Your acoustic guitar looks and sounds great. But with time and use, wear and tear begins to show. Not only will the looks start to suffer, but the sound and playability will also start to deteriorate.
Thankfully, there are some easy things you can do to take care of your guitar. In this article we give a number of acoustic guitar maintenance tips for various situations. So read on, and take good care of your guitar.
What You Should Always Keep in Your Guitar Case
Maintenance of your guitar is a marathon, not a sprint. You need the tools with you at all times to take care of your acoustic guitar. Whether you are restringing, cleaning, or just holding, there are several things that you should always have in your acoustic guitar case for maintenance purposes.
- A lint free cloth: Keep things clean. Wipe down the neck, fretboard, and strings before and after each time you play your acoustic guitar.
- Tuning fork: Keep strings tuned and lively with a metal tuning fork.
- Multitool: Used to wind tuning pegs and cut strings when you are restraining.
- String lubrication: Helps you to play faster and with less drag while also protecting strings from the oils on your hands.
- Lemon Oil: Used to clean the oil off the unpolished wood, such as on the fretboard.
If you find yourself in a situation with your acoustic guitar and none of these items, using a clean cloth to wipe down the strings is the best thing you can do.
Leaving grease, oil, dirt, or sweat on your guitar can cause stains, discoloration, and even corrosion. Ask your friends or bandmates to borrow a cloth or even use your very own t-shirt to protect and maintain the integrity of your acoustic guitar.
Maintaining the Strings
The health of your acoustic guitar strings is essential to the tone of your playing. You need to know when it is time to change out your strings and how to change them effectively. When you need to change out a set of acoustic guitar strings, there are three things that you need to do. First, you have to remove the worn-out and old set of strings, then you need to install the new set of strings, and finally, you need to tune up your guitar and get playing again.
Take the Old Strings Off
Before you can remove the strings, you need to purchase a multi-tool that winds and cuts the strings more easily. Unwinding the cutting the string without this tool is still possible but more complicated.
- Loosen your high-E string until it is loose
- Use the tool and cut the string
- Pull the string out from the head end
- Unwind the remaining string from the position on the post
- Remove and throw the string away. Always be careful with the cut string as the end can be sharp and pointed.
Install the New Strings
If you have gotten this far, you should already know the gauge of the new strings you need. Double-check you are installing the correct string. The names of the strings are on the individual paper envelopes for most brands.
- Follow the string through the hole in the bridge at its position and pull it all the way through until the head locks in place.
- The ball on end is locked and should be flush against the body of the guitar.
- Put the end of the string into the opening in the tuning post at the end of the neck of your acoustic guitar.
- Leave enough slack in the string so that you can wrap it around the tuning peg a few times until it is secure.
- Place a fold in the string near the tuning peg and then wrap the string by turning the peg with either your fingers or the winding tool until it tightens around the post.
- Always wind the tuning peg clockwise. It would be best if you winded the string downwards in the same way that the headstock front will stay in place.
- Make sure that the string is tight. Cut the excess string from the end of the tuning peg.
Tuning the New Strings
When you tune strings, the first thing you must do is stretch them a little. Be careful that you don't stretch too much and break the strings! It would be best to stretch the new strings before they hold a tune for an extended period. You will need to bend the strings back and forth to accomplish this.
- Stretch the strings one by one.
- Stretch the strings carefully, so you don't break them.
- Stretch the strings in many different positions on the neck and fretboard, so the whole string gets stretched out.
- Stretch each string multiple times until the guitar will hold a tuning for an extended period.
When to Change Your Strings
One of the best ways to take care of your acoustic guitar and keep it sounding at its best is to identify when the strings are old and need to be changed out. You may need to change your old acoustic guitar strings if you face any of the following issues.
Strings Sound Dull or Dead
The dull sound of strings is clunky and even can sound like the notes are out of tune and flat not matter if you tune your acoustic guitar or not. Dead strings mean that the strings are worn and should not be used anymore since they are beyond decent playability. If you hear or feel the dull tone coming from your strings, change them immediately.
