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October 6th, 2012 - Caring For Your Acoustic Guitar
A great guitar must be light and resonant and therefore, by definition a delicate instrument requiring a certain amount of care.
It is a good idea to keep a soft cloth in your case and wipe down your guitar after playing every session. Clean your guitar more thoroughly when you change strings since you'll have easier access to the neck and other areas normally blocked by the strings. Use a dedicated guitar polish. Do not use a wax based polish. Wax build up can dull the response of your top and cause your guitar's neck to become sticky. Once a year, you should rub a small amount of lemon or walnut oil into the fingerboard.
Breaking strings, dull sound and difficulty tuning are all indications that it's time for a new set of strings. People who play daily will change their strings every three to four weeks. Some professionals change their's daily and some people will keep the same strings for months. String wear is a gradual process so you may not notice your guitar's sound has lost a bit of it's "ring" until you install a new set and your guitar becomes significantly revitalized. How often you change will depend on how much you play and how much your hands sweat. You can prolong your string life by washing your hands before you play and wiping your strings off when you're done. Many string manufacturers offer a "coated" variety such as Elixir, D'addario (EXP) and Martin (SP Lifespan). The coating on these strings helps to repel the sweat, oils, dirt, etc that will cause normal bronze strings to lose their luster. The higher cost of a coated string is offset by the length of time they will last you but some people prefer the sound of a normal bronze string. It is a good idea to experiment with different brands of strings as every guitar is different and every player will have their own preference for tone.
Humidity *very important as we get into the cold, winter months*
Lightly braced solid tops with lacquer finishes produce excellent sound and will actually improve as they "age". They are also more susceptible to the effects of relative humidity. Relative humidity refers to the moisture content in the air and is measured as a percentage of moisture that a given volume of air can hold. The ideal relative humidity for your guitar is 45%. The potential problem here is that different kinds of wood absorb or release moisture at different rates.
For example, in very dry conditions the top of your guitar will lose moisture and contract causing the top top sink. This leads to a couple of problems. The first problem being the that the bridge will sink along with the top which can lower the string height to the point that the strings buzz against the frets. The other effect is that the guitar will not sound nearly as full. In the case of extreme dryness, the top will shrink to the point of cracking. The good news is that a guitar whose top has sunk will often return to form by simply spending some time in a more humid environment. On the other hand, exposing the top to high levels of humidity will cause it to expand and bow outwards which will raise the string action making it difficult to play. Humidity also can have an impact on the neck of your guitar. If the neck dries out it will tend to bow inwards - raising the string action. If the neck absorbs too much moisture it will bow outwards. A guitar fingerboard will also shrink when it becomes dry. The nickel-silver frets do not shrink or expand as a result in the changes in humidity. Therefore the shrinking fingerboard will cause the fret ends to stick out of the side of the neck and the guitar can become uncomfortable to play.
All of these problems are easily avoided with the purchase of a soundhole humidifier. 53rd Street Music stocks all of the most popular models from Planet Waves, Kyser and Oasis. We can't over emphasize this point - this simple, inexpensive device will go a long way towards preserving your guitar for years to come. The ideal protection for your guitar is with a humidifier inside a hardshell case.
A Few Things to Avoid
Do not leave your guitar in direct sunlight. Do not leave your guitar over or next to a heater. Do not leave your guitar outside Do not let bug spray come into contact with the finish of your guitar via your skin (many finishes react badly to it). Do not leave your guitar in your trunk - expecially during times of extreme heat or cold. A good rule of thumb is do not leave your guitar somewhere you personally wouldn't want to be left. Finally, do not ever stop making music. It is good for you.
*A large portion of this information was borrowed from Godin Guitars handbook they include with every acoustic they ship. They are a wonderful Canadian guitar manufacturer that we are proud and happy to sell product for.