So you’ve just bought a new guitar, and you want it to last you a lifetime. A good-quality guitar can easily last you 10, 15 years or longer with good care. In this article you will learn the best way to care for your guitar.
The first thing to remember is that the safest place for your guitar is in a good hard-shell case. In its case, your guitar is safe from bumps and bruises, and won’t get accidentally knocked over. If you aren’t going to be playing your guitar for a long time, you should loosen your strings, to reduce the pressure you put on the neck.
The neck is the most structurally important part of the guitar. It’s already under a lot of pressure from the string tension. Therefore, on a day-to-day basis, make sure that you store your guitar in a way such that no weight is pressing on the headstock or neck. Do not just lean your guitar against the wall. Rather, put it in its case or on a guitar stand. Hanging the guitar from a hook around the headstock is also a good choice, as guitars can make nice wall decorations.
Protect the wood of your guitar by wiping off any loose sweat or dirt with a clean cotton rag after you play. When you change strings (once a month, if you play every day. The difference in sound will shock you) wipe down the fretboard, and a couple of times a year oil your rosewood or ebony fretboards with lemon oil or “guitar honey” – an oil available just for this purpose at most music stores.
Rapid changes in temperature and humidity are your guitar’s enemies, as they can make the wood warp and bend. If you live in a warm-weather city, you won’t have to worry too much about this, but otherwise, keep it in its case while you travel, and then let it warm up slowly once you get where you’re going before taking it out of its case.
During the winter, storing your guitar in a room with a humidifier can help. Some guitarists also keep a small damp sponge in the case with their guitar. This can help reduce “fret sprout” where the edges of the frets begin to poke out of sides of the neck, caused by repeated shrinking and expansion of the fretboard in reaction to humidity changes.
Once a year, take off your strings and give the fretboard a more thorough cleaning. Scrape off any tough dirt with your fingernail. If your fretboard is really messy, you might consider getting some ultrafine synthetic steel wool and lightly rubbing the guitar neck with it.
Keep your eye on the action. Over time, your guitar’s neck may bend, and it may need a slight truss rod adjustment. This is a simple task for any guitar tech, but make sure you know what you’re doing before trying it yourself, as you can permanently damage your guitar if you do it wrong. Take care of this promptly to prevent it from compounding to the point where you need a major next adjustment.
Avoid storing your guitar for very long partially strung. If you’re missing a few strings, the neck will be under an uneven tension, and may slowly begin to twist. There’s an easy way to avoid this, however: replace broken strings promptly.
Eventually you may need to have your frets leveled. Again, this is easy work for a guitar tech, and shouldn’t cost very much.
By taking the time to care for your guitar properly, your guitar will give you decades of happy playing.