Strings Have too Much Friction
If you play on a set of strings too much, the dirt, oil, and sweat from your hands tend to end on the strings. This dirt and grime deposits from your hands onto the strings each time you play, and it is your job to minimize the effect. Dirty strings that are past their prime will catch your fingers and give you problems with your playing. If you feel less than ideal friction while playing, it is time to get a new set of strings on your acoustic guitar.
Strings Look Dirty or Spotted
Splotches of discoloration on your strings are a sure sign that the strings are over the hill. Deposits and corrosion from your hands and the environment tend to discolor the strings and make them appear spotted or splotchy. If you notice this obvious sign of old string, replace them immediately.
Brittle Strings Won’t Stretch
If you bend your strings for intonation technique and find that the strings have become more brittle, it may be time to consider replacing them. Strings tend to corrode and won't be as flexible as they once were, making it harder to stretch and play them.Your strings may be brittle because the whole guitar is being stored improperly.
Make sure to keep your guitar stored where there aren’t extreme temperature differences or differences in moisture or humidity. Moisture and changing temperatures can damage strings beyond the point of repair and cause them to last a shorter time.
Keeps Falling Out of Tune
Find yourself continually having to tune the strings on your acoustic guitar. It would be best if you considered changing out the strings for a new set before you drive yourself insane. Strings that are stretch, corroded, or dull will tend to fall out of tune quickly. Do yourself a favor and change out old strings when you notice this annoying habit.
(Source: Guitars on Main)
Keep the Strings Clean
It may go without saying, but your hands can get pretty dirty. The dirtier your hands are before playing, the more the oil, sweat, skin, and grime from your day get deposited onto the strings. Dirty strings sound dull and are more challenging to play. Do yourself a favor and keep the strings clean on your acoustic guitar.
Cleaning your hands before using a musical instrument is one of the most essential and straightforward steps you can take to protect against corrosion and unwanted grease and grime. You will keep your strings sounding brighter and playing better longer if you remember to use soap and water to wash your hands before playing your acoustic guitar.
If you have just eaten food, you must clean your hands before handling any musical instruments, especially acoustic guitars. However, just because you didn't eat before playing doesn't mean that the strings won't be dirty. Make a habit out of wiping the strings down after each time you play.
Finally, it would be best if you used treatments for either your hands or your strings. Treatments that add lubrication and resist the oils and sweat of your hands from coming off on the guitar are great for added agility, playing speed, and grip power. Some of the best hand and string treatments are listed below.
|String Lubricant||Best Attributes||Price Range|
|Tone Fingerease Guitar String Lubricant||● Will make your hands hurt less.|
● Comes in an easy to use spray bottle
● Creates less playing friction
● Protects the strings from the oil on your hands and fingers
● Reduces drag on strings and back of neck
|GHS Strings FAST FRET||● Comes with an applicator for cleaning and appying lubrication|
● Non-messy application
● Non-silicone solution
● No sticky feeling
● The felt applicator and the solution act as a string cleaner and lubricator all in one
|MusicNomad TUNE-IT Lubricant||● Comes in a handy and portable squeeze bottle|
● Helps you to stay in tune longer
● Reduces string breakage
● You can use the lubricant on nuts and crevices that are hard to reach and clean
● Odorless solution
● Made in the USA
Cleaning the Acoustic Guitar
Keeping your entire acoustic guitar is a fundamental part of how to take care of your instrument. You don't need to keep the finish on your acoustic guitar glowing with polish. Still, it is a good idea to wipe down and clean certain parts of the acoustic guitar before and after each session of use.
Your acoustic guitar will play better and feel better in your hands with a good cleaning before and after your playing sessions. Suppose you fail to clean your acoustic guitar. In that case, there could be stains on the finish, corrosion of the frets and other metal components, and even leaving gross deposits on your fretboard.
Use a clean rag or handkerchief that you store in your guitar case to wipe down the build-up of oil, dead skin, and sweat in these areas of your acoustic guitar.
