5 minutes read.
We are getting closer and closer to the winter season, and in Sweden it tends to be a nasty affair – especially for guitarists. The Nordic climate is both cold and dry, which is dangerous for our wooden instruments. Though most of us don’t want to think about the winter closing in on us, it can be good to do so for the sake of your guitar.
Many guitars are made of solid wood in the top or back and sides too – a living, organic material – which means that it changes with its surroundings. When it gets cold outside we heat up our homes inside with heaters and the air gets dry and the wood cracks if we don´t pay attention to the humidity. Repairing cracks and deformations on your guitar can be expensive, but easy to avoid by simple and inexpensive means. Although the sound might not change that much after a repair, it always looks nicer without a repaired crack.
Control the Humidity of your guitar
During the winter months the air is dryer than ever in Sweden – even more so inside, due to increased indoor heating. A guitar is always made in controlled humidity, and it is in that exact humidity it performs the best. Your guitar should be stored in a relative humidity of 45% to be safe from cracks, and never below 35%!
Signs of a dried out guitar can be:
- cracks in the wood
- concave areas
- fret buzzing caused by the frets protruding from the fret board
- fret-ends stick out from the fretboard - Making it kind of sharp feeling on your fingers
1. Guitar humidifier
The first measure to take to prevent your guitar from drying out is to use a humidifier for guitars that you simply stick in between the strings. They often contain a sponge that you soak in water before you put it in. Be sure that no water drips into the guitar.
2. Guitar case
Sometimes, just a guitar humidifier isn’t enough, though, and then you need to make sure that the entire environment around the guitar is humid enough. If you can’t put in extra humidifiers you can simply put your guitar in its case. The guitar humidifier will moisten the air in the entire case, so no part of your guitar dries out.
If you want to be extra safe from dryness, you could use a Hygrometer, which is a measurer of relative humidity. There are small hygrometers specially made to fit in a guitar case available to buy for much less than a repair would cost. There are also standard hygrometers to buy that you can have in the room. Just make sure to put it in the same room as the guitar.
Control the Temperature of your guitar
A winter in Sweden can come with a lot of temperature changes for the guitar – about 20-25°C indoors and down to -20° outside if you’re unlucky. The materials of the guitar expand and contract depending on the temperature, and this can lead to cracks in the lacquer.
1. Again the guitar case!
A good case is the key to keep your guitar whole and playing. It acts as an insulator, making the temperature of the instrument change slower. Make sure to have a good case, and to let the guitar sit in it until it has reached room temperature again after being outside. This lets the wood contract or expand slower, minimizing the risk of cracks in the wood or the lacquer. Letting the guitar warm up before picking it up to play also lets you skip the hassle of re-tuning a thousand times!
· Use a humidifier
· Avoid too cold environments
· Keep your guitar in a case – it’s much easier to control the climate of a smaller volume!
· Keep your guitar away from draught, where it tends to be very dry
· Avoid rapid changes in temperature and humidity
A happy guitar
Keeping your guitar whole and happy will make it last longer, and also sound better! Luthiers always work in a stable and controlled environment, and that environment is where your guitar is going to sound, look and play the best.
Checklist to keeping your guitar safe in the Swedish winter
- Use a humidifier
- Avoid too cold environments
- Keep your guitar in a case – it’s much easier to control the climate of a smaller volume!
- Keep your guitar away from draught, where it tends to be very dry
- Avoid rapid changes in temperature and humidity
Following these tips, you’ll drastically decrease the risk of your guitar breaking, saving both money and hassle with repairs. Enjoy your guitar.