Spring is finally here! It’s nice and warm, and the cool breeze is the only thing left over from the winter we just endured – until you wake up the next day and see the snow dropping down outside…again. Relief seems to come the following morning when you are greeted by the soothing sun and you see the first red robin of the season flying by, and you know that spring has finally decided to stay. Of course, that evening you are met with a cold rain that turns into a sharp sleet and the winds pick up to dangerous speeds, sending the barbeque grill you just moved to the back patio that afternoon toppling over. Welcome to Chicago!!
As we Chicagoans know, this time of year is defined for us by crazy temperature and humidity fluctuations. Perhaps by now you are somewhat like me, and you’ve gotten used to the inconsistency that the beginning of this season brings. However, even if you are a true stoic Chicagoan who doesn’t mind the ups and downs of the thermostats, barometers, and other atmospheric do-dads, I can guarantee there is something in your household that will never get used to it: your guitar.
Why does your guitar hate changes in weather?
This question can be answered by one simple fact: your guitar is made of wood. This is a fact for a few good reasons: wood is easy to manufacture, it feels good in the player’s hand, and most importantly it resonates sound extremely well. However, since your guitar is made of wood, changes in the environment causes the wood to expand or contract. The actual wood itself doesn’t mind this occurrence, since it is an organic material that is meant to react to environmental variations. However, the natural “expanding/contracting” response is an unwelcome one for you as a guitar player since it can cause unwanted changes in your instrument’s structural integrity. If left uncared for during times of environmental changes, your guitar can go from normal to warped to completely out of whack.
How do acoustic guitars react to the weather changes?
Acoustic guitars are perhaps the most susceptible to the changing of the weather due to the fact that their bodies are hollow. Inside the guitar there are wood braces that support the guitar’s top, but they only touch a little bit of the wood in order to maximize the resonance of the hollow body. When humidity levels change, you will notice that the top of the guitar will begin to warp in the areas that are not supported by the braces on the inside. The result can be a “wavy” appearance in the top of the guitar, specifically near the bridge. Over time, the guitar strings will dip too low due to the warping of the body’s wood, and will create a “buzzing” sound as you attempt to strum or pluck the strings.
How do electric guitars react to the weather changes?
Unlike the hollow acoustic guitar body, the body of the electric guitar is solid wood, and therefore acts as the strongest part of the instrument. When the electric guitar is in an environment that has inconsistent temperatures and humidity levels, it will react quite differently than an acoustic guitar due to this difference in its structure. Instead of the strings dipping too low to the fret board and creating a “buzzing” sound, the strings on an electric guitar will tend to rise too far above the fretboard when affected by the changing weather. This is a result of the guitar neck “bowing” against the anchor of the body. If this happens to you, you’ll notice the strings become very hard to press down and the instrument becomes hard to play overall.
What can you do help your guitar while the weather changes?
There a few steps to take in order to prevent the weather’s effect on your guitar. First, do your best to keep the guitar in a consistent indoor environment by measuring your household humidity levels with a hydrometer. Maintaining the humidity at a steady 45% using a humidifier or dehumidifier in the room where the instrument is kept is a great way to ensure that your guitar doesn’t change along with the environment. However, most of us guitar players take our guitars out of the house with us at some point during the week (to lessons, gigs, etc.). For this situation, having a small humidifier accessory, such as the “D’Addario Guitar Humidifier Pro Standard”, will definitely help maintain consistent atmosphere for your guitar. You can continually refill this device with the “Two-Way Humidifier Pack Refills” and keep this accessory as a regular part of your guitar toolkit. I also recommend having your guitar checked up frequently at the local Music & Arts store, to have the string action and neck placement adjusted if needed. In addition, if you are buying a guitar for the first time, make sure to purchase the SoundCare repair and replacement plan as well so you can be assured that your investment stays secure.
Click below to check out about the D'Addario humidifier system!