A simple method for guitar tuning and topics about relative humidity and how it affects your guitar are covered in this issue of The Classical Guitar Express. Your questions, suggestions, and comments are always appreciated.

Tom Prisloe
classical guitar builder and player
tom@classicalguitarbuilder.com and please visit at http://www.classicalguitarbuilder.com

student spanish guitars

Humidity and Your Guitar

Guitarists frequently ask me what is a safe humidity range for their guitar. For a short period of time, like about a day, the relative humidity of the air isn’t too critical but for longer periods it is.

Hopefully your guitar was built at about 50% relative humidity. When relative humidity is between 40% - 70% the guitar should be pretty comfortable. When the relative humidity is below 40%, moisture moves out of the guitar woods into the drier air. Over a period of time this can cause the guitar woods to crack and braces can also become loose.

As relative humidity increases, the guitar woods expand as they absorb moisture from the air. Excessive humidity 75% and above can cause serious warping over time. At 90%+ your guitar is in a high danger zone.

When I lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the beautiful high desert of the South West U.S., I was over at a friend and fellow guitar builder’s house to play duets. We left our guitars in the living room and went into the kitchen for a break. It sounded like a firecracker went off! We ran into the living room. My friend’s guitar had fallen to the hardwood floor. He picked it up. Every back brace inside the guitar had exploded off the back. We had a great laugh. The guitar had been built in Baltimore, Maryland the summer before in his basement at about 90%+ relative humidity. Needless to say the guitar didn’t respond well when the relative humidity was around 30%.

Lesson - wood moves as humidity changes

When relative humidity drops below 40% you can use a guitar dampit or a room humidifier to increase the humidity level. When the RH goes above 75% use a dehumidifier to lower the humidity by removing moisture from the air. An air conditioner also removes water from the air. If you raise the room temperature the relative humidity will also drop. The amount of moisture air can hold is relative to the air temperature. Warmer air can hold more water than colder air. Hence the term relative humidity.

In winter months the cold air cannot hold as much moisture as it can in warmer weather. When this cold air enters your home and is heated to a comfortable room temperature the relative humidity of the air drops. A RH of 60% in cold air might be about 20% RH in the same air once it is warmed.

If you want to measure the relative humidity in the room where your guitar is kept you will need a hygrometer. I use a dial hygrometer mounted on the wall in my work shop so I can regulate the humidity as needed. Don’t mount a hygrometer above a heat vent or radiator.

I will be selling hygrometers in my future online classical guitar accessories store but for those who are concerned that their guitars might be in danger of warping, cracking or exploding at any moment here is a link to a good quality wall hygrometers at a reasonable price. http://www.brooklynthermometer.com

update - My classical guitar accessories page is now up. I offer a classical guitar humidity and temperature sensor by Planet Waves.

A Simple Method For Accurate Guitar Tuning

have a great electronic tuner. Ed, one of my classical guitar students, gave it to me as a gift because I was always grabbing his tuner at lessons and playing around with it. Thanks Ed.

Unfortunately for me the tuner isn’t idiot proof and you need to remember to turn it off. I find this difficult and therefore the battery is always dead. To make matters worse I never remember to get a new battery when I’m at the store. Fortunately I have another accurate way to tune my guitar and I haven’t forgotten it yet. Here it is.

Tune the 5th string A. I use an A=440 tuning fork. Play a harmonic by lightly touching the A string above the fifth fret and plucking the string by the bridge. Plucking nearer the bridge will give a clearer harmonic. Adjust the string to match the tuning fork.

All the other strings are now tuned to the 5th string. This is an excellent system because minor pitch errors are not compounded between strings.

E (6th string) -- harmonic 7th fret 5th string = harmonic 5th fret 6th string

D (4th string) -- harmonic 5th fret 5th string = harmonic 7th fret 4th string

G (3rd string) -- play an A on 2nd fret 3rd string = harmonic 12th fret 5th string

B (2nd string) -- play an E on 5th fret 2nd string = harmonic 7th fret 5th string

E (1st string) -- play E first string open = harmonic 7th fret 5th string

Now that the guitar is in tune you can make minor adjustments by comparing unisons (same note different strings) and octaves between various strings.

Other Issues

To view Issue 1
Relative Humidity and The Exploding Guitar
    Accurate Guitar Tuning Made Simple  

To view Issue 2
    Classical Guitars for Sale
        You don't have to spend a lot of money for a good sounding student guitar

To view Issue 3
    How to have a Great Classical Guitar Technique

To view Issue 4
    How to select the best classical guitar strings for your nylon string guitar 

To view Issue 5
    Classical guitar instruction. Just do it!

To view Issue 6
     Need more volume? How about a classical guitar pickup?

Tom Prisloe builds fine custom classical guitars. You can visit his web site at http://www.classicalguitarbuilder.com, e-mail. tom@classicalguitarbuilder.com or call him directly at 607.387.3875. Prisloe Guitars, PO Box 308, Trumansburg, NY 14886 USA

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