The neck is the long part of the guitar. Your whole hand is gripped around the neck and can cause a slippery build-up of oil and sweat. Make sure to clean the top and bottom of the neck, as well as the back. You may also want to use a cleaning product that removes oil but is gentle on the neck's wood finish.
The Strings can get somewhat oily from your fingers, and you should wipe them down before and after use. Cleaning the strings before and after playing your acoustic guitar is especially important if you use a lubricant spray to help you play. Make sure to clean each string by wrapping the clean cloth or handkerchief around the entire string, applying pressure, and pulling down the string's length—clean any excess grime or oil from the end where you pulled the handkerchief or cloth down to.
The frets are the thin metal pieces spaced out up the neck of the guitar. Using your clean and dry cloth or handkerchief, wipe up and down each fret. Make sure to wipe away any dead skin from the corners or middle of the fretboard where it can build up during play.
The bridge is the raised section near where the string attaches to the head of the guitar. The bridge is a delicate place for the acoustic guitar that you need to clean. Make sure that you clean this area last with a clean cloth or handkerchief. Excess dead skin or oil that you clean from the other parts of the guitar tends to get caught up on the bridge if you are not careful. Carefully trace each part of the bridge with your fingertips and the cloth. Gently wipe or blow away excess and loose skin.
Polishing Your Acoustic Guitar
One of the most important and easy ways to take care of your acoustic guitar is to polish it. Polish is relatively easy to apply and not only protects the wood and finish of an acoustic guitar but keeps it looking shiny and impressive. There are plenty of brands of acoustic guitar polish on the market that are available. Most of them work fine at both protecting and shining your acoustic guitar. Here are some of the best acoustic guitar polishes based on our research.
One last note about polishing the acoustic guitar is that there are plenty of specialty products out there. Make sure that you find one that fits your needs and feels right to you. Also, make sure that you read the instructions. You can use some polishes on the acoustic guitar body's lacquered finish, and some cannot.
|Guitar Wood Polish||Best Attributes||Price Range|
|Jim Dunlop 6554 Dunlop Ultimate Lemon Oil, 4 oz. (Limited Edition)||● Makes polishing the fretboard easier|
● Prolongs the life of vital components
● Works well with polished wood areas without finish
● Removes grime and oil from unpolished wood areas
● Protects against future oils and dirt from playing the environment
|D'Addario Lemon Oil||● Lemon oil is great for protecting unfinished wood of the fretboard|
● Removes oil and grime naturally without damaging the wood
● Leaves a protective film without feeling greasy while playing
|Music Nomad MN103 Guitar ONE All-in-1 Cleaner, Polish||● Polishes, cleans, and protects all in one|
● Can be used on virtually all parts of your acoustic guitar
● Solution has a wax formula for polishing
● Can be used on lacquered finish of guitar
● Never use on matte finish
Storing Your Acoustic Guitar
When you are not playing your acoustic guitar, you may need to store it for long periods. There are three main times that you store your acoustic guitar: in between playing while on a stand, while traveling with the instrument in the guitar case, and for long periods in storage.
It goes without saying that you always want to protect your acoustic guitar from the elements and any damage. Using the techniques and products listed in this section will help you maintain your acoustic guitar. Your quality care and cleaning of the acoustic guitar helps with the longevity of your instrument.
While you are playing your acoustic guitar, it is essential to have somewhere to set the guitar down while you grab a beer or answer a phone call. Some guitarists tend to place the acoustic guitar with its strings against a surface and prop it up.
Never leave your acoustic guitar leaning against something. A leaning acoustic guitar is a recipe for disaster. You are leaving your acoustic guitar vulnerable to tipping over, denting, scratching, or breaking. Instead, investing in a small and lightweight guitar stand is a worthwhile investment.
