Even though I at times become a bit lax in taking care of my own instruments as the seasons vary and change, I feel it’s important to make sure that you get a good head start when it comes to taking good care of your guitars!
Repairs can be very expensive these days, and truly fine luthiers who we can actually trust with our precious instruments are few and far between for sure. So it’s best to try to keep these things from happening as much as possible. First, I must say, that most guitars should always be kept in their cases when not being played. I know that can be a drag, when we love to look at these things as much as we love to play them, and I myself, like to sometimes have as many as 11 or 12 of them out for the looking and the grabbing! I always try to wipe my strings down after playing them a lot, to keep the grime from building up on them, but I also use alcohol on a paper towel to really clean them off. You’d be amazed at how long your strings can last by sticking to this cleaning method.
Another thing I’ve taken to in a very big way lately is trying to preserve and keep my necks from warping, ad my tops from lifting by keeping the guitars always tuned down. Most of my instruments are kept in Eb, and often even down to D. If I need them to be up to normal pitch, I will tune up for that, but when I’m done, I always slacken the strings. This is also a very good habit for you to get into, even on solid body guitars, since it’s great to take a bit of tension off the neck.
Humidity control is a big issue, and with me living in a high-humidity area, and it being the cold Northeast, we also have to deal with indoor heating that can truly dry out and crack the guitars. Unfortunately, a guitar seems to sound best “just before it cracks”, since dry wood breathes and has a much more “open” sound than wood that is saturated with moisture. Still, it’s a good idea to keep a humidifier of some kind in the case, especially provided the case is tight enough to hold the moisture in.
If you wish to humidify a room where you have the guitars stored or on stands, make sure the room is a space small enough in which a humidifier can make a difference. Huge, open and high-ceiling rooms end up dissipating the moisture too much for it to make any real difference for the guitars, so you may as well give up on any big room…too dry, especially if it’s heated.
Some of these instances of cracking, etc., can be rather cataclysmic, so you must be very careful to always note just what environment you are introducing a guitar into. The most heartbreaking one for me was when a man who was actually the original owner of an acoustic guitar from 1908 gave me this guitar, along with another which was from 1888! The moment I introduced this flawless ’08 beauty into my dry, overly-heated living room, I heard a loud “crack” from across the room! Sure enough, the top, which had survived since 1908 without a problem, got a huge crack in it while the guitar had only been in my possession for about an hour!
So, that experience taught me a lot, and I hope this kind of trauma never befalls you! Remember, these instruments are only in our care for a short time, and we give them life by playing them and caring for them. Keep this in mind as you preserve them for future generations!