We recently had master guitar repairer, Michael Harron from Harron Custom Guitars take a masterclass on maintaining and restringing your guitar.
Apart from making me feel bad for having so many guitars in such dire need of some love, he shared a few gems which will help you not only get your guitar looking shiny and new, but will also make it much easier to play too!
#1 Change your strings regularly
We all know that you need to change your guitar strings when they start to wear out because new strings will sound and feel much better.
What you may not know is that worn out strings can actually damage your frets, leading to more costly fret repairs later on down the track. If you ever see dark ‘stuff’ at the back of your strings, you definitely need to replace them or risk wearing some unpleasant grooves into your frets!
As a rough guide, I change strings on my gigging guitars about once a month (more or less depending on the frequency of gigs). Practice guitars I would restring every 2-3 months (the ones that only get used once or twice a week).
#2 Clean your frets with a nail buffer for better intonation
I’ve always used a little metallic cloth that came with an old guitar maintenance kit to polish my frets, but it never seemed to make much difference to the look or feel. However, a cheap nail buffer (not quite as harsh as a nail file) will do a much better job, and can help to make sure your frets stay nicely rounded.
Round frets (rather than worn, flat frets) lead to better intonation, so your notes will sound a lot more pitch accurate. Clean frets will also reduce friction, which can speed up your playing and make bends a lot smoother.
#3 Oil your fretboard every 6 months (but not too often)
I originally realised I needed to actually look after my guitars when my Ibanez, which I had played on for years and years, started to feel….dry. Sure enough, the fretboard needed some serious oiling, and it’s made all of my guitars feel much nicer since I’ve gotten in the habit of oiling them up.
However, Michael made a good point – if you over-oil your fretboard, the oil can seep in-between the frets, causing frets to pop up over time, so only do so every 6 months or as needed.
#4 Keep those strings clean for maximum lifespan
This one probably isn’t news to you. Dirty strings die faster. So, make sure you wash your hands before playing your guitar (great as a way to warmup your hands in colder months) and wipe down your strings after heavy practice sessions.
It doesn’t take much, but taking off any dirt, sweat or oil from your hands will save your strings and reduce the risk of more serious fretboard damage over time.
#5 Get your guitars serviced, regularly
Michael recommends taking in your guitar every 6 months to a tech, which is probably smart for your main guitar, but for those who have limited budgets or lots of guitars, I’d recommend taking in each guitar once, getting a full appraisal (so you know potential problems or modifications you could make in the future) and then try your own hand at maintaining your guitars.
You will learn a lot from having a good relationship with your tech, so talk to them about your problems, thoughts and questions and they’ll be able to help you out.
My go to guys are Michael Harron (Harron Custom Guitars), Brock George (Brock Guitars) and Peter Myer (Hans Music Spot, especially for acoustic instruments), but the best way to find techs in your local area is to ask other guitarists who they would recommend.
The best techs tend to have lifelong customers – after all, you’re trusting them to look after your stringed babies!