Ok, so you’ve bought an acoustic guitar (or two) and learned how to play it, but how do you look after it so that you’ll still be able to play it in the years to come?
1 – Keep it in its case
The most common piece of advice when it comes to looking after your acoustic guitar is to keep it in its case as often as you can. Sure, a guitar looks great on a stand in your living room, but this can lead to it becoming dusty or getting knocked about by children or pets. Keeping it in its case keeps it protected.
2 – Keep it clean
Keeping your acoustic guitar clean should be an essential part of your general guitar maintenance routine. This routine should include cleaning the body, cleaning the fingerboard and even the strings.
Your skin gets oily and sweaty and these natural secretions can take their toll on the guitar body, fingerboard, frets and strings. So whether your guitar is a regular pick-up and play instrument or a handcrafted masterpiece, it will doubtless benefit from this most essential of maintenance.
Use a microfiber cloth to remove finger prints from your guitar body. Standard cloths tend not to remove the grease left from finger prints, however microfiber cloths should do the trick. There are plenty of guitar body polishes available if you want to keep your guitar looking its absolute best.
NB: If you have an older or vintage guitar, you must be very careful. Most modern types of polish will use chemicals and silicon which can sometimes damage the lacquer on historic instruments. So seek professional advice before polishing your 1930s classic!
You may not really notice the fingerboard since it is located under the strings, but try removing the strings to take a look. Fingerboards can get surprisingly dirty!
When you’re replacing the strings, just take a soft cloth with specialised guitar fretboard cleaner and carefully wipe the fingerboard. It is recommended that you use a special cleaning oil as this will not only remove dirt but will also apply a proper amount of oil to the fingerboard. This is definitely something worth making a habit of but don’t over do it!
Unsurprisingly, the condition of your strings will have a huge effect on the quality of your guitar’s sound. Some people change their strings very frequently, and that’s to be advised if you’re a professional player with a heavy gigging schedule. However, for most of us who aren’t gigging every night, cleaning your strings after each session will ensure they last longer and sound better for longer too.
All you have to do is spray a little string cleaner onto a clean, lint-free cloth and wipe the strings. It will remove the oils and sweat from the string surface ensuring they sound good for longer.
If you use coated strings, you will find that they need cleaning less regularly, as they are already coated in a protective layer. However, users of traditional uncoated strings will benefit the most from a regular string wipe.
3 – Restring your guitar
In addition to causing the sound of the guitar to suffer, old strings can lose their pitch. It is therefore necessary to periodically replace the strings on your instrument. The regularity with which they must be replaced depends on how the instrument is played. Those playing every day are advised to replace strings once per month, or even once every few weeks. Those playing less often should replace the strings every three months if possible.
When putting on a new set of strings, make sure to stretch/pull them slightly with your fingers. Tune them back up and do it again. After a couple of times this should stabalize and help the guitar stay in tune better.
4 – Leave a pencil in your guitar case
When tuning your instrument the nut and string may scrape, causing a very unpleasant sound. If this occurs, the nut has been worn down and the string can no longer move smoothly. This will make it difficult to tune and could even cause the string to snap, so it is better to take care of it as soon as you can.
If the nut makes this kind of noise during rehearsal or right before going on stage, you can use a pencil as an emergency measure. Just lightly rub the groove of the nut with a pencil. Although simple, this works quite well. Particles from the graphite enter the groove, reducing the friction between the string and nut and lubricate the groove. However, it will only last for a few days and is only an emergency measure.
5 – Replace your nuts
Nuts are consumable parts, and should be replaced after their grooves have been reshaped several times. The sound of a guitar varies widely depending on the material of the parts that make contact with the strings, so changing the nut with one made from a different material can give the sound a noticeably different impression.
If you have any questions about looking after your acoustic guitar, give me (Bob) a call on 01524 410202 or come in and see me.