There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to the effects of weather on your guitar. Today we explain the facts, and break down the best ways to protect your instrument!
The Effects Of Weather On Your Guitar: It’s Complicated…
The time has come for my favorite time of the year! I absolutely adore Autumn and Winter, as well as all of the weather that comes with the changing of the seasons. Some people love Summer, but I love the cold weather. My birthday is also in November, which means new guitar gear for me!
I have seen a lot of forum comments that offer advice to beginner guitarists when it comes to the effects of weather on your guitar as the seasons change. You see a lot of crazy information like how you should “wait to open the guitar” for 24 hours so it can acclimate to your house. This makes sense upon first glance, but does not apply for most guitars.
Another one you see about the effects of weather on your guitar talks about having a humidifier in your guitar room. Conversely, you also see people say that you need a dehumidifier if you live in a southern area in the United States. Again, this makes sense…sometimes.
Like most myths, these have an origin story that makes total sense when you find out where the myth originated. We are going to go over why these are myths, and not facts, as well when the advice actually does make sense. Because the effects of weather on your guitar are something to take into account, but probably not as much as you think.
We absolutely love to dispel myths here, and we enjoy passing along knowledge to our readers. In our “Myth” article we covered a lot of different supposed facts that get passed around the music community. We have debunked the string myths, “tone wood” arguments, and tons of other topics.
What are the effects of weather on your guitar? Now this is a question that comes up a lot, especially in guitar online forums. The answer is not as easy as you would think, though. There are a lot of factors at play, since guitars are a sum of their parts and not just a singular entity.
Today we are going to break down the top 3 pieces of advice that I hear the most on guitar forums, and dispel any myths. But we are also going to go over where the myths come from, and why it may actually matter in some cases.
Today we are going to break down everything, and explain the effects of weather on your guitar. We will go over how you should really take care of your guitar.
Wait 24 Hours before You Open The Box
The Myth: If you a guitar online you should always wait 24 hours before you open it. You should let the guitar acclimate to your house since it was on a cold/hot shipping truck. The guitar also came from a colder/hotter place, so you should wait to open the box or awful things will happen.
This is a weird one, and I have seen it pop up from time to time. But there is a little bit of truth to this myth. You often even see some companies put stickers on the box that say “Wait 24 hours to open”. For companies, this is obviously to cover their own backsides. But what could possibly happen if you decide not to wait?
The Truth: There is actually some truth to this myth! But waiting for 24 hours or any amount of time is dependent on what type of guitar is in the box, and also what kind of finish the guitar may have. The reason that you see this sticker on so many boxes is because certain guitars probably DO need some time to acclimate.
Acoustic guitars will absolutely be more sensitive to climate changes, and humidity. Most expensive acoustic guitars have a thin finish, and wood is very flexible. This is even more true with a solid top guitar, that is just one piece of wood with bracing. When it comes to high end acoustic guitars, I would absolutely wait to open the box, and let it settle in its new home.
High end acoustics also need to be in a humidity controlled environment. If it is a studio guitar in a climate-controlled room, then you probably do not need to worry. Different woods and finishes on acoustic guitars need different types of attention. My acoustic is a solid top, thin finish guitar and it stays in the climate controlled studio with no humidifier/dehumidifier.
But when it comes to a solid body electric guitar? Unless it is a vintage Fender or Gibson with a frail Nitro finish, opening the box doesn’t matter. Even then, I don’t think you have much to worry about, since the guitar has been traveling through different climates anyway, the whole time. A box and case offer little protection from the elements. But most guitars just come in a box!
Think about when someone is on tour. Sometimes you play a show in Florida, and then the next day you are in North Carolina in the mountains with a 40 degree difference. Wouldn’t that cause all of these problems that opening a guitar box would cause? How do guitars hold up on the road? Something to think about right?
What Should You Do? You should use your better judgement, or ask the seller of the guitar for instructions. If you are ordering a solid body electric with a thick Poly finish, then I think you will be fine. Some semi-hollow, or hollow body guitars could possibly shift, but even then…probably not.
