Lightning Joe's Guitar Heaven Care & Feeding You're in Lightning Joe's Locker
Proper maintenance of your instrument (s) is essential, beginning with placement. If you intend on playing your guitar daily the best place is not necessarily in the case but rather in a floor stand or on a wall stand, however these stands should never be placed near a heater vent or an air conditioning vent or a window, nor an area where it is exposed to direct sunlight and preferably not against an outside or exterior wall. Having said that, the most beneficial location would be toward the center of the home, if possible a room surrounded by rooms on all sides - or near an interior wall. If you should choose your case over a stand the same rules need to be observed, and for long term storage remove the strings entirely. This will eliminate not only damage as a result from the inevitable changing of string tension but also from chemical reactions inside the closed environment of the case. Remember to open the case periodically to introduce fresh air and allow the chemical soup to dissipate.
Often times people do more damage cleaning their guitars than playing them. Here's a scenario; Let's say you have a gentle touch when you play yet the need to clean your guitar is nearly compulsive. Chances are you're doing more harm than good. It's kinda' like this... You wear a shirt once, normal wear, nothing radical than you wash it. Which do you think results in more wear & tear on the shirt?
The real problem with cleaning guitars is scratching the finish with the polishing cloth. Tiny abrasive particles get caught up in the fibers of the cloth and if you press too hard or use a dry cloth and don't use a liquid you'll scratch that finish. You know how that temptation to rub some irritating thing off with your finger is great, right ? Ignore it. That smearing effect will most certainly scratch your beloved instrument.
Here at the shop we use clean, dry, cotton jersey cloths not the little felt cloths that you always see. While felt is very good at buffing it leaves behind a lot of lint. Two cloths are better than one. One to clean and one to polish or buff. If the instrument isn't dirty or dusty you can simply use a little of your own breath and a clean dry cloth to gently remove fingerprints, streaks or other marks. If the instrument is dirty or especially if it's dusty you've got to apply liquid before using the cloth. Always work your cloth in a circular motion wherever possible, applying gentle pressure and try your best to avoid straight back and forth sawing motions, even when it's around hardware like bridges, tailpieces, pick guards and the like.
Our strings wear out for several reasons; the environment in which they are subjected to, how hard we pic and push and bend and pull, in general the way we play, and most important of all - our bodies very own PH. Some of us are acidic (- 6.8 ) , while others may lean more towards alkaline (8.0 +), the lucky ones are somewhere between or what is referred to as neutral or (7.2 +/-). Your own PH, present in the oils in your skin, will have some sort of reaction with the alloys in the strings own chemical composition. If you're one of those who tend to go through a set of strings fast, there is hope, you can double or even triple the life of your strings if you simply wipe them down with a clean, dry cloth after playing. This approach will at least limit or if you're quick enough and thorough enough, eliminate the inner-action between your bodies chemistry and the strings chemical make up altogether. You could be a good candidate for coated strings.
Temperature & Humidity play a crucial roll in the care and feeding of your instrument. Whether it's an electric or an acoustic, regardless of the type of finish it may have or lack thereof, if it has wood in it's construction than it is going to contract and expand with changes in temperature and humidity. The big culprits are #1 extreme heat #2 dryness #3 excessive cold #4 Humidity
Humidity alone isn't generally a problem, however too much of it can cause your instrument to sound tubby. It becomes difficult for your top to resonate if it's pores are filled with moisture. Humidity combined with excessive heat are often fatal. Most guitars are held together with water soluble glues and adhesives. Most of these glues get pretty soft around 110 degrees Fahrenheit and with the presence of excessive moisture(70% and up) things can start coming apart or shifting under the strings tension. If you have no choice but to expose your instrument to this type of condition then loosening or removing your strings will help prevent the parts from shifting under the strings tension.
In the absence of high humidity (50% or less)with a temperature somewhere around 120 degrees Fahrenheit and up the structural integrity of your instrument is at risk. This kind of heat alone can melt the glue using any naturally available moisture present in the guitar itself.
As heat causes expansion, cold causes contraction and in extreme cold (45 degrees Fahrenheit or less) the wood may begin to shrink, the adhesives can loose their elasticity and become brittle, and the instrument is once again at risk.
You can purchase Thermometers and Hygrometers and Humidifiers and monitor your guitars environment. One way I like to think of it is " If I'm comfortable my guitar is comfortable." A safe guide-line for an instruments ideal environmental conditions is this ... 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 50% relative humidity.