Most players and not only beginners want to know if guitars need to be humidified. Of course, not many of them do this, and the question remains. Furthermore, the question may be different if you own electric and if you own an acoustic guitar.
So, do electric or acoustic guitars need humidifiers? While there are so many factors that determine this, the answer is rather simple – yes. Since caring for your instrument is something you should always do, humidifiers will only help your instrument stay healthy and in perfect condition.
We will now go through the basics of why and when. These are the important question, and you need to know as many details as possible before you proceed with your guitar care. You wouldn’t want to do something wrong or something that might damage the instrument.
Why You Should Use Humidifier For Your Guitar?
The guitar is made of wood, and wood needs to breathe. This is the simplest answer to the main reason why you should use a humidifier for your guitar. Since no one lives in a place where the temperature is the same throughout the year, there are so many changes and variations that all affect your instrument. Winters are usually cold, and during the summer, the temperature becomes quite high. If you remember how hot it was one day, you should remember that your instrument feels that too.
All of these changes in temperature usually mean the change in humidity as well. While we are not talking about the extreme situation (we will go through that later), the changes that happen are still enough to cause serious damage to your guitar. Of course, none of this will matter if you own one of those guitars that aren’t made of wood, but since they are rare, we will continue with the explanation.
For solid-wood guitars, there is a chance that if you dry them too quickly, the wood will crack. On the other hand, if you humidify them too much, the top part will swell. If we talk about acoustic guitars, the bridge might simply pop and ruin the entire guitar.
One of the important things we should mention is the guitar itself. If you have an expensive guitar, it is in everyone’s interest to maintain it. You don’t want to spend a fortune on the guitar, only to let it get destroyed by bad weather. Furthermore, you’d be surprised to know how much damage the changing of the seasons can cause. Using a humidifier will significantly lower the chances of your guitar being damaged. Besides, not only that it will look great, since there won’t be any cracks and dents, but it will also sound better than ever.
Bad weather and changes in humidity can have a major impact on the sound of the guitar, and it can be really noticeable on the acoustic ones. Since the entire instrument is focused around wood quality and type, the guitar might start sounding to week, or too thin. Which is not something you’d want.
If you are interested to know what happens to a guitar in the heat or in the cold, check out my posts
Acoustic guitars are made of wood, and the pieces used for the body are rather thin compared to the electric guitar. There won’t be a solid body, and if the ‘box’ is too thick, it won’t resonate well. These guitars have been around for quite a while and while the techniques have been perfected until now, it is still difficult to keep them in good shape, especially if they are older.
Since there will be little lacquer used for the body, the weather can have a major impact on the surface of the wood, and general condition.
One of the biggest mistakes people do is they never store their instruments properly. There are so many cases where people would just leave the instrument in the corner, and completely forget about it. Acoustic guitars, when left behind, will dry. More precisely, the wood will dry which may cause it to shrink and eventually crack.
Since the wood is so exposed, any change in the temperature will be more noticeable on the acoustic guitar, and too humid space will leave the wood warped. Either way, your guitar is ruined.
If you use a humidifier for your guitar, you will make sure that your guitar is always in that perfect range where wood can breathe the best. Furthermore, if you can achieve this humidity in the room where you keep your guitar, you will make sure that your guitar is sounding beautiful all the time. If you fail to do this, and your guitar gets too dry, there will be no way for you to revive it. So the best thing you can do is to keep the perfect conditions and ensure that nothing bad will happen.
When it comes to electric guitars, the whole situation is a bit better. Since the body of the guitar is usually lacquered, there will be less need to use humidifiers since the wood is already protected. However, this doesn’t mean that you won’t need to use them at all and that your guitar is safe.
Electric guitars are created in a way that almost every part is replaceable, so you won’t have to fear as much for the safety of your guitar. Furthermore, the body of the guitar is usually solid wood, so the temperature will have less effect on the condition. Of course, there are electric guitars that are semi-hollow, where they will have a large block of wood underneath the strings, and the rest will be shallow. Finally, there are ones that are completely hollow, and where the body will be similar to the acoustic guitar. However, for any of these cases, there will usually be a thicker layer of lacquer to protect the wood.
Of course, this isn’t always the case, and there are guitars that are without any finish. Furthermore, we mentioned the finish on the body, but the neck and headstock remain unprotected. While some models and companies create necks that are also lacquered, there are ones with satin finish or with no finish at all. As a result, it might be a good idea to humidify your electric guitar as well.
It is worth mentioning that if you are a player who is constantly on the stage or traveling, the guitar will be exposed to rather harsh conditions. The spotlights on the stage can have a major impact on the guitar, and it is even possible that the lacquer will get quite soft under such extreme conditions.
Besides, if you are traveling, try to avoid leaving your guitar in a car. Like we mentioned before, if it’s hot for you, it’s hot for your guitar as well. The temperature in the car can get quite high, and sometimes, almost unbearable and this can ruin the guitar. High temperatures can cause the glue to fail and the guitar can break.
