Why You Should Environment-Proof Your Guitar
Whether it’s acoustic or electric, your guitar is a finely-tuned system of wood, metal, glue, and other materials. Being primarily made of wood makes it vulnerable to extreme temperatures and humidity levels, as well as to rapid changes in environmental factors. If you live somewhere with extreme weather (like our fabulous City of Champions), or you plan to move your guitar from one environment to another, you want to keep it protected!
What Can Go Wrong
By themselves, extreme heat or cold can be dangerous to your guitar—too much heat can melt the glue, and cold can crack the varnish. However, you should also be wary of rapid changes in temperature, which might lead to some of your instrument components expanding or contracting at different speeds. This may result in severe structural damage, including cracked wood.
Moisture is the other threat to your guitar. Extreme humidity or dryness can warp the wood of your guitar, causing permanent damage. A warped guitar becomes impossible to tune—if the surface of the fretboard becomes uneven, your instrument may never sound right again.
What You Can Do
The most basic step you can take to protect your guitar from seasonal changes is to store it properly. First, never keep your guitar in a cold closet, a damp basement, near a window, or close t0 a heater—try to keep it somewhere with a fairly stable climate (like next to your bed). Look for temperatures within the 18°C to 23°C range and humidity levels between 45 percent and 55 percent.
Second, if you’re not playing your guitar every day, it’s best stored in a hard case. Guitar cases slow down the heat transfer, meaning that if your guitar gets hot or cold it will at least do so slowly, reducing the risk. You should also keep your guitar in a hard case when you transport it, and leave it in the case as long as possible in its new environment to let it adjust before taking it out.
Also good to note – never leave your instrument in a car! Cars, and trunks in particular, can reach extreme temperatures even in moderate weather.
If you play your guitar every day, you will have a good sense of when it needs to be tuned, and when it needs taking care of. If you don’t jam on it daily, experts recommend you inspect your instrument every six months or so to perform maintenance on it. Otherwise, over time, the changing weather can cause lasting damage.
The biggest task for seasonal maintenance is to adjust the truss rod. If you’ve never done this before, take your guitar to a local store and ask a professional to show you how. Many guitar stores offer truss-adjustment as a free service.
The truss rod balances the stress of the guitar strings to keep the neck straight, but with changes in weather, the neck will gradually drift out of alignment. Adjusting the truss rod may take a few days, as you want to make small adjustments to avoid damaging the wood, and you want to give each adjustment about a day’s time for the wood to settle before making further changes.
Add a few cleaning and polishing tasks to your seasonal maintenance and you’ll keep your guitar in beautiful condition—and a well-made, well-maintained guitar can last a lifetime!