Taylor Guitars master luthier Andy Powers explains weather and humidity's affects on guitars so you can help your instruments live less stressful lives.
I’d venture a guess that any guitarist who has owned an acoustic guitar has also heard warnings about watching the humidity and temperature their guitar lives in. “Don’t let your guitar dry out or it will crack” and “don’t let your guitar get too cold” are wise words. But after some time, these admonitions tend to hit with the same wilting impact as your mother’s instructions to eat your vegetables, put on a sweater, or wear sunscreen. We know we should, but quietly wonder what the big deal is anyway.
Here’s a little secret when it comes to wooden guitars: Guitar makers don’t really care about how much water is in the wood. Well, we don’t care very much. Sure, there are some weight and density variables that change with how wet a piece of wood is, and can influence resonance. We may consider those factors, but that isn’t the real issue here. What we obsess about is the fact that wood will change size and shape based on how much water is in there at any given time. To understand what is going on in your guitar, it helps to understand some woodworking basics.
While trees are living and growing, they contain a lot of water. Roughly half of a tree’s weight (while alive) is water. After a tree is cut down, the water starts to evaporate. This process is known as “seasoning.” There are lots of methods to help this process along, but the important thing to know is that wood shrinks as it dries out. But wood doesn’t shrink evenly in every direction. If you imagine a board taken from a tree trunk as a pencil, you’ll find that the wood shrinks in width and thickness, but hardly shrinks at all from point to eraser as the water disappears. The unevenness between these water-loss movements is at the heart of the woodworker’s challenge.
As wood is dried, it will naturally seek out a balance point in a particular environment. There is always some water vapor in the air, and the absorbency of wood will both take water in and let it out in an effort to balance itself with the weather. As a result, the wood’s width and thickness will continue to expand and shrink after the initial seasoning, but not its length.
Armed with this understanding, we begin to see an acoustic guitar’s top and back as a potential problem. The boards that make these wide plates want to expand and shrink in width and thickness, or from edge to edge, but not from neck to tailpiece. The braces on the inside surfaces of the guitar can’t grow or shrink in length because they are sawn with their wood grain oriented like pencils to make them strong. When we glue these immovable braces at a right angle across a moving back or top width, we construct a potential conflict because the width of the top or back wants to change with the weather, but the fixed-length braces are trying to hold the inside faces of the plates at a fixed dimension. If these plates are exposed to weather different than the climate they were assembled in, the plates will distort as they try to resolve their tension, potentially cracking when dry.
This is why builders often design slightly convex surfaces in the back and face of a guitar: They are effectively building in some slack in case the wood shrinks. In addition, builders assemble guitars in median climates at 40- to 50-percent humidity and 70 degrees Fahrenheit to give the finished guitars the best chance of survival out in the world. Ideally, guitars would live in this climate for their entire lives.
With solidbody guitars, no such construction conflict exists. The boards making the body and neck are free to move uninhibited with the seasons and remain stress-free. Even when multiple pieces of wood are combined, their grain directions are parallel to each other, which allow them to move together as a single unit. As a result, your solidbody guitar won’t fall apart when the weather is dry the way your acoustic guitar can. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t try to keep your solidbody guitars in the same median environment. My stance is this: If it is easy to keep your electrics in a median environment, that’s good. If it’s hard to do (because you’re on tour, want to display your guitars, etc.), don’t worry about your solidbodies. They’ll be fine.
Acoustic guitars sound and function best when they are relaxed and stress-free, so watch the weather. And when it is cold outside, put on a sweater and give your dry guitar some humidity … just not too much.
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This full-amp-stack-in-a-box pedal brings a new flavor to the Guitar Legend Tone Series of pedals, Missing Link Audio’s flagship product line.
Adding to the company’s line of premium-quality effects pedals, Missing Link Audio has unleashed the new AC/Overdrive pedal. This full-amp-stack-in-a-box pedal – the only Angus & Malcom all-in-one stompbox on the market – brings a new flavor to the Guitar Legend Tone Series of pedals, Missing Link Audio’s flagship product line.
The AC/OD layout has three knobs to control Volume, Gain and Tone. That user-friendly format is perfect for quickly getting your ideal tone, and it also offers a ton of versatility. MLA’s new AC/OD absolutely nails the Angus tone from the days of “High Voltage” to "Back in Black”. You can also easily dial inMalcom with the turn of a knob. The pedal covers a broad range of sonic terrain, from boost to hot overdrive to complete tube-like saturation. The pedal is designed to leave on all the time and is very touch responsive. You can get everything from fat rhythm tones to a perfect lead tone just by using your guitar’s volume knob and your right-hand attack.
- Three knobs to control Volume, Gain and Tone
- Die-cast aluminum cases for gig-worthy durability
- Limited lifetime warranty
- True bypass on/off switch
- 9-volt DC input
- Made in the USA
MLA Pedals AC/OD - Music & Demo by A. Barrero
Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters are designed to offer a fat midrange and a smooth top end.
Billy Corgan was looking for something for heavier Smashing Pumpkins songs, so Joe Naylor designed the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One pickup. Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters have a fat midrange and a smooth top end. This pickup combines the drive and sustain of a humbucker with the percussive attack and string clarity of a P90. Get beefy P90 tone plus amp-pummeling output with the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One.
Patented Railhammer Pickups take passive guitar pickups to a new level with rails under the wound strings lead to tighter lows, and poles under the plain strings offer fatter heights. With increased clarity, the passive pickup’s tone is never sterile.
Railhammer Billy Corgan Signature Z-One Pickup Demo
For more information, please visit railhammer.com.
Designed for utmost comfort and performance, the Vertigo Ultra Bass is Mono’s answer to those who seek the ultimate gigging experience.
Complete with a range of game-changing design features, such as the patent-pending attachable FREERIDE Wheel System, premium water-resistant and reflective materials, shockproof shell structure and improved ergonomic features, the Vertigo Ultra Bass takes gear protection to the next level.
The Vertigo Ultra Bass features:
- Patent-pending FREERIDE Wheel System that allows for wheels to be attached on the case in no time, giving you the option to travel with it seamlessly
- Upgraded materials, including a water-resistant 1680D Ballistic Nylon outer shell, plush inner lining and new reflective trim for maximum backstage and night visibility
- Enhanced protection with a shockproof shell structure and heavy-duty water-resistant YKK zippers for protection from the elements
- Improved ergonomics and functionality including added back support and load-lifting detachable shoulder straps with side release buckles
- Flexible storage options with added space for touring essentials