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guitar in the snow

Guide for the Season - Caring For Your Instrument

Written by: Ashlee Booth



Time to read 3 min

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In the mountains of Western North Carolina, winters can get extremely dry and cold. In town, temperatures regularly dip into the low 20s in January and sometimes the teens! Highs are usually in mid 40s but if you live at a higher elevation, temperatures are often even more extreme. We periodically get snow and the air is usually very low in humidity


Your instrument is a living, breathing pieces of wood. Cold and dry conditions can be problematic for acoustic instruments such as guitar, mandolin, violin, and cellos if proper care is not taken. If you live anywhere with cold winters, it's extremely important for the  longevity of your instrument to consider strategies for keeping it hydrated in this season. 


Check out our signs to look out for, tips & tricks below for keeping your instrument in good shape this winter, along with some recommended products we carry in the shop. 

Signs Your Instrument Needs Humidification!


  1. Frets - If you can feel the sharp ends of the frets, your instrument's neck has probably shrunk a bit due to lack of moisture. Additionally, if you hear some “fret buzz”, it's possible the neck is bowing.

  2. Sunken Top- If you notice the top of your guitar, especially around the bridge, is caving in, its possible that lack of humidity has caused the wood to sink. This can cause issues with your bridge and make your action considerably lower, which can also contribute to buzzing. 

  3. Cracks- This is an immediately recognizable sign that your instrument has been damaged due to lack of humidity. Typically where you'll see this is along a seam or edge, like the image to the left which has a center seam crack.

**While these signs apply primarily to fretted instruments, there are some similarities in bowed string instruments that you can be on the lookout for.

Obviously, a crack is a likely sign that your instrument has succumbed to some sort of weather related thing…

Be on the lookout (or listen out?) for open seams! Some folks have luck with tapping around the edges of their instrument to hear differences in the sound. Other times, you can hear a buzzing when playing open strings. You can also shine a light inside your F-holes and see if the light shines through any of the seams to detect an open seam.

Center seam crack on guitar
    Guitar with a center seam crack due to lack of humidity.

 instincts! When your instrument feels unresponsive in your hands it would be worth your time to check up on its humidity levels! 

Humidity Solutions

1. Proper Storage

I always give this tip to my students and renters; the safest place for your instrument is in its case! Not only does this keep it safe from pets and young children, but a case (especially a hardshell) is the best environment for protecting your instrument from fluctuating temperatures. 

We know we know your guitar looks pretty on the wall! However during the winter when you're cranking the heat and enjoying the fireplace, dry heat is emitted into the air. It can be difficult to counteract the effects of dry heat , which is why the case is the safest environment for your instrument during the winter months.

When traveling to and from gigs, keep your instrument in a case. This comes in handy, especially if you're walking from a heated car, outside in the cold, and then back inside a heated building. These rapid temperature fluctuations are stressful on the wood, so we recommend leaving your instrument in the case when you arrive in a building. Let it come to room temperature before removing it from the case.. or else its a recipe for disaster ;)

We love Access One hardshell cases, and carry them in the shop for small body acoustics, dreadnaughts, banjos, and mandolins for $146!

2. Monitoring Humidity

Stay ahead of any possible issues by monitoring the humidity levels around your instrument.

A digital hygrometer is a key tool in observing the amount of moisture in the air. We have two hygrometers on opposite ends of the showroom that measure humidity in the air, and help us to determine the best course of action for keeping our inventory properly humidified.

Our sweet spot for humidity levels is 45%-55% humidity.

digital hygrometer

3. Humidifying Your Instrument

There are so many tools out there for keeping your instrument humidified during the winter months. They come in two basic variations; a sound-hole humidifier and a case humidifier. 

We carry several products here in the shop that we fully endorse and even use ourselves! 

  1. Oasis Guitar Humidifier :
    • Why we love it? It is really easy to distinguish when this humidifier needs to be refilled. The stabilizing bar doesn't put any excess stress on your strings!
  2. Gewa Violin, Viola, Cello, or Bass Humidifier:
    • Why we love it? This humidifier anchors in your F-holes, is really unassuming, and can be left in your instrument while you're playing.
  3. Music Nomad Case Humitar 
    • Why we love it? So easy to use! Soak the sponge in water, squeeze out excess water, place it into Humitar holster, pop it into the case and call it a day! 
three products on a snowy backdrop
Left to right: Oasis Guitar Humidifier, Music Nomad Case Humitar, and Gewa Cello Humidifier.