Guitars are made of wood and it changes with the humidity levels. Humidity level is different in different parts of the world. It’s also heavily affected by season (winter or summer) and by specific situations.
That’s why you shouldn’t leave your guitar in a car for a long time.
Check out the article from this page if you wish.
You don’t need to be a professional touring musician to experience drastic differences in the humidity around you. In fact, you don’t have to be a professional touring musician to start worrying about the humidity of your instrument.
This is especially true for acoustics of all kinds. Since they are built using very thin layers of wood, they tend to suffer more from the lack or excess of humidity than their solid cousins.
Symptoms of a Dry Guitar
A dry guitar is not difficult to spot because it starts showing some symptoms right away. If you happen to live in a dry area or take the guitar to a place that is too dry to play, there are some signs you can look for.
Some of the symptoms can be spotted without any tools and by the player and others require the professional eye of a guitar tech.
The basic concept you need to understand is that dry wood shrinks; with that in mind, let´s go through some common symptoms.
- the frets start feeling sharp
The neck wood and fretboard will shrink due to being dry. The joint between neck and frets will leave more metal exposed.
You might start to experience this uncomfortable feeling on the lower side of the palm of your hand. It’s like the metal bars are piercing you. Guitars with binding in the neck can have an even worse impact because the binding can break.
- string buzzing
String buzzing can have many causes in a guitar. The one caused by a dry body and neck is a little different since it becomes noticeable from the 7th fret onwards.
This high-register string buzzing can be a symptom that your guitar is dry, but it is not as definitive as the first one.
If you are having this kind of buzzing, the best thing to do is to take it to a qualified technician and let him or her be the judge.
Also, try to chose the right type of strings for your guitar. Sometimes guitars perform better with the right gauge of strings.
Find out more about it here: String Gauge Effect On Tone, Intonation, Fret Buzz, Action and Much More
- thin and tiny sound
If you are getting a smaller sound from a big-body guitar, then it can be because your guitar is dry.
Again, there is more than one reason for your guitar sound to change and become slimmer. If this is the case, you can let the ears of a qualified technician be the ones to judge here as well.
The best bet to identify a dry guitar is to find the combination of symptoms. If you start feeling that your guitar becomes thin and there is some buzzing in the upper part of the fretboard it can be a hint.
If you add to that the piercing, uncomfortable feeling of the frets (or the cracked binding), then the adding of the symptoms is enough to declare the sickness.
Worst case scenario
The worst case scenario that can happen on a very dry guitar for a long time is that it can break the glue or even worse, crack the top. The shrinking wood is going to pull from the glue to become loose.
That can happen if the glue is too strong. It will crack and if the glue gives in, you might find it unglued next time you pick it up. Yes, humidity (the lack of and the excess of) is a silent killer for all wooden instruments.
Pay attention to the symptoms and be ready to take action in order to avoid paying for expensive repairs or losing your favorite guitar.
Symptoms To Watch For
We are going to go through the symptoms of a guitar with a lack or excess of humidity. It is important for you to understand that these scenarios can really cause irreparable damage to your favorite guitar.
If you are one of those guitar players (bass, ukulele, mandolin, etc…) who ignored this fact until now, you shouldn’t anymore. It is not only a playability and feel issue, it also got to do with the integrity of your instrument.
Let’s say you have a beautiful acoustic with a Koa top and it gets cracked or unglued because of humidity. It will never sound as it did before cracking (if it can be repaired, of course).
Let’s go through how to spot your guitar being too dry or too wet and then what you can do about it.
Symptoms of a Wet Guitar
This is the opposite scenario in terms of humidity, but it is equally damaging to your instrument.
Dry guitars shrink while wet guitars expand and get swollen. This is because the wood on your guitar starts taking in the water from the air.
Some guitar owners have even declared that the guitars take weight in and become heavier instruments.
How much is too much humidity for your guitar?
Well, exposing guitars to anything above 60% is damaging to them. Solid body electrics can handle this much better than acoustics. Still, they can also suffer from excess of water.
Let’s check out which are the symptoms you can look for and discover to start taking action right now.
- the action goes sky-high
This symptom is not exclusive to a wet guitar and can have many causes. What is really particular for this case is that the action will become higher overnight without you doing anything about it.
If it becomes as high as to be difficult to play it or even painful, it is time to take immediate action and fix the humidity issue.
- guitar sounds dull
If your guitar was rich and full with piercing highs and growling lows and suddenly it is very middy and flat; then you might have a wet guitar case.
You need to have a very well-trained ear and know your guitar sound very well to spot this one. If you can have the opinion of a well-versed guitar tech, he or she will very likely spot if your guitar is wet or not.
- arched top and back
The arched top and back of your guitar are symptoms of it being swollen, hence, wet.
It is not very difficult to realize about this symptom, you just need to place a ruler on the back part of the guitar, behind the bridge and see if it´s straight or swollen.
Other symptoms of expanding wood can be an improper bridge or neck angle. All of this can be spotted by the user but it is better if a professional has a final word about it.
Wet guitars can be broken and useless in very little time unless you take action over it and fix the issue. Don’t let your favorite guitar endure with humidity excess or lack by itself.
