Acoustic Guitar Maintenance For Beginners [Complete guide]

acoustic guitar maintenance tips
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The guitar you use to create that magical music is a compactly made complex instrument. The small dot-like parts on it might not look very important but their absence or flaw might even force you to change your guitar.

So maintenance is vital to extract the maximum output from your loving acoustic or electric guitar and when you keep your guitar in good condition that is the best guitar to play.

Contrary to what most people believe, it is essential and difficult to maintain a guitar to get the best output from it. Damages appear so slowly on guitars that users ignore them initially and end up with guitars producing irritating and unpleasant sounds.

We have prepared this article totally on how to do acoustic guitar maintenance so that you can take good care of this sensitive musical masterpiece.

Guitar Maintenance Guide

Here are some acoustic guitar care and maintenance tips you should do to maintain your instrument:

Clean It!

This is the most basic function to maintain not only complex instruments but anything material! If you ignore cleaning your guitar at a regular time interval, you totally do not deserve it. It is also the easiest step in guitar maintenance. Here are some tips for it.

Two important areas for cleaning are the Body and the Strings.

Your forearm keeps in contact with the body of the guitar more than any other part. The material of a guitar is very sensitive to body oil and sweat. It is wood after all! So what you can do is:

  1. Use a microfiber cloth to carefully clean the body especially when changing strings as it provides you access to every part of the body of the guitar.
  2. Use suitable cleaners for the material of your guitar. But, I would recommend not using them as they might permanently damage the material of the guitar if not suitable.

Check on the Humidity

What are guitars made of? Different kinds of Wood! And, what does wood react to? Moisture! Your guitar is exposed to a fair amount of moisture every day. The damage caused by moisture appears before our eyes very slowly.

Actually, before catching our eyes with wood cracks, it catches our ears with unpleasant tones of music. Humidity is an ever-present factor. Both high and low humidity damages a guitar. So, how do we protect our instrument from this dilemma?

Get a humidifier! The humidifier locked in a closed case with your guitar can maintain ambient humidity in the case and keep your guitar good from the effects of room temperature changes.

Fretboard Clean and Condition

The fretboard is another major area where grime collects. Follow the following steps to keep it in the best form:

  1. Prepare to clean the fretboard by removing the strings first.
  2. Use Super Fine Steel Wool to clean the nook and cranny of the fretboard. Steel wool is rough enough to clean the dirt completely but also has properties that do not harm the board.
  3. After cleaning and conditioning the fretboard with lemon oil and give it some time for the wood to absorb the oil, and then carefully wipe off any excesses.
  4. Finally, remove the excess oil with a paper towel.

Maintain Guitar Strings

how to take care of guitar strings

The strings play a crucial role in producing the sound you want, so it’s a given that you should know how to maintain guitar strings and take good care. For your guidance, here are some tips that you need to do regularly.

1. As much as possible, you should wipe the strings down with a dry, clean cloth after every use. Remember that our hands can be a carrier of grime, natural oil, and dirt, and these can easily get stuck on the strings. To make sure that there won’t be any buildup on the strings, you should make it a habit to wipe each string down after every use.

2. For those who do not have the time to wipe down each string every day, an alternative is to clean it with a string cleaner. These cleaners are specially formulated to get rid of hardened grime and debris that had been stuck on the strings for a long time.

Also, make sure to avoid using all-purpose cleaners on your strings. This type of cleaner may work great on your furniture, but it will only cause further damage to guitar strings.

3. It is also recommended that you replace the strings regularly. We recommend replacing one string at a time to make sure that it won’t cause any damage to the guitar’s neck.

If you play the guitar frequently, you should replace them at least once every few months in the following way:

  • Unwind the tuning peg until the string becomes loose and take out the string from the tuning post. Remove old strings by gripping the neck of the guitar and unwinding the particular string with the other hand.
  • Cut the loose string above the soundhole with a wire cutter.
  • Remove the bridge pin at the ball end of the string.
  • Firstly, put the ball end of the string on the bridge to insert a new string.
  • Then, insert the bridge pin until you hear it pop.
  • Now you have your new strings on your guitar. Tune it before use!

