Regardless of whether or not your acoustic guitar is of an elite breed, durability or if you have had it for a number of years, you will need to diligently maintain it. The truth is that your acoustic guitar can last as long as you (and beyond) by practicing simple tips.
It is always better to carry your guitar in a case – whether soft or hard. However, a hard case is better because it will provide for your guitar maximum protection from bumps, temperature and fluids.
At times, putting your guitar into its case may be inconvenient to you, but laying it around or leaning it against the wall can be a set-up for accidents. A good invention that solves this, by providing support for your guitar and easy access for you is a guitar stand.
Enemies of your guitar are extremes in temperature and humidity including when they change rapidly. Shifted necks, cracked finishes, slackened glued joints are all examples of damages that can happen to an acoustic guitar due to environmental changes and conditions.
A stable environment of controlled humidity and temperature is ideally what your guitar needs. A humidifier is an effective device that can be placed in the sound-hole of your guitar that can be set to maintain humidity at a particular level. An acceptable level of humidity for guitars is 40% – 60%. Humidifiers won’t interfere any at all with your playing.
When carrying your acoustic steeled string guitar on a flight, it is advisable to slacken the strings as the lower temperature may cause the strings to contract (i.e. tighten) and place too much force on the neck of your guitar. Too much force on the neck may cause it to be displaced.
Wipe your guitar strings with a cloth to get rid of deposits of dust, dirt and oils from your fingers. Use a string lubricant if you have metal strings to keep them shiny, light and bright.
Before playing, you can clean your hands with a small amount of hand sanitizer and wipe them in a cloth. The natural oils from your hands will transfer to the strings and bog them down, so you will have to avoid this.
Your guitar is quite easy to clean. Guitars are not high maintenance, so what you will need to do is to wipe your guitar with a damp cloth to get rid of smudges, elbow grease and dust. Wipe the body, neck and fret board.
Occasionally polish your guitar. Many Guitarists abuse their guitar by over polishing, lubricating and waxing. Some experienced guitarists suggest that keeping the wood of your guitar dry is great for the increase in quality of sound. The deposits of products used on the guitar can change the natural resonance of the wood, and reduce the sound quality over time.
You can vacuum the inside of your guitar via the sound-hole to get rid of dust and other unwanted particles.
Avoid over-tightening your guitar strings, as this can cause excessive strain on the neck.Be extra careful when walking around with your guitar from room to room to avoid bounces and scratches.
Accepting that knocks, bangs and general physical abuse create the most traumas for musical instruments, stringed instruments have an even greater, unseen enemy – HUMIDITY – or lack of it, to be precise. Plywood instruments are generally more stable, but the solid woods which most professional quality instruments are made from, respond remarkably quickly to changes in humidity. All timber acts like a sponge, sucking in moisture when humidity levels are high and effortlessly releasing it when humidity levels drop. It is this release of moisture from the wood that creates the greatest danger and, if not checked, will result in the wood shrinking and cracks appearing at points of highest stress.
Air temperature is not your real enemy – humidity is!
Straight forward physics tells us that warm air carries more moisture (therefore higher humidity) than cold air, but the world’s weather systems are much more complex than that. Two of the driest places on earth are, the Sahara Desert and the middle of the Antarctic – opposite ends of the temperature spectrum but, for different reasons, incredibly instrument crackingly dry.
The middle of large land masses tend to be dryer than coastal regions. If you are traveling across continents, check the relative humidity. If your instrument has been stable for a while in a relatively dry climate (i.e. less than 45% relative humidity) and you travel to an area of high humidity, the instrument will swell a little but should hold together. If your instrument has been stable for a while in a higher humidity climate (i.e. above 50% relative humidity) and you travel to a dryer area, it will release moisture, it will shrink and you do stand a chance of it cracking. How can you stop your valuable instrument giving out its very valuable moisture content? There are a number of proprietary humidifiers available which either sit inside the instrument or inside the case. These are simply small sponges in a variety of forms held in different types of casings, designed to release moisture in a controlled fashion, thereby keeping the relative humidity higher in the immediate environment around your instrument.