Don’t do that and look for these symptoms right away. Same as in dry guitars cases, they usually come together to diagnose the sickness.
Worst Case Scenario
Just like with a shrinking guitar, an expanding guitar can break the joints of glue. It will cause cracks on the finish and the wood itself.
Imagine waking up one fine day just to open the case of your favorite guitar and find it cracked. I know, it sounds like a nightmare. Well, that is exactly what you can avoid by paying special attention to the humidity of your instruments.
Speaking of which, let’s go through the best ways and the perfect accessory to do it.
What Is The Optimum Humidity For a Guitar?
Guitars need to be in a constant 40 to 55 percentage of humidity to be at its best. Especially if you live in a place in which the regular humidity goes above or below those numbers. You need to start worrying about your instrument’s humidity.
Storing them inside their hard case is the best option. That way, you’ll create a micro climate for it that can be drier or wetter than the outside world. If you don’t have a pricey or very dear instrument, you can of course forget about the humidity issue.
Still, if you really love your guitars, then overlooking this issue can take you to a very complicated situation.
Check out the related article from this page:
What Can I Do About My Instrument’s Humidity?
There are several things you need to do to keep the well-being of your instrument in terms of humidity.
1. Measure Humidity
This might sound as a no-brainer for many. The most common answer to the question: “do you own a hygromter?” is “I don’t know what that is”.
Well, it is an instrument that measures the humidity of your guitar. You may consider getting yourself one. There are plenty of manufacturers offering this type of measuring.
If you can’t measure the humidity of your guitar and case, you’ll never know if you have a dry or wet guitar. Hence, you will never be able to take action upon it. So, first step is to go out and get yourself a hygrometer (or several).
2. Get a proper case
Getting a proper case for your guitar is the next step that is just as important as the first.
If you can store your guitar inside a pro-level case, you can create a sort of micro climate for it and protect it from the natural fluctuations of the outside world.
Pro Tips For Wet Guitars
Wet guitars need drying out. Here’s what I’d suggest you to do:
- get some silica gel packages to put inside your guitar case and dry it out.
- buy a room dehumidifier in case you don´t have a proper case to put your guitar in to protect it. There are plenty of these on sites like Amazon.
- whenever you take your guitar to play outside (live gig, for example), let the guitar rest inside the case for a couple of days and then open it the day of the gig. (if possible)
Pro Tips For Dry Guitars
Dry guitars need a little more moisture and this is how to do it:
- get a humidifier
- put a humidifier in the room you keep your guitars at to make it closer to 50%.
- when playing in a very dry place after coming from your humid home, maintain the guitar for a full day inside the case and open it up the second day before playing.
The Best Product In The Market (My Opinion)
As much as all these DIY approaches are great to save some bucks, it is important to bear in mind that there are products currently in the market that can solve the humidity issue for your guitars.
I personally love to use this one.
Price: 12.19 $
Amazon Rating: 4.3 / 5
D’addario’s Humidipak is perfect to protect all your acoustic instruments from excess and lack of humidity. It works both ways: to make your guitar drier or wetter.
Humidipak senses the humidity level in the protected space of the case and releases humidity when it is below 45% or takes water in when it is above 60%.
It has a two-piece pouch that goes into the sound hole from the third and the fourth string and a third pouch that goes under the headstock of the guitar.
That way, it’s taking care of the neck, such a forgotten part of the guitar´s humidity for so many brands.
Reverse osmosis technology
The Humidipak by D’addario restores the needed moisture. It does that through reverse osmosis technology created by a membrane releasing pure water vapor.
It can be used in a very dry or wet instrument. Also, it be used on a regular basis to maintain the welfare of a healthy instrument.
For example, if you are the lucky owner of many guitars, you can easily forget one inside a case for some time.
With this product, you can just leave it on and forget about weather inclemency on your priced possession. That’s what makes this humidifier special.
Anyway, check it out in details on Amazon, along with customer reviews, here.
The Humidipak Revolution
D’addario came up with a product that has been a revolution in terms of humidity for musical instruments, especially acoustic guitars.
The fact that it works both ways automatically makes it the easiest way to solve the humidity issue in your guitars once and for all.
The price tag on it isn’t alarming or sky-high. It is a great option for having one for each good, pricey guitar you have in your arsenal.
After all, if you take into account the price it would cost you to fix your guitar because of humidity issues; the D’addario Humidipak is going to sound like a total bargain.
D’addario is world famous for manufacturing strings. Still, it happens to be one of the most important guitar accessories manufacturer, also.
The company commercializes a Bluetooth sensor that you can put inside your instrument’s case.
That way you can monitor the humidity levels in real time as well as collect historic data called Humiditrak.
Adding both products together you can take care of and monitor your guitar´s humidity at all times.
Anyway, check the Humiditrak specifications in more details on Amazon, here.
I hope this article gave you some valuable information about this issue. Dry guitar can become a big problem. Watch out for the humidity level of the room.
Keep these tips in your mind, and your guitar will be OK.
Don’t forget to check out some other interesting articles from this page!
Cheers, and rock on!