Guitar Maintenance Basics: What Every Guitar Player Should Know

Guitar on guitar repair desk during guitar maintenance

Guitar Maintenance Basics: What Every Guitar Player Should Know

by | Jan 14, 2022 | Instrument Repair

Chances are, you’ve spent good money on your guitar, and you love playing it. It would be devastating to pick it up one day and find that it doesn’t sound right or has been damaged. Guitars can be fickle instruments that are prone to wear and tear and are susceptible to the elements, which means if you’re a guitar player, you should know these guitar maintenance basics to keep your instrument in good shape. Your favorite guitars can last you for decades with the proper maintenance and care. 

Why You Should Understand Guitar Maintenance Basics

It’s surprising to learn how many guitarists put hundreds or even thousands of dollars into their gear before they start caring for it properly. Guitars, much like cars, benefit enormously from a little TLC from time to time. Keeping an eye out for minor issues before they become major problems is key. Naturally, having a skilled local tech or luthier is a great solution, but there are many problems that may be resolved or avoided altogether with some knowledge of your own in proper guitar maintenance. 

Maintain Proper Temperature and Humidity

The temperature and humidity levels are two of the biggest factors that can affect the performance of your guitar. Guitars are made mostly of wood, making them extremely sensitive to changes in their environment. 

High heat and high humidity can cause the body of your guitar to swell which will warp the wood and change the string action. The neck can also become warped and you may even notice the metal components getting rusty. When a guitar is in an environment that is too humid, it can affect the tone since wood that is damp will have a more dull sound. 

In contrast, a cold and dry environment is not good for a guitar either. This can cause the wood to shrink, resulting in cracking and splitting. This can be even more challenging to remedy than high humidity. Fixing cracks in a guitar can get quite expensive. 

The ideal humidity level for a guitar is between 45 and 55 percent. Using a humidifier or dehumidifier can help you maintain the right levels. As far as temperature goes, room temperature is best. Avoid extreme temperature changes; that means don’t leave your guitar in the car! 

Clean Your Guitar

A very basic form of guitar maintenance is keeping your guitar clean. Whether you bought a bargain guitar or have a custom-crafted masterpiece, every guitar should be regularly cleaned. Sweat and dead skin cells, as well as the natural oils in your skin, all can have an impact on your guitar’s look and performance. Maintaining the cleanliness of your instrument is essential, so keep a dry, lint-free towel in your guitar bag to make it quick and easy to wipe it clean before and after you play.

Guitars may be thoroughly cleaned with a variety of specialized guitar cleaning solutions on the market. Check the label and see if the cleaner is appropriate for your instrument and finish. If you’ve used the wrong kind of cleaning solution on your guitar and the finish has been damaged, you should seek professional advice.

Condition the Fingerboard

Unfinished fingerboards are quite common. The most effective method to keep the fingerboard from becoming too dry is to use a guitar-specific product on it regularly. In addition to hydrating the wood, a good conditioner will help remove dirt and grime while polishing the frets. Make sure the cleaner you select is specifically developed for your type of fingerboard and does not contain silicone in its formula. If you see fractures in your fingerboard or frets that are loose or sharp, you should reach out to a professional. 

Restring Your Guitar

Surprisingly, restringing a guitar is something that many guitar players don’t know how to do properly. This often leads to several issues like poor intonation and tuning stability as well as string breakage. The type of guitar (and bridge) you’re working with has an impact on how you should approach restringing your guitar. Be sure to do your research and consult someone with more experience if you are unsure how to restring your particular guitar or if you find that your guitar is constantly going out of tune and you keep breaking strings.

Check the Neck Alignment

Inexperienced and seasoned guitarists alike might be easily intimidated by the task of checking neck alignment and correcting issues. Getting a second opinion from a local specialist isn’t a bad idea, and they’ll be more than happy to help. Not sure if your guitar neck needs an alignment? If you notice a lot of buzzing between the first and seventh fret or unusually high action, that is a sign it’s time for an alignment. 

Address Issues With The Nut, Bridge, and Truss Rod

A commonly missed part of guitar maintenance is checking the nut, bridge, and truss rod for issues. This is something that the average guitar player will need to seek professional advice for unless they have taken a course on guitar maintenance. These types of issues are ones most guitar players should be able to diagnose themselves but may not be able to fix on their own without some prior knowledge. Using the wrong tools could cause damage that may be irreparable and isn’t worth the risk. 

Learn Guitar Maintenance Skills In-Person or Online

Want to grow your confidence and skills when it comes to guitar maintenance? CIOMIT offers on-campus power courses and online courses in guitar maintenance and repair for both acoustic guitars and electric guitars as well as courses on fretwork. Learn to diagnose, set up, and adjust acoustic, electric, and bass guitars: truss rod adjustments, nut & saddle regulations, bridge adjustments for intonation, and replacements as well as entry-level crack repair, guitar wiring, and finish touch-ups. Contact us today to learn more or to sign up!