“Music is a necessity. After food, air, water and warmth, music is the next necessity of life.” - Keith Richards
Electric guitars, acoustic guitars, and electro-acoustic guitars all need to be maintained to sound good and play well. Changing the strings, cleaning the neck, and even cleaning out the case are all great ways to take care of your guitar. In fact, like all stringed instruments, a guitar needs to regularly maintained.
The electric guitar is the most popular instrument for children in the UK to learn.
So are you ready to look after your guitar?
Here’s our guide to guitar maintenance.
How to Keep Your Guitar in Good Condition
You must regularly maintain your guitar to ensure that it’s in good condition and unharmed by humidity in the air.
So how can you take care of your instrument?
It’s a good idea to clean the guitar with a soft cloth before playing. There are specialised products for cleaning guitars and basses that you can buy in music shops.
Make sure you keep your guitar in a dry place. Humidity can warp the wood and heat can make it shrink. In the long term, a warm and humid place will affect the tuning and sound and eventually render it unplayable.
You also need to think about the instrument’s exposure to sunlight. Don’t leave it by a south-facing window or in direct sunlight will harm the tone. Don’t leave the guitar on the sofa or a stand by a window, radiator, or heat source.
Purists will tell you that you need to clean under the strings with a cloth. A microfibre cloth can also do the trick. Don't use a vacuum cleaner as you'll run the risk of scratching the wood.
Sweat and acid can build up on the strings and cause them to rust. You can also wipe down all the parts that you make contact with: the neck, body, machine heads, etc. You don’t want a sticky and dirty guitar, after all.
What Accessories Do You Need to Clean a Guitar?
In addition to a cloth, what other accessories do you need to clean acoustic, electric, or electro-acoustic guitars?
You don’t need a lot of tools to keep your guitar in top condition. Start with a neck rest for your guitar. This will allow you to lay the guitar down when you’re changing strings or cleaning the guitar.
To get rid of any buildup on the neck and frets such as grease, sweat, dead skin, etc., you’ll need to loosen the strings and retune the guitar when you’ve finished.
You can also replace the strings at this time if necessary. The more intensely you play, the more often you’ll need to restring your guitar.
For example, you should change the strings on your guitar at least once a year if you’re a beginner playing irregularly but you should change your strings once a month if you play daily.
There are different strings and some are more durable than others. For example, Elixir strings are quite hardy.
To clean and maintain your guitar, you’ll need:
- A cloth.
- Rubbing alcohol (if your guitar is varnished).
- Linseed oil to make unfinished wood shine.
- A tuner for new strings.
- Wire cutters for cutting new strings.
- A string winder.
- A pin remover for acoustic guitars.
- You can find guitar maintenance kits that include all these things as well as a polish for the body and lemon oil for the fretboards.
The lemon oil is for ebony and rosewood fretboards. Be careful with maple necks as the lemon oil can remove the varnish. Choose the product based on the type of guitar that you have. You might even want a hygrometer to check if the air is too humid or not.
Find out more about the different types of guitar.
How to Clean Your Guitar Neck
Once you’ve done all this, you might want to clean the neck, the fretboard, the body, the bridge, and even the strings. Private guitar tutors can show you how to restring a guitar and clean the strings.
So how can I do it if I’m teaching myself?
Loosen the strings one by one to clean the neck and fretboard. Delicately rub the surface of the neck and body with a soft cloth with soapy water or rubbing alcohol. Polish all the nooks and crannies where dust and residue can build up: the bridge, frets, head, machine heads. After you’ve cleaned the neck, restring your guitar.
Some blogs recommend that you use sewing machine oil on the tuning pegs. You might also want to tighten all the screws at this moment.
Normally, the sound of your guitar will be improved by cleaning or changing the string. The better a guitar is maintained, the better it’ll sound. Old, dirty strings don’t sound good.
Learn how to hold a guitar.
How to Clean a Guitar’s Body
As a guitar’s body gets dirty over time, you’ll need the right products to clean it. There are different products available. Some are available for a few quid or you can get whole kits for around £40.
The product you choose will depend on the type of sound box your guitar has. A cloth can clean a guitar body and some polish will make it shine. Some musicians even use glass cleaner.
A damp cloth with warm soapy water can also do the trick. However, use a dry cloth for the pickups as electronics and water don’t tend to go well together.
To dust your pickups, a flexible toothbrush and air cleaner can get rid of dust and moisture. You don’t want the metal parts to rust.
Can’t remember all of this?
Guitar specialists can also do it for you. They can clean and set up your guitar: adjust the tone, tuning, and action of your guitar. They can also check the circuity of electric guitars. Similarly, they can also check the bridge on acoustic guitars to make sure that it’s still glued down as the nut can sometimes come away, affecting the guitar’s tuning.
If you'd like to learn more about how to play the guitar, there are plenty of useful resources online. You can find tablature sites to show you how to play certain songs as well as video tutorials on sites like YouTube. However, if you prefer to be taught how to play, you should consider getting in touch with one of the many talented and experienced guitar tutors on Superprof.
There are three types of guitar tutorial available: face-to-face, online, and group. Each of these come with their pros and cons and it's really up to you to choose which one works best with your learning style and your budget.
Generally speaking, face-to-face tutorials are the most effective as they're just between you and your tutor. Your tutor can focus all their time and energy on you during the tutorial and also plan the tutorials with you in mind. However, this bespoke service comes at a cost and while guitar tutors don't tend to charge a fortune, face-to-face tutorials are usually the most costly type of tutorial available.
Online tutorials are similar to face-to-face tutorials in the respect that they're just between the tutor and the student but their main difference is that the tutor won't be there with you in the room. Instead, they'll be teaching you remotely via webcam and video conferencing software. While these types of tutorials tend to be cheaper than face-to-face tutorials, they do have the disadvantage of not being as effective for hands-on subjects.
Finally, there are group tutorials. With several students in a single tutorial, you won't get as much one-on-one time with your tutor and there's no guarantee that the tutorials will be tailored to you; there are other students that need to be taught, after all. With all the students footing the bill, these tutorials tend to work out the cheapest per student per hour.
Personally, if you're not sure whether or not you'd like to learn how to play the guitar, I'd recommend starting with group tutorials as they're less of an investment. Once you get serious about the guitar, then you can move onto face-to-face tutorials and start learning exactly what you want. Don't forget that many of the tutors on Superprof offer the first hour of tuition for free. Use this time to see if they're the right tutor for you!