How to Care for Your Guitar

Tips for Expert Maintenance in Learning Guitar Chords

Now that you’re playing guitar with your ChordBuddy, it is important to learn how to care for your guitar. Not keeping your guitar clean allows grime to build up on the strings. Oils from your fingers will combine with dust and dirt to ruin the strings a lot quicker than you may like. Over time, acoustic guitars can experience stress cracking in the finish between the bridge and the end of the body. The easiest way to prevent this is to ensure proper cleaning.

Use the following tips to ensure you care for your guitar properly:

Choosing the Right Strings

Depending on what kind of guitar you have, the type of music you set out to play, and largely, your preferences, there are different kinds of strings you can use to achieve slightly different sounds and tone color.

For folk and acoustic guitar, make sure you are buying strings that have been manufactured for an acoustic guitar. The words “acoustic guitar” should be printed somewhere on the packaging. The same should apply when buying strings for a classical, electric, or bass guitar.

Bronze or stainless steel roundwound strings work well for an acoustic guitar. It’s recommended that beginners and those with smaller hands use lighter gauge strings such as .011or .012-gauge strings because they’re easier to play and not as tough on your hands when learning guitar chords.

For those with larger hands and more advanced players that want a fuller, heavier tone from their acoustic guitar, heavier gauge strings can be used. The larger the gauge, the thicker the strings are in diameter. Classical players use nylon strings made expressly for classical guitars. Jazz players like Pat Metheny typically use the smoother flatwound strings because of the darker, mellower tone they produce.

Nickel or stainless steel strings can be used for electric guitars. String types and gauges are largely a matter of preference and tastes can’t be acquired until you try at least a few, so feel free to experiment with different types of strings to find a set that works best for you or your particular guitar.

Cleaning the Strings

Soft microfiber cleaning cloths work well to clean your guitar strings. Wipe down your strings after each playing session to help keep them free of grime and to prolong the natural oxidation process that breaks down the material of your strings over time.

As strings are stretched across the guitar for an extended period of time, the stress of that tension along with oxidation and the crud that builds up can cause strings to become dull. They will sound duller when played with chords and be more difficult to keep in tune when you care for your guitar. The need for constant tuning may be a sign that you need to change your strings.

Cleaning the Neck

You can use the same microfiber cleaning cloth on strings to rub down the neck of a guitar after daily use. When you change your strings, you’ll want to take advantage of the fact that you’ve got a clear shot at the fretboard without any strings to interfere.

  • For a more in-depth clean: If you have an unfinished rosewood or mahogany fretboard, rubbing the finest grade of steel wool in a circular motion between the frets and then across the length of the guitar over the frets can help to quickly loosen and clear out some of that build-up. If you do this, make sure you wipe away all of the fibers and loosened dirt with a cleaning cloth after you’re done. It’s also a good idea to put a t-shirt or cloth in the soundhole and point the headstock to the floor while using steel wool to clean the neck to prevent any debris from getting into other parts of the guitar. You can then rub a fretboard oil on the fretted side of the neck (be sure to follow directions on the bottle and wipe it off at the appropriate time) to help prevent future buildup.

Cleaning the Body

For daily use, using that same cleaning cloth to wipe down the body is recommended. Check with the manufacturer on approved polishes for your particular guitar, but by and large, most off-the-shelf guitar and automotive polishes work fine on the lacquered parts of the body, headstock (while the strings are not on the guitar, and the back of the neck.

If you’re cleaning an electric guitar, make sure you don’t touch the pickups or electronic hardware with any kind of liquid—including polish—as it could ruin the electronics in your instrument.