Every year around this time, we receive calls from people across the country asking, “Why is my action so low? What can I do to raise it?” Our immediate response is always the same: “Have you been humidifying your guitar?”
Humidity is a word that describes the amount of water vapor present in the surrounding air. As humans, we can feel the levels of humidity distinctly from temperature. We all know the sensation of walking out of an air-conditioned building into a very humid day. While people are equipped to handle a wide range of humidity, low humidity can have a serious and sometimes devastating effect on an acoustic guitar.
The woods that make up your guitar’s body, neck, fingerboard and bridge are highly susceptible to the effects of humidity. In the case of the mysterious self-lowering action, it’s due to the guitar’s top, which may seem flat but actually has a very slight radius. As a guitar’s top loses moisture, it shrinks. This causes the radius to decrease, which lowers your action. This should be perceived as an alarm that your top is too dry!
It Gets Worse
A variety of problems happen next if low humidity is left unchecked.Your bridge could pop loose as a result of the top’s radius changing. Your fret ends could start to pop out as a result of the fingerboard shrinking (obviously, the metal fret wire doesn’t change size). In the worst scenario for people who don’t properly care for their instruments, your guitar could start developing cracks. This occurs because the wood is shrinking as it dries, all while being glued to the bracing, sides, and other structural elements of the guitar. Eventually something has to give. We don’t like to even think about it, but we’ve seen it, and it’s about as sad as imaginable for anyone who loves acoustic instruments.
There are dozens of inexpensive and effective humidifier products designed for acoustic instruments. Shown here: Dampit Guitar Humidifier (top), Oasis OH-1 Guitar Humidifer (bottom left), D'Addario Planet Waves Acoustic Guitar Humidifier (bottom right). Visit your Takamine retailer in person or online to see all the available choices.
Preventing Humidity Problems is Easy
The good news is that all of this is preventable, for the most part, by using a humidifier. If your guitar lives in its case when not in use, then you can simply use one of the many humidifier products that are designed to sit in a guitar’s soundhole. If you tend to leave guitars out in the open on stands in your music area, then you should consider a room humidifier. These are simple and inexpensive devices that do a great job of introducing moisture back into the dry air. All room humidifiers have their own recommendations for proper and effective use.
A hygrometer is a fancy word for a humidity measuring device. Similar to how a thermometer tells you the temperature, a hygrometer tells you the percentage of water vapor in the immediate environment. They are inexpensive and can help greatly prolong the life of your guitar when used in conjunction with a humidifier device as shown above.
If you leave your guitars out on stands in an open room (as opposed to inside a case), it might be necessary to humidify the room itself for the longterm health of your instruments, especially if you live in a particularly dry environment. Many room humidifiers are available from home improvement suppliers at a range of prices for various needs. This small and portable 3.6 gallon model will help maintain proper humidity for up to 3,600 square feet, and costs about a hundred bucks... a small price to pay for a lifetime of acoustic guitar enjoyment.
Ideally, your Takamine guitars love life at around 45-55% relative humidity. A good, cheap digital hygrometer is a great way to keep track of how much water vapor is in your guitar’s immediate environment. Taking these simple steps to be good to your guitar will allow it to give you a lifetime of musical goodness in return! Talk to your Takamine dealer and see what guitar humidification products are available from them!