Always keeping your guitar maintained and in top notch conditions has nothing but benefits to it. Here are a few of the best guitar maintenance tips, but before that, lets start with some benefits of staying on top of your guitar maintenance using the tips below:
*Originally posted May ’15.
Let’s start with the Benefits of Keeping Your Guitar Perfectly Maintained – to Get Motivated:
- The guitar will be much easier to play (for example – a setup can lower the distance between the strings and the fretboard which results in increased playability) and will not hinder your musical improvement.
- The guitar’s sound will be equal to well higher priced guitars and even BETTER. High-quality fresh strings by themselves make an impeccable difference and just by that you will get a tremendous benefit to your sound.
- Your will to play the guitar and to practice will be higher and therefore you will improve faster on the guitar and enjoy more play time.
- Your guitar will last for many years while only getting better (solid body guitars sound better with age) and holding most of its value.
If you prefer video over text, the post is also available on the GuitarHippies Channel, where I explain in person:
My guitars, both the electric and the acoustics, are always perfectly maintained and about three out of four people who pick them up will comment about how great they feel and sound. Immediately. They aren’t even really expensive guitars. The acoustic is a Washburn WD-10 and a Taylor 150e 12 string and the electric is a Hagstrom Viking.
I love these guitars and play them every day, and part of the reasons that I am so motivated to play them is that they always feel like new, and also because I customized them to my likings, added some “bling”, and made them even more good looking.
Here are the best ways I know to keep your guitar maintained easily and without going overboard.
The 4 Most Beneficial Guitar Maintenance Tips:
1 – Keep It Clean.
First and foremost, my guitars are always clean and never dusty. It makes a big difference and it’s easy to follow up on – just about once a week I clean them up with a dry rag, including hard-to-reach places like under the strings. If you store it in a case instead of on a stand so you even won’t have to clean them as often as that.
This takes exactly 30-60 seconds and gives a better feeling immediately. You can also use a guitar polish spray to get some extra shine if you wanna be really anal about it. When I change strings I also clean the fretboard very well and use a fretboard oil – more on that in a minute.
2 – Take It for a Set-Up!
At least once a year I take my guitars to a professional guitar technician for a set-up. What’s set up? A set up is like a car annual maintenance appointment but for a guitar. The main reason for me to take my guitar for a set up is lowering the action (the distance between the fretboard and the strings) which makes the guitar wayyyy easier and nicer to play. Seriously, if you never took it to a setup – try it. You’ll get a new guitar!
Also, set up makes sure that there is no buzzing at any given fret, that the neck is adjusted correctly, that the guitar intonation is good (making sure the guitar is tuned in the upper frets as well and such) and more maintenance stuff that you will not do at home unless you are very technically savvy.
A set up costs usually about 50$ + the cost of a new set of strings. Read here for more info about set ups.
♣ Hippie Tippie: I recommend checking out with friends and local guitarists about a good technician who’s known for good set ups. Some will do a better job than others, so research that a bit instead of just dropping it off at the local guitar store.
3 – Change Strings Regularly – Always Keep Them Fresh!
Now this one’s the most important in my opinion in order to get a good sounding guitar. Paired with a new set of Elixir strings, my 300$ Washburn sounds just as good as almost any 1000-2000$ guitar that I will pick up at a store. (!!!) Combined with the set ups it will also feel better, especially considering the Washburn’s amazing skinny neck.( In general, I think that expensive acoustic guitars are mostly a bluff but anyway this is not the topic today.)
Make sure you only use quality strings and change the strings often. Even by doing only that, you will get an amazing guitar in your hands. This is the single biggest improvement.
I have seen a 30$ broke-ass guitar from a pawn shop in Idaho that I got with friends on a road trip, that after a pair of new Elixir strings (that cost half of the guitar’s price…) sounded like a thousand bucks. Try it for yourself and see.
I only use Elixir strings. They sound bright, lively and very full, just like an acoustic guitar should sound like. While they cost 14$ instead of 5-7$ like the average strings, (although for electric guitar they only cost 9$) they sound much better, last three times more and save me from the time and hassle of changing strings every month, so for me the added price is well worth it.
Ever since I started using Elixirs I usually change strings only once every three months and even then it’s just because I’m picky, because the degrade of the sound is barely noticeable. Same for the electric guitar. For both of them I use a gauge of 0.11 which for me is the perfect compromise between great full sound and ease of playing.
I used to play 0.12 but they were too heavy and harder to press and bend. Purchase Elixirs in sets of 3 for nice discounts.
That’s how a well maintained 12 string sounds like: (check out the YouTube channel for more)
4 – Use a Fretboard & Strings Lubricant At Lease Once a Month
Now this one’s a tip that will be of tremendous help as well and I was very surprised about it. For good. A friend of mine told me 2 years ago that there is an oil / lubricant called “Fast Fret” that makes the strings “as smooth as a butter to press on”. I was skeptical that any “oil” could do such thing but I said what the heck, it’s just 5 bucks anyway. I was surprised to find out that “this shit works” and works great – it actually makes the guitar easier to play.
Since then I always top a fresh pair of strings with a nice brush of that stuff and also every once in a while I brush some of it on my spoiled guitars just because it has been a month since they got their treat. It also nourishes and moisturizes the fretboard so say goodbye to those cracky, dry looking fretboards.
Since then I have also discovered Dunlop’s take on the lubricant thing which also works just as well and for a bit cheaper, and these bottles last forever.
Not long ago I came back home after 6 months of traveling overseas. My electric guitar was not traveling with me and when I finally picked it up after all that time, the strings felt like shit – sticky and “dead”. I applied the Dunlop oil on the Elixir strings and the next morning they felt and sounded like new again. Good stuff.
This is it! This is how with little effort you can always on top of your guitars’ maintenance, and make them a joy to play every single day. Go ahead and take good care of your guitar, take it for a setup, squeeze some fretboard oil and chuck some new Elixir’s on it. The guitars will smile back at you every time you pick them up.
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