Guitar Care

Tips for keeping your collection in top form

In the thirty-plus years we’ve been building fine acoustic guitars, we’ve learned there are really two main errors when it comes to thinking about your guitar’s environment:

1) Not paying any attention to your guitar’s environment and thinking the instrument will somehow just be alright. It won’t. 

2) Continually worrying about your guitar’s environment so you’re no longer able to enjoy your experience with a world-class instrument. 

We want your guitar to have a long, happy life — without adding stress to your life. So, here are our time-tested, worry-free ideas to help you control the environment around your instrument.

Buy a Hygrometer (or Two!)

The key to genuine peace of mind requires a short introduction to the concept of “Relative Humidity.” For this, you’ll want to buy a special measuring device called a hygrometer. We recommend AcuRite’s 01080M Pro Accuracy Temperature and Humidity Gauge. In fact, we recommend buying two so you’ll have an easy time spotting device malfunctions or errors.

Keep Your Guitar in the Humidity “Safe Zone”

There are four basic tips we’ve worked out to maintain an ideal environment around any guitar:

  1. Generally, your guitar likes the same environment you do.
    If you are comfortable, so is your guitar. If you are uncomfortable sitting in hot, dry weather, or muggy weather, so is your guitar. Taking steps to control your comfort level can help improve your instrument’s environment too.

  2. Have at least two high-quality digital hygrometers in the room where your guitar is stored.
    Hygrometers measure the relative humidity in the environment. Having two devices on hand will help you spot device malfunctions or errors. Your aim should be to keep your guitar in the “safe zone” for most of the time, between 40-50% Relative Humidity.

  3. Place some low-maintenance potted plants in the room with your guitar.
    When the air gets dry, the plants and their soil will actually help reintroduce moisture to the air. This deceptively simple arrangement can help protect against dry, low-humidity conditions, which are much more dangerous for your instrument than high humidity.

  4. Keep your guitar in its case when you’re not playing it.
    If you’re having trouble keeping your guitar’s storage space in the “safe zone,” between 40-50% Relative Humidity, simply keep your guitar in its case. The case interior will help normalize dynamic swings in environmental humidity. This will be sufficient to take care of your instrument during short periods of extremes in Relative Humidity. 

Please contact us if you’re having trouble keeping your guitar’s environment in the “safe zone” most of the time. We’re committed to helping keep your Ryan guitar in top form.

Know How “Relative Humidity” Numbers Impact Your Guitar

Here’s a quick rundown of how your guitar will likely be impacted by both humid and dry environments. Number ranges at left refer to Relative Humidity readings you’ll need a hygrometer to detect.

0-20 RH: Time to contact your local Ryan Guitar dealer so you can replace your guitar, which is now a heap of dried out splinters on your floor.

20-30 RH: This is not good for your guitar. The action is getting low and the wood is stressed. The frets might even be extending beyond the fretboard. Wood could crack. Get the guitar to safety.

30-40 RH: A few days of this is OK, but it’s time for some humidification. The wood is drying out and the soundboard is beginning to shrink and “sink” in a little bit. Don't panic but do take some action. Water those plants and prepare your guitar-case humidifier.

40-50 RH: Perfect in every way! Relax and enjoy that guitar!

50-60 RH: A little too humid — wood is starting to swell — but don't worry. Keep your eye on that hygrometer. Note: If your Relative Humidity hovers here most of the year, you might just want to adjust your action to accommodate this new “normal” and let it live out its life in this range.

60-70 RH: Too humid, though a few days of this is nothing to worry about. The wood of your guitar is swelling, the action is getting higher, and the thin plates of your guitar are slightly stressed. Don't panic, but you will have to lower your humidity if this keeps up.

70-80 RH: Now your guitar is stressed. Wood is not as likely to crack as in conditions of extremely low humidity, but coupled with high heat this is a danger zone.

80-100 RH: What are you doing playing your guitar out in the rain or in a sauna?