Guitars are pretty durable instruments, but don’t let that fool you into thinking they’re indestructible. I’ve seen more than one guitar ruined by poor care and maintenance.
Playing a poorly maintained guitar is a real pain, especially if you’re just starting guitar lessons. It doesn’t sound good, it doesn’t feel right, and it makes practicing the things you’ve learned at your guitar lessons a real chore.
So, I thought I’d share some tips on how to keep your guitar in excellent, playable condition. Follow these five guitar care tips, and your guitar should provide years of beautiful music.
1. Don’t Leave Your Guitar in the Car
It’s nice to have a guitar with you wherever you go, but leaving your guitar out in your car can really do a number on it.
The temperature inside a car changes a ton. During the summer, you might drive with the AC on, lowering the interior temperature to 65 degrees or so. Then, you leave your car sitting in the sun, and the temperature can quickly rise to more than 100 degrees, even if it’s only 80 degrees outside. Extremes in temperature, and especially rapid changes between those extremes can cause your precious guitar to warp.
You might not notice a difference at first, but you’ll soon start to wonder why your guitar doesn’t stay in tune as you go up the neck, or why it has started buzzing when you play chords. Constant temperature changes can even cause your guitar to fall apart. Yikes!
The bottom line is this: don’t keep your guitar in your car! See also: heat vents, wood stoves, fireplaces, and radiators.
If you absolutely must have a guitar with you wherever you go, leave your nice one at home, and invest in a beater guitar that you don’t care too much about.
2. Humidify Your Guitar
If you live in a humid climate, this might not be an issue for you. But for those of you who reside in dry parts of the country, a guitar humidifier is an excellent investment. There are a few different types of guitar humidifiers. I prefer the clay ones, but any of them will work.
Excessively dry guitars can develop all sorts of problems, including cracks, loose frets, and detached bridges. So, if you want your guitar to last, keep it humidified.
3. String Theory
There are a lot of different types of guitar strings out there, but not all of them are right for your guitar. Here are a few tips on guitar strings:
- Never put steel strings on a nylon-string guitar! Classical guitars are not built for the tension steel strings create, and you could warp or break your guitar’s neck.
- Don’t put nylon strings on a steel-string guitar, either. Nylon strings will not sound right on your steel-string acoustic.
- While you could (in theory) use acoustic strings on an electric guitar and vice-versa, it’s not a good idea. It probably won’t sound good. Of course “good sound” is relative, so your mileage may vary.
- Change your strings often. If you play a lot, you should probably put new strings on every two weeks. If you play less, it’s still a good idea to change your strings at least every few months, because guitar strings lose their elasticity over time, which can put extra tension on your guitar’s neck.
- Change strings one at a time. When you remove your guitar’s strings, the tension on the neck is released. If you remove them all at once, then put new ones back on, you’re creating a big change in neck tension over a short period of time, which isn’t necessarily going to ruin your guitar, but isn’t really good for it, either.
4. Get a Case and a Stand
If you don’t have a guitar case, then you’re asking for trouble. The more protective your case is, the longer your guitar is likely to last. Flight cases are the best, but they’re quite expensive. Unless you’re a touring musician or someone who frequently travels with your guitar, you probably don’t need one of those.
A regular hard case should suit the needs of the average guitar player quite nicely. Gig bags and cardboard cases do offer some protection, but not much.
Also, if you like to keep your guitar out of the case, get a guitar stand. A good guitar stand will keep your instrument from getting knocked over or stepped on. Plus, you’ll probably play more if your guitar is close at hand.
5. Keep it Clean
Every so often, you’ll notice that your guitar is losing some of its luster. When that happens, it’s probably time for a good cleaning.
The rule about changing your strings one at a time doesn’t apply here. You’ll want to remove all the strings so you can get to all the nooks and crannies.
First, get rid of all the grime, dust, and sweat. If a soft, dry rag isn’t doing the trick, it’s OK to get it damp. Just make sure you wring it out so you don’t get too much water on your guitar.
Next, use a toothbrush water, and Murphy’s Oil soap to clean any gunk from the fretboard. Dry it off, then give it a good rubdown with some white mineral oil, linseed oil, or olive oil. Don’t leave any excess oil.
Finally, put your new strings on, and stretch them as usual.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading. Oh, and if you’re looking for guitar lessons in Portland, I’d love to be your teacher.