If you’re a newer guitar player, you might have heard that acoustic guitars need to maintain a certain level of humidity or they can begin to crack. You can even buy humidifiers for your guitar case for this purpose, but do electric guitars need humidifiers too? The answer is not as straightforward as you might think. While electric guitars don’t need as much humidity as acoustic guitars, they still require some level of moisture to maintain their optimal condition.
One of the reasons why electric guitars require some level of humidity is because of the wood used to make them. Most electric guitars have a solid body made of wood that can be affected by changes in humidity. When the air is too dry, the wood can shrink and crack, which can affect the sound and playability of the instrument. On the other hand, when the air is too humid, the wood can expand and warp, which can also affect the sound and playability of the guitar.
It’s important to note that the amount of humidity electric guitars need can vary depending on the type of wood used and the climate where you live. In general, it’s recommended to keep your guitar in an environment with a humidity level between 40-60%. In this article we’ll cover the ins & outs of properly maintaining your instrument in relation to humidity.
The Importance of Humidity for Electric Guitars
Maintaining proper humidity levels is important for the longevity and playability of your electric guitar. While electric guitars are generally less susceptible to humidity-related issues than acoustic guitars, it’s still important to keep your instrument in a controlled environment.
Humidity affects the wood in your guitar, and when the moisture content in the air is too low, the wood in your guitar will dry out, causing both superficial and structural cracks. Conversely, if the humidity is too high, the wood will absorb too much moisture and expand, affecting the guitar’s playability and tone, and can even loosen glued joints.
Solid body electric guitars are generally less susceptible to humidity-related issues than semi-hollow or hollow body guitars. However, even solid body guitars can experience issues in extremely dry climates, particularly with the fretboard.
It’s recommended to keep your guitar in a room with a humidity level between 40% and 60%. If the humidity in your environment is consistently outside of this range, it’s recommended to use a room humidifier or a guitar humidifier to maintain proper humidity levels.
It’s also important to note that changes in humidity can affect the neck of your guitar. In low humidity, the neck can shrink, causing the fret ends to protrude from the edge of the fretboard ( aka fret sprout). In high humidity, the neck can expand, causing the frets to get loose, as well as the screws. In extreme cases, the neck may even warp, making the guitar unplayable.
In addition to using a room or guitar humidifier, you can also take other steps to maintain proper humidity levels for your electric guitar. For example, storing your guitar in its case with a humidifier during the winter months or in air conditioning during the summer months can help maintain proper humidity levels. Truss rod covers can also help prevent moisture from entering the neck of your guitar.
Overall, maintaining proper humidity levels is crucial for the health and longevity of your electric guitar. By taking the necessary steps to control the environment your guitar is in, you can ensure that it stays in top playing condition for years to come.
Related: The anatomy of an electric guitar
Types of Electric Guitars & Humidity Requirements
When it comes to electric guitars, their humidity needs can vary depending on the type of guitar. Generally speaking, solid body electric guitars are less susceptible to humidity changes than semi-hollow or hollow body electric guitars.
Solid body electric guitars have a thick, solid piece of wood as their body, which makes them less likely to be affected by changes in humidity. However, this does not mean that they are completely immune to humidity changes. If the humidity is too low, the wood in the neck of the guitar can shrink, causing the neck to become warped. On the other hand, if the humidity is too high, the wood can expand, causing the neck to become bowed.
Semi-hollow and hollow body electric guitars, on the other hand, have a body made of thin sheets of wood that are glued together. This makes them more susceptible to changes in humidity. If the humidity is too low, the wood can dry out, causing cracks to form in the body of the guitar. If the humidity is too high, the wood can absorb too much moisture, causing the body of the guitar to swell and potentially causing the neck to become bowed.
It is important to note that even though solid body electric guitars are less susceptible to humidity changes, it is still a good idea to store them in a room with moderate humidity levels. This can help prevent any potential damage to the guitar over time.
Related: How to clean a fretboard
Effects of Low & High Humidity on Electric Guitars
Humidity levels can have a significant impact on the health and longevity of your electric guitar. When the air is too dry, your guitar’s wood can shrink, causing cracks and structural damage. Conversely, when the air is too humid, the wood can swell, leading to warping, fret sprout, and other issues.
