For many musicians, a guitar is more like a baby than an instrument and requires just as much care. Regular maintenance and upkeep of your guitar are essential for both conserving a great sound as well as avoiding more costly instrument repair. Luckily, your guitar will last a lifetime with periodic maintenance and basic repairs.
Replacing your guitar strings plays an important role in guitar repair and care. Instrument strings are not made to last forever, so even if you’ve never broken a string, they still need to be replaced periodically. The moisture and dirt from your hands will slowly corrode guitar strings over time, resulting in a loss of brilliance and a deadened sound to the strings. The time to change your strings is a personal preference. Some prefer the sound of strings that are more worn in, while other players prefer the brighter sound of new strings. When you do replace a string, you should replace the entire set, as one new string will stand out in sound against the older ones. For regular maintenance, always wipe down your strings with a soft dry cloth after playing to remove oil and dirt.
If you have open type tuning machines, you will need to periodically lubricate them. Place a small amount of petroleum jelly on a toothpick and apply it carefully to the gears. You only need to do this about once a year. If your guitar has closed tuning machines, the manufacturer has already lubricated the gears and you will most likely not need to lubricate them.
Protect the Finish
It’s important to regularly clean the body and neck of the guitar. However, keep in mind that the use of regular household cleaners may damage the finish. A damp, not soaked, cloth can be used periodically to wipe off perspiration, dirt and other substances from the guitar, followed by a clean dry cloth to remove excess moisture. Periodically you should also clean and polish your instrument using products specifically made for cleaning guitars. Most instrument dealers sell cleaning and waxing products as well as lint-free cleaning cloths.
Guitar makers use thin wood in the construction of most guitars. Unfortunately, thinner wood is more susceptible to changes in temperature and humidity. In fact, sudden changes in temperature and humidity can cause tiny cracks in the finish called lacquer checks. Regular exposure to high humidity can also increase the risks of wood swelling and warping. While most homes and tour vehicles are unable to maintain a perfect temperature and humidity level at all times, there are things you can do to prevent a trip to the shop for more intensive guitar repairs. First, never expose your guitar to rapid temperature or humidity changes. Second, keep your guitar away from heaters or humidifiers, as well as sources of cold, such as windows or outside walls during the winter. Avoid leaving your guitar out of its case in areas of high humidity as not only can the wood swell, the humidity can also weaken the glue in the joints and under the bridge, especially when paired with high temperatures. Weakened glue can cause the bridge to separate, forcing you to bring the guitar in for instrument repair. There are plenty of humidity control products you can buy to keep your guitar safe.
One of the primary reasons many guitars go in for instrument repairs is damage that occurs when travelling. A hard case designed specifically for your type of guitar is essential to not only prevent damage from items hitting the case, but also to prevent damage from the guitar moving around inside the case. When travelling by car, place your guitar in the back seat instead of the trunk which has no air circulation or temperature control. If travelling by air and forced to baggage check your guitar, loosen the strings a little and use cotton or other non-scratching material to pack in the guitar to keep it from moving inside the case. Here’s a quick guitar case buying guide, you’ll find helpful.
Guitar care may seem like a lot of work, but keeping a checklist of maintenance and basic repair steps when taking out or putting away your instrument can simplify the process. The small amount of work you put in will ensure less time and money spent on guitar repairs.