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Tips for Guitar Care and Maintenance

By: Pat Newsome

Buying a guitar is a major investment.  Naturally you want to protect that beautiful instrument.  Keeping a guitar in top form requires being aware of the temperature and humidity as well as protecting it from bumps and damaging substances.  A good case will protect your guitar when traveling or around the house.  It's a good idea to put it away when you are finished playing.  If you have a wall hanger or stand, the guitar can be kept handy for impromptu jamming. Otherwise, the case is probably the safest place.

Plastics can damage the finish on your guitar, so be cautious about laying the guitar against anything made of vinyl.  Old Naugahyde couches are one such offender.  Also, consider keeping a soft cloth in your case for wiping down the guitar after playing.  If you slide the cloth up under the strings you can clean any dust out from under them, and also remove the sweat and skin oils left from your fingers.  Sweat causes your strings to wear out faster, so take time to wipe them down if you don't care for changing strings frequently.

Leaving a guitar in a place that is too hot or too cold can be deadly for the instrument.  Hot or cold car trunks are not a suitable place to leave a guitar, nor is a room in the house that is likely to get above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.  Never leave a guitar exposed to sunlight either, because it can harm the glue used in the construction of the instrument.  The best temperature range for a guitar is between 70 and 75 degrees.  Keep it shaded if you have to be in a hot car for a little while.  It's recommended that you loosen the strings if you have to leave it in a cold area for a while, and allow it to warm up naturally before retuning it.

Low humidity can also damage a guitar.  Try not to leave your guitar in an area with less than 40 per cent humidity.  A guitar humidifier can be kept inside the case in dry areas.  High humidity can be damaging, too, so it's important to use a hygrometer to monitor the humidity inside the case if you have any concerns.  In very humid areas, above 65 %, silica gel can be used to remove excess humidity inside the case.

The gears on the tuning machines can be oiled with a tiny drop of sewing machine oil about once a month.  If the gears are not exposed, the guitar does not need lubrication.

A final suggestion is to keep a small notebook in your case.  Use this to note vital statistics and important maintenance events for your guitar.  You can keep track of the types of strings you've tried and whether you liked them.  You can also record oiling of the tuning gears and similar things.




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