Guitar Maintenance

Basic maintenance is very important, period.  This is a simple page covering what we feel are the three most important aspects, and many guitar problems can be avoided or easily amended by following the basic advice on this page.  However, there are times when the basics won't quite be enough, especially with vintage guitars, or guitars that have sustained major damage over time, or very unique or rare pieces that may be worth a lot of money.  At this time we are providing basic guitar repair, set-up and restringing services.  If you have a guitar that is beyond the scope of our repair shop, we can recommend quality neighborhood luthiers that can handle jobs of all magnitudes.  Start with our advice below and don't hesitate to ask questions.

 
 

Diagram: Gibson Guitar

Humidity Control

Guitars in New York City, during the winter months MUST BE humidified.  There are really no exceptions!  We generally humidify the shop with three stand-alone humidifiers, and also use the Dampit-style humidifiers in most of our guitars from October through April, if not longer.  Fine guitars are made of different types of tone woods, and all wood is susceptible to changing humidity conditions.  Simply put, wood is organic and expands when there is more moisture in the air, and contracts when there is less.  Expansion compresses wood fibers, leading to internal stress, and contraction leads to cracking as stressed and damaged fibers relax and pull apart.  This is something that happens over time, not only with the changing seasons but also with changing humidity conditions on a weekly or even daily basis.  One sign of dryness in a guitar can be sharp-feeling fret ends, as the fingerboard contracts and the frets pull away a bit.  Conversely, a sign of too much moisture will be a high, difficult-to-play action as the top swells, raising the height of the strings.  Monitoring and controlling humidity is crucial.  Although it is very difficult to keep a larger room at an ideal humidity level year round, it is much easier to keep a guitar properly humidified.  Invest in a digital hygrometer; if it is indicating dryness, keep the guitar in a decent case with a quality in-guitar humidifier (we like both Dampit and D'Addario), and make sure that it stays damp at all times in periods of low humidity.  Also consider investing in a good room humidifier and don't store the guitar next to a dry heat source.  In times of high humidity (which is generally the summer in many places) placing the guitar on a stand (instead of the case) and running a dehumidifier or air conditioner (or both) will help.  

 

Guitar Cleaning Kit (Roger E. Banfield)

Cleaning

Keep your guitar looking sharp by keeping it clean.  Sweat, oils and dirt will build up on a guitar over time, both on the body where it can be very noticeable, and on the fingerboard where it can often blend in, especially if it is rosewood.  This can react with the finish and cause discoloration.  Sweat on the fingerboard may be acidic and dirt-build up can be unsightly and even felt during playing if the guitar is not cleaned periodically.  There are hundreds of articles and opinions online about various cleaning methods.  Feel free to dive in yourself, but we recommend using a professional if the guitar is very dirty.  There are different finishes and techniques for each, and of course all kinds of products for guitar cleaning.  We have had fine results with the D'Addario line of products.  If you are inclined, go deeper into guitar cleaning with the button below.

 

String Action Gauge, www.stewmac.com

Set Up

As mentioned in the humidity control section above, organic material will change when moisture content changes.  This combined with hours of playing will cause any guitar to change from optimal playing condition, and require a set-up, or tune-up for all the parts to be properly adjusted and aligned.  The nut, bridge, saddle, intonation screws, tuning machine heads, truss rod, string gauges, pick up heights, frets, and string distances from frets are all components of a set-up that may need adjustment.  While again there is a wealth of information online, we recommend leaving the adjustments to a professional.  However, one simple adjustment that can really make a guitar sing is to simply change the strings every few months.  Steel strings wear out, with their tone becoming dull and their ability to hold tune compromised.  They will also break from time to time, especially with aggressive strumming or hard flat picking.  Keeping extra sets of strings on hand and learning the fairly straight forward process of restringing is well worth the effort.  Of course, guitar service shops are happy to perform this service as well.  Dig deeper into the world of guitar technicians and luthiers with the button below.


Restring, Set-up and Repair Shop

We are happy to help with basic repairs.  A simple restringing with fretboard cleaning and a truss rod check can work wonders to improve the sound (and look) of almost every guitar.  More detailed set-up work is available on a custom basis, and certain repairs can be performed in the shop.  We can also install some extras, such as a sound-hole mounted pick-up or strap button or lock.  All work is quoted and performed on a custom basis after inspection of the guitar.  A basic set-up will start around $50.00, and will include the installation of new strings, a check of the truss rod with adjustment as necessary, an intonation check, cleaning and polishing of the fretboard and guitar, light oiling of the fretboard, and lubrication and tightening of machine heads.  Please note that many guitars require more than a simple re-string and truss rod tweak; additional parts and/or labor charges will be quoted before we proceed.  Also, extremely dirty guitars and/or fretboards may incur extra cleaning charges.  If you provide your own strings, we can save you a little money.  We generally stock Martin acoustic and electric, Ernie Ball electric and Augustine classical strings, but do have some other makes available; please inquire about string specifics if you like.  New York City and State sales taxes are not included.