10 Things To Keep Your Guitar In Top Condition
Here are 10 suggestions you can follow without the help of a luthier to keep your guitar performing and looking its best:
• Maintain the nut: Dirt and gummy smoke residue can build up in the notches of your guitar’s nut, impeding the strings’ ability to slide without resistance within those grooves. That causes tuning problems. Be sure to clean the interior of the nut periodically with a thin nail file or dental floss to avoid that issue.
• Clean and condition the fretboard: Lemon oil or fretboard conditioner plus a clean cloth will get the job done, and allow your hands and your guitar’s strings the most comfortable, least resistant playing surface. A dirty fretboard holds back your speed and articulation.
• Change strings: Don’t let strings get rusty or develop puts before you change them. Develop your own regimen – say, after “x” amount of hours gigging or practicing — for changing strings. Worn strings lose response, blunt tone (that’s not always a bad thing), cause tuning issues and, of course, have a tendency to break in the thick of performances.
• Clean and polish the body: This requires nothing more than a good clean rag and a bottle of guitar polish. Apply and buff liberally, working the rag into hard-to-get spots like the space between the bridge and the pickups. Excess dirt and gunk will destroy your guitar’s finish, but even worse, it can turn your guitar’s surface into flypaper. Tacky surfaces impede your ability to quickly control speed dials or to rest your wrist or arm comfortably in picking position against your instrument’s body without potentially compromising your ability to move fluidly. Avoid household polishes since some can damage guitar finishes.
• Add strap locks: Why take the chance of your guitar slipping out of its strap and hitting the floor, potentially damaging the input jack, divoting the body or even fracturing the neck? Consider fret locks the cheapest insurance policy you’ll ever buy.
• Replace rusted metal: If you’ve got tuning pegs or frets that are showing signs of rust, replace them. They are going to fail. It’s just a matter of time. And if your guitar’s bridge starts to get rusty — this is caused by sweat — slap a new one in place. A rusty bridge can increase hum and makes its presence especially known during recording.
• Clean the pots: It’s easy to do this. Just unscrew the back plate that covers the pots and apply a little tuner cleaner, available at Radio Shack or even Wal-Mart. That’ll keep that crusty pot sound out of your tonal vocabulary.
• Tighten up loose screws and the input jack: Check the nut holding your guitar’s input jack in place. If it’s loose it may be noisy or intermittent, and, at worst, the assembly could slip out of place during a performance. And be sure to take a screwdriver to the screws holding the pick guard in place to prevent rattling or breakage. Also, tighten the screws on turning pegs to help them keep doing their job.
• Look inside: Don’t let the interior of your guitar be a mystery. Take off the plates covering the electronics at least every six months, even if there’s no sign of trouble, and look for wires that my appear loose, deposits of dirt or gunk, or anything else that looks like it is teetering toward failure.
• Store properly: Don’t leave a guitar on a rack for months without picking it up and expect it to play properly. Store your guitars in cases or gig bags to keep dust and other airborne contaminants — like household cooking smoke — off their vitals, and for protection from falls or other accidents. Even if your guitars are in cases check them every few months to be sure there’s no warping or other weather related damage at play. A few twists of a truss rod now could prevent a neck replacement later.