How to Care for a Spruce Top Guitar

by Jo Jackson Google
Many classical and electric guitars have a spruce top.

Many classical and electric guitars have a spruce top.

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The top surface of a guitar is called the soundboard and is an important factor in shaping the tone of a nylon-string guitar. Nearly all classical guitar soundboards are made of spruce or cedar. There are different types of spruce; German spruce and Engelmann spruce are mostly used for classical guitars. Sitka spruce is the preferred wood for steel-string guitars. A spruce top guitar can change in tone for the first couple of years after construction, and it is important to know how to care for it.

Temperature and Humidity

The wood of a guitar can be affected by changes in temperature and humidity. When humidity is high, the wood sucks in moisture, and will expand and swell. If this is combined with high temperatures, the glue at the joints can weaken and open slightly, and the bridge could come off. Severe changes in temperature cause expansion and contraction of the wood that will cause cracking in the wood finish. Do not place your guitar close to air currents, heat sources, in the trunk of a car or in direct sun.

General Handling

The soundboard can crack if a guitar is squeezed at the waist, so always pass or hold it by the neck only. It is best not to lean the guitar against a wall, as they have a tendency to fall to the side. The spruce top can be scratched or dented by buttons, belt buckles or tie clips while you are playing, so be mindful of what it is touching. Also the surface can be damaged by sweat, so you should have an arm guard if playing in short-sleeves. It is best to get a hard carry case to transport it in.

Cleaning

It is better to give your guitar a quick polish whenever you use it than to clean it once a month. Always use a soft cotton cloth or a special guitar cleaning cloth that is safe to use on any instrument. A quick wipe-down after use will remove any harmful skin oils. Remember water, alcohol and sweat are all bad for your guitar. If there are marks that won't come off, there are many commercial guitar polishes to choose from. Cleaning the strings will extend the tonal life; simply grip the string through the cloth and move it up and down each string.

Storage

Use a hard carry case for storage. If you are going to be storing a spruce top guitar for a while, it is best to loosen the strings a little. Do not do this every time you put it in the carry case, as constant loosening and tightening of the strings will shorten their lives. It is good to wrap the guitar in cloth, preferably natural silk or fine wool, inside the case and place a bag of silicon gel in the case to absorb moisture. Store it somewhere without extremes of temperature.

Photo Credits

  • Polka Dot RF/Polka Dot/Getty Images