Updated: Mar 8
If you love that guitar of yours, even if its that crappy copy that looks like garbage but sounds like angels singing, then you want to take good care of it.
It's that simple.
Here are 10 tips to keep your guitar from looking like it survived a fight with Mike Tyson...
1. Don't handle your guitar like Pete Townshend.
Some people get a kick out of seeing a guitarist player toss their guitar around while playing or even giving it a good bang here and there. Although the next sentence seems logical, it still needs to be said...
Don't do it!
Those spins and punches and whatnot can cause several issues for your instrument. The neck might shift in the pocket, the neck pocket might crack or wiring might decide they no longer want to live and let go of their solder joints causing your gig to go dead completely.
Worst of all, your guitar will sound all sorts of crazy when it stops staying in tune.
But that’s only the common sense thing that most players already know. There are tons of other ways your guitar may see abuse that could have be prevented.
Standing your guitar along a wall, amp or table when the case is 5 feet away. Then wait until gravity kicks in and watch as it falls.
Yeah, we’ve all seen that happen before.
What about your cousin or friend? You know, the one that can't keep his hands off of everyone’s shit? They come over, say "hey, is that a geeetar?" Then grab it with their sausage hands and leave god knows what on the surface? Or worse...they try playing it.
They pluck on the strings with the pick and create so much noise that cats join in from around the neighborhood, finally resulting in you putting the guitar away going "shhhhh shhhh it's over now"
Side note to random guitar abuse: your guitar isn't a coaster or a table. Stop leaving your beers and food on it.
Just stop it.
2. Lay out the red carpet for your guitar.
It doesn't have to be a red carpet. A blue or green carpet will work. Hell, even an old shirt from an ex-lover that was hastily thrown into your closet.
You know you should have thrown it into the trash but instead use it to pine over your lost love in secret and now use those memories to create songs with that guitar, filled with your raw emotions. Who knows, you might be the next Taylor Swift.
Back to my point though. Protect it from being placed on loose screws or bolts, protect it from your clutter filled table or counter top.
Just use something to protect it
3. Screw screw screw
Catchy heading, right?!
It is correct though. Watch those screws! Something as easy as taking off a pickguard or neck can result in a long road of depression or even giving up on music completely.
Just hear me out...
So, there you are one evening, taking apart your guitar to do something. Change pickups, change a pick guard or whatever thing you felt obligated to do. You’re sipping a nice beverage, listening to classic rock. The Eagles are on. Hotel California is vibing in the background and snap! The neck bolt, bridge or pickguard screw has snapped off and half the screw broke inside.
You slam back that drink, grip your screw driver tightly and prepare to throw it across the room. Your life flashes before you. Your music career is over! Your guitar is ruined. You’re playing a gig soon and your most cherished guitar is laying there, wounded.
It’s over you lost.
You toss your guitar in your closet, grab the laptop beside you, open it up, close the Pornhub page and head to Google to find a new job. Years later you’re successful. You have a become partner at the firm. You gave up music for good.
Then one day, you open your closet. Your spouse asks ‘what’s in the case?’ Your children come in going "play us something" you open the case and the body lays there. Lifeless. Covered in dust. You slam the case shut and tell them you can't. You lost the chance to impress your family.
You now live in a trailer. Alone. With a huge therapy bill.
All from the broken screw years ago. That life can be avoided and here’s how...
Use the right sized screw driver and type . Don't use a butter knife or credit card to tighten screw heads. Don't over tighten them either. Snug is good enough. You’re not going to space on your guitar so no need to make air tight seams.
You’re not the Hulk so stop. You’re only screwing yourself.
Hit the gym with your guitar and get it into shape! If you think that, then you should stop reading this article right now.
Give your guitar a fitness check. Make sure everything fits on or in it. No spare parts. Your guitar won't get pumped but it will help you notice a loose neck or hardware.
The big one to check...
Those damn strap pegs/locks. Many guitars have lost their lives to a strap peg coming undone. Keep a good eye on them!
5. Keep it under the covers
Plastic and metal covers. Get your mind out of the gutter and stop thinking I'm weird.
