How Do You Humidify Your Guitar? A Step by Step Guide
The guitar is an instrument that produces beautiful music and can be affordably bought by anyone who wants to learn how to play it. But every instrument must be maintained in the top working condition to produce its best sounds. Guitars are relatively easy to maintain, as there are few moving components, screws, bolts or other attachments in comparison to a flute or a piano. However, there is one thing that many guitar aficionados overlook: making certain that the wood in the guitar stays at the proper humidity level for its benefits. Few musicians may think about needing to humidify guitar as instruments, since humidifying the room naturally is not always enough.
How does a Guitar Body Move with Humidity Changes?
In order to truly understand why and how to humidify guitar as a form of instrument maintenance, it is useful to understand some terms used to describe a guitar. Even though the surfaces of the sides, top, bottom and neck are usually covered with a lacquer, sealant or even plastic, an acoustic or electric guitar has exposed wood on the inside of the guitar body. The top, sides, and bottom of the guitar are important components of a guitar, and in an acoustic model, there are different shapes and sizes of braces attached to them. These guitar braces not only provide strength and rigidity, but also hold the guitar’s shape.
The top of the guitar body serves as a fastening point for essential guitar components, such as the bridge at the lower part of the acoustic or electric guitar body, often found just beneath the soundhole. This allows the vibration of the wooden pieces to reflect the sound. This piece works with the nut, found at the top of the fretboard and neck of the guitar, holds the strings above the guitar body and fretboard. The neck of the guitar, which is fastened to the guitar body, holds the fretboard.
The fretboard on many guitars has some form of roundness on its surface, known as the radius. While there are some guitars, such as classical music guitars or specially-made guitars with a resonator, do not have a radius (or rounded) fretboard, the vast majority of acoustic and electric guitars do have a slight radius to their fretboard.
Once the strings are strung from the bridge across the body and fretboard of the guitar and held up by the nut on the neck of the guitar, there is sufficient space enough for the strings to move or vibrate when plucked or strummed. The string’s length can be changed by pressing it down against one of the frets, which will shorten the amount of the string that will vibrate and create a higher-pitched sound. The effort it takes to press the string downwards and the now-shortened strings ability to vibrate is known as the action.
When you examine how a guitar body moves with humidity changes, you begin to see that these components are parts of the crucial system for the guitar’s sound. Many do not know how a guitar body moves with humidity changes.
In a normal environment, the bridge is in the correct position, there is proper action, and a normal radius. When a player strums or strikes a string, the expected sound will come out of the sound hole.
In a wet or humid environment, the pores of the wood will absorb the humidity like a sponge, which typically causes swelling within the wooden parts of the guitar, regardless of what type of protection is laid over the wood. The swelling causes the bridge to rise, and the fretboard radius changes as it swells like a wet sponge in the excessively wet environment.
This, in turn, makes the action move upwards, and it becomes much harder to play the guitar as the effort to press a string downwards increases. This difficulty increases the chance that the guitar player will not receive the sound they are playing.
In a dry environment, the reverse happens. Without a guitar humidifier, the wood shrinks, which causes the bridge to sink down. The radius of the fretboard sinks can change the position of the fret.
The strings are now lower and the action can even be non-existent, which means that a plucked or strummed string will now vibrate against the frets between the fret the player is pressing down on and the bridge. The strings will produce an unpleasant buzzing sound, and it will occasionally be impossible to play the guitar at all.
Signs of Dry Guitar
It is easy to see why it is important for players to humidify guitar instruments. Signs of a dry guitar are easy to notice, once you know what to look for. The ends of the fret will be sharp as the wood of the fretboard dries. The top grain of the wood on the fretboard will be noticeable, and the action (or string height) will be lower, and may even buzz when played. In the body of the guitar, you may notice a concave top as the braces dry out and constrict, and there may even be a degree of looseness in the joint between the neck of the guitar and the guitar body, as well as loose bridge and occasionally even lose braces inside the guitar.
As this moisture loss increases, you may even see cracks in the wood or opening seams where wood pieces are butted against other guitar parts, such as the nut or the fret. The dehydrating effects of humidity loss will not only cause your guitar to sound bad, it may create permanent damage, rendering the guitar useless.
How do You Humidify Guitar?
Fortunately, it is not hard to ensure a humidified guitar. The effort in how to humidify guitar lies in one of three simple solutions. You can buy a whole house humidifier and place your guitar on a stand so that it will receive the proper amount of humidity. You can even set up a sensor in the room to measure humidity, and accordingly turn the room humidifier on or off.
If you do not want to dedicate an entire room to this effort, you can purchase and use a guitar case humidifier, which will ensure your guitar will be moisturized while resting in its case. This type of guitar humidifier will often use a sponge and a sensor, and will expose the dampened sponge when humidity is needed, or close off the sponge if it is too damp within the case.
If a guitar humidifier for a room or a guitar case is out of your budget, humidification can be achieved with a home-made guitar humidifier. A separate sensor will be necessary and you will have to check it on a regular basis. A simple damp sponge or wet cloth can be placed in the vicinity of a guitar when the environment is too dry, and a dry sponge or other absorbent agents could be kept in the guitar case to help pull excess humidity out of the air when it is too wet in the area where the guitar is kept.
Regardless of which system you use, you must make certain that humidification is maintained correctly, especially in dry environments. A sensor to measure humidification in the area around the guitar will help to know how often a water-based guitar humidifier should be re-wetted. It is important to maintain the proper amount of moisture in the wood while the guitar is not being played or is in storage.
With just a small amount of effort and diligence, your guitars can maintain the proper consistency and humidity with a simple humidification system. Your guitars are an investment; not only in money but in time and future enjoyment. It pays to make certain that your guitar is as functional as possible – and this can be achieved easily!