10 Guitar Maintenance Steps You Should Always Follow, But Probably Don't

The following is a guest-post by Matt of Guitar Stuff––if you like his stuff, consider subscribing!

TkaaposterAm I the only guitar player who is a little anal-retentive about my guitars? I’m always hesitant to let people pick them up. I take a mental note of belt buckles and zippers on anyone who comes near them. In the back my head I think “is this the day my guitar gets dropped?”. Don’t even get me started on the panic that ensues inside my head when children get involved.

Even though I go a little crazy when it comes to the safety of my guitar, I do (or don’t do) things on a daily basis that could be harming in the long run. So, I have compiled a list of things manufacturers always tell you to do, but you probably don’t. Well, I know I am guilty of at least the first three of these. If you really truly are concerned with keeping your guitar mint, these should be second nature to you.

Here are the 10 maintenance rules that everyone should follow to keep their guitar in pristine condition:

  1. Wash your hands before playing. Your hands are oily and dirty. Washing your hands before playing can preserve the fingerboard as well as prolong the life of your strings.
  2. Before you put your guitar away in it’s case always wipe it down with a damp cloth to remove any hand oils that may be on it. Not a wet cloth, just a cloth that is slightly dampened.
  3. Put that guitar in it’s case! Yeah, it’s fun to display them for everyone to see, but your guitar doesn’t like to be exposed to anything. It doesn’t like changing temperatures, changing humidity, or direct sunlight.
  4. You know those black canvas gig bags? Yeah, forget they ever existed. Get a real hardshell case.
  5. Properly humidify your guitar. Get a case humidifier and find out what the manufacturer of your guitar suggests the relative humidity should be.
  6. Have your guitar’s bridge and neck setup properly for the gauge of strings you are using. If you change string gauges, have your guitar setup properly for the new strings. Obviously you don’t want to do this too often. If you know how to do this yourself that is great! If you don’t, you might want to get a professional to do it.
  7. Keep your guitar clear of any heavy temperature changes. Wood expands and contracts. If the temperature changes too quickly it expands and contracts too quickly – this is bad.
  8. Change your strings on a regular basis and never remove them all at one time! Remove one string at a time to replace them. Keeping your strings at the proper tension will keep that neck healthy.
  9. Play your guitar every day. Thats right – play it. What happens when you leave your car parked for a few months and then try and start it up? It doesn’t really like that very much, whether it tells you or not. Run your guitar through it’s paces, it’s good for it.
  10. Follow the above steps, and never, ever, let anyone else touch your guitar. Only kidding.

Obviously these are rules that only people with full time guitar techs can follow. Maybe the most diligent of us have the persistence needed to keep up such a strict maintenance routine, but thats not me. Your guitar won’t fall to pieces of you don’t follow these tips, but if you do it will guarantee that the guitar will live longer than you.

What are you guilty of and what tips did I miss?

You can read more of Matt’s great guitar tips, lessons & reviews at his aptly-named blog — Guitar Stuff.