It seems as if the fall has come and gone, and now we’re suddenly hit with winter. Don’t let your guitar catch the winter blues! Taking some steps to keep your guitar happy can help you to avoid costly end of the season repairs. There's nothing worse than showing up for your guitar lesson, and opening your case to find a cracked guitar, due to the cold or lack of humidity.
In short, winter weather and guitars don’t mix well at all. Winter weather causes humidity to fluctuate, which can cause all sorts of problems with your guitar. Cracked finishes are common in extremely cold temperatures, but other issues include neck warping and twisting. If your guitar gets too dry, you may run into problems including cracking, the wood itself shrinking and causing issues with your fretboard, and the glue that holds your guitar together can even start to fail.
These aren’t issues that you want to deal with at all. In the least, you’ll face a cracked and unsightly finish. At worst, your guitar will be unplayable, and you’ll be looking at some very expensive repairs to get it working again.
Practicing good winter guitar care habits can help to keep your instrument protected in good shape, and ready to play, even when temperatures dip below zero.
A Hygrometer is a tool that will tell you the humidity levels of a given room or space. A room hygrometer is perfect to inform you about your personal practice space. With guitar lessons at Sage Music, we always advocate keeping the guitar out in your practice space on a guitar stand so that you are more likely to practice!
If you choose to leave your guitar out in a room and the air is dry, your first step to humidification control is investing in a room humidifier for your practice space. These are relatively low-maintenance. All you need to do is refill the water when it gets empty, and do a light residue cleanup.
Whenever you find the guitar in the case for long periods of time, we recommend this awesome humidity control pack system from Daddario. You put the packs in the guitar after you are done playing, and that’s it! These packs are designed to maintain a humidity level of 45-50% and only need to be replaced every few months. It really couldn’t be any easier to keep the humidity in your case at an appropriate level.
We’d also recommend you purchase a case hygrometer which can tell you the temperature and how dry or wet the case tends to be. The ability to monitor how dry or wet the case is is particularly helpful in the spring and summer.
If you ever find yourself away from your home or forget your packs at home, try this DIY humidity idea. All you need to do is soak one to two sponges in water and then squeeze them out entirely. Place the sponges in a Ziplock sandwich bag and seal all the bag the way. With a knife or scissors, slit 2-3 tiny holes in the bag so the moisture can be released gradually. Place the bag in your guitar case when your guitar is not in use. This makeshift humidifier can keep your guitar from becoming overly dry! Just be sure to re-wet the sponge when it gets dry, and that’s all there is to it.
As we mentioned earlier, you don’t just have to worry about humidity in the winter – the extreme cold can cause your guitar trouble, too. To be safe, try to avoid carrying your guitar outside for long periods of time when the temperature drops.
If you’re traveling with your guitar, keep it in areas where it can stay warm. This means carrying it inside a heated vehicle, and avoiding storing it in the exterior storage areas of buses.
If your guitar ever does get significantly cold, bring it indoors and let it warm up again gradually. Don’t place it close to a heat source. Instead, leave it alone and let it return to room temperature slowly in order to reduce the risk of damage.
Your guitar is a costly investment, and protecting it against the winter weather is just part of maintaining your instrument. With careful humidity regulation and a little extra caution when it comes to the winter weather, you should be able to keep your guitar protected and working well in good condition.
Where you live will make a difference in how careful you need to be. Our students who are taking guitar lessons in San Antonio don't have to worry as much about the humidity in the winter. Being on a river in a temperate place has less danger to your guitar than the sometimes brutal New York winters.