How you care for and protect your instrument will greatly affect its appearance, tone and longevity. Too much or too little moisture can lead to problems which can be avoided or minimized with some attention and care.
Excessive moisture is a problem associated with summer while too little moisture or humidity is a winter problem. Your guitar will exhibit certain symptoms when exposed to major changes in humidity.
Becoming familiar with these symptoms will make it easier to take care of your guitar.
The winter months are associated with low relative humidity. Exposure to rates lower than 40% will result in changes to your instrument which are more serious than the problems associated with excessive humidity.
As moisture in the air decreases below the normal range, your guitar will begin to shrink.
Some symptoms of dryness are:
- A change in the contour of the back and top. The slight arch can become flat or even concave.
- A line may appear around the inlays, purfling and rosette.
- A shrinking fingerboard will lead to protruding frets.
- The finish will appear rough.
- Lowered action which may lead to buzzing.
- A common winter complaint is string buzz caused by very low action. This is the result of a combination of forces.
- A shrinking top and back plus a fingerboard will pull the neck backwards which leads to a low string height.
- The worst problem associated with excessive and prolonged dryness is cracks in the tops which can happen when humidity drops below 30 %. These cracks may appear along the center seam from the bridge to the binding and on either side of the fingerboard. This occurs only in extreme situations.
- Another problem is the lifting of the bridge. As the top shrinks, it becomes possible for the bridge to separate from the top with a shearing action.
A little common sense will help to avoid most winter problems:
- Humidify your house if possible. Ideal humidity should be kept at 45-50% Keep your guitar in a case when not playing and use a humidity device. These need to monitored regularly. Too much moisture will lead to summer-time problems.
- Allow your guitar time in the case to warm up slowly if it has been exposed to cold.
When any of the symptoms outlined above are noticed, it should be seen as a warning that the humidity is not optional and precautions should be taken. A rule of thumb to remember is: Never leave your guitar anywhere that you would not be comfortable leaving yourself.
When the relative humidity increases beyond 55-60%, the guitar will begin to expand. Some symptoms of expansion are:
- The top and back will begin to swell and distort – all glued joints will appear corrugated and the finish on the back and sides will seem to sink into the wood pores.
- A rise in height of the action- a loss in tonal quality and a decrease in string life. A rise in action is one of the major problems observed in guitars exposed to excess humidity.
- The change in action is caused by a number of forces which include top and back swelling and the expansion of the fingerboard.These changes will push the neck forward and lead to higher string height.
All problems associated with exposure to short term high humidity should correct themselves when the instrument returns to the normal range of humidity 40-50% relative to room temperature. Most of the problems associated with excess humidity can be avoided with some simple precautions:
- Never keep your guitar in a basement during periods of high humidity.
- Leave your guitar out of the case. Using a stand allows the air to circulate freely.
- Never keep your guitar in the trunk of a parked car.
- Do not expose your instrument to direct sunlight for any length of time. A premature yellowing of the top will occur.
It is not necessary to apply any oil or wax product on the fingerboard. With regular playing, the oils from your fingers are sufficient to lubricate the board and prevent cracking.
When changing strings, it is wise to go over the fingerboard with 000 steel wool (But be careful not to scratch the finish on the top). This will remove all build-up of dirt and grime. The steel wool will also polish the fingerboard making it more slippery and improving playability.
To lengthen the life of your strings, wipe them with a soft dry cloth after you play. Occasionally, clean your instrument with a slightly damp cotton cloth. This will remove dirt and grime and improve the appearance of your guitar.
To ensure successful transportation of your guitar, it is necessary to follow a few precautions.
It is very important to pack your instrument properly. Never ship your guitar in its case only. Place the guitar in the case and into a cardboard shipping carton. You can obtain one from a music store for free or a minimal charge. Pack the carton with loosely crumpled newspaper.
Do not over-pack. Do not take the tension off the strings when shipping. The string tension helps to balance the weight of the machine heads along the length of the guitar and will provide some protection to the peghead from bumps and jars.
To further reduce the chance of neck damage, lightly crumple some newspaper and stuff the space inside the case under the peghead until it sits slightly off the neck rest. Crumple some paper to place above the peghead and close the case.
Morgan Guitars have been constructed from a variety of high quality seasoned woods and assembled under strict tolerances. They are delicate, responsive instruments that can be affected by a variety of environmental stresses.
With careful observation and common sense and care, your Morgan will provide you and your listeners with a lifetime of enjoyment.