Maintenance and Repair

79. Can I put steel strings on classical?


No. Don’t do it. The difference of the amount of pressure exerted on the neck and body of the guitar is very different. Nylon strings are a lot lower tension than steel strings. You can destroy a classical guitar by putting steel strings on it.

80. Why does a guitar buzz?


One of the big reasons why a lot of guitars buzz is that their fingerboards aren’t flat. Guitars warp and sometimes frets pop up or are uneven. Steel string and electric guitars have a truss rod that goes through the neck and can be adjusted. Often guitars with serious buzzing problems can be fixed by simply turning a screw and perhaps re-stringing. Sometimes there are terminal cases where the neck is warped and the guitar will never be playable again. If you have a buzz, ask a qualified repair person to diagnose the problem.

81. How do you keep your right hand nails long for playing guitar?


First thing to do is be sure that your nails are buffed and that there aren’t any little nicks in them. They split very easily, so it’s important that you sand them with different grades of sand paper or nail buffers. Playing with balls and Frisbees leads to broken nails. And you shouldn’t get them wet too much. There are a number of nail hardeners on the market, though none of them seem to work that well. Acrylic nails work very well and are readily available in nail boutiques across the continent in malls. But once you have acrylic nails put on, it’s hard to go back to natural nails because the acrylics take the top layer of your natural nail off, and in order to go natural, you have to let your entire nail grow out again.

82. What happens when a guitar gets too dry?


When guitars get too dry the wood, having lost moisture, will contract. But because the guitar is glued together and braced, when the wood contracts it has nothing to do but crack. This is not necessarily a terminal problem because a repairman can glue the cracks back up for you. But it’s not a good thing to let your guitar get too dry. You should keep it humidified in the dry months or in a dry climate by putting Dampit inside. That’s a rubber tube with holes in it and sponge inside that releases moisture slowly into the guitar. It’s also good if you keep the guitar in a humidified room. 

83. What happens when a guitar gets too moist?


When guitars are kept under humid conditions for too long they tend to absorb water. This causes the wood to swell, and because the guitar is glued together and braced the wood has no place to go but to warp. The necks can bend, the top of the guitar can become uneven. Also a guitar won’t sound as good when it’s too moist because the amount of water in the wood will mute the sound. 

84. What happens when a guitar gets too cold?


If guitars get too cold, the moisture inside the guitar will freeze. This can cause them to crack. Another problem is that if guitars get cold and then they’re brought in a warm place and they heat up too fast, a number of things will happen: one the wood might crack, two they’ll get condensation which will cause a sudden increase in the moisture on the guitar. Braces will come loose and cracks will appear. If you have a guitar you shouldn’t leave it in your trunk on a winter day in the north. If you have to, when you bring it into a warm environment, leave it in the case for a long time, and let it warm up gradually. The coldness isn’t really the problem so much as a quick change in temperature.

85. What happens when a guitar gets to hot?


If a guitar gets too hot, the glue can melt for one thing. This happens if you leave a guitar – especially in a fairly cheap case – in a car in the sun. The temperature inside the car and the guitar case can rise to the level that it will melt the glue. This can cause all kinds of problems. Your bridge can peel off, seams can come undone, and so forth. Also your finish can change it’s character. A once clear finish can become cloudy if it’s allowed to get too hot. If you’re going to go some place with your guitar, don’t leave it in the car, and if you must, don’t leave it out in the sun, put it in the trunk perhaps. But it’s best to carry your guitar with you. 

86. How do I take care of my guitar?


Guitars aren't very hard to maintain. The most important thing is to try to keep them in a good environment. If they get too hot, the glue might melt. If they go from cold to warm too quickly, they can crack. If they get too damp, they might warp. And if they get too dry, they may split. 
I tend to treat my guitars like I treat pets. I wouldn't leave a dog in the car in the sun on a hot day while I go see a movie. I wouldn't leave a guitar there either. I did have a guitar melt once when I left it in the back of a station wagon for only half an hour. The glue holding down the bridge oozed and the finish became cloudy. It cost me a hundred dollars to get it fixed and it was never the same. 
I recommend that you keep the strings fairly fresh, especially if you have a steel string. If you let steel strings stay on your guitar long enough, they will become brittle and the pressure will damage your neck. Every time the weather changes, the wood in your guitar shifts slightly. The top swells and the neck moves. Most guitars sound different from season to season. 
Keep it clean. Try not to let fingerprints and sweat build up on the finish. You can use a good guitar polish from time to time, but the best thing to do is to wipe it down often with a soft cloth. 
The fingerboard gets a little cruddy after a while. The thing to do is to take off all the strings and scrub it. I recommend that you loosen the strings a little bit at a time until you can take them off. Then use an old toothbrush with some denatured alcohol or some lighter fluid (the kind you use in a zippo) and brush the fingerboard until it's clean. Polish the fingerboard with a soft cloth and if it seems too dry, rub in some almond oil. You can get this from a good guitar shop. 
Put on your new strings, but tune them up slowly. Try not to take all the pressure off the neck too fast and then put it back on again. You might mess up your neck. 
Finally, don't forget to play your guitar often. That's what they're for and that's what they like. Playing the guitar a lot makes it sound better. It makes you sound better too.

87. How often should I change my strings?


It depends. Some people have acidic skin and corrode the strings, others play so hard that they wear out their strings quickly. You should re-string your guitar whenever it starts sounding kind of dead. You should also re-string guitars at least once a year because even if they're in storage, the strings can become brittle with age and lose their give. As the weather changes, the wood of the guitar expands and contracts along with temperature and humidity changes. When steel strings become old, they become brittle and you can damage your guitar simply by having old strings on it.