Well, a few of you may have received new instruments for Christmas. That, of course, is excellent news!

With the gift of a new guitar, banjo, mandolin, or ukulele, comes the responsibility of understanding the needs of the instrument. Especially during the winter season. The reason I specifically mention winter is that it is typically the time of year where forced air heating is predominate. The concern over forced air heating (and actually all heating sources) is that it tends to dry out the atmosphere.

During the winter months, the woods used in your new guitar are susceptible to drying out if left unchecked! Take note that the inside of your guitar and the top of the fret board is left in a natural state – no finish at all. That is the area that will be humidifying, or dehumidifying, depending upon the relative humidity of your room. Unfinished wood acts like a sponge, either absorbing, or purging, moisture.

So, what happens as a wooden instrument dehydrates in the winter season?

You may notice that the fret ends on the fret board are noticeable as you move up and down the neck. Yes, the fret board will shrink enough to feel sharp fret ends!

You may find that your instrument has gone considerably flat between tunings – I have had guitars go 1/2 step flat when Seattle has a cold, dry spell. This probably won’t happen over night, but if you have several guitars and tend to play some infrequently, this will be the norm in a dry environment.

You might feel the action lower a bit, and it may buzz or rattle unexpectedly – this is because the top of the guitar will actually shrink downwards as it dehydrates causing the action at the 12th fret to decrease. If you have ever been to a music store where several guitars are stored in a room without a humidifier (or if the humidifier is not working because the water compartment was left unchecked!) and found all the instruments tend to have extremely low action, you will see, hear, and feel the effects of dehydration!

Dehydration can also happen any time of year in dryer areas of the country. For example, if you live in the high desert of Arizona, double check for dehydration on a continual basis.

There is a simple fix for this environment. You may find that the purchase of a sound hole humidifier is to your advantage.

I’ll take the time to show some of these units in a future blog, and, show you how to create a home made humidifier for very little cost!

So, have fun with your new instrument, but, do pay attention to your environment… your guitar will appreciate it!