Care: Acoustic Guitar
It seems a bunch of my friends currently are in the market for a new acoustic guitar. If you have spent any time at all with me, you know my love for Taylor Guitars. I know they are not for everyone, but I personally feel Taylor puts money where they need to and although they are pretty expensive, it is a tool that will last you decades. Here's a few tips on how to get the best sound from your guitar and care for your acoustic, whether or not it's a beloved Taylor.
Tip #1 - Play your acoustic!
You may have noticed your guitar can sound different at times. Sometimes when you play it, you are amazed! Other times, the same guitar leaves you wishing for more. It's not your ears playing tricks on you, it's true, the guitar sounds different! One of the best things you can do for your acoustic guitar is play it! Wood is actually very responsive. When you don't play your guitar, it closes up and tightens. When you play it frequently, the sounds resonate and open up the wood, making the guitar sound brighter, deeper, and more full. I try and play my acoustic at LEAST 3 times per week. Lately, I've been making it a goal to play it every other day to keep it open. If it sits in it's case for a few months, it isn't ruined, but it will take awhile to open back up. Do your best to show some love to your acoustic.
Tip #2 - change your strings, when they need it
Strings can make or break the sound of your guitar. Whenever I feel like my guitar is sounding dull, or unresponsive, even though I have regularly been playing it, it usually is time for new strings. There isn't a certain time frame strings last. I've had some strings last over 6 months, even though I was putting in 40-50 hours/week on them. Other times, they don't last 2 weeks. You need to be the judge of when you need to change your strings. Usually if I break a string (unless it's the next gig after I change them), I will go ahead and swap the whole set out instead of just the one that broke.
Most manufactures will indicate on their website what the original strings were installed on your guitar. Most of the time, those are going to be the best strings for your guitar. They spend a lot of time and money finding what strings sound best so make sure to take their advice. BUT, changing the strings on the guitar will help you shape the sound of your guitar, making it your own. If you would like more bass, try a thicker gauge string. If you want it to sound brighter, maybe switch from a bronze to 80/20 mix. I am a big fan of Elixir strings, which fortunately is what my guitar originally came with. For me, the coated strings last longer, sound better, and feel better. Here's a video on the best way to change your strings.
Tip #3 - use a humidifier
I haven't always used a humidifier in my acoustic guitars. When I got my first acoustic, I didn't... and it has lots of cracks. It looks really cool, but I wouldn't wish a giant crack down the top of a guitar on anyone. A humidifier will help keep your guitar from cracking, but will also help your guitar sound better. When it has the proper moisture it is able to breathe the way it needs to. I use the Oasis Guitar Humidifier. $20 on amazon and I fill it with water when it shrinks. The best part of this humidifier is it will humidify the guitar even if it isn't stored in it's case. In my office, my guitar is hanging on the wall. It's still working even though it's out of the case. Also, it will never touch the wood. Some humidifiers have bags in which you put crystals. The bags end up leaning on the wood, which can cause rubbing, or uneven humidity. Just buy the Oasis once a year and be done with it.
Also, make sure to have a way to read your humidity in your case! I recently purchased the TaylorSense monitor which updates on my iPhone. Yep, there's an app for that...
Tip #4 - Plug it in
So you just got your new guitar and you want to test out it's electronics! Good! First of all, always keep a few extra batteries on hand. I've found duracell batteries work the best with my guitar. Don't assume every 9V battery will work... I tried to use a cheap one and it didn't fit!
Also, spend money on a decent direct box. A direct box converts the signal from unbalanced to balanced. You need one. Don't just get a cable that goes from 1/4" to XLR and plug into a mic line. You just spend $2000 on a legit guitar, don't skimp and bottleneck your beautiful guitar's sound with a cheap direct box or cable. I highly recommend the Radial Stage Bug SB-2. There is a difference between direct boxes. Some cause noise, or weird phasing issues. I've never had trouble with the stage bugs. This one in particular is labeled for bass & keyboards, but I prefer it over the stage bug labels for acoustics. If you want to spend even more money, you can upgrade to the industry leading Radial JDI.
If you want to get creative, you can use some guitar pedals to color your sound. I've used preamps, reverbs, compressors, and delays on my acoustics. Right now, I am currently running straight into the board. You can get as creative as you want with your sound. (Pro Tip: Chorus pedals on acoustic guitars were a hit in the 90s & early 2000's. Today, reverb is the iconic sound. Stay away from chorus on your acoustic unless you are going for a retro sound.)
Tip #5 - Find some friends
One of the best things you can do to improve the sound of your guitar is find people you can spend time with and learn from. You can practice by yourself all day long, but when you spend time with others, you become a better musician. If you don't have a network of musicians, you can't expect to grow. I've been on staff at Evident Church for the past 5 years and I view these people as my family. When I am making music with a group of people, there's a special connection, unexplainable. These people help me grow as a musician, a Christian and as a human. They will always have a special place in my heart.
Your music you create is more than just for you. Share it with the world! Music is powerful.
What are some ways you have found help take care of your acoustic? Feel free to comment below!