“I’ve got 99 problems and humidity appears to be one”
The humble acoustic guitar: Music maker. Joy bringer. Surprisingly robust slice of wood. While our guitars can be the root of great happiness in our lives, when things go south, they can be a real headache. Among all of the unforeseeable accidents that may plague our instrument, there are certain factors that are absolutely avoidable and can save us from the emotional trauma and many dollars spent on the repair. Here are a few notes on humidity for your consideration.
Your initial thought may be something like, “Why do I need to be concerned with something like humidity?”. Very good question. Have you ever noticed your hands getting chewed up by sharp fret ends during a set? Have small cracks shown up, almost overnight, on the top of your beloved flattop? Or even worse, a dreaded sunken or bloated top and lifted bridge that make you nervous to even hold your guitar? These symptoms can be directly tied to an improperly hydrated instrument and have the potential to be quite costly at your local repair shop. But, with a little foresight and a few pieces of maintenance gear, you could be smooth sailing all year long without another thought on humidity.
Humidity is the invisible water vapor rascal that is present in the air and is, for our means, expressed as Relative Humidity (RH) and a percentage of air-water mixture. So, a higher percentage (you already know this) means more humidity. Ideally, our precious instruments will live comfortably in that sweet spot between 45-55% RH, but are typically still in the “safe zone” from 40-60% RH. Effectively, if it falls below 40%, you add moisture and above 60%, you remove it. But, how the heck are you suppose to know where your guitar falls on this scale? And how are you suppose to get all this moisture in and out of your guitar? I’m glad you asked! Let’s talk about the gear.
So now you know what to watch for before your guitar starts to feel like a dried up stick, perfect. This is what you’re going to need to make sure you’re on top of this humidity thing. Start by visiting our Guitar Care section here on the website!
Hygrometer - This handy measurement tool will give you a fairly accurate representation of what your RH% looks like in either the body of your guitar, in your case, or in the room you store your instrument. Step 1 to knowing what your humidity sitch is looking like. I’d recommend a digital hygrometer.
Re/De-Humidification - The almost-too-obvious solution to your low humidity problems is a humidifier. While the trusty humidifier can absolutely cure those dry-spell woes, you want to make sure you’re not accidentally over-humidifying your guitar.
If you live in a typically dry climate region, I’d say pickup the Oasis OH1. This little fella will keep your guitar nice and happy without having to worry about water dripping into your guitar or drying up into a crusty sponge.
However, if you’re living it up in an ultra-humid, sticky-as-hell region (I’m looking at you, Florida), you’re probably not going to think twice about if you need to add moisture, you’re just trying to figure out how to get it out. Well my soggy friends, I’ve got just thing for you. Do yourself, and your guitar, a favor and pickup some activated bamboo charcoal bags to help pull that moisture out. And if you’re looking to treat an entire room, you’re going to need to start looking at a proper dehumidifier; noisy, but effective.
Now, if you’re in that nice little area in the middle where winters are knuckle-bustin dry and summers are a guarantee for a wicked case of swamp crotch, you’re going to love the D’Addario Humidipak. In one system, these packs will help keep your guitar in that *cush* 45-50% RH territory without having to do a thing. Could it be any easier for you to not pay me to fix your guitar? Which leads me to the fix.
Let’s say you’ve made it this far, read and digested all this tasty information, and still didn’t do a damn thing to protect your guitar from +/- humidification. This is where I come into play. Sharp frets, body cracks, lifted/ removed bridges, cracked bridge plates, and brace damage may be some issues you’ve noticed from this cold and dry winter. If you think you’ve got a problem that needs a sharp set of eyes, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get you back on track for a better tomorrow.
Guitar Repair Technician
Owner, Lunar Music Supply