Guitar stands are very functional and also act as a display for your acoustic guitar. You can also use it to switch between different guitars while you are playing with others, practicing at home, or a gig. If you are interested in a guitar stand that will help you take care of your acoustic guitar, some of the most sturdy and functional stands include:
|Guitar Stand||Best Attributes||Price Range|
|Guitar Folding A-Frame Stand||● A reliable bestseller|
● Sturdy and weighted at the bottom for balance
● Easy to use design for virtually all acoustic guitar types and sizes
● Fold and go design makes gigging or saving room easy
● Low profile design is good for cramped spaces
● Comes with three size settings
|Rok-It Standard Stand||● Economy stand with great dependability|
● Lightweight for easy transport
● Even weight displacement for balance
● Minimal profile for cramped spaces
● Fits most acoustic guitar sizes and styles$10-$15Gator Frameworks Adjustable Double Guitar Stand● Multiple stands in one
● Great for gigs and trading between electric and acoustic guitar
● Works with one or two guitars mounted
● Composed of high-grade materials
● Streamlined design
Having a guitar case is essential for an acoustic guitar player thinking about traveling around with their instrument. Sure, you could strap the guitar to your back and get on the road. However, then you are leaving your acoustic guitar open to the elements (sun, moisture, dirt, etc.) as well as scratches and other damage.
It is always a good idea to store and travel with your acoustic guitar in either a soft or hard case. Below are some of the pros and cons of both a soft acoustic guitar carrying case and a hard-shell acoustic guitar carrying case.
Hard Acoustic Guitar Case
The hard acoustic guitar case is a staple of many guitar players around the world. Most are designed to be carried by hand, and they tend to be more expensive than soft cases.
- Very durable.
- Much more resistant to dropping and breaking your acoustic guitar.
- Sturdy latches.
- Fantastic for traveling in vehicles on the road.
- Looks great.
- Bulkier design is harder to transport.
- More difficult to fit into tight areas like buses and stages.
- More massive and more challenging to carry.
Soft Acoustic Guitar Case
The soft acoustic guitar case is also known as the “gig-bag.” It is excellent for local gigs are getting your acoustic guitar from the apartment to your band's practice. However, there is the inherent downside to use padding and cloth material to protect your acoustic guitar.
- Lighter and more comfortable to handle and carry.
- Most come as both handheld design and backpack design for easy carrying.
- Much easy to maneuver and transport.
- Fits into almost any space.
- Tends to have more storage space and pockets attached.
- Not water-resistant; can harbor mold if it gets wet.
- Limited protection from dropping and other forms of damage.
- Looks less cool.
- Tends to wear out need replacement faster than hard cases.
- Not great for traveling in vehicles.
Whether you are a traveling musician or a local gigging amateur, you might want to consider having both a hard shell and soft gig bag acoustic guitar case for all of the adventure you and your guitar will go through.
Storing for Long Periods
Your acoustic guitar can be stored for long periods quite easily. You can use either a hard or soft case to store your acoustic guitar. However, there are several considerations that you should be mindful of before deciding where and how to store your acoustic guitar.
- Store near the center of the building: The center of the building will be warmer. Keep your stored acoustic guitar away from outer walls where the temperature can fluctuate. Your guitar's wood will be put under stress with fluctuating temperatures, and the center of a building holds the most constant temperature.
- Watch the humidity: Changing humidity can also harm your acoustic guitar while in storage. The thin tone-wood walls of your acoustic guitar are susceptible to swelling or shrinking with too much or too little humidity in the air. Keep the relative humidity at about 45-55% while the acoustic guitar is in storage.
- Store upright in the case: Never store acoustic guitars stacked one on top of the other. Instead, try to store your guitar standing up on its side or its head. Do not stack guitars as this could place pressure on the guitars and cause them to become damaged.
- Keep looser string tension: You don't want to thoroughly remove the strings' tension on your acoustic guitar in storage. However, it would be best to release about a half to a full turn from each string. Having little to no tension on the strings can cause the guitar neck to bow with permanent damage.
Acoustic Guitar Maintenance, In Conclusion
After investing the time to learn your acoustic guitar and the money it costs to buy and take care of it, maintenance should be a top priority. If you can follow these easy to remember tips and tricks, your acoustic guitar will last longer and sound better. Hopeful some of the products we gave examples of are helpful. However, none of the products listed are essential for maintaining a quality acoustic guitar. When it comes to taking care of your acoustic guitar or any musical instrument, use common sense, and be consistent.
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