Friday, September 30, 2011

Guitar Care: It's the Humidity

Guitar: "It's not the heat, it's the humidity!"

Now that fall is here, (or just about), we have to start thinking about the care & feeding of our acoustics a bit more.  The best place to keep control over temperature & humidity is still the guitar case.  I prefer the molded thermoplastic cases that came with my Martin Guitars and keep a hygrometer / thermometer inside each one.  Gigbags are great but they are porous and will not maintain optimal humidity and temperature conditions very well.  You need to get serious about storing and monitoring your instruments during times of excessive wetness as well as drier days that come with the fall.  PHOTO: Planet Waves Hygrometer

Now I've been guilty in the past of "over-feeding" my Martin acoustics as top guitar technician, Dave Doll can attest.  I was using the older Humidi-Pak by Planet Waves without a monitoring system inside the case.  As I could not tell what the levels were, the guitars became over humidified and difficult to play, (think REALLY high action).  The Humidi-Pak claims to regulate the humidity, adding/subtracting moisture so you stay roughly between 45-55%.  It's been very rainy the past few weeks and I have to say that the humidity in the case only went up to 59% so I'll call that a success. All the same, I think it's a mistake to leave any humidifying gadget inside your guitar or case without periodically checking to see how the guitar's levels are interacting with the environment.

Another way of dealing with low humidity levels is to simply humidify your ambient environment and store your guitars in a climate controlled room or area.  Your recording studio should definitely be under climate control especially for the benefit of your most precious instrument, your voice.  I like to keep at least one guitar out on the stand for easy access so it's great when the whole studio is properly keep at the right moisture level. PHOTO: Air O Swiss Travel Humidifier

The BEST Guitar polish...
I don't like to polish my guitars that often and I've been told to let the wood breathe for a full year on a new guitar.  Part of keeping the wood moisturized is to use a good guitar polish.  Everyone has their favorite mixtures and elixirs but Virtuoso Instrument Cleaner and Polish are some of the best I've ever used.  The most impressive results will come if you clean and polish your guitar before they get embedded with grime and dirt.  Still the Virtuoso cleaner does a very good job of even dealing with poor, neglected instruments.  I like Martin's Polishing Cloths and try to wipe my guitars down after every use.  Since they all have a light coat of Virtuoso Polish at this point, that;a quite easy and those forearm smudges are a thing of the past

The Wrap
Keep in mind that when you buy a new quality acoustic guitar from a reputable dealer, it will be kept in a climate controlled area such as what you see here at Russo's Music Center.  Once the guitar leaves that perfect environment, it begins to dry out.  The sound of that perfectly conditioned guitar is most likely what led you to buy it, right?  You can keep that first spark alive by properly humidifying your instrument at home or in the studio.

This Martin Sustainable Series Guitar is kept in the store at 45-55% humidity.

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