The Ideal Humidity Level And Temperature For Your Guitar
One of the most important things you should consider is the location you live in. If you live in a place where it’s dry and where humidity can drop significantly, you will definitely need a humidifier regardless of the guitar you play. On the other hand, if you live in a place where there is a lot of humidity in the air, guess what, you need a humidifier. None of us live in perfect conditions, and winters can be especially harsh on guitars. Since we use some kind of heating device, radiators and furnaces can significantly dry air in the room, and that’s the last thing your guitar needs. Most manufacturer’s warranties won’t cover any damage that is caused by humidity. And any damage like this is considered to be a lack of maintenance.
Whatever acoustic or electric the ideal humidity range level is 40%-50% and the temperature is around 70 Fahrenheit (21 Celsius).
How To Spot That You Need A Humidifier For Your Guitar?
First signs, or cries for help, are rather easy to spot. Usually, there will be a change in action. By action, we mean the height of the strings or the distance between the fretboard and the strings. Furthermore, fret ends might feel sharper than usual.
Of course, if the lack of humidity continues, the frets will feel a lot sharper, and it will be difficult not to notice it. Besides, you will notice a major difference in playability. It is not rare that your instrument starts feeling like a different guitar. And not in a good way. Finally, the bridge might move and you’ll notice additional damage.
In the end, if you still neglect to do something or if you were unable to interfere, there will be a noticeable crack or cracks in the finish on the body and even on the fretboard of the guitar. Furthermore, the glue joints will begin to fail, and the bridge and even the neck might separate. Besides, it is not a rare situation that the neck of the guitar gets warped or twisted due to the harsh conditions.
When it comes to acoustic guitars, the body itself might change if the humidity is too high or too low. If it’s too low, the body will shrink. This will cause the bridge to sink, and as a result, the string might start buzzing since the action will be lower than it’s supposed to be. On the other hand, too high humidity will cause the body to become swollen or too wet, and as a result, the action of the guitar will also get high, making it difficult if not impossible to play.
Usually, the fretboard on the electric guitars is without finish, and it can be quite a lot of differences depending on the time of the year. However, be sure that you always use an evaporative humidifier for guitars, and especially for electric ones. There are so many electronics in the guitar, and you don’t want to humidify your pickups and potentiometers. Besides, you don’t need to think about corrosion either.
The easiest option to detect the humidity level and if your guitar needs humidifiers is to use the device called hygrometer that will tell you the exact figure. This way, you will be able to adjust the conditions for your guitar depending on the results of the test. You can get one on Amazon just under $5.
How Do Humidifiers Work?
The humidifier is a device that is used to maintain a certain level of humidity in the air. Humidity is basically the amount of moisture in the air. If you have a humidifier, your guitar will always be well humidified, and as a result, there won’t be any damage to the instrument. There are three main types of humidifiers that you can use for your guitar.
Sound Hole Humidifiers
The first type is obviously designed for the acoustic guitar and using it is quite simple. You will place it between the third and fourth strings, and the humidifier will go into the soundhole. They are designed as a rubber tube, and on some brands, you will be able to even see how much of the ‘juice’ is left. While they are created for acoustic guitar specifically, you can still use them with any other hollow-body guitar.
Furthermore, you can get rechargeable ones where all you’ll need to do is to fill the canister with water, and they will do the rest.
I recommend D’Addario Acoustic Guitar Humidifier available for just under $5.
Guitar Case Humidifiers
You probably asking yourself what is the difference between a case humidifier and soundhole humidifier. Well, to tell you the truth, I don’t think there is.
The products that advertise that they purpose to be placed in a case are the same as those that you put in the soundhole of an acoustic guitar. The only difference is that it comes with a part you can stick to the sides of the case.
If you want a humidifier for your case you can buy the D’Addario Acoustic Guitar Humidifier I recommended for guitars with a soundhole. To ease your mind you can buy a hygrometer to make sure your guitar has the right humidity level it needs.
As the name suggests, these are used to humidify the entire room. While they are not practical for some, others will find them to be a blessing. If you have several guitars or even a large collection, you probably have a guitar room where you keep them. Room humidifiers are perfect for this situation and they will make sure that the room stays the same humidity no matter what.
It is worth mentioning that if you get the room humidifier, you should make sure that it is an evaporative humidifier. Otherwise, it might corrode the metal parts of the guitar, or even cause mold to appear on the wooden parts.
Finally, if you have more than one room for your guitars, you should be delighted to know that they make household humidifiers, to make sure that you’ll maintain the perfect level in all rooms.
It is no secret that acoustic guitars will require more care and careful maintenance since the sound and playability is depending on the wood. Of course, this doesn’t mean that electric guitars should be thrown around or neglected. The point is that both types need to be humidified. Acoustic guitars more often and more carefully, but electric guitars deserve love as well.
Since there are so many things that could go wrong, and so many damages that can be caused by the lack of care and maintenance, it is better to get one of those guitar humidifiers and make sure that you won’t have to spend a fortune on fixing something that could be easily avoided. Furthermore, proper care is something that can solve a lot of your problems in the long run, so why not do something as simple as placing a humidifier in a guitar case.
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