How Humidity Affects Your Guitar
Have you ever felt sharp fret ends or low, When solid wood dries, it shrinks. A guitar
buzzing action on your acoustic guitar? top can shrink nearly an eighth of an inch!
If so, you are experiencing the effects Imagine how much strain that can put on a
of low humidity. top that is bound to the edges of a guitar. A
fretboard will shrink less, maybe only a sixty-fourth of an inch, but as you can see in the
photo, it’s enough to make the frets protrude
an unhealthy amount.
hand, but a stand or wall hanger is not the
best place for them to live unless you are
humidifying the whole house.
players about the pure physics of this has
become a part-time vocation for me. In the
course of making thousands upon thousands
of guitars and then servicing some of them,
it became apparent that many players don’t
grasp how low or high humidity can damage
their guitars. At one time, probably 70 percent
of the repairs performed in our service center
could have been avoided if the guitar had not
been exposed to humidity extremes.
To prevent this, let’s talk about some simple
steps you can take to protect your guitar
2. Use a simple humidifier in your guitar case
during cold winter months or at all times if
you live in a dry climate. You don’t have to
overdo it. It is possible to cram too much
water down the throat of your guitar, so
easy does it. If your humidifier goes bone
dry, give it a drink and put it back in. In the
end, you might not need to re-wet it more
than once or twice a month.
guitar market, guitars have become world
travelers. A guitar made in one location,
such as our complex in El Cajon, California,
might be shipped almost anywhere around
the globe—potentially to a place with a dramatically different climate. By contrast, just fifty
years ago, guitars stayed a lot closer to home.
3. Keep a digital hygrometer enclosed in your
find hygrometers at places like Radio Shack
that come with a barometer do not work.
With that said, I’ll try to explain Relative
Humidity (RH) as simply as I can. The word
“relative” is used because it changes as temperature changes. If, for example, on a cold
winter day it’s 30 degrees (Fahrenheit) outside with an RH of 50%, and that air enters
your home and is heated to 70 degrees, the
humidity drops relative to the temperature.
In short, the amount of moisture in the room
is the same, but since the higher temperature is capable of holding more water, the
“relative” humidity drops.
ing sharp frets on any guitar—electric
or acoustic—and low action on your
acoustic. These are signs of drying wood.
When you see this, put the guitar in its
case and give it a dose of humidity. The
sharp frets will go away.
5. If you choose not to store your guitar in
its case, at least put it there for one week
a month with a humidifier. Think of it as a
week at the spa. It will thank you.
If you’re scientifically oriented, then this
probably makes sense. If you’re not, just
understand this: when you heat air, the
humidity drops. And by drops, I mean it
plummets. It’s easy to lower the RH in your
house to 10% just by heating it.
I love wear and tear on guitars, believe me
I do. My favorite thing to see is a guitar
that’s been played to death—sporting holes,
scratched-off finish and other evidence of
miles and miles of good use. But the damage done by dryness breaks this luthier’s
heart. So, know that with a little attention
and a bit of care your guitar can serve you
better and longer.
from the ravages of low humidity, and to
keep your guitar in optimal condition for a
lifetime of great playing.
There are places like desert climates or the
Colorado Rockies that are dry all the time.
By contrast, there are places like tropical
islands or Seattle that are humid all the time.
Because dryness tends to wreak more havoc
on a guitar, I’ll concentrate on that.
1. Store your guitar in its case. We have studied this extensively and have found that the
case will shelter your guitar through many
extreme conditions. I realize that guitars are
beautiful and that you want them readily at
Bob Taylor is the co-founder and president of Taylor
Guitars. He built his first guitar as a teenager and has
since gone on to establish Taylor Guitars as one of the
world’s premier acoustic, acoustic/electric and electric