How Do I Keep My Guitar In Great Shape?
Keeping a new guitar looking great is a lot like keeping a new car looking great. If not regularly cleaned, serviced and taken care of it will quickly turn into that old rust-bucket that we are no longer proud to drive around in. Do you wash your car regularly? Do you get it serviced and keep up your log book?
The same treatment applies to our instruments. We need to take pride in our gear and look after it so that we can play them for years to come. So what can I do to keep it all working properly? It only takes a few small and regular steps to keep you from having to spend hundreds on huge repairs or even worse, having a guitar that never really plays great again.
How often do you change your strings?
The average set of strings under normal playing conditions are only designed to last 4-6 weeks at most. Regular gigging musicians should change their strings every week or two. If you use coated long-life premium strings you may be able to get 3-4 months out of them before corrosion sets in. Old strings not only lose their tone and clarity, but they can also cause premature wear and damage to your guitar. Rusty or corroded strings have a texture that can wear down your frets with small grooves that make it uncomfortable to play and make your tone thin and buzzy and some notes might not play at all. Getting a fret job can cost you hundreds of dollars. Buying strings in 10-packs can save you money and will encourage you to change them more often.
Clean and wipe down your guitar regularly.
Dunlop make some great cleaning products that are easy to use. Never use furniture cleaner on your guitar, it's not meant for guitar lacquers. When you change the strings, give the whole guitar a good clean before you string it back up. The dirt and greases (and sweat) from our fingers and rusty string particles build up on the fretboard of the guitar and need to be regularly removed before it builds up. It's actually quite unhygienic. The Dunlop 01 fretboard cleaner works better than any product I've used for cleaning the gunk off of fretboards. If you have a rosewood fingerboard use lemon oil to seal and condition the timber a few times per year so it doesn't dry out and crack. The hardware will tarnish up if not wiped down regularly. Keep a cloth (an old t-shirt works great) in your case and get in the habit of wiping down the strings and bridge every time you put your guitar away.
Try to avoid at all costs leaving your guitar in the car on a sunny day.
The heat slowly loosens up the glues used to hold the guitar together and the high tension of the strings can pull the whole thing apart. It's very common for acoustic guitar bridges to lift up from exposure to excessive heat and humidity. Also the bracings on the inside of acoustic guitars can come loose and cause the top wood to warp under the tension. Sometimes leaving the guitar in the car is unavoidable, but at least loosen the strings a bit so there isn't as much tension pulling on the guitar.
Get your guitar serviced by a professional once or twice a year.
Just like with your car, a good service can keep it performing great and any problems that pop up can be fixed before they turn into a bigger issue. It's a good opportunity to get it thoroughly cleaned and have all the parts checked for optimal playability and function. The seasonal weather changes can cause the timber to move and settle. Ever notice that your guitar use to play great but now the action is suddenly too high? The necks can move a bit with temperature changes and can be adjusted via the internal truss rod by a professional repairer.
Guitars that have been taken care of hold their resale value better, look great and are much nicer to play. Consistent care is easy and affordable, lets show our instruments some love!
Dave Rumsey from Central Coast Guitars is a great friend of Coast Academy of Music. He regularly services all our guitars and you'll see him teaching a few lessons from time to time.
Do you have any other guitar maintenance questions for Dave? Have another topic you'd like us to cover? Let us know in the comments below.