A real musician takes care of their instrument. If you want to get the best out of your guitar, you need to ensure it is properly maintained. There are many guitar care products nowadays that make maintenance easier, but there are also some simple rules that will save you a lot of money.
- Play Your Guitar Regularly. If you leave your guitar untouched for extended periods you won’t be able to monitor its condition.
- Avoid Temp Changes. Stark changes in temperature and guitar humidity will make guitar maintenance considerably harder.
- Limit Exposure to Sunlight. Don’t leave your guitar out to sunbathe. You will ruin the paint job and the heat could warp the guitar’s body.
- Change Strings. Your strings will get worn and dirty if you play often. Make sure you change your strings a couple of times a year.
- Clean Everything. Cleaning a guitar is easy. The difficult part is remembering to do it regularly!
- Get a Guitar Humidifier. A guitar humidifier is a must-buy if you live in a place where humidity can fluctuate and reach extremes!
- Make Adjustments to Bridge and Neck. Part of learning how to care for a guitar is knowing how to handle the technical elements that affect your action and sound.
- No Scratches or Dents. Handle your guitar carefully. It almost goes without saying, but one of the key elements of guitar maintenance is treating your guitar with respect.
- Condition the fingerboard. The fingerboard is one part of a guitar that consistently gets neglected. Regularly conditioning the fingerboard will improve the life of your guitar.
- Consult a Professional. Guitar maintenance can be tricky for a beginner. It is a good idea to seek out some professional help before you make any drastic maintenance decisions. This is especially true if your guitar is expensive or has any unique parts.
You need to have a keen eye for wear and tear for the best acoustic guitar maintenance or electric guitar maintenance. As long as you treat your guitar with respect, you will be able to make it sound good. Maintenance differs slightly for acoustic and electric guitar, but the principle of care is the same.
Similarly, the conditions around you may force you to change your care routine for the guitar. But as long as you give it the right amount of attention it should be fine. Learn more about how to properly take care of a guitar.
How To Care For A Guitar
1. First Rule, Play It
Regularly playing your guitar is the best way to know whether your guitar is in good or bad condition. If you are struggling to tune it or the color of the body is fading, you will be able to notice it quickly if you practice every day.
It is important to treat your guitar with respect. Even if you have a cheap guitar, its life will be extended if you treat it right. This means putting it somewhere safe after you play it. This also means being gentle with it while you play.
The more you play the more you will be able to adjust and customize the guitar to suit you. The action, the fretboard, the neck, and the bridge are all elements that will be easier to maintain if you are playing every day.
By playing your guitar on a regular basis you will be able to see whether it has degraded over time. Your strings will also benefit from being used on a regular basis. Overall, if you want to take care of your guitar, play it and do so often.
2. Avoid Temp Changes
Wood is usually okay with changes in heat. It can expand and contract without damaging the body of the guitar. However, extreme heat and rapid temperature change can damage the guitar in several ways.
For optimal electric guitar maintenance or acoustic guitar maintenance, you should avoid leaving your guitar in high humidity and high heat areas for an extended period. (More about guitar humidity later!).
Heat can damage the body of the guitar, and its significant changes in temperature can also detune nylon strings. Leaving your guitar in a hot room for a long time is a bad idea.
You can also get temperature-related damage at points where glue has been used to secure parts of the guitar together. It may seem obvious but avoiding any extreme temperature changes is an easy way to take care of a guitar.
Whatever you do, don’t leave your guitar in a hot car over summer or any other storage facility that is not temperature-proof!
As with heat, direct sunlight can cause damage to the body of the guitar. Over time the finish on your guitar will begin to fade if you leave it in direct sunlight. You may get patches of light and dark wood that will give your instrument an ugly exterior.
The damage sunlight inflicts may not necessarily affect the way it sounds. However, it can weaken the body in a similar way heat does. Your guitar can become vulnerable to further damage if it is weakened by heat and sunlight over time.
As long as you are careful and don’t forget about your guitar, it should be easy to avoid leaving it in direct sunlight for too long.
How To Take Care of Your Strings
4. Change Your Strings
You need to pay attention to the quality and wear of your strings. It is important to know how to take care of your strings. Change your strings if they are becoming worn. You run the risk of damaging your guitar and your fingers if you let your strings run all the way down to their last life.
As a beginner, it is a good idea to get a professional to help change your strings. As you get more skilled and comfortable with the guitar, you can change it yourself, using a guitar maintenance kit at home. When changing your strings for the first time, make sure to consult the right YouTube videos or other people who know how to change strings. Doing so will help you to avoid messing up the way your guitar is stringed. Once you start replacing strings yourself, you will also experiment with different types of strings.
