Play A Guitar? Get a Guitar Humidifier
Guitars are built in a carefully controlled environment. They might not look it. If you’ve ever visited a guitar workshop you’ll probably have noticed that it’s full of dust and noise. But you won’t have noticed the air conditioner working non-stop and keeping the humidity level steady at around 47 percent. That’s important because conditions that are too dry — something that can occur easily in an atmosphere with plenty of sawdust to soak up moisture — will damage the guitars. You’ll notice a poor string action, buzzing, protruding fret-ends, a sinking body and cracking on the wood.
None of those is an effect that you want to see on a guitar, which is why guitar makers keep their humidity level stable — and why musicians who care about their instruments use a guitar humidifier when they’re not playing.
These are pretty simple devices and they’re not expensive. Some musicians use sponges that might be encased in latex or plastic, and suspend them from the strings into the body of the guitar. It’s a bit fiddly. You have to be careful to dry the sponge properly so that it doesn’t drip water into the guitar and you also need to make sure that the sponge doesn’t touch the wood itself. The moisture in the guitar humidifier’s sponge needs to radiate through the guitar.
Much easier to use are sachets that contain a material that can adsorb moisture, hold it and, in dry conditions, give that moisture back up. The material used in these guitar humidifiers does not look particularly hi-tech, but it is. A guitar isn’t made of the latest man-made materials. It’s entirely natural, made from wood, which is why it’s so capable of absorbing moisture in humid weather and drying out when the humidity levels drops.
Similarly, the material that a guitar humidifier uses should be natural too. The best is one which can easily adsorb moisture and just as easily give it up when the humidity drops.
You Really Do Need A Guitar Humidifier
The challenge with guitar humidifiers is not using them.
Just keep the sachets in the guitar case, and replace them accordingly to the manufacturer instructions. The real challenge is understanding that you need to use them.
Everyone has stories about guitar players who played for years, never used a guitar humidifier and whose instrument always seemed fine. But “seemed fine” should never be good enough and the degree to which a guitar will be damaged by changing humidity levels will depend on where it’s used. If you live in a place where humidity changes very little and never take your guitar outside that environment then you might be able to get away without a guitar humidifier. But in practice few people do that, and the changes in humidity can be huge. Travel from Florida to Denver in the summer, for example, and you could be moving your guitar from a humidity level of 89 to a level as low as 21 — and that’s before you step into the air conditioning.
Whether you’re building guitars or playing them, you need a guitar humidifier.