How to keep your guitar in shape!
Keep your awesome guitar AWESOME
Are you a guitar player? A lot of readers will answer yes. The guitar has become one of the most popular instruments in mainstream and underground music. Guitar music has created genres that never used to exist. The likelihood that you'll come across a rock band without at least one guitarist is near nil.
Being a player, you know the importance of quality in your instrument and the value of maintenance. This blog has a few tips that'll keep your guitar sounding sweet!
1. Wipe down the strings after you play
Dead skin cells and oils immediately get transferred to the strings and neck, as soon as you touch the guitar! Two super-basic things you can do is to wash your hands (if you're that obsessive) before playing, and to wipe down the strings and neck after. This will preserve the finish on the back of the neck and keep your guitar in tune longer. So it's good to keep a cloth in your case.
2. Avoid extremes
Not to say that you shouldn't be attempting mind-bending, face-melting, super-extreme solos from hell, you just need to keep your instrument in a relatively stable environment. Heat and humidity are two big issues. A good temperature is anywhere in the mid 60's to mid 70's. Extreme temperature differences can cause contraction and expansion in the wood of your guitar, which can lead to cracks in wood (eek). So keeping it in a nice climate-controlled house is optimal.
Humidity can cause swelling and warping, the most annoying thing ever! If the neck of your guitar is warped, notes won't ring true and it may become impossible to tune the guitar. Remember that the neck is always under pressure, being pulled down by the strings, and a very moist or dry environment can damage it. An ideal climate would be around 50% humidity. Also, remember that there is only so much a guitar luthier can do to rescue a long neglected guitar. So make these tips religious practices before you have to sink large amounts of money into your guitar!
Another good tip is to keep your guitar in its case when you're not displaying it or are traveling with it. And not a $10 bag you got at target, you should have a hard shell case. SKB makes excellent guitar cases. If memory serves me right, you should be able to run your guitar over with a truck while its in one (try it with your friend's guitar first!). And, even if you have a form fitting case that seals, you still shouldn't let it sit in a hot/cold trunk for hours. A good case can save you a lot of money and headaches.
3. Keep everything tight
If you want your guitar to keep a true tune for as long as possible and don't have locking tuners, it's a good practice to keep the tuning keys of your guitar tight. Most tuning keys are a closed style with a small screw on the end. Every time you tune your guitar, these get looser and looser. To tighten them down again when you sense they're too loose, simply spin that screw tighter.
Sometimes volume knobs can become loose too - this happened to me just last weekend. I would spin the knob all the way to where it should stop, but it had a little bit of a "detached" feeling and kept going. The remedy was just a little bit of loctite super glue on the back panel on the knob.
The guitar output can become loose from time to time. To avoid losing washers or nuts from it, make sure it's tightly screwed to the body. You shouldn't be able to wiggle the output jack.
4. Intonate, and restring when necessary
Intonation is basically keeping the guitar in tune with itself. There are some awesome YouTube videos that show how to quickly and easily intonate your guitar. The end goal is to have the harmonic on the 12th fret play to be the exact frequency as the note played on a a fretted 12th fret note. Using an electronic tuner, check that each open string and the same note played 1 octave higher (12th fret) should read in tune. The way to intonate is by moving the small pieces on your bridge with a screwdriver. If the octave note is flat, move the bridge piece in shortening the length of the string from the bridge to the nut. If it's sharp, do the opposite. This video does a really good job at explaining it all.
When your guitar starts to sound dull and falls out of tune frequently, it might need to be restrung. A definite way to tell if you need new strings is if you see wear marks in the strings where they hit the frets. Also, if just one string breaks for whatever reason, you may want to opt to replace all the strings so one individual string isn't brighter than the rest. If you have a Floyd Rose system, I'd recommend getting help for your first time restringing it. It's a rather meticulous procedure. If you're not careful, you can make some expensive mistakes, or if you're really lazy, you can take your guitar to Guitar Center to get it restrung.
5. Clean your guitar
Usually, when I have all my strings off my guitar, I give it a good cleaning! I currently own two electric guitars: a Schecter c-1 Hellraiser and a Schecter Omen 6. The Hellraiser has a metallic finish, and the Omen a matte finish. Naturally, the metallic finish is a bit harder to maintain. Fingerprints and smudges show up very easily. So, in addition to periodically wiping my guitar down, I wash (just with a damp cloth) and wax it. There are a lot of different guitar waxes out there and some guys just use car wax. Just make sure that it isn't something that'll damage the finish on your axe. For the Omen, all I do is wipe it down with a wet cloth. For really good, fast neck feels, I would recommend oiling the fret board and, possibly, even the back of the neck for super smooth slides.
In-between restringing, guitars will get dusty no matter how much you play them. In addition to wiping it down with a shammy, you can use a Q-tip to get the surfaces under taught strings by the bridge and on the headstock. They're super handy for cleaning the perimeter of the pickups too.
6. Don't bash your guitar into stuff
I know we all want to be rock stars, but, for the sake of your guitar's health, avoid impacts of any kind. This is common sense, but you wouldn't believe how many times I've seen people ding up there guitar by doing something that was totally avoidable (epic wind mill/power jump anyone?). So, don't throw your guitar across a room or light it on fire. If that happens somehow, don't come crying to me!
So pretty simple stuff, but it's all good to know! Happy guitaring! :D