Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Heat is On

Remember that Glenn Frey song? It was the theme for the St. Louis Cardinals in the late '80s when I was growing up, so it's forever associated with Ozzie Smith and Willie Mcgee. Now that I live in New York City, the only time that song comes to mind is when it starts getting cool and my building turns on the heat. An event accompanied by a lot of hissing and some banging of metal pipes as the adjust to the steam running through them. If you haven't heard this before, it sounds like somebody banging wrenches against metal pipes in your bathroom at 5am. The heat, not the Glenn Frey song.

With heat comes dry air, which is the nemesis of wood instruments like guitars. The steam sucks the moisture out of your apartment while the cold outside sucks the moisture out of the as well. Here are a few tips I've picked up to help keep your guitar safe during the dry season.

-Keep the guitar away from the windows and radiators! These are usually in the same place, so that's easy enough.

-Room humidifier! Get something to throw moisture back into the air. Use distilled water if you're keeping it by your guitars, as the minerals in tap water can gradually seep into the wood or undo the glue.

-Instrument humidifiers! I have one for every guitar with a soundhole. There are several types, and they all work well, just make sure they stay moist but not too wet.

-Put it in the case. If you're not going to be playing it, or when you travel for the holidays, your case is a good barrier to humidity. The trick is to get some moisture inside. The poor man's humidifier is a wet sponge in a disposable tupperware type of container with a few holes punched in the top. A ziploc bag will actually work alright too. Lay this under the headstock in the case, and leave the case flat so there's no spilling.

-Pay attention. If your acoustic guitar is buzzing more than usual, or there's a noticable dip in the top around the bridge, it's drying up. Get some humidity on that baby to prevent any warping.

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