5 Things You Need to Be Doing To Take Care of Your Guitar
I’ve seen too many guitars that have been left collecting dust with strings that are slowly rusting due to lack of care. While these are obvious symptoms there are a number of other common mistakes that beginners make when taking care of their guitars.
This article will cover some of the guitar care basics so your guitar lasts as long as you need it to. We’ll break guitar care down into a few categories to make things simple. First up on our list: strings
As the only parts on your guitar with the potential for corrosion strings need to be given special consideration.
1. String Maintenance
A large portion of how your guitar sounds/plays will be determined by the strings. Strangely, they also happen to be one of the first things that are neglected on the guitar.
So how can we take care of them?
- Change them regularly: the frequency of string changes is related to how often you are playing your guitar. Therefore, it’s difficult to provide a quick rule of thumb. Your best bet is to inspect your strings regularly. Do you see any dark lines? This is the first sign of wear. Are your strings falling out of tune more than normal? Change them. If you are playing 4-5 hours a week you should be changing your strings every 3-4 months (or at your discretion).
- Wipe down your strings after every session: sweat, dirt, and grime are the leading culprits for string corrosion. This can easily be avoided with a quick string wipe down after every practice session.
- Stretch your strings as soon as you change them: new strings must be stretched. This is best way to prevent your strings from going flat while playing. This also helps them find their spot on the nut, saddle and in the tuningpegs. Good new is, you can use your hands to do this. Gently (yet firmly) pull your strings away from your guitar as soon as you’ve restrung!
2. Neck & Fretboard
The guitar neck and fretboard are often the most neglected part on many of the guitars I see. The fretboard is often covered in grime and the neck hasn’t been setup since it was brought home.
- Regularly clean your fretboard:the same sweat and grime that corrodes your strings is also having a negative impact on your fretboard. You can avoid this by regularly cleaning and wiping down your fretboard.You can also use lemon oil cleaning products to cut through the grime and keep your fretboard fresh. However, make sure you only use guitar specific lemon oil – anything else will damage your fretboard. Additionally, do not use any lemon oil products on maple fretboards!
- Not getting your guitar setup: Guitars will only come with a basic setup from the factory and sometimes need to be adjusted before they are sold. Most guitar shops will do this before selling the guitar, but it is always a good idea to double check. Additionally, if your guitar has been neglected for a number of years it may need to be adjusted. This can be intimidating for beginner guitar players. Luckily, your local guitar shop should be able to take care of everything for you. Some of the signs of a needed setup are string buzzing or high action. This results from your neck being out of alignment and can be fixed with some slight adjustments.
The body of your guitar is the other half of the equation when it comes to your guitar’s sound. Fortunately, when it comes to your guitar body, there’s not a lot you can do to adversely affect your sound through neglect.
However, there is aesthetic damage that results from a lack of care. Many guitars have delicate finishes that can deteriorate by using the wrong cleaning products. A few simple habits can have your guitar looking as good as new for as long as you need.
- Avoid household products:household polishing and cleaning products have harsh ingredients that will degrade the sensitive tonewoodand finish of your guitar body.
- Never use any products that contain alcohol, silicon, or bleach. There are specific guitar cleaning products that are better suited for maintaining your finish. Use them!
Polishing your guitar car hurt more than it helps: some guitar owners like to use a product to polish or wax their guitars. Unfortunately, this can have detrimental effects. The polish or wax can build up in any hairline cracks and discolour the wood underneath. Additionally, many of the clothes used are too abrasive for the sensitive wood. Try to avoid it if possible.
As many of you will know, guitars are very sensitive to heat and humidity. The environment where the guitar is stored is going to have lasting consequences for the lifespan of the guitar.
Similar to other sensitive audio equipment such as speakers, record players, and condenser microphones, large fluctuations in humidity and temperature can do lasting damage.
- Store your guitar in a controlled environment: avoid storing your guitar in places such as attics where they will be exposed to large swings in temperature. This also includes avoiding baseboard heaters or radiators. These environments cause your strings to stretch and contract placing undue stress on your guitars neck. This is a very easy way for your neck to come out of alignment.
- Store your guitar in a case: the ideal way to store your guitar is in a case standing upright. Never stack multiple guitars cases on their sides.
- Alternatively, you can hang your guitar on the wall, or use a guitar stand.
Finally, we have transport. This one is obvious. You should always be transporting your guitar in its case. Preferably, you’ll have a hard case.If you’ve heavily invested in a guitar and plan on flying you’ll want to invest in a specific flying case. They are a little pricy, but a worthwhile investment if you need to protect your guitar.
There is some argument over whether you should be loosening your guitar strings before shipping – I personally don’t. I feel anxious when my guitar neck is not under tension, however I do see the other side of the argument. I’m going to leave this one up to you. Make sure you loosen your truss rod if you are loosing your strings!
Last but not least, make sure you are packing your guitar with as much packing material as possible!
I hope these tips have been helpful! While simple, each one will go a long way in ensuring the longevity of your guitar. If you have any additional tips you’d like to share please leave them in the comments below.
As always, we’d appreciate a share on social if you’ve found this useful. Until next time!
About the author: Glen Parry has been involved in the audio world for 15 year. He loves discussing and writing about a wide range of topics related to audio and music. You can more articles and gear recommendations – such as the best digital piano – over at audiomastered.com