Spring is a wonderful time of year. It also poses new challenges for keeping your guitar at the proper humidity. As the dryer winter weather wanes, the changing weather replete with spring showers will cause an increase in the air's humidity. So while we were concerned about keeping our guitar humidified during colder weather, now we have to be concerned about over-humidifying our instruments which can be just as bad. Trust me, I know. One of my guitars became almost unplayable because it was so "water-logged" and rounded out. My Martin Guitar tech, Dave spotted the underlying problem and gave me some sage advice which I will pass on to you. Keep reading, it gets real interesting! Let's start off with a tour of where these masterpieces are made and stored.
The Martin Guitar Factory Tour...Your First Clue
The Martin Guitar Factory Tour is rated one of the BEST factory tours in America. These are the experts in guitar building and care. In fact C.F. Martin invented the Dreadnought which is today one of the most copied guitar designs in the world. Touring the Martin Factory will increase your knowledge and appreciation of the fact that among other things, your guitar is subject to changes in temperature and humidity. This goes with the territory of owning a hollow body acoustic. I've always been careful to warm up my car on a cold day or turn on the air conditioner on a hot one before stowing my instruments. If it too far below freezing, I don't take my acoustic guitars out at all. I'll bring a solid body instrument on the road instead. These react less to ambient changes unlike hollow body guitars.
Custom Care for Your Guitar
Here is a photo of an expert Martin luthier doing restorations in their Custom Shop. The beautifully inlaid guitar he is holding is valued at over $40,000. They see it all here! Dings, cracks, splits, buckling... most of which could have been avoided if the guitar was keep properly stored and humidified. In fact, the entire factory is optimally maintained at just the right humidity for guitars. That would be between 40-45%. As you move along the tour, you'll see the steps taken to turn a wood block into a finished instrument. More than that, you begin to understand that the wood itself will respond to the environment. Visit The Martin Guitar Museum. You'll experience the same perfect level of humidity there too. There is a reason for this! The easiest way to keep control over those conditions is to store your instrument in its case. So how do you know what's going on inside? Dave, our expert Martin guitar tech, suggested having a hygrometer inside of each guitar case. "This way I know just what the humidity is in each of my guitar cases." The problem that I encountered was not knowing whether or not the guitar case was over or under-humidified. If you can't gage this information properly you'll be flying blind and guessing that your guitar needs moisture when perhaps it doesn't. The result will be either an instrument that is shrunken and under-humidified or bloated and over-humidified. Either way, these conditions can put your instrument out of tune and even make it unplayable. Not good. Well, here's your solution coming right up.
If you want to know both the temperature and humidity levels in your guitar case, you'll need an accurate thermometer/hygrometer. This Oasis O-H2 model is completely digital and especially made for use inside of most guitar cases. In fact there are many models of guitar cases which have a hygrometer built in. The clip on the Oasis O-H2 allows it to stay put without rattling around in the case and possibly scratching your instrument. I've seen others that attach with a magnet but I'm always leery of such devices around the on board electronics and pickups.
Monitoring Made Simple
Having a digital hygrometer is an easy way to know if and when to add humidity to your guitar inside the case. I also have a weather station which gives me both the indoor and outdoor temperature and humidity levels. When the days are consecutively dry, that is below 40%humidity, the indicator actually says, "dry". This is a heads up to check my guitars in their cases which once again is the best place to store your prized instruments. Here is my Oasis unit doing its job inside of my guitar case next to my Martin D-16GT. The on/off switch saves battery life and the unit retains previous high/low readings. I simply clipped it onto the storage lid inside of the case. It has Velcro fasteners so it can also be removed. Keeping your guitar at the proper humidity level has never been easier as this unit will help you stay between the recommended 40-45%.
The Oasis Digital Hygrometer w/Clip #421666 is available for only $27.95 from Musician's Friend by clicking this direct product link: Oasis Digital Hygrometer w/Clip http://accessories.musiciansfriend.com/product/Oasis-OH2-Digital-Hygrometer-wclip?sku=421666
We would like to personally thank C.F. Martin & Company located at 510 Sycamore Street, Nazareth, PA and Musician's Friend for their participation and expertise in contributing to this article. Be sure to treat yourself to a tour of the Martin Guitar Factory this spring, (see our photos for a virtual tour) and check out Musician's Friend fantastic guitar gear with quality service and the best prices around.
Look!!! Have a FREE set of strings installed on your Martin Guitar at one of their traveling Guitar Clinics listed under our SHOWS-CONCERTS-JAMS header down in the left hand column.