October 8, 2007

Keeping Your Guitar Happy - Humidity 101

Here in the Midwest, fall is beginning and the promise of winter approaches. What that means for string players, is that the drop in humidity - exacerbated by indoor heating - is about to wreck havoc on your instrument. (If you live in a different climate, unless it is tropical, the same idea applies to your dry season). Fingerboards can shrink, fret ends can pop out, the top of the instrument can crack, and the action can be affected - you get the idea - bad news. And while many instrument makers extend wonderful and comprehensive warranties, the one thing that is always excluded is damage resulting from lack of care regarding humidity.

Fortunately, the power to prevent such problems can be had with just a little preparation:

1. Be aware of your local climate change. Here in Minnesota, we often use Halloween as a reminder to start attending to an instrument's climate needs, though in reality, it actually can be an issue as early as late September.

2. You can't "guess" humidity. Use a case hygrometer, or at the very least, have a hygrometer in the room where you keep the instrument. Humidifying your home in the fall and winter is a good idea, for both you and the instrument.

3. Maintain the guitar's humidity at 45-50% at all times. This will invariably require the use of a case or soundhole humidifier. There are several on the market, or you can make one following these directions. Keeping your guitar in the case, and keeping the case closed while you are playing is a great way to maintain a stable environment.

4. Bring you guitar in for a seasonal tune-up. The costs are minimal to none, and by making smaller, more frequent adjustments you will save money on repairs in the long run.

By taking a few steps, you will have an instrument that plays well, sounds great, and serves your creative needs for many years to come without costly repairs!

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