If you want to keep your guitar in top shape during those long periods of storage, it’s important to know the proper techniques. Whether you’re taking a break from playing or need to store it while you’re away, taking a few extra steps can make all the difference in maintaining the instrument’s quality. From finding the ideal location to preparing the strings and protecting the finish, this article will guide you through the essential steps needed to keep your guitar in optimal condition for the long haul.
Choosing the Right Location for Storage
When choosing a location to store your guitar for a long period of time, temperature is one of the most important factors to consider. Extreme temperatures can have a detrimental effect on your instrument, causing damage to the wood, finish, and overall playability. Ideally, you should aim to store your guitar in an area with a consistent temperature between 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit (21-24 degrees Celsius). This will help ensure that your guitar stays in optimal condition.
In addition to temperature, humidity is another crucial factor to consider when storing your guitar. High humidity levels can cause the wood to expand, which can lead to warping, while low humidity levels can cause the wood to contract, resulting in cracks. To maintain a stable humidity level, it is recommended to store your guitar in an area with a humidity range between 45-55 percent. You can use a hygrometer to measure the humidity level in the storage area and make adjustments as needed with the help of a humidifier or dehumidifier.
Avoiding Direct Sunlight
Direct sunlight should be avoided when choosing a storage location for your guitar. Prolonged exposure to sunlight can cause the finish to fade or crack, and it can also lead to changes in the wood’s moisture content. To prevent any damage from sunlight, it is best to store your guitar in a room with curtains or blinds to block out the sun’s rays. If you have no choice but to store it in a room with windows, consider using a guitar cover or a guitar case to provide an extra layer of protection.
Cleaning and Preparing the Guitar for Storage
Before storing your guitar for a long period of time, it is important to remove the strings. Leaving the strings on can cause the neck to bend or warp, and it can also put unnecessary tension on the bridge and saddle. To remove the strings, start by loosening them and then unwind them completely from the tuning pegs. Once all the strings are removed, discard them as they can become corroded over time.
Clean the Guitar
Cleaning your guitar thoroughly before storage is essential to prevent the build-up of dust, dirt, and oils that can deteriorate the finish and affect the playability of your instrument. Use a soft cloth or microfiber cloth to wipe down the body, neck, and headstock, being careful to avoid any abrasive materials that could scratch the surface. You can also use a mild guitar cleaner or polish to remove any stubborn residue. Make sure to clean the fretboard as well, using a damp cloth or a specialized fretboard cleaner.
Apply Guitar Polish
After cleaning your guitar, it is recommended to apply a small amount of guitar polish to the body and neck. Guitar polish helps to protect the finish and keep it looking shiny and new. Be sure to use a non-abrasive polish that is specifically designed for use on guitars. Apply the polish with a soft cloth and buff it gently to achieve a beautiful, glossy shine. Remember to avoid getting any polish on the fretboard or the strings, as this could affect the playability of your guitar.
Protecting the Guitar during Storage
Using a Guitar Case or Gig Bag
Using a guitar case or gig bag is the most effective way to protect your guitar during storage. It provides a secure and padded environment that shields the instrument from any potential damage. Whether you choose a hardshell case or a soft gig bag, make sure it is the right size and shape to accommodate your specific guitar model. This will ensure a snug fit and maximize protection.
Padding the Guitar Case
To further protect your guitar, it is advisable to pad the inside of the guitar case. This can be done by using soft materials such as packing foam, bubble wrap, or even old t-shirts. Cut the materials to fit the contours of the case and place them strategically to cushion the guitar. This will prevent any unnecessary movement and absorb any shock during transport or storage.
Securing the Guitar Neck
When placing your guitar inside the case, it is important to properly secure the neck to prevent any potential damage. Most guitar cases have a neck support that can be adjusted to fit the length of your guitar’s neck. Use this feature to securely position the neck and keep it stable throughout storage. By properly securing the neck, you can minimize the risk of any stress or tension being applied to the instrument’s delicate components.
Avoiding Pressure Points
To protect your guitar further, it is crucial to avoid any pressure points when storing it. Pressure points can occur when the guitar comes into contact with any sharp objects or uneven surfaces, which can cause dents or scratches. Always lay your guitar case or gig bag in a horizontal position, making sure it is placed on a flat, stable surface. Avoid stacking heavy items on top of the case, as this can exert unnecessary pressure on the instrument.
Using a Guitar Stand
If you prefer not to use a guitar case or gig bag for storage, using a guitar stand can be a viable alternative. However, it is essential to choose a sturdy and reliable stand that can securely hold your guitar without any risk of it falling or tipping over. Make sure the stand is placed in a location away from any potential hazards or high traffic areas where it could be accidentally knocked over. Additionally, avoid placing your guitar near any heating vents or air conditioning units that could expose it to extreme temperature or humidity fluctuations.
String Care and Maintenance during Storage
Loosening the Strings
Before storing your guitar for an extended period, it is advisable to loosen the tension on the strings. This helps to alleviate any unnecessary stress on the neck and prevents the strings from potentially causing any damage. Gently turn each tuning peg counterclockwise to lower the pitch of each string. Aim to loosen the strings by about a whole step or two, ensuring that there is still minimal tension on the neck.
Applying Guitar Lubricant
To protect the strings from corrosion and rust during storage, it is recommended to apply a thin layer of guitar lubricant. Guitar lubricant helps to repel moisture and prevent the build-up of dirt and debris on the strings. Apply a small amount of lubricant to a cloth and run it along each string, making sure to cover the entire length. This will help maintain the playability of your strings and extend their lifespan.
