Years of playing guitar has taught me the hard way about what to do, and what NOT to do with an acoustic guitar. I believe these rules apply whether you are playing on stage or just picking at home. Primarily, these considerations are aimed at reducing wear and tear on the instrument, preventing damage and the possibility a catastrophic accident. Check out my 5 tips for protecting your guitar and extending the life of your instrument!
1. Leaving the capo engaged on the neck when not in use.
The guitar capo, by design, applies a tremendous amount of pressure on the neck and fretboard. While these forces are necessary while playing, the capo should never be engaged on the neck when not in use. The force of the strings pressing down on the fretboard can create small divots in the frets which affects intonation. Removing or loosening the capo when your are not playing the guitar greatly reduces the wear and tear on the frets.
2. Raising the guitar above your head when removing the strap.
When removing your guitar strap, it’s a good idea to keep the guitar below or at eye level. In other words, don’t raise the guitar above your head when removing the guitar strap. Instead, unhook the guitar strap and raise the strap above your head to remove it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made this mistake and bashed the headstock into a low ceiling or other overhead obstruction.
3. Storing the guitar on a guitar stand.
This one is more of a matter of personal preference but I firmly believe that your guitar will be much better protected when stored in its case. Many players don’t use their case at all and store their guitar either on a wall stand or a guitar stand. While it is convenient always having your guitar at the ready, it’s also at risk of being knocked over accidentally.
4. Using heavier gauge strings than the guitar is designed for.
For most guitars, the maximum string gauge you should use will be no heavier than medium. Each guitar is different so make sure to check the manual for your instrument to make sure you are using the right gauge of string. For example, resonator guitars are designed to use heavier strings to facilitate open tunings.
5. Leaving your guitar plugged in when not in use.
This applies to pickers that have a pickup installed in their guitar. Similar to leaving the capo engaged, leaving your quarter inch cable plugged in can put unnecessary wear and tear on the jack at the bottom of the guitar. Most pickups will also draw on the battery when plugged in even if the guitar is not being played. Nine volt batteries are expensive! Finally, and perhaps most important – it also creates a potential trip point if the guitar is sitting idle while plugged in.
I hope sharing what I’ve learned over the years will help prevent you from making the same mistakes. I’ve found it useful to make these 5 simple rules a habit. Extend the life of your instrument by making these tips a habit as well. Protect your investment and give your instrument the attention and care it deserves.