Electric Guitar Care

A basic guide to the things you need to know in order to look after your electric guitar properly.

Ultimate Guitar
Electric guitars require careful handling, love and attention. Neglecting your electric guitar will give you unwanted intonation, playability and buzzing problems, even worse are structural problems that often cost an arm and a leg to repair.

And since we don't want any of that, here are some practical electric guitar care tips to help you enjoy the company of your instrument better.

A Place To Call Home

Electric Guitar Case

Your electric guitar needs a sturdy and cozy place to call home. Out of all the maintenance equipment that you need, this could be the most expensive - and rightly so because it will keep your guitar safe from harmful elements like impact, humidity, stress and heat. Having a good matching guitar hard case will save your guitar from unnecessary damage, and in the long run will also save you from spending on expensive repairs. Guitars usually ship with a good hard case, if not make it your first priority. I would dare say that you don't take a new guitar home until you have enough money to buy both the guitar and its matching case.

Getting To Know Each Other

Electric Guitar Know

Unlike acoustic guitars, electric guitars have more components that you have to check and set up correctly, and you won't be able to do that if you don't get to know your instrument better. It is best if you regularly check intonation, because the earlier you spot issues, the easier it is to solve them. Just get a chromatic tuner and check every fret of every string for intonation issues and adjust the tuners or bridge saddles accordingly. You also need to check if your string is at your preferred height and action, and do some minor adjustments to find the right string height. Guitars with floating tremolo's require more patience and knowledge to setup properly so better be prepared if you want the ability to dive bomb. If simple adjustments do not work or if you see any warping on the wood, it is best to take your guitar to your local luthier or guitar repair shop to avoid further damage.

Don't Stress

Electric Guitar Stretcha

Electric guitars are sturdy enough to handle bursts of aggressive playing, but just like acoustic guitars they don't like stress. If exposed to unwanted stress, your guitar will have a barrage of problems like a warped neck, intonation issues and the dreaded fret buzz. To avoid this, you have to use strings with gauges that do not surpass what the manufacturer recommends. Installing the string properly and finding the right right tension is also important, utilities like String Stretcha can help out in cases like this. Also don't put unnecessary pressure on the neck, and don't let your guitar lean on anything without a sturdy neck support. Finally don't forget to place your guitar back to its guitar case when playtime is over.

A Little TLC

Electric Guitar Stand

If you don't want your precious guitar to have dents and scratches, then you should handle it carefully. When playing on stage, ensure that you're cables are all properly tucked away and that you have a clutter free stage. Since guitars have sensitive electronics, you also don't want your guitar getting spilled on by any type of liquid. During breaks or after your gig, leave your guitar by the stand or better yet, place it on its case, just remember to never bring "her" to the table. The good news is, with the relic hype that is going on, many guitarists seem to equate superficial damage like small dents, paint chips and scratches as beautiful "relic" art. Still, it is better to avoid any damage that can affect playability and tone.

Come Clean

Electric Guitar Cleaner

Regularly cleaning your electric guitar is a no brainer. It maybe simple and easy to do but this small gesture goes along way by extending the life of your strings and instrument. All you need is a microfiber cloth that you can use to wipe on the body and strings. You can also use specialized cleaning tools for guitars like Rotosound's string cleaner which makes it even more convenient. All you have to do is aim for the dust and grime build up and wipe away. A clean guitar is simply great to look at and the strings will vibrate better too. Don't forget to have it cleaned every time you use it.

Weather You Like It Or Not

Electric Guitar Case Humidifier

Although not as sensitive as acoustic guitars, it is better to be safe than sorry - you ought to be aware of extreme humidity changes that might affect or damage your electric guitar. Low humidity poses the greatest threat because the dry air tends to absorb the water in the wood - forcing it to shrink and causing breaks and warps. High humidity on the other hand expands the wood on your guitar making it susceptible to cracks. If you live in areas where extreme weather changes are more common, it is imperative that you get your guitar a humidifier/de-humidifier. When using your guitar in a place where there are big weather differences, you should let your guitar gradually adapt to the current weather while rested in its case.

Regular Check Up

Aside from doing minor maintenance on your electric guitar, it will be in your best interest to take your electric guitar to a reputable luthier or guitar technician every once in a while. Even more so when you notice changes in string height, playability and if you see wood and electronics related problems. Professional guitar techs can properly set up your guitar intonation, action and remove unwanted fretbuzz. They can also inspect and repair your electronics including your pickup, wiring, pots and switches. They can also have your guitar refretted in case your frets are worn out. You will be pleasantly surprised how much of an improvement a professionally setup guitar can add to your tone and playing experience.

These simple reminders will help you avoid problems that prevent you from having fun with your beloved electric guitar.

12 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I love to see stuff like this posted. I believe that building, maintaining, and generally knowing your way around your hardware is a vital component of being a musician. Things like this are often overlooked by the uninitiated.
    Good article. I would add that if you have any unfinished wood like a rosewood fingerboard etc. to oil it from time to time with the proper oil for the type of wood on your particular guitar. Cleaning out your pots and electronic connections. Blow some compressed air into hard to reach areas carefully, such as pickups, tremolos etc. Oil any machined parts that need it. Most people don't realize there are some parts that need certain lubrication. Like light machine oil on Tele saddles and a little Vaseline on the string trees.
    The myth of a guitar case protecting a guitar from humidity continues and refuses to die. Unless the case is designed to be air tight, it WILL NOT protect the guitar from changes in humidity. Besides, what happens if you're playing your guitar in a high humidity environment and you place it back in a sealed case? You just sealed your guitar into a high humidity environment! I store my guitars on the wall, where they can be admired and played - like they were meant to be. If you maintain the environment of your home/apartment with a modern HVAC system, depending on where you live, the only thing you might need is a humidifier in the winter. Please stop spreading the myth that a guitar case protects a guitar from humidity - it doesn't.
    I kinda went to far on this one. I was always cleaning and maintaining my own guitars (much more than they needed) so I started a business setting up and cleaning guitars a year ago. I just love being able to play a new guitar every day and cleaning it up to tip top condition. Incase you are interested: www.facebook.com/gitarfix
    I kinda went to far on this one. I was always cleaning and maintaining my own guitars (much more than they needed) so I started a business setting up and cleaning guitars a year ago. I just love being able to play a new guitar every day and cleaning it up to tip top condition. Incase you are interested: facebook.com/gitarfix
    I glanced over some of this.. noticed how much stuff I SHOULDN'T be doing.. though, if it was possible to get a V Case around this area without having to order it online, I would of done so already. :/ nobody seems to sell them though, and that makes me and clementine sad. lol
    So I always keep mine on a stand in the room, which is kept fairly cool all the time, is that really so bad or should I just keep it in the case?
    Shouldn't be too bad if your room is actually at a pretty constant temperature. But humidity can ruin a guitar, the wood on a guitar will never take well to changing weather conditions. Just make sure you've got a cloth on hand to get that dust off!
    I've been loving and playing guitars since 1966. At this time I have 10 electric guitars and 2 acoustic guitars. I have always over the years treated my guitars like little babies. I do all of the above and more to keep my (babies)in good condition. The above article is one of the best I've read on this subject, and I have read many over the years. I have always found it surprising how, because of the sturdy feel and look of electric guitars, most people (guitarist included)don't realize how finicky these instruments actually are. Be serious about maintenance for your guitars, they will last you a lifetime if you are. A well written article Hitsquad, well done!