Neglect Will Cause Fret Sprout: Store Your Guitar In A Case!
The Myth: Storing your guitar out of the case will cause “fret sprout”. Fret Sprout is where the ends of your frets are sticking out further than your fretboard. This causes sharp ends along the sides of the fretboard that can be uncomfortable, or even hurt you! Getting brand new guitar with fret sprout is considered a defect.
I have heard this one a lot, and I have heard more than one person say that you should keep your guitar in the case when not playing it. Otherwise, you may get fret sprout! I have also heard that fret sprout is completely unacceptable on a brand new guitar. This is a popular topic regarding the effects of weather on your guitar.
The Truth: Almost everyone will probably have to deal with fret sprout at some point, regardless of the effects of weather on your guitar that you can control. Wood expands and retracts due to weather and climate. When dry, the wood on the neck will shrink, causing the frets to poke out.
But the fret sprout is probably not your fault. Sometimes where the guitar was stored before it was shipped affects fret sprout. Sometimes it the shipping conditions. But if you are keeping your guitar in a climate controlled environment at home, you should be fine.
Unfortunately, sometimes guitars will ship with a little bit of fret sprout in the dryer months. It just happens, and it can be fixed easily. A good fret job can be pricey, but if you want your guitar to play well, it is essential. Budget guitars are the biggest offenders of shipping with fret sprout.
Some higher end guitars will have immaculate frets, and some will have some serious fret problems. Over the years, I have seen $3000 guitars have some really awful frets that were not effects of weather on your guitar. Sometimes it is workmanship. I have also seen $300 guitars set up perfectly right out of the box.
Whether you think fret sprout is acceptable on a brand new guitar or not, is going to change between every guitarist. If you know how to fix it, then it probably isn’t a big deal. Most guitars will need a setup and intonation when you first get it. Some guitarists will find it unacceptable, and that’s okay.
But the effects of the weather on your guitar have a small amount to do with fret sprout. Maybe the heater in your house sucks all of the moisture out of the air. Some sources will say that a humidifier will sort out fret sprout, but that seems only partially true. If the neck is finished, I’m not sure adding humidity will change anything.
I have fixed fret sprout on tons of guitars, and never had to deal with it again. Some guitars have had a few fret jobs. Its just something that you have to navigate as a guitarist. But keeping your guitar locked away isn’t going to stop it from happening. Keeping the climate consistent is the answer.
I keep my guitars on a rack in the studio, and keep the climate consistent. This is the real secret to combating fret sprout. If I kept all of my guitars in a case, it would be a nightmare in the studio. So some of the myths are true, but some claims are just nuts.
But, Your Finish Will Crack!
The Myth: If you open the box before 24 hours of acclimation, then you risk the finish on your guitar cracking. Going from cold to hot can totally make your guitar finish crack, and ruin the guitar. The same can be said for going from hot to cold! So you better wait 24 hours before you open the box, or you finish is dead!
This one does not apply to all companies, and I am mainly going to be addressing Fender and Gibson guitars that have either Poly or Nitro finishes. Fender especially is where I hear this, and it just isn’t true. The effects of weather on your guitar may do a lot of things, but definitely not “crack” the finish.
If that were true, the moment you brought the guitar into a heated/cooled house the finish would crack. I think some guitarists are putting way too much faith into a case and a shipping box. Sometimes JUST a shipping box, or double-boxed.
Fender, by design suffers from neck pocket cracks in the finish. This happens to 8 out of 10 Fender guitars, and it can happen the moment you get the guitar, or ten years down the road. Neck pocket finish cracks happen, it is the nature of the design when it comes to Fender. But a Poly finish is not just going to crack or break due to weather changes.
The Truth: Nitro Lacquer on the other hand, DOES respond to extreme temperature changes. This is where you get the famous “checking” that you see on relic style guitars from the Fender Custom Shop. But do you know how they get the checking patterns in Nitro finishes? They use liquid nitrogen, freezers, and other extreme measures. So if you want to be careful with Nitro finishes, I understand.
