as for instance in live performances. In such a case,Â sweatbandsÂ come into use.
Invest in Strings of High Quality
Investing in theÂ right string qualityÂ helps keep rusting away. Though the initial cost may be high, you wonâ€™t have to replace them as frequently as low-quality strings. Coated strings have a higher resistance to rusting.
Clean the Strings after Play
Intense playing often leads to sweat and grease remaining on the strings. If such substances stay on the wires for a longer time, they enhance rust.
Therefore after playing, use a piece ofÂ dry absorbent clothÂ to wipe the strings carefully. Better still, you can use theÂ GHS Strings FAST FRET (A87)Â to clean the strings and fret board, then finalize with a dry microfiber cloth.
Do Rusty Strings Sound Different?
Yes, they produce a different kind of tone compared to their initial state. Furthermore, such a tone grows inconsistent and kind of rubbish in quality. Any professional guitarist won’t like the inconsistent and indifferent sound of rusted strings.
Can You Play Rusted Strings?
Well, you can. But itâ€™s important to note that the sound quality is below the standard level. Furthermore, during play, the rusty strings have higher chances of snapping off in the middle of the action. Besides, they arenâ€™t so finger-friendly. It may leave you with a sore finger or a brown color on the hands.
Since guitar strings rust and tarnish, it’s vital to take the necessary steps to care for them. Therefore, investing in high-quality strings, keeping the equipment in a room with the right humidity level, cleaning your hands and the strings often is necessary. Doing so will see you enjoy several months of playing rust-free guitar strings.