It is also a good idea to loosen your strings if you know you will not play it for a while. Doing so will help to maintain the integrity of the neck of your guitar.
Pro-tip: Having a guitar maintenance table at your fingertips will make changing your strings even easier. Guitar maintenance tables are workspaces that are split up into compartments to keep all of the necessary tools handy while working on your guitar.
Clean Your Strings
Before outright swapping your strings, you need to know how to clean and maintain them. Soft cleaning cloths, sometimes provided in a guitar maintenance kit, are the best material you can use to ensure that your strings are pristine.
You should use cleaning cloths regularly after you practice. It is the best way to get rid of any dirt or grime you may have left behind. To avoid having to do too much wiping, it is vital to clean your hands before playing the guitar.
Using a string cleaner will help to restore and preserve the sound of your guitar. A “hybrid blend of refined naturally occurring oils and premium-quality mineral oils” are used in the best cleaners to make guitar maintenance easy. If you clean your strings this way you will only have yourself to blame if it sounds bad. Knowing how to clean a guitar is vital!
5. Clean Everything
Do you know how to clean a guitar?
As well as wiping your strings down it is important to clean the rest of your guitar. Your guitar care kit should be stocked full of polish and clothes to help you keep the body and the fretboard looking spotless.
Cleaning a guitar is relatively simple. Most guitar polishers and cleaners will be fine to use on the lacquered parts of the guitar as well as the neck. Occasionally you may have to remove the strings to ensure you can get the neck and fretboard properly cleaned.
A good guitar polisher will help to shield against corrosion and will hopefully extend the life of your guitar. Thankfully, it is easy to clean your guitar at home. Every so often, wipe the polish and the cleaning cloth out and put some elbow grease into it.
We also recommend having a look at Anderton’s extensive guide on how to clean a guitar that delves into the nitty-gritty.
6. Get a Guitar Humidifier
A guitar humidifier is a great tool to take care of your acoustic guitar. As we have already discussed, your acoustic will react to changes in temperature and humidity. It is best practice to avoid placing your guitar in humid climates as best as possible. However, depending on where you live, avoiding all humidity is impossible, which is where a guitar humidifier steps in. For beginners entirely oblivious to guitar humidity, the effects can seem quite mysterious.
One way to guard against warping and other damage caused by troubling humidity are by using a guitar humidifier. This neat piece of kit can be inserted into the soundhole between the strings.
It is the perfect bit of guitar maintenance kit if you know you will be keeping your guitar in its case for a couple of days in less than ideal humidity conditions.
By regulating the guitar humidity this way you ensure that there is enough moisture in the wood of your acoustic. It is a simple and proven guitar maintenance tip that is a must for acoustic players!
7. Make Adjustments to Bridge and Neck
Adjusting the bridge and making changes to the neck alignment can seem daunting for beginner guitarists. Once you know how to clean a guitar, you can move onto the more technical maintenance elements. However, if you feel uncomfortable doing anything technical to your guitar, you can also consult a professional for their opinion. Additionally, you can hire a technician as well to help make some of these changes.
Let’s look at the bridge first.
You can maintain your guitar by paying attention to how the bridge is affecting your sound. When you are restringing your guitar the saddle is a part of the guitar that is easy to access and adjust.
If you are unhappy with your action then you can check the radius of your saddle, measure the height of your strings on the 12th fret, and decide whether you want to lower or raise your action.
Now let’s look at the Neck Alignment.
Neck relief is the amount of bow and resistance in the neck of your guitar. You may want to adjust the neck alignment if you are experiencing sustained buzzing or if your action is unusually high.
Maintaining your guitar’s neck relief involves careful measurement and a reasonable knowledge of the fretboard. It is perfectly acceptable to take your guitar to a technician who can teach you exactly how to adjust the neck relief on your guitar.
See also: How to Adjust Neck Relief on a Gibson
8. No Scratches or Dents
Take care of your instrument. Acoustic and electric guitars require different care levels, but neither will benefit from being carelessly lugged around and mistreated. As with anything valuable, including laptops, phones, and other expensive items, maintaining the quality and longevity of your products requires treating them well.
You can spend as many hours cleaning a guitar as you want but at least take care of it while you play or transport it.
Most superficial scratches and dings can be taken care of by any guitar store that offers maintenance services. Hopefully, this won’t be necessary.
The best way to avoid scratches and dents is to store your guitar in a good case when you are not using it. There are various hard and soft cases that will help you keep your guitar in different environments. Choose one that, based on how you transport and use your guitar, will protect it as much as possible.
