The changing seasons can affect more than the scenery and you wardrobe choices. Your guitar experiences changes related to the change in temperatures and humidity as well. Read further for more info on how to keep your instrument ready to play year round.
We made a video to talk about all of the changes you may see and how to care for or prevent them.
Factors affecting playability are some of the most common issues we see at the change of seasons. These are most commonly caused by a lower humidity levels causing shifts and/or shrinkage in the woods.
String height is one of the first things typically noticed as this is easily felt while playing the guitar. High string height makes the instrument more difficult and sometimes uncomfortable to play. Low string height can cause buzzing sounds as the string vibrates on adjacent frets or sometimes can cause dead notes that will not sound or ring our properly.
These changes in string height can have multiple causes and it is important to address the proper adjustments. Many times movement of the neck body joint causes the strings to buzz high up the neck in this region. Simply adjusting the string height may alleviate the buzzing but will cause unnecessary excess string height in other parts of the neck. Alternatively lower string height could be caused by a combination of movement in the top of the guitar and/or neck and may not be alleviated with just a truss rod adjustment or change in saddle height.
As fingerboard wood shrinks it can many times cause the metal fret edges to stick out from the edge of the fingerboard. This shrinkage results in sharp edges that can be very uncomfortable for moving your hand around the neck. When this occurs it is necessary to resurface the edges of the frets and redress the ends for not sharp edges.
Wood shrinkage due to low humidity can cause structural issues for your guitar that can affect more than just playability. Severe cases of dryness can affect the overall integrity of the instrument and necessitate costly repairs
When the wood begins to shrink sometimes the finish of the instrument is the first indicator of an issue. The neck/body joint where the neck heel attaches to the body is one the first areas where movement can occur. A milky whitening of the finish in this area or small finish crack indicates that movement is occurring. If not addressed early this can result in cracks in the wood or failure of the glue joint.
The tops of acoustic guitars are also a common area for low humidity issues. The most common issues are bulges, slight collapse of the top in front of bridge, or cracks. Guitar tops exhibit these issues form low humidity due to the types of wood used for their construction as well as the string tension pulling on the top.
Bulges and collapse of the top will affect the string height and can also indicate further issues with the bridge plate or braces inside the guitar. Loose braces may also cause vibrations when the guitar is played. If movement of the top or cracks appear it is important to have a proper assessment of the cause usually involving an inspection of the inside of the top for bracing issues.
In some cases the bridge will begin to lift or separate from the top or the guitar. This can be a further affect of brace failure but sometimes just involves a glue joint failure due to wood shrinkage.
Proper use of an effective humidifier solution is one of the most important things that can be done to avoid problems with your guitar and provide the best playing experience and long term viability of your instrument.
There are a number of humidifier solutions on the market that can provide proper protection for your guitar. Consistent use of a humidifier involves keeping the guitar in the case with the humidifier when not playing. It is also important to keep the guitar in a comfortable temperature. We commonly see issues with instruments that are stored right over a heat register or in unheated basement areas.
It is very important to inspect your guitar periodically especially for changes in string height. This is very noticeable when playing. If chords seem harder to press or you are noticing a large number of funny sounding notes take note of string height in different areas of the neck. Periodic cleaning of the instrument and string changes are also good times to inspect the guitar for cracks or finish issues that would indicate wood shrinkage.Proper adjustments can be made to address wood movement especially if caught early. If you are not comfortable performing this type of work we recommend finding a good luthier who has experience with how to properly perform the necessary work.
Whether you need a complex structural repair or just want a restring and inspection of your guitar we are here to help.
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