Taking Care of Your Guitar

My 7 years old Guitar still sounds the same. How? Is it really possible? Sure, it is. Today I am going to tell you the secrets of long living guitars.

“…take good care of my…bayeebee…”

Remember that tune?  It may be a flashback from the ‘50s but it surely holds true when talking about your guitar.  Taking care of your most prized possession (your guitar IS on top of your list to save in case of a fire or things to be stranded with on a desert island, right?!?) is simply something you need to do from the very minute you bring your new baby home, and it doesn’t matter if your newborn is a $99 starter guitar or a $5000 vintage ax.  There are a few things that will certainly help you keep it strummin’ a-rockin’ for many years to come.

Strap ‘er down!

At some point you’ll progress from playing sitting down to standing up – you can’t strike the “rock god” pose if you’re on your rear end!  That being said, don’t overlook the lowly guitar strap.  Avoid the cheaper straps where the holes for the strap pins get quickly stretched and worn out – that is a recipe for disaster!

True story time:

I was in a band in high school and I had a buddy that thought he was a bona fide rock star.  He was prancing around with his arms in the air (therefore…NOT holding his guitar) and the thing slipped off his strap – and landed face down on the concrete.  Smashed in the volume/tone knobs and cracked the headstock.  It was “just” an inexpensive Les Paul copy but it still made me SICK.

Moral of the story: use a good strap or – better yet – use a strap locking system.

Stand up For What You Believe In

Contrary to popular belief, leaning your guitar against your amp or against the wall isn’t really the smartest (or safest) thing that you can do for your guitar’s health.  Sure enough, that puppy will slide down and crash to the floor.  Solution?  Use a guitar stand.  While some can be pretty fancy the basic ones can be had for relatively cheap.  A standard tubular one is all you really need.

Have Good Personal Hygiene

No, I don’t mean rub it down with deodorant or rinse it with mouthwash.  But I DO mean get yourself a good microfiber polishing cloth.  Using just the cloth alone will get rid of the fingerprint smudges and make you look all clean and pretty under the stage lights.  Better yet, develop a practice of regular maintenance with some quality guitar polish to keep your finish in great shape.

Take a look at your neck the next time you change strings too.  You’d be surprised at the amount of dirt and crud that can build up over time, especially if you’re one of those guys that don’t change strings very often. 

Keep the right humidity

This one may be a little more appropriate for acoustic guitars (particularly ones with solid tops), but keeping it in the right environment is “good for the wood”.  Wood is a natural item and a low-humidity environment can be downright disastrous.  Have you ever wondered why that acoustic room in the local Guitar Center is so warm and wet feeling?  Now you know.

Humidity can certainly be an issue with electric guitars as well – it can cause issues with inconsistent tuning and, in extreme cases, warping of the neck.  Not a good thing!

True story time (again)…

I just got my first mid-level acoustic guitar, and I was pretty doggone proud of it.  I wiped it down every time I played it and I really thought that I was taking care of it the right way.  Imagine my horror when I pulled it out of the case one day and there was a crack in the top going all the way from the bridge to the rear of the guitar.  The damage was done.  To this day I always use a guitar humidifier.  There are simple ones that fit in the sound hole and use a wet sponge (damp, not dripping) all the way to more advanced systems that use special fluid-filled packs to keep the humidity where it needs to be.  The sweet spot for a guitar is in the 45-60 percent relative humidity range, and you can even get nifty little gadgets called hygrometers that tell you what the humidity level is inside your case.

Tuck It In At Bedtime

Speaking of cases…you DO have a case, right? 

While it may look cool to keep your guitar out on a stand in your practice room, moving it around without a case just isn’t a smart thing to do.  Soft cases or gig bags help protect against the elements but they do not really add that much in the way of true protection like a decent hard-shell case does.  Granted, many guitars do not come with a case but it is relatively cheap insurance to keep your investment safe.  Plus, most cases have compartments or pockets where you can keep your strings and stuff.

Baby…It’s Cold Outside!

Extreme temperatures are the enemy of your guitar.  No matter how inconvenient it is, I beg you to NOT leave your guitar in your car when the outside temps are at one end or the other.  With acoustic guitars in particular (as they are relatively more fragile than electrics), heat can really do a number on them.  Acoustic guitars are constructed with glues and adhesives that can get soft when warm/hot, and that can lead to things shifting or simply popping off (like your bridge).  Cold doesn’t do anyone any favors either.  If you absolutely have to have it out in the cold, then it’s suggested to let it warm up to room temperature before taking it out of the case.  Some older vintage guitars with nitrocellulose finishes have been known to get stress cracks due to the rapid change in temps. 

Unless you view your guitars like The Who’s Pete Townsend does (where one won’t live past its’ next gig), it is always in your best interest to take care of your guitar.  Take good care of it and it will take good care of you for years to come.

Stay tuned…

….And Peace Out!

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