If you live in a dry climate or are storing your guitar in a gig bag during the winter months, it’s essential to monitor the humidity levels and take steps to maintain a healthy environment for your instrument. Here are some of the effects of low and high humidity on electric guitars:
Effects of Low Humidity
When the air is too dry, the wood in your guitar can become dehydrated, leading to cracks and other damage. Here are some of the effects of low humidity:
- Cracking: Low humidity can cause superficial and structural cracks in the wood of your guitar. These cracks can affect the playability and tone of your instrument and may require costly repairs.
- Fret Sprout: When the wood in your guitar dries out, it can cause the frets to protrude from the fretboard, a condition known as fret sprout. This can make it uncomfortable to play and may require a professional setup.
- Finish Damage: Low humidity can cause the finish on your guitar to crack and peel, leading to unsightly blemishes.
Effects of High Humidity
When the air is too humid, the wood in your guitar can absorb too much moisture, leading to swelling and warping. Here are some of the effects of high humidity:
- Swelling: When the wood in your guitar absorbs too much moisture, it can swell, causing the frets to lift and the action to become higher. This can make it difficult to play and may require a professional setup.
- Warping: High humidity can cause the neck of your guitar to warp, leading to intonation issues and other problems.
- Rust and Corrosion: High humidity can cause the metal parts on your guitar, such as the tuning machines and bridge, to rust and corrode. This can affect the playability and tone of your instrument and may require replacement parts.
- Glue Joint Failure: High humidity can cause the glue joints in your guitar to weaken, leading to structural damage and costly repairs.
Monitoring Humidity Levels for Electric Guitars
As we have learned, most electric guitars do not require humidifiers. However, it is still important to monitor the humidity levels to ensure that your guitar stays in its best condition.
The ideal humidity range for guitars is between 40% and 60%. Keeping your guitar in this range will ensure that the wood absorbs some moisture from the air to avoid cracking, while not absorbing so much that it begins to swell. You can use a digital hygrometer to give you an accurate reading of the humidity level of the environment in which you store your guitar.
If the humidity levels are too low, you can consider using a room humidifier to increase the humidity levels. Alternatively, if the humidity levels are too high, you can use a dehumidifier to reduce the humidity levels.
It is important to note that sudden changes in humidity levels can cause damage to your guitar. Therefore, it is best to keep your guitar in a stable environment with consistent humidity levels.
Using Humidifiers for Electric Guitars
While electric guitars are less susceptible to humidity-related damage compared to acoustic guitars, it is still recommended to use a humidifier to keep your electric guitar in good condition. Humidity can affect the playability and tone of your guitar, and can cause superficial and structural damage.
There are several types of humidifiers available for electric guitars. One option is a guitar humidifier that is designed to fit inside the guitar’s soundhole (for semi holllow & hollow bodies), some attach to the strings, but most common are the type you can simply keep in your case. These humidifiers release moisture into the guitar’s body, helping to maintain the proper humidity level.
Shown above: D’Addario Small Instrument Humidifier
Another option is a humidification system that is designed to regulate the humidity level in the guitar’s environment. These systems typically use a two-way humidification system that both adds and removes moisture as needed to maintain a consistent humidity level.
When using a guitar humidifier or humidification system, it is important to monitor the humidity level regularly to ensure that it remains within the recommended range. The ideal humidity level for an electric guitar is between 40% and 60%.
It is also important to use distilled water when filling the humidifier to prevent mineral buildup and damage to the guitar.
Related: Do Electric Guitars Need Amplifiers?
Proper Storage of Electric Guitars
To maintain a moderate humidity level, you can store your electric guitar in a room with a humidifier or use a case humidifier if you keep your guitar in a hardshell or softshell case. A case humidifier can be especially useful during dry winter months when the air tends to be drier.
In addition to humidity level, it is important to store your electric guitar in a proper case. A hardshell case is the best option for protecting your instrument during transportation or storage. A softshell case can provide some protection but is not as sturdy as a hardshell case. When storing your guitar in a case, make sure to keep it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight or extreme temperatures.
Overall, proper storage of your electric guitar can help to ensure that it stays in good condition for years to come. By keeping your guitar in a moderate humidity environment and storing it in a sturdy case, you can protect your investment and enjoy playing your instrument for many years.
Related: What Is A Song Structure?