This is not just your typical “guitar maintenance” blog, rather, it’s some of my reall hard-earned knowledge from some real-life experiences for me! After all, out acoustic guitars usually mean a fairly sizable investment, and they can be touchy and rather tempermental at times, especially due to climate variations such as temperature and especially humidity.
The first thing which I have certainly learned the hard way, is to keep my acoustics tuned down at least a half-step, to Eb. Number one, it makes it so much easier to play, and for a string-bender such as I, really helps put the guitar in a slightly more “electric” feeling mode for bending. Secondly, it really relaxes some of that tension that is and can be so damaging to the top of the guitar, and to the bridge. I have had many bridges pull up on me, which actually is supposed to happen if the tension becomes the kind that would lift the top. So the bridge in a way, “sacrifices” itself to save the top! I once had the misfortune of having a very old vintage 1939 acoustic flat-top totally lose its top due to the fact that someone a long time ago actually using epoxy to glue down the bridge! This meant that it was impossible to separate the bridge from the top, and all it did was take that poor top along with it! I can remember my luthier having to do “emergency” surgery on it while it was lifting, and he actually had to create a make-shift “iron” of sorts to go under the bridge to try to heat up and loosen up the epoxy glue! Like an expectant father, I kept calling him every few minutes to see if my prized guitar was going to “make it” out of surgery successfully!! This time it did, but the second time was too much, and there was too great a loss of wood to salvage the top! Oh well, it did last me 25 years, but it was so painful to let go of that baby!
There was another time when a very elderly gentleman in NYC literally gave me, as a surprise, 2 acoustics that were so old that they dated from 1888 and 1908 respectively. I was so excited, took them home on the subway to my downtown NY loft (just 2 blocks north of the World Trade Center!) and literally as soon as I entered my heavily dried out and steam-heated space, I heard the top on the 1908 crack with a resounding shock!! I knew what it was the second I heard it!! So sad, because here was a guitar that lasted since 1908 without a problem, and the second I bring it home, it cracked! It was almost like when a plant goes into “shock” from being in a new environment!
I have learned to kind of let my acoustic guitars ebb and flow with the change of seasons, and I always keep a close watch on them. I try to keep them out of the drying sun, away from any heat sources, and in their cases as often as I can. There will still always be problems that I can’t avoid, but these are the chances we must take if we expect to keep our acoustic guitars and ourselves, happy and strummin’!