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Microphone Month 3

It’s Not the Heat, It’s the Humidity

How many times have you heard that phrase? Not surprisingly, your guitar (or bass guitar) is also sensitive to humidity. Most of us have seen the results of poorly maintained instruments, with their finishes checked, the binding separating and fingerboards splitting or delaminating. So for today’s tip, we’re going to tell you how to keep the humidity just right for your favorite guitar.

First off, the most important thing to realize is that it’s extremes of both heat and humidity that cause damage. If you’re hot and sweaty or chilled to the bone, you can bet your guitar is going to be under some serious stress, too. When you’re not playing, keep your guitar in its case, where fluctuations in temperature won’t be as radical. If you can, keep the case in an upright position, but if that’s not possible, store it flat (under your bed perhaps).

Truth is, dry air is actually worse over the long haul than moist air. That’s because most wood is dried to exacting standards, particularly in premium acoustics and electrics. In a desert-like environment, additional drying can cause shrinking in all the wrong places. You can purchase an inexpensive digital meter at garden centers that tell you both the temperature and humidity. Try to keep your guitar somewhere between 30-60% humidity, with 40-45% being pretty ideal (that’s also comfortable for us humans).

In places where the heat is on much of the year, or in the desert southwest, you can increase the relative humidity in your home by using an ultrasonic humidifier (they sell for about $40 and last for years). If you get zapped by a static electricity shock every time you touch a doorknob, the humidity is way too low. If moss is growing on your carpet, it’s too high.

If your guitar has been outside in the trunk of your car in cold weather overnight, don’t bring it in and open up the case right away. Let the case – and the instrument inside – come up to room temperature gradually. If the case is cool to the touch, it’s too soon to open it. If a guitar is shipped to you in the winter or in summer heat, give it several hours to reach the room’s ambient temperature before you break the packaging open.

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