It is natural for some guitarists to get carried away on stage, and damage can also be sustained during performances. For some people, this is unavoidable. However, even when you are getting into your performance, you should try to be as careful as possible with your guitar. Though throwing your guitar around on stage might look cool, you will be sad to know if you permanently damage your guitar. As long as you know how to care for a guitar when you are not playing, you shouldn’t have any scratches or dings on your instrument.
9. Condition your Fingerboard
Traditionally, the fingerboard on your guitar is left unsealed, unlike the rest of the guitar. Because of this, the fingerboard usually dries out the fastest. However, an easy way to solve this problem is to regularly condition your fingerboard with a guitar maintenance kit.
Choose your guitar maintenance tools wisely, as some conditioners work better than others and will remove dirt and grime from the fingerboard while also revitalizing the wood. Additionally, select a conditioner that does not include silicone in the ingredient list, which is meant for natural wood coloring.
If you do choose to work on your fingerboard at home, utilizing a guitar maintenance table will make your life easier as you will have an organized space with all of your tools at hand.
Pro-tip: Follow the instructions on your guitar maintenance tools. Make sure not to over condition your guitar, as this can cause the opposite effect. If you notice loose frets or a cracked fingerboard, consult with a professional to know how to proceed.
10. Consult a Professional
If you want your guitar to be around for a long time, it is best to leave the modification to the professionals. As you become a more experienced guitarist, it may be tempting to adjust the action or mess with the strings. However, messing with your guitar too much might harm your guitar rather than doing good.
Before you do any of this, it is a good idea to consult a professional. You don’t want to make a mistake and ruin the sound of your guitar. It is possible to damage your guitar without even knowing what you did, especially if you are a beginner.
A professional can do the modifications for you and give you advice on how to care for your guitar in the future. Your local guitar store is a good place to start. But if you want some proper help with your acoustic it is best to go to a certified luthier.
Getting a regular tune-up by a technician is a great way to ensure you are not falling behind in your guitar maintenance. A good technician can adjust the action to suit your style and check that nothing is loose or out of place.
Technicians know how to care for a guitar. It is a good idea to take advantage of their knowledge and skill.
Electric Guitar Maintenance
There is a slight difference between acoustic and electric guitar maintenance. Electric guitar care can often be more arduous especially if you want to maintain accessories like amps, pedals, and wires.
There are similarities such as wiping your strings, keeping your guitar stored properly, and polishing your guitar.
With an electric guitar, you also need to attend to the knobs, switches, and cables. You should regularly clean your knobs and switches to avoid getting dust and debris inside your guitar. You should also make sure to tuck your cable behind your strap and wrap your cables neatly to avoid them being damaged.
Guitar Care in Winter
It’s getting cold outside! What do you need to do with your guitar so it doesn’t get damaged during winter?
Be aware of guitar humidity. Low humidity can result in cracking and warping. “You can tell if your guitar is getting dry by looking out for a few simple warning signs. These include a shrinking top and fingerboard, buzzing strings within the lower action, cracking finish, and opening bindings.”(Breedlove) As mentioned above, your fingerboard will be one of the first places to see dryness. Make sure to regularly check it, especially during the winter, to know if you should condition it.
You should also avoid leaving your guitar out in extremely cold temperatures. As with extreme heat, freezing cold temperatures will cause the body of the guitar to crack. You should continue to avoid subjecting your guitar to extreme temperature changes during the winter too.
You now know how to clean a guitar and you don’t have to change your routine in the winter. Cleaning a guitar and general care is the same whatever the weather. Just make sure you stay out of the snow and you’ll be fine!
Proper Guitar Maintenance
Now you know how to maintain your guitar it is time to start playing it. There is no point in having a perfectly pristine instrument if nobody plays it. As you go on your musical journey you may discover new ways of caring and modifying your instrument. If you have an electric guitar there may also be accessories and gear that you need to take care of if you want your guitar to sound good.
Sometimes the care of your instrument is taken out of your hands. This is especially true if you are traveling internationally with your instrument. Hopefully, you will take all the measures necessary to keep your guitar as secure as possible. As long as you get into a good routine of care your guitar will be fine.
There are many guitar care products available today that make maintenance easier than it was twenty or thirty years ago. There is a wealth of online resources that offer expert advice on caring for your instrument.
It helps when you are playing your guitar that you are able to trust it not to let you down. Ultimately, good guitar maintenance enables you to become the best guitarist you can be!
What methods/products do you use to take care of your guitar?
Share in the comments below!