Alive, alive, IT'S ALIVE! Guitars are living breathing things. Well, living might be a stretch. Imagine picking up your guitar and finding out that it has grown another inch of neck overnight. "Why Honey, of course we need to buy him another case. I mean he is a baritone now after all. Did you expect him to remain a ¾ scale forever?" There are items that, unlike a set of monkey bars, change with conditions and when they do we should notice and care. Personally I don't care if my monkey bars shrink in the middle of the winter or get hot to the touch in the middle of an hot August day. I do care if my guitar has been left in my car overnight when the temperature dips to -9 (That's in Fahrenheit not Celsius for my global readers.), and I have to play a gig that I am late for, inside of a overheated sweaty "establishment". I would have to make the decision. Do I leave it in it's case for an hour inside of the "establishment" to acclimate to its surroundings for its safety or do I pop it open so I can hit that first set on time and risk damaging a $3000.00 guitar when the gig is paying me $37.50? The answer is obvious, weather checking is mojo and I need the $37.50 for gas to get home because it was an hour drive to get here.
We do need to take care of our instruments since we are their caretakers. (Please reference an earlier entry.) Exposure to extreme temperature changes and drastic humidity conditions seem to top the list as guitar endangerment and subject to "Music Community Intervention". (Please, we are just doing our job. What if we left you inside of your car in the middle of the summer? I know, you cracked the windows open but that is simply not enough. Don't make this harder then it has to be. Just hand over Martin and understand it's for the best.)
A great rule of thumb is that if you wouldn't expose a dog, or child, to it then don't place your guitar there either. Guitars are made of many parts that are joined together with precision and with the individual pieces reacting differently when exposed to changes. The wood species used on the top of your acoustic is not the same as what the back and sides are and the method joining them together is more delicate then using welding methods. When the environment changes the two species of wood will expand and shrink at different rates. The wood will expand and contract at a different rate then the lacquer finish causing the familiar presence of "weather checking" seen as small finish cracks running across the grain of the wood. No humidity will cause fretboards to shrink and expose fret ends, dry out the fretboard allowing frets to work loose and general constriction of the wood to cause joints to break. Too much humidity and the top can warp along with other bad things.
My guess is that some of you are holding your head in your hands weeping uncontrollably and choking out the words, "How could I have been so thoughtless and insensitive? I just didn't know…I just didn't know…". It's alright. Please get ahold of yourselves! For the majority of you no severe damage has arisen. You just need to alter you thinking and actions. Whenever your instrument has been exposed to an extreme temperature bring it inside of the dwelling and do not open the case until the exterior of the case is equal to the room temperature. Allow the guitar to use the case for a slow transition and you should be fine. The best idea is to never expose it to any excessive temperature. Humidity is the same concept. Humidity has additional actions for you to take. Keep your guitar at a constant 40% humidity. During times that the furnace or air conditioner are running you can correct the humidity in the room. You can keep you instrument in it's case and place a humidifier within it. Please install a humidity checker so you can tell if you are in the correct range because as we have discussed, too much is a bad thing also so you need to have an idea what's going on no matter what method you use.
So my friends, don't sweat it. Don't chill it. Dry out. Moderation in all things. Don't get hot under the collar. A crash can kill you. A sip from the spring of life is sweeter then all of the candy in the world.
You figure that last paragraph out. I can't. Keyboards. Let me have a fretboard instead.
by Robert Gundry