It’s been a long day, you’ve been up to your neck in alligators, your partner is working late, no dinner?
There’s literally nothing else for it. You’re picking up your guitar and chillin’ right out of space and time. It’s your escape.
You’ve worked hard to learn those chords, to buy your crafted acoustic peace of heaven – your one true love.
It’s getting cold and a chill is in the air as you lift it up and strike a chord.
Ouch. The horror that is fret buzz screams in your ears. How did that happen – you think?
Humidity in your guitar body.
Believe it or not, your guitar has a built-in moisture content meter… you can feel it in your fingers!
As musicians, we’re often told that we need to maintain the humidity of our instruments. The nominally suggested value for this is between 40% and 60%, but in fact it’s not the humidity we should be concerned with, it’s actually the moisture content of the wood.
So, why does everyone specify humidity values if we are really interested in the moisture content in the tone wood?
Well, for two reasons: (1) Hygrometers are cheap whereas non-invasive moisture content meters are expensive; and (2) humidity and moisture content are loosely related.
You can get the wood of your guitar to have the ideal Moisture Content, without having to pick up a hygrometer, and we’re going to show you how to feel it in your fingers, hear it in the sound, and stop worrying about micro percentages of Relative Humidity.
How does Relative Humidity (RH) affect the Moisture Content (MC) of wood?
MC and RH are related. The relationship, however, is complicated, a little like you, your guitar and your significant other. It has to do with vapor pressures and equilibration. But in simple terms, it’s all about balance. This means that a change in RH will drive a change in the Moisture Content of the wood. That said, RH can change rapidly whereas wood is very slow. This is why we humidify, but also why measuring humidity can be a little misleading. If you’re feeling geeky you can read more here… “Humidity”
What does this mean for you and your guitar?
Changes in MC affect the shape of the sound board, which in turn affects the action. In severe cases you can see it just by looking at the top, but long before you see it, you will feel it when you play. Adding moisture will cause the top to bow, raising the action – too much and you will find those barre chords harder to play. Whereas losing moisture will cause the top to sag, lowering the action – too much and you will start to get that dreaded fret buzz. The sound of the guitar is also another little tell-tale sign, albeit less obvious. A guitar with the right moisture content will have a fuller sound than one that is overly dry.
In the extreme, a lack of moisture can also result in the separation of the braces from the sound board, and separation of the saddle. Moreover, it can even result in cracks appearing in the sound board and/or the back of the guitar. As such, it is not something that should be overlooked.
So, what about the neck of the guitar?
Both the neck and the fret board have the same grain direction. They will not change length with changes in moisture but may change subtly in width. The good news is that intonation is not affected. However, as the neck dries out use of a fret board conditioner is recommended. And, if you’ve left it a little late you may begin to feel sharp fret ends. Fortunately, this can be simply fixed by filing them smooth. File them once in the dead of winter and chances are, you’ll never have to file them again!
So how do you know your moisture content is right?
Feel it in your fingers, hear it in the sound, and stop worrying about the perfect RH – You don’t actually need to know that, a hygrometer is just a guide, you’re feel is the truth – it’s that simple!
The answer is simple and the solution is finally fast and fuss free in 2020.
In the beginning humidifying your guitar body was an arduous task.
Unscrew a cap, fill with some weird gel, syringe in some “distilled water” and stick it between the strings or worse still wait hours for a sponge to absorb water and then stick it in a plastic box with holes in, like water isn’t going to drip inside your guitar if you accidentally knock it. And not only that you have to wait weeks before the humidity level returns in some cases. Or get a giant tube with another sponge in it, or a pack that goes in the bin when it’s used up – expensive stuff…
Not only that all of the OLD WAYS to humidify stop you playing, or force you to hide away your baby in a case. And we’re not saying that’s a bad thing, it’s more of a convenience thing. When the mood takes you to play – it needs to be fast – creativity dies in the flutter of a wing.
In 2020 all that changed.
A really clever product with twice the capacity of any other humidifier, that takes 25 minutes to absorb a massive 75ml of warm clean tap water, that just slips inside your guitar has finally arrived on the instrument humidifying scene.
Now you can’t get humidity supplementation like that anywhere else.
Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) have come together to create the ultimate humidity delivery system. The technology employed is cutting edge – literally. The Engineering comes from the heart of NASA engineers and the Math has calculated the exact time and absorption rate required for ideal humidity supplementation use, while making it fast to fill.
No lids, caps or sponges. All you have to do is add water. Easy, fast & efficient humidification. Leak Free. Lasts a whole lot longer than any other.
So remember, keep a PET-1 nearby, it only takes 25 minutes and all you do is add water – it doesn’t get easier than that, does it? Slip it in and make sweet, sweet music.
- Changes in MC affect the shape of the sound board, which in turn affects the action.
- In severe cases you can see it just by looking at the top.
- Long before you see it, you will feel it when you play.
- Too much moisture will cause the top to bow, raising the action making Barre Chords harder to play.
- Whereas losing moisture will cause the top to sag, lowering the action – producing dreaded fret buzz.
- A guitar with the right moisture content will have a fuller sound than one that is overly dry.
- In the extreme, a lack of moisture can also result in the separation of the braces from the sound board, and separation of the saddle. In turn it can even result in cracks appearing in the sound board and/or the back of the guitar.
- Hygrometers measure humidity in the air not in the wood.
- High RH causes wood to absorb, raising its moisture, causing it to swell.
- Low RH causes wood to desorb, lowering its moisture content, causing it to contract.
- Instruments are made with cross grain support struts that cause bowing and contraction due to the moisture content of the wood.
- RH can change rapidly.
- MC is slow.
- The effect of long-term, seasonal changes can be profound.
- For musical instruments, ideally the moisture content of the wood should be maintained at around 8%, equating to a constant RH of around 50%.
- When the ambient RH drops below that level for an extended period, RH in proximity to the instrument should be supplemented.
- Typically, this would be achieved through the use of a passive humidifier.
For a wood based musical instrument, a humidifier should have the following features –
- Passive, meaning that there are no batteries, fans, heaters, etc.
- High capacity for water allowing it to supplement humidity for multiple days between refills.
- Easily refillable with tap water.
- Sequester liquid water in a wholly absorbed form, only releasing it through evaporation.
- Large surface area that has a high porosity to water, hence allowing water to evaporate efficiently.
- Not attached to the instrument, stopping you play.
- Non-marring outer shell that is soft and prevents direct contact of the absorbent with the instrument.
- Use High-Tech materials that allow a variety of sizes and colors to suit a variety of instruments.
- Simple to use with a built-in, unmistakable indication of its state of hydration.
Having the right moisture levels in your tone wood means you can feel it in your fingers, and if you’re a fan you might even feel it your toes.