Article by Luke Shields
During an era of pandemics and lockdowns, more and more of us have just picked up a guitar for the first time ever. Many others have gone searching through dust covered sheds to find an old friend that hasn’t been picked up in a few years, having convinced themselves to have another crack. With the increase of new guitar players entering the musical world, there are certain aspects of guitar care that are often unknown by beginners or can be overlooked by those who aren’t “in the know”. Whether you’re a guitar god or a mere fledgling in the realm of the riff-stick; these are our top-rated guitar maintenance 101 tips.
1. Establish a good restring and cleaning routine
Possibly the most obvious aspect of guitar maintenance 101 is to keep your instrument in tip-top playing condition.
Changing old strings, cleaning off grime and sweat, and conditioning your guitar regularly can add years to the lifespan of your instrument. It also helps the guitar sound and feel it’s best when you pick it up and play it.
When the strings are off, you have a golden opportunity to do some of the most important maintenance work that your guitar needs. Grab a new packet of strings, a few bottles of guitar cleaner and some fingerboard conditioner and give your guitar the love it deserves.
Here’s a basic breakdown of what our guitar techs do during an average restring:
- Remove old strings.
- Check machine head tightness and other hardware fittings.
- Clean and condition the fingerboard.
- Clean the rest of your guitar.
- Restring guitar.
- Adjust truss rod and action as necessary.
Restringing and cleaning your guitar every 2-4 months will ensure that your guitar is always performing at its best, and will make every playing experience as enjoyable as the last.
For a full breakdown of how to restring and clean your guitar, Rob Magargal of Taylor Guitars has some great videos on YouTube showing his process.
2. Invest in a hydrometer
Usually costing around $30AUD, a digital thermometer and hygrometer can be a valuable asset in your guitar maintenance tool box. From hot, dry country towns, to cold cities where the humidity rises and falls at the drop of a hat (much like Melbourne at the time of writing), guitars in Australia are often exposed to both extremes of the weather spectrum, sometimes in the same day. Having a digital hygrometer in the room where you store your guitars can help you monitor your guitars safety in situations that may cause permanent damage.
Guitars have a fairly narrow ideal humidity range, between 45% and 55%. Keeping your guitars within this range, or as close to it as possible, will minimise the chance of your guitar taking on excess or expelling much needed moisture, which can cause warping and shrinking.
If you live in an area where humidity can be an issue, consider installing a humidifier in your music room. Alternatively, D’addario make an amazing product called the Humidipak, which is a two-way humidification system especially designed to live alongside your instrument. Chuck one of these in each of your guitar cases, and the Humidipak will regulate the humidity inside of that environment to between 45% and 50%. With an RRP around $60AUD this is a cheap and convenient way of ensure that your guitar is protected anywhere you go and you stay on top of your guitar maintenance.
3. Keep your guitar in a case when you’re not using it
By far the easiest way you can maintain your guitar is to put it back in its case when you’re not using it; this is the easiest form of guitar maintenance 101! Worried about your guitar getting knocked over or damaged? That is exactly what the case is there for! Don’t want your guitar to get covered in dust or dirt while you’re not playing it? Once again, the case will save the day! Your uncle who swears he was in a band during mid 90s is coming over and will probably want to show you that he can play “Sweet Child of Mine” for the millionth time? A CASE WILL PROTECT IT as long as you don’t succumb to his nagging to let you have a go! It takes only seconds to do but will add years, if not decades, of life to your instrument.
4. Don’t be afraid to take it to a professional for maintenance
Guitar techs exist to help make your guitar as close to perfect as possible.
Performing restrings, setups, and repairs are the bread-and-butter of guitar techs’ professional life. If there’s an issue with your guitar that you’re not quite sure about, chances are a guitar tech will be able to diagnose the issue and fix it pretty quickly. If your guitar isn’t playing as well as it use to, or you have any questions about guitar maintenance, don’t hesitate to drop by and ask one of our qualified guitar techs for help and advice.
Follow these simple steps and we can just about guarantee that your guitar will be playing and sounding great throughout its long life. Should you have any additional questions, feel free to contact your local Colemans’s Music store via phone or visit colemansmusic.com.au to speak to one of our expert staff members.