There are quite a few things that a guitar owner needs to consider in order to keep his guitar in perfect working order when it’s not being played or stored. You’ve got to think about humidity, temperature, and tension on the neck.
It’s this last point that a lot of guitarists miss when they’re trying to think of ways to protect their guitars. Some guitarists make the mistake of completely detuning a guitar or removing its strings before storing it or leaving it unplayed for several months. This is a big mistake that can lead to costly repairs. Here’s why.
The importance of tension. First of all, tension is kind of an important thing for guitars. It’s really the tension that allows a guitar to play notes in the first place, but it also creates a tremendous draw on the neck of the guitar.
If you don’t believe me, grab a few unwound guitar strings and try to stretch them to match the tensile strength of a guitar. You can’t do it, because you’re not a piece of wood (and if you are, holy hell! How are you operating a computer?) and you can’t stand that much pressure.
Guitars are built with pressure in mind. They’re built to withstand a tremendous amount of tension for a very long time. Even so, they have some slight problems dealing with that tension; older guitars need to have their necks regularly readjusted to prevent their action from going all haywire.
If you take all of the strings off of a guitar or completely de-tune it, you’re removing all of the tension from the guitar. If strings had ever been on the guitar before, this isn’t a good thing. To put it very simply, it’s not very nice to the wood. The poor wood doesn’t know what you want it to do.
The good news. You can loosen the strings a bit on a guitar without hurting it. How do you think so many guitarists play in dropped tunings?
You can also avoid damage to your guitar by only removing one string at a time when you need to restring. This shouldn’t be too difficult, and you won’t remove too much tension from the neck to cause intonation problems or other nasty issues.
Don’t remove all the strings from your guitar and it will likely last a lot longer. You won’t have to pay for constant neck re-adjustments and you won’t have to worry about the wood warping (as long as the guitar is in a good environment, of course).
Have any questions or tips about guitar maintenance? Share them in the comments section below.