What's The Problem?
Many of the most common and popular musical instruments are delicate devices made of natural wood. Instrument builders use wood for its pleasing resonance, but all varieties of wood expand and contract when the amount of moisture in the air goes up and down. That can cause damage to the instrument when internal stresses caused by the expansion or contraction cause glue joints or the wood itself to rupture.
There are steps you can take to avoid damage to your instrument. In general, you want to keep the wood from expanding and contracting, and you do this by providing a stable amount of environmental moisture. That means you add moisture when the air is dry, and remove moisture when the air is damp. If you visit our store during the colder months you will see that we have several large humidifers running constantly to provide this moisture. During the summer, we sometimes have to use a de-humidifier to remove excess moisture from the air.
A note of caution, however: Adding too much moisture can be as bad or worse than not having enough. So you must be very careful when using a humidifying device that you're not over-doing it.
You can avoid some damage with simple common sense --
- Don't leave your fine instrument in the cellar during the summer months.
- Don't store your instrument in an unfinished or uninsulated attic, where temperature and humidity changes are extreme.
- Don't leave your instrument in a car where extreme heat or cold can damage it.
Don't let this happen to your instrument!
Even with common sense, there are circumstances where it's difficult for you to monitor or control the temperature and humidity swings that occur around you. There are some products available that can help protect your instrument.
There are products in the marketplace that can help with the problems of too much and too little humidity. To increase humidity in a dry environment, you use a humidifier. To decrease humidity in a moist environment, you use a de-humidifier. Both of these kinds of devices are available in all sizes, shapes, and capabilities. We won't describe the larger ones that are used to stablize humidity in a room or building. Instead we'll suggest a couple small, affordable devices that you can use on or in your instrument to change its local humidity.
Oasis™ Digital Hygrometer
The first step in humidity control is to determine the humidity environment that surrounds your instrument. We try to keep our showroom at around 40% relative humidity, especially during the coldest winter months.
We have sold the excellent Oasis humidifiers (see below) for several years. At our customers' request, we now also carry Oasis digital hygrometers. These instruments accurately measure the humidity around your guitar so you can be sure the humidifier is doing its job and your valuable instrument is safe from damage.
OH-1 Humidifier filled
OH-1 Humidifier empty
We highly recommend the Oasis OH-1 Humidifier. This is a clever little humidifier that hangs from the strings of your guitar and rests within the sound hole. Once the humidifier is installed you can turn the guitar in any direction; the humidifier will not fall out and water will not spill.
This humidifier consists of a small cylinder filled with water-absorbent granules. You put water into the cylinder and it is absorbed by the granules, which then release the moisture gradually over time. This design has two advantages: first, the moist humidifier cannot touch the body of your guitar; and second, the humidifer clearly indicates that it needs to be refilled by dramatically shrivelling.
Most players find that refilling the OH-1 humidifier once each week will keep the instrument sufficiently humidified during cold winter months.
The Dampit Humidifier is the original humidifier for instruments. It works with guitars, violins, cellos, and other wood instruments with a large cavity. Made with premium quality, Dampit is the most popular humidifier used by professional musicians.
This humidifier consists of a flexible tube containing water-absorbent material with protective closures and fasteners. It is immersed in water and then inserted into the instrument to retain humidity. It is left in while the instrument is not in use; performers may leave the Dampit in the instrument while playing, if desired.
The humidity indicator included with Dampit indicates the proper humidity level. The humidifier is placed in the instrument through the f-hole or sound hole to maintain the correct moisture level in the instrument. Humidity indicator is included.
Acoustic Guitar Humidifier
The Planet Waves Acoustic Guitar Humidifier is a simple device. It fits in the top round hole of most any flattop acoustic guitar. Just add water!
Caution: Be sure not to over-humidify your guitar. Water damage to your instrument caused by over-humidifying is not covered by your instrument manufacturer or The Minor Chord.
Here are some additional information resources on the topic of musical instruments and humidity. Take a look and think about whether the information applies to your instruments.