4. To protect your strings against damage, non-aerosol string lubricants should do the trick. These special lubricants prevent debris from sticking to the strings while also making it more comfortable for your hands.

But above all, we recommend playing the instrument with clean hands always. That’s a great way to prevent any gunk and grime build-up while ensuring the longevity of your strings.

Keep the Neck Aligned

Tension on the strings causes the neck to misalign. The misalignment causes trouble while playing. So, to know if the neck alignment is to be fixed, do the following:

  1. Assess the neck alignment by looking down the neck from the bridge end to the headstock. Uneven height means there is a problem.
  2. In case the neck is misaligned you have to adjust the truss rod by tweaking it. You have to be very careful doing this as the rod is easy to break.
  3. You can also check by measuring the gap between the bottom of the string fretted and the top of the seventh fret. While doing this, keep the low E string fretted at the first and twelfth fret.

File and Boost the Nuts

Check if there has any dirt in the nut slot or need some lubrication. Cleaning and lubricating the nut slots will reduce the chance of breaking strings at the nut point. Use fine-grit sandpaper or run old strings through the nut slots a few times to remove any grime and dirt.

It is recommended to get a professional to take care of your nut filings if the slot is too narrow or there is any trouble with them.

Tackle the Truss Rod

adjusting a truss rod on a guitar

If the neck of your guitar is itself at fault (i.e., too much or too little upbow or too much backbow), it is time for you to get into a dangerous game with the truss rod adjustment. You need to tighten or loosen the truss rod according to the position of your guitar’s neck relief.

In most cases, you can access the truss rod from the guitar’s headstock to adds or lessens the pressure on the rod. You can use a hex wrench to tighten/loosen the rod by simply turning it either way.

If you are a beginner, it is advised to avoid trying to adjust the truss rod by yourself without knowing what you’re doing. It would be wise to seek help from a professional at your local music store.

Adjust the Bridge

The bridge is easier to deal with than the nuts. Nevertheless, if there is a problem with the bridge, you have to be very accurate in your measuring the nut height and neck relief. Or else, it will cost you both time and fortune.

Store Properly to Protect the Guitar

Whether it is for long-term storage or short, it is best to keep the guitar stored in the best way. This is the most important part of guitar care and maintenance. You may keep the following things in mind for storage:

  1. Choose the perfect guitar case made with the best material to keep your guitar in.
  2. Keep a humidifier inside the guitar case to maintain humidity.
  3. Keep the case with the guitar in a dry place.
Need some help on guitar storage ideas or how to keep guitar at home? Whether you're a beginner or a gigging musician, check out our guide on how to store a guitar properly.

This is something you have to continue doing from the beginning of your journey with your guitar. Treat your guitar like a pet or a child. Keep a keen eye and ear on it to instantly acknowledge any change that takes place. Keeping track of your guitar’s health will prevent serious damage through early treatment.

Guitar Maintenance Kit

At this point, you now understand the importance of regular maintenance. With that said, you should always have a guitar kit nearby for any maintenance work you may have to do. Here are the essential items you need to build your guitar care kit:

  1. A soft and absorbent cleaning cloth. You need this if you have to wipe something down from your guitar or its strings.
  2. A small feather duster to help keep the guitar clean without exerting too much pressure to cause damage to it.
  3. A special guitar cleaner for the guitar’s body.
  4. A string cleaner.
  5. A non-aerosol string lubricant to make the strings more playable and more resistant to dust and debris.
  6. A set of wrenches in case you have to make adjustments to your guitar.
  7. A set of miniature ratchets. This will help you reposition bolts or nuts better, especially if you own an electric guitar.
  8. A hygrometer. To ensure that your guitar is in an area with ideal humidity levels, you need a hygrometer to test it out. For added benefit, you can use a digital hygrometer that can also read the temperature.