Replacing Strings after Storage
After a long period of storage, it is advisable to replace the strings on your guitar before playing it again. During storage, the strings can become dull, lose their tone, or even develop corrosion. By installing a fresh set of strings, you can ensure optimal playability and tonal quality. Make sure to follow proper string changing techniques and tune the strings carefully to achieve the desired pitch.
Monitoring the Guitar during Storage
Even though your guitar is in storage, it is important to regularly check on its condition to ensure that everything is in order. Make it a habit to inspect the guitar case or gig bag for any signs of damage, such as cracks, tears, or loose stitching. Check the humidity levels in the storage area using a hygrometer and make any necessary adjustments to maintain a stable environment. Additionally, periodically check the guitar for any signs of pests or insects that may have found their way into the storage area.
Identifying and Addressing Issues
During your regular checks, it is crucial to identify and address any issues promptly. If you notice any signs of damage, such as cracks, warping, or loose parts, it is best to consult a qualified guitar technician for proper assessment and repair. Taking care of any issues as soon as they arise can prevent further damage and ensure that your guitar remains in optimal condition.
Avoiding Common Mistakes in Guitar Storage
Leaving Strings Tightly Wound
One common mistake many guitar owners make is leaving the strings tightly wound on the tuning pegs during storage. This can put unnecessary tension on the neck and lead to warping or bending. By loosening the strings before storage, you can alleviate this tension and help maintain the integrity of your guitar’s neck.
Using Improper Storage Materials
Using improper storage materials can also result in damage to your guitar during storage. Avoid using materials such as plastic bags or cardboard boxes as they can trap moisture and contribute to the growth of mold or mildew. Instead, invest in a quality guitar case or gig bag that provides proper protection and breathability for your instrument.
Neglecting the Guitar’s Finish
Neglecting the guitar’s finish is another common mistake to avoid when storing your guitar for a long period. The finish not only enhances the guitar’s aesthetic appeal but also acts as a protective layer against environmental factors. Regularly cleaning and applying guitar polish will help maintain the finish and prevent any long-term damage.
Preparing the Guitar for Play after Storage
Before playing your guitar again after a long period of storage, it is necessary to reinstall the strings. Remove the old strings and replace them with a new set, following proper string changing techniques. Take your time to tune the strings carefully, gradually increasing the tension until they reach the desired pitch.
Tuning and Stretching the Strings
After installing new strings, it is important to tune them to the proper pitch. Use a guitar tuner or a mobile tuning app to ensure accurate tuning. Once the strings are in tune, perform a series of gentle stretches on each string by pulling and releasing them at the 12th fret. This will help to stabilize the strings and minimize any potential tuning issues.
Adjusting Truss Rod and Action
During storage, the neck of your guitar may have experienced slight changes in its shape or curvature. To ensure optimal playability, it may be necessary to adjust the truss rod. Truss rod adjustments should be made by a qualified guitar technician to avoid causing any irreparable damage to your instrument. Additionally, check the action of the strings and make any necessary adjustments to achieve a comfortable playing experience.
Making Intonation Adjustments
Intonation refers to the accuracy of each individual string’s pitch along the entire length of the fretboard. After a long period of storage, it is possible that the intonation of your guitar may be slightly affected. To ensure proper intonation, consult a guitar technician who can make precise adjustments to the saddle position. This will help to maintain accurate tuning and ensure that the guitar sounds its best.
Professional Help for Long-Term Storage
Consulting a Guitar Technician
If you are unsure about proper guitar storage or have specific concerns about your instrument, it is wise to consult a guitar technician. A qualified technician will have the expertise and knowledge to guide you in selecting the most suitable storage options and provide specific recommendations based on your guitar’s unique characteristics. They can also assist with any necessary repairs or adjustments needed before or after storage.
Climate-Controlled Storage Facilities
For those who require long-term storage for valuable or vintage guitars, climate-controlled storage facilities can be an excellent option. These facilities provide a controlled environment with stable temperature and humidity levels, ensuring optimal conditions for your guitar. Climate-controlled storage helps to prevent the negative effects of extreme temperatures or humidity fluctuations, providing peace of mind that your guitar is in the best possible care.
Taking Additional Precautions for Vintage Guitars
Protecting the Guitar’s Finish
Vintage guitars often have delicate finishes that require special care and attention during storage. To protect the finish, consider using a specialized guitar wax or polish that is specifically formulated for use on vintage instruments. These products can help to nourish the wood and preserve the aged appearance. Additionally, use soft, non-abrasive materials when cleaning the guitar to avoid any potential damage.
Proper Documentation and Insurance
Vintage guitars are valuable assets that should be properly documented and insured. Before storing your vintage guitar, make sure to take detailed photographs of the instrument, including any unique identifying features or marks. Keep a record of the guitar’s serial number, make, model, and any other relevant information. It is also recommended to consult with an insurance provider to ensure that your vintage guitar is adequately covered in the event of theft, damage, or loss.
Properly storing your guitar for a long period of time is crucial to preserving its condition and maintaining its playability. By choosing the right location, cleaning and preparing the guitar, protecting it during storage, caring for the strings, and taking additional precautions for vintage guitars, you can ensure that your instrument will be in impeccable condition when you are ready to play again. Remember to consult a qualified guitar technician for professional advice and consider using climate-controlled storage facilities for valuable or vintage guitars. With the right care and attention, your guitar will be ready to make beautiful music for years to come.