Caring for Your Guitar
Thank you for purchasing your new Bedell Guitar. You are now the caretaker of a fine stringed instrument. Every instrument we produce is special to us and we hope it will bring you many years of enjoyment. To preserve the remarkable tone and playability of your Bedell we have some simple suggestions to help ensure that your instrument will be making beautiful music for years to come.
Two of your guitar’s biggest enemies—maybe you didn’t realize a guitar had enemies, but it does—are improper temperature and humidity levels. As your guitar’s keeper, you can control for these.
Before you bought it, your guitar was manufactured and stored in a climate-controlled facility that maintained optimal humid- ity and temperature levels. Now that it’s out in the wide world, your guitar is in danger of being exposed to rapid temperature changes and humidity levels that can damage its finish and, worse yet, compromise the joints themselves.
Several things to avoid:
- Rapid changes in humidity
- High humidity combined with high temperature
- Very high humidity or very low humidity
We suggest you use a quality humidity and temperature gauge to monitor conditions and avoid damage to your guitar.
Rapid changes in humidity cause your guitar’s wood to expand and then shrink, potentially resulting in cracks and compro- mised joints. Weakened joints can even break open. Suppose you’re playing at an outdoor festival and the weather turns soggy. You head indoors and consider placing your guitar near the crackling fireplace to dry out. Bad idea! The hot, dry condi- tions near the fireplace will cause some parts of the guitar to shrink very quickly, potentially causing cracks and open joints.
To keep your guitar in good shape, avoid storing it in hot, humid conditions. When humidity is high, wood expands and swells. When high humidity combines with high temperatures, your guitar’s glue joints can weaken and even open slightly. If you leave your guitar in a hot, humid spot over a period of time, even the glue under the bridge can be compromised, potentially caus- ing the bridge to pull off.
Don’t expose your guitar to very high or low humidity levels for extended periods either. Instead, monitor conditions with a quality humidity and temperature gauge. If humidity levels are too low, use a quality guitar humidifier to protect your guitar. A specialty guitar humidifier typically has a moisture reservoir that’s suspended inside the body to release proper levels of moisture without any water actually touching your instrument. Placing your guitar near a standard room humidifier, however, might cause water to come into direct contact with your instrument—a cause of potential damage.
A final word about humidity and temperature levels: Avoid hanging your guitar on an outside wall. The temperature dif- ference between the interior of the room and the wall itself can cause potential damage to the guitar’s wood.
When you’re not playing, take the time to place your guitar back in its case and secure the lid. The case gently and evenly sup- ports the body, neck, and head of your guitar, helping to keep everything in proper alignment. Your instrument will be happy; you’ll be happy.
When you head out for a road trip, have your guitar ride in the car with you. If you’re the passenger, you’ll be able to play to pass time and keep the driver entertained. And it will save your guitar from the horrors of trunk travel. With temperature extremes resulting from zero climate control, the trunk of your car is no place for your guitar. Besides, think how lonely it would be back there.
If you’re flying, your best bet is to check your guitar planeside. That way a baggage carrier will hand-carry your guitar to and from the airplane, and you’ll be able to keep an eye on it until you board. If this isn’t an option, call ahead to ask if the cabin has a storage compartment large enough for your guitar case.
If so, carry it on and stow it in the on-plane compartment. If all else fails and you have to check your guitar, place soft cotton packing material around your guitar in its case to protect it as much as possible. Unfortunately, automated baggage systems can’t differentiate your precious guitar case from every other piece of luggage chugging through the conveyor system.
Though convenient while playing, there’s a good reason guitar straps are add-on accessories. Some types, particularly synthet- ics, contain solvents that can mar the finish of your guitar. Even some leather straps can damage the finish. So go ahead and use the strap of your choice while you play. Just be sure to remove it just as soon as you’re finished playing. And don’t toss the strap into the case with your guitar; store it separately.
No doubt about it. Even when you lovingly care for your guitar, it’s going to get a bit dirty from time to time. For basic finger- prints from normal playing, just wipe your guitar clean with a soft cloth. Wipe the strings, too, with a soft cloth to rid them of the oils from your fingers; it will help the strings last longer. For the body, use the smallest dab of guitar polish to rid those fin- gerprints and restore the glow of the natural wood. Wiping your guitar down with a soft, dry cloth and a bit of polish before you put it away also protects your guitar from natural skin oils that, while great for giving you a healthy glow, aren’t so great for the finish of your guitar. Likewise, if you’ve doused yourself with bug spray, or spritzed on perfume or aftershave before playing, your guitar prefers going au naturel. Wipe away those guitar- harming materials with a dry cloth and touch of polish.
If you and your guitar have been out re-creating Woodstock at a muddy festival, wet a soft cloth with warm water and ring it out completely until the cloth is only slightly damp. Then clean the dirt from your guitar. Follow by polishing with a dry, soft cloth and a light application of polish.
Typically the tuning machines on your guitar will need little if any maintenance beyond occasional lubrication. If your guitar has open tuning machines, mark your calendar twice a year— we know how easy it is to forget otherwise—to lubricate them. To do this, dab a tiny bit of petroleum jelly on the end of a toothpick and apply to the gears. Don’t apply too much or it will catch dust that will wear out the tuning machines.
If your guitar has enclosed tuning machines, you’re off the hook. We lubricated the gears for you when we made your guitar.
Your guitar came with strings that will help you make great music. Should you desire different strings to accommodate your individual playing style, your steel-string acoustic guitar works with light- and medium-gauge strings. If you switch to light- gauge strings, you’ll likely need to have a reputable dealer adjust the bridge saddle and neck to avoid fret buzz.
Your guitar strings will wear out. How quickly depends on how often and how long you play—and whether you wipe the strings with a cloth after each session. The oils from your fingers cor- rode the strings over time. How will you know when it’s time? You’ll notice your sound has lost its brilliance and has become a bit muffled. When this happens, replace the entire set of strings. Only replacing one will result in an unbalanced sound.
Just like people, your guitar changes a bit as it ages. To keep it at its best, you’ll need to make a few periodic adjustments. One is to the action—the height of the strings above the fingerboard. As your guitar grows older, the height of the strings will increase slightly, making it a bit harder to play. Likewise, if the strings are too low, they’ll buzz against the frets. If you suspect the action needs adjustment, take your guitar to a reputable guitar repair specialist.
Some people mistakenly think that the truss rod can adjust the height of the strings. It can’t. Instead, it’s used to adjust the rela- tive straightness of the neck. Don’t assume that if you look down the neck of your guitar and perceive a slight bow that it needs to be straightened. Depending on your playing style, a slight bow can work in your favor by preventing buzzes. Humidity and tem- perature changes can also create the impression that the neck needs to be adjusted. Again, not necessarily true. The neck may move slightly with changes in humidity and temperature but not need adjustment. If you suspect (or are worried) that your guitar requires a neck adjustment, take it to your guitar dealer.
Your guitar’s endpin is held in place only by friction. It’s critical that you don’t jam it in too forcefully—this can crack the bottom end of your guitar. Definitely do NOT hammer it in. Just hold it between your thumb and forefinger and gently push it into place while slightly twisting it. Then regularly check it to make sure it hasn’t worked loose while you’ve been jamming.