Humidity and Your Guitar
Understanding and being aware of facts about humidity is what meteorologists refer to as “relative humidity.” This applies to the air’s ability to take in water or retain or to dry up objects that contain moisture that air surrounds.
The best or perfect level of humidity for a guitar changes from one musical instrument to another, subject to the humidity situations in the workshop or factory where the guitar was assembled.
The humidity at the time that the instrument was being assembled set up the primary dimensions of your guitar. This configuration of dimension is permanently sealed into the entire structure when it is being assembled. Therefore, when humidity changes, each component will expand or shrink unevenly and yet the dimensions of the guitar’s structure will remain uniformly constant.
The most frustrating problem in the care and maintenance of a guitar of high quality is the wood’s tendency to either expand or shrink with humidity changes. Damage brought about by humidity changes requires costly repairs because high quality guitars are made from solid wood. These guitars are expensive and the sound is superior compared to the lower priced instruments. However, solid woods are very susceptible to changes in humidity because of their propensity to expand or shrink.
High humidity connotes a “waterlogged” sound from your guitar; it will lack projection and volume having a lifeless and damp tone. The guitar can also be damaged structurally by high humidity.
Usually “bloating” at the back is a problem, most specifically when the back of the guitar is made of extremely hard wood – particularly rosewood. This problem is brought about by the expansion of wood causing the glue on the brace’s edge to detach.
When a guitar is kept in the basement, a problem that may occur is wood deterioration triggered by the intense humidity
The problems brought about by extremely low humidity levels are even more severe. Excessive loss of moisture in the wood makes the sound of the guitar brittle and at some point stress on the wood due to uneven shrinkage results in cracks.
Here are ways to fight humidity:
1. Watch your guitar closely. Examine it every so often so you can watch out for signs of humidity damage. Observe its back; when there is a drop in the humidity it will sink a bit and you can notice this clearly. When humidity rises, backs grow an arch. If the back becomes very, very flat, introduce some moisture, such as placing a dish of water in your storage area.
2. Store your guitar in its case away from any heat, especially in winter. Keep the case lying flat on the floor and never let it lean or hang it on the wall.
3. During periods when the humidity is extremely high, keep your guitar in a room where there is an air-conditioning system as it dries out the air.
When outside conditions are not too hot, such as in spring or on a rainy day, keep your instrument in a warm room, but avoid the basement, as it tends to cool a great deal.
4. There are many available devices to handle extreme dryness. When low humidity occurs in your area during chilly or cold weather, the use of a furnace-mounted humidifier can be very effective as well as hassle-free.
There are also console humidifiers that have rotating belts that are very efficient and space saving which are ideal when your space is limited.
“Dampit,” is a very effective product that is placed inside the guitar to absorb any moisture that is inside your guitar.
A guitar that has a good sound now can be a wonderful sounding guitar even ten years later when it cared for properly and carefully.
The sound of a guitar is created by the echoing of wood. When the wood matures the echoing quality will improve, increasing your guitar’s worth. This, plus the model, make, and style of a guitar that will no longer be produced could be of much more value (often many times your purchase price) in 15-50 years.
Just keep in mind that a good quality guitar is also an investment worth your trouble.
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About the Author: Ian Williamson
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