Keep the covers on your guitar that hold in the parts and electronics. They keep dust out and protect the wires from coming apart.
Much like my life since the pandemic started. Are there plastic protective covers for people?
6. Keep it clean if you know what I mean.
Your guitar is like a person.
Okay, should be treated like a person.
Fine, treated like an inanimate object that should be clean or kept clean.
Throw a towel at it after a good jam session or gig and tell it to towel itself off.
Wipe it off and really scrub the surface dirt off. Oh and use a soft cloth or towel. Not your gym towel. That’s just wrong on so many levels. Also use a guitar cleaner or mild soap.
Don't forget to scrub behind its ears.
7. Leave it hanging.
Unlike your friend who just threw up a solid high five that you immediately returned, your guitar, should be left hanging.
Keep it on the wall when not in use and avoid those floor racks when possible. You know the kind. The ones that offer as much support as that customer supprt service for that shadey product you bought years ago, were charged for and never received. Who needed a fake slap chop? They were all over the place. The scam was the the slap chop itself. We all have knives and can cut things.
Those floor stands, as practical as they seem, can lead towards your guitar taking a dive like certain boxing match contender, leaving its neck broken and not playable without a trip to your local luthier for a repair.
So skip those racks and head straight for the wall. No shame there.
8. Traveling blues
Keeping your guitar in your car is fine when traveling. To a gig, your friends house, your parents place, your acquaintance that you met in town while passing through. Its not gonna break or hurt anything.
Leaving your guitar in the trunk, locked up in a box like a crazed kidnapper/serial killer is a bad idea.
Its gonna leave your guitar exposed to changes that just aren't good for it.
It might seem like a good idea, like those $1 tacos you bought outside the gas station from the tail gate of that truck, but like that bad choice, your guitar will twist and move around over time, resulting in several costly repeairs and issues that may never get corrected.
9. The heat is on.
Just like your serial killer trunk, major sources of heat should be avoided. Leaving the guitar, in a case all the time, can result in heat build up. Like a fine wine or scotch, give it some air and enjoy all that your guitar will bring as it stays healthier longer.
Heat will always lead to finishes being ruined, guitars twisting or things coming apart, like those pesky bridges that are glued on for acoustic guitars.
Things to avoid, but not limited to include placing your guitar near a heater/radiator, fireplace, in direct sunlight for long periods of time, leaving it with your crazy ex who happened to set your home on fire because you didn't respond to their text right away, or leaving it in that room, the one you jack the heat in and forget about it. The room that causes your increasing debt because your heating bill is higher then Snoop Dog on a plane...
Decrease the heat and increase your guitars life span.
10. Ch-ch-ch-ch change those strings.
We encounter lots of different players ranging from first time picking up a guitar all the way up to playing for sold out arenas and one of the biggest things we get when getting a guitar in for a setup is "leave the strings on, they were replaced only a year ago"
Whoa. That could lead to some issues.
If you play 1 time every year, not a big deal...
If you play 10 hours a day for 1 year straight, then your guitar is going to sound dull and just tone dead as there will be so much rust and dirt on those strings that under a black light they would light up like a motel that charges by the hour.
We recommend changing the strings often.
Often depends on how much you play and how bad they look. If they look like the strings have been sitting out under your deck for a winter change them. If they look shiny and new, then leave em be.
Strings only cost a couple bucks and are worth changing them for a clean sound.
Regardless if you use these tips or not, the biggest thing about guitar care, is enjoying your guitar or guitars.
Play your guitars like a polygamist and enjoy the unique sound each guitar offers. Don't settle down with just a guitar or two. Collect many and play many. Keep care of them and don't forget to play daily and have fun creating music!
About James Klym
With over 12 years experience building guitars, his resume includes making custom guitars for Alice Cooper, Jeff Martin of the Tea Party, The Road Heavy and many more.
James describes himself as easy going and laid back. He is passionate for music and building guitars. He is a maker at heart. Top musical influences include David Bowie, Eagles, Jingle Cats and Meatloaf.