But that would not fall under the effects of weather on your guitar. The Custom Shop procedures are very extreme. Could a Nitro finish crack under weather changes? Yes, but in very extreme cases. Like if a guitar came from below zero temps into serious heat. Watch a relic video, and you will see how hard it is to achieve “checking”.
But a regular Poly finish that most Fender guitars come wrapped up in, is nearly indestructible. The effects of weather on your guitar when it comes to a Fender finish is going to be negligible. Now Gibson guitars may look like they have a shiny Poly finish, but they have Nitro. So maybe be a little more careful, but again, use your better judgement.
So there is some truth to this myth, and it is going to really be a case by case basis when it comes to the effects of weather on your guitar finish. But we are talking about extremes here. If it is 0 degrees outside, and you have a Fender with a thin coat of Nitro, then maybe you should let it settle and acclimate just to be sure. A Poly finish Epiphone guitar on the other hand can come right out of the box immediately.
OK Smart Guy, What Is The Right Way?
Well I think we have gone over how to properly deal with the effects of weather on your guitar, but I do think we should wrap up by clarifying a few things. Because these crazy myths didn’t just come from the ether, or out of nowhere. Every myth has a modicum of truth to it, right?
Like the “tone wood” argument that still pops up from time to time, myths of the effects of weather on your guitar comes from acoustic guitars. Because acoustic guitars can be incredibly sensitive to temperature changes and humidity! Just like an acoustic guitar’s wood can change the sound drastically. However, this is not the case when it comes to electric guitars.
Now I am not saying that you can leave an electric guitar in a garage all year or something, throughout the different seasons. Weather absolutely CAN have an affect on your electric guitars, just like acoustic guitars. But it really is a “case by case” basis. So what can you do to make sure your guitar is properly protected?
- Know your guitar: Nitro is more sensitive than Poly when it comes to finishes.
- When in doubt about a Nitro finish and shipping, don’t be afraid to ask the seller about waiting and general care.
- Poly finishes absolutely will not crack, and 90% of solid body electrics have a Poly finish.
- It takes extreme changes in temperature to affect Nitro finishes.
- Fret sprout happens when the neck of your guitar is dry, this can be caused by lots of factors. Know your guitar neck, and keep it in shape!
- Neck pocket cracks on bolt-on guitars, like Fender, just happen. You didn’t do anything to cause it, and the weather is not a factor. Neck pocket cracks also have no bearing on the structural integrity of the guitar.
- Keeping your guitar in a case when not using it will not “save” you from anything.
- A climate controlled environment like you house should be sufficient when it comes to electric guitars. Especially a solid body electric.
- Don’t believe everything you see on the internet!
So I hope this clears things up for most beginner guitarists, or even guitarists that have been playing for years! Guitars are made out of wood, so they are subject to change. I mean, wood was once a tree…a living organism.
But knowing your gear, and being informed about how your guitar works is paramount. I meet so many guitarists that know very little about their gear. I always say that being a guitarist has a lot to do with knowing your music chops, but ALSO knowing how to fix/maintain your gear.
You should know the effects of weather on your guitar, and know how to diagnose any situations that you come across. Weather does have an effect, but your solid body electric with a Poly finish is not going to be ruined by temp changes.
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What are the effects of weather on your guitar?
It depends on the type of guitar you have! Most solid body electric guitars are made to be very rugged, and have thick Poly paint that protects them. Acoustic guitars on the other hand need some attention, as they can be much more fragile.
I have a neck pocket crack on my Fender, is it broken?
No, this is a common problem with bolt on guitars. This is just a finish crack, and usually not down to the wood itself (which WOULD be a problem)
Should I wait 24 hours before opening my new guitar?
Yes and No. If it is an acoustic guitar or a new guitar with a Nitro finish, I would say yes. But if this is a solid body electric with a Poly finish, you are probably ok to just open the box.