It was to be expected. One moment it’s 80° outside and you’re swimming in your pool, the next day it's 30° and the local forecasters are calling for snow…the bread aisles will be empty for days…(sigh)...happened overnight too…it does this every year. And we panic…every year.
And so does your guitar. It has feelings too, you know.
Side note: I wouldn’t be a good blog writer from Southeast Missouri if I didn’t talk about the weather.
Storytime!!! One year, I went on vacation, right after Christmas, and left hired goons in charge of the store…respectable hired goons of course. Hanging in my work office was my Martin 000C-16GRTE. This was my first acoustic guitar, that was officially mine. A high school graduation present from my parents. With this guitar I could reach Dave Matthews heights of skill and tone. (Yeah, it didn’t work out that way, turns out you still have to practice. Soon after Dave started using Taylors too…anyway). I returned from my trip to find a huge split down the side of the guitar. Upon questioning my employees, I got a lot of blank stares(probably shouldn’t have called them hired goons). How convenient that no one noticed. (“You own a guitar?!?, them says”). After a half hearted investigation it turns out a small hairline crack had grown into a giant chasm making the guitar unplayable and unrecognizable. Many thanks to local repair man, Dustin Zimmerman, who got it back together and it is back to normal to this day. But, it goes to show you the impact humidity has on your guitar.
Winter is fast approaching and humidity levels can drop dangerously low. Don’t think it won’t affect your guitar. It may not, but you won’t know until it’s too late and then costly repairs will occur. Here’s some tips that will help.
KEEP HUMIDITY LEVELS CONSTANT
Not only can your guitar dry out and small cracks become huge problems but neck angles are also prone to warp. I’ve seen a number of guitars come through the shop where the neck angle shifted and short of the costly expense of resetting the neck there’s nothing you can do to fix the guitar. Fret sprouting is a serious issue as well. Your guitar is happiest when the humidity level is 40-50%. Since we live in Southeast Missouri this can be a real challenge keeping those levels consistent. As the temps drop, so does that humidity. Of course an in-home humidifier or external humidifier can help but they are not always feasible. If you do own one of these don’t forget to use them, (super important pro tip there). Another effective method is using a case humidifier. It may be inconvenient to keep your guitar(s) in a case or bag but, if you struggle to keep a consistent humidity level in your home it is a must. I recommend the Music Nomad Humitar Soundhole Humidifier as a cost effective solution. The D’addario Humidipak is an excellent choice as well. Both brands offer different solutions with an integrated hydrometer, D’addario even offers a Bluetooth hydrometer where you can monitor levels from your smart device.
AVOID EXTREME TEMPERATURE CHANGES
Nothing pains me more than when a customer brings in a guitar and it’s scorching hot to touch or freezing cold because it’s been in their vehicle all day. Extreme and sudden changes in humidity is terrible for a guitar. I don’t know anybody, who is sane, that is, that walks out of their comfy 72° home out into a 20° winter chilly morning and doesn’t suffer a little shock. Guitars feel the same, they have feelings. Say it with me, “My guitar has feelings, too”. Remember, a guitar is made mostly of wood which shifts and changes based on its environment. Guitars are finely tuned instruments with precise measurements so any shift and changes makes a huge impact. Some are fixable and others are disastrous.
DON’T OVERLOOK THE LITTLE THINGS
Most likely you didn't buy a guitar because you were curious about the effects on moisture level in different types of woods found on a guitar. But, if you want to keep your guitar in optimal playing condition or even just in playing condition make it a priority. If you take action you’ll keep your guitar looking good and feeling good and sounding good for decades. Guitars are not cheap and if you keep them good they will retain a significant value. Let’s say it one more time, “Guitars have feelings too.”
- Chad Daniels