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Temperature, Humidity, and Your Guitar’s Happiness

Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Dry GuitarAh…, ‘tis the season for cold, damp weather outside and blazing humidity and crushing heat inside – the perfect recipe to wreak havoc on your defenseless guitar.  Let’s find out if you’re guitar is too dry and ways to fix it.

When guitars get dry, bad things happen.  Your guitar is made up of thin pieces of wood that are very susceptible to changes in humidity and temperature.  Having too much humidity is a problem, but more commonly is the problem of a lack of humidity especially during these winter months. 

Signs your guitar is getting dry...

1) Lowered Action – When wood gets dry it contracts or shrinks.  This has a tendency to lower the action.

2) Frets Buzzing – When the action gets low, the frets buzz or start lifting off of their place on the fretboard due to the fretboard contracting.

3) Fret Ends Sticking Out from Fingerboard – Run your hand along the top of your neck.  If you can feel the sharp ends of the frets sticking up, then your neck is too dry.

4) Cracks in the Finish or Wood – Small cracks in the finish or the wood is the unfortunate result of an extremely dry guitar.  These cracks happen quickly and are almost impossible to repair completely. 

Keys to a Happy Guitar…

1) The correct humidity for your guitar is between 40-50%.  During the winter months a typical indoor “heated air” environment may plummet the humidity to 20% or less.  Try to keep your guitar between 40-50% humidity.  Use a room humidifier if necessary.

2) Keep your guitar in its case during the dry winter months.  As tempting as it may be to leave your beautiful guitar next to the roaring fireplace for a little romantic strumming, this is a death sentence for your guitar.   During these dry winter months, it’s best to store the guitar in its case where humidity is much easier to control and the temperature changes much more slowly.

3) Avoid extreme temperature changes.  Suppose you left your guitar in the trunk of your car overnight outside.  Then you decide to get it out for a little strumming so you set your ice-cold guitar on its guitar stand next to the heater vent. This is a bad idea.  Your guitar expands and contracts ever so slightly with temperature.  If you make it change temperature too quickly cracks in the finish are inevitable.

4) When bringing your guitar into a new environment, leave it in the case until it warms up to room temperature.  If you’re bringing your guitar in from a different temperature, then keep it in its case for a while to let it warm up to room temperature.

5) Use an “in case” or “in guitar” humidifier.  Invest in a little guitar humidifier. They are inexpensive and can literally save your instrument.  Little green Dampit humidifiers are great.  They will generally last 2-3 weeks before they need to be re-charged.

I hope these simple tips will help keep your guitar happy during these winter months.  If you take care of your instrument it will take care of you and your music for years to come.  Keep Learning & Growing!

– Steve
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