Best Guitar Maintenance Toolkit (includes everything):

MusicNomad's Ultimate At Home Guitar and Bass Work Station MN290
  • Premium 36" x 17" Work Mat with Patented Soft Gel Cradle Cube Neck Support
  • All the best products to detail clean, polish and condition every surface (Body, Fretboard, Hardware, Strings) on your gear
  • 26pc. Guitar Tech Screwdriver & Wrench Set
  • Premium String Changing Products: GRIP String Winder, GRIP Cutter, GRIP Puller, Tune It Lubricant

Guitar Maintenance Kit (Budget Option):

Ernie Ball Musician's Tool Kit
  • All-in-one instrument care system
  • Includes everything for string changes and set-ups
  • Handy carrying case

What should You not do on a Guitar?

Now that you know how to take good care of your guitar, you should also be aware of what you shouldn’t do on your guitar. These tips will help you extend your guitar’s life while maintaining its rich sound.

• Do not use a guitar stand as your main guitar storage. When you leave the guitar on a stand, it becomes more exposed to external factors such as dust, debris, and moisture. As a result, you may have to clean it more often than you have to – if it’s not yet damaged altogether.

Also, leaving it on a stand makes it more prone to getting knocked over, which could eventually leave it completely ruined. And you surely don’t want that to happen.

• Do not use incompatible guitar strings with different gauges, and some of them can be heavier than others. If you’re using a string that’s not compatible with what the guitar can handle, that could easily lead to a bent neck or a broken fretboard.

Need some help with how to choose guitar string gauge? Check out our detailed acoustic guitar string guide.

• Do not use water or an all-purpose cleaner. We have said this before, and we will say it again – do not use cleaners other than those that are specially formulated for use on acoustic guitars. Otherwise, you risk exposing it to further damage instead of cleaning it.

• Do not leave your guitar in a room with a high humidity level. The extra moisture in the air could lead the tonewood to swell and affect its construction and performance.

• Do not leave your guitar in a place where it is exposed to direct sunlight. The sun’s UV rays can potentially make the wood brittle, and that could lead it to fall apart faster. It can also affect the overall sound quality of the guitar.

• In case you own an electric guitar, don’t leave it plugged in once you’re done. Doing so could easily damage the battery and the connection jack, and having them replaced can cost you a lot of money.

• Do not leave the capo on the neck. This is perhaps one of the biggest mistakes made by beginners. When you leave the capo on the neck once you’re done playing, the pressure can lead to serious damage to the fretboard.

Check out this video guide for simple tips and tricks related to acoustic guitar maintenance:

Frequently Asked Questions

Do guitars require maintenance?

Yes, guitars require regular maintenance. When a guitar is well-maintained, it can perform at its best for a long time. Regardless of how old or how affordable it may be, a guitar that’s taken care of will sound as great as it was when it was first bought.

How often should a guitar be serviced?

The frequency by which you have to have your guitar serviced depends on how frequently you play it. If you’re a professional guitarist who plays it for a few hours every day, then it’s recommended to have it serviced once every 6 to 8 months. On the other hand, more casual guitar players can have them serviced once every year.

Can I use furniture polish on my guitar?

No. It is not recommended to use furniture polish on your guitar. Furniture polish contains chemicals that may ruin the finish on your guitar. Continuous use could also ruin the quality of the tonewood, and that could lead to poor sound later on. Rather use a specific guitar polish that contains pure carnauba wax which is safest to use on the guitar.

Final Words

It would be a great waste to lose a guitar worth a fortune due to lack of easy care. Value both your money and your instrument in guitar maintenance. We have briefly covered every field that you need to look into for sustaining your guitar in a pleasant playing condition.

We sincerely hope, our article will help you live a good life with a healthy guitar!

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