How To Care For Your Guitar | Keep It In Optimal Shape For Years To Come


“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

If you are in any shape or form serious about your guitar practice and music, you'll want to take good care of your instrument.

Guitars are quite rugged, yes, but that is no reason to mistreat them, especially once you start getting better quality ones.

It's like when you finally get the car you wanted. Would you bump it and scratch it all around? Yeah, me neither.

In that sense it is that in this lesson I'll teach you the basic things you need to know to make sure you always take care of your guitar, which will allow it to work for years to come and, like wine, get better the older it gets.

We'll be covering how to protect, store, handle, transport, and clean it.

Let's start with the basics that apply to the care of all guitars.

Protection

Guitars are very nice, aren't they? The whole reason why there are so many models out there is virtually only aesthetic.

So yeah, we like our instrument to be beautiful in addition to having nice sound.

Durability is another subject, however. While there are guitars that are more robust than others, you can't go wrong by knowing how to protect it from damage that will affect every and all guitars.

The most important source of damage at this stage is mechanical damage, like bumps, scratches, twists, as well as combinations of those.

When you are not playing the guitar, there are two main ways in which you can help protect the guitar from harm:

  • Gig bag

Whenever you buy a new guitar, you should throw in a gig bag for it as well. They are usually cheap unless you dive into the top-of-the-line bags, but even a simple cheapo goes a long way into protecting your six-string lady (yes, guitars are female, sorry my female readers).

The two main sizes for gig bags are acoustic and electric. Like the names suggest, these are designed for each kind of guitar, and usually it's enough to choose a bag. However, there are exceptions of bigger and smaller acoustic and electric guitars that might not fit all acoustic and electric bags, and this is why it's often a good idea to purchase a gig bag adequate for the guitar you are buying by choosing it on the spot and making sure it fits snuggly (it should not allow much movement of the instrument inside it), especially since you can get good quality bags for as low as $20-30.

These bags tend to be quite soft and flexible, with a varying amount of padding that can protect the guitar from virtually all scratches (unless you are a maniac and attack it with a knife).

As for bumps, depending on the amount of padding it has, they are usually good enough.

Twists are a different problem. The main problem with twists is the damage it can do to the neck. A soft bag has little to no protection unless it's a very thick and padded bag.

As for protection from the elements, mainly humidity, gig bags are no good. Unless you were to find a bag which is air-tight, which I've never seen one since they use zippers, you should avoid leaving it in humid places for too long (as in as little time as possible). Humidity affects the wood by swelling and contracting it, which can lead to cracks both in the wood itself as in the paint and finish. It also affects the strings, which will rust much faster (even wound nylon strings will have the wounding wire rusted), in addition to affecting the rest of the metallic hardware on the guitar (bridge, pots, etc).

Normally, you'll want to be wary of just how much humidity the guitar is subjected to. You don't want to keep it too humid, which will make the wood swell and possibly warp, but you don't want it to become too dry either, which will contract it and make it less flexible, and therefore more brittle. Not good in any case, but let's continue with the bags, and we'll dive more into humidity later in this lesson.

Gig bags come in many shapes and colors, although the most common color is black. They will have at least one handle for carrying it by hand, and at least one strap to carry it on the shoulders (sometimes the straps are removable).

These are a couple of photos from the bags I own:

Bags number 1, 2, and 4 are for electric guitars. Number 1 is especifically designed for a Jackson RR model, which I own, which has a very distinctive shape. Numbers 2 and 4 are for standard super strat model electric guitars.

Bags number 3 and 5 are for acoustic or electroacoustic guitars. I store my electroacoustic on bag 3 and my acoustic on bag 5.

  • Case

A case can be thought of as a hard bag for most intents and purposes.

They hold your guitar inside a protective hard material that will protect it from all mechanical damage.

The only consideration is the effect of humidity. Although cases are usually not air-tight, they tend to be much tighter than bags, which will help prevent excessive humidity to get inside it.

Tip: get yourself a bag of silica gel and store it inside the case for maximum protection from humidity.