Humidity and Your Guitar

ALL guitar manufacturers require their guitars to be stored in 50% humidity or higher at all times.  If humidity is not maintained you will have the issues listed below. If you’re experiencing any of these issues, at some point your guitar’s woods got dry. Damage from dryness is not warranted by any manufacturer, but if you click on the issue you’re experiencing, Mr. Zager will show you how to repair it. If it’s a complicated repair that requires extra help, Mr. Zager will guide you on what to do.

Buzzing on one or multiple strings

If you’re experiencing buzzing on one or multiple strings Mr. Zager’s grandfather created a hydration method you can do in 72 hours that will make your guitar play and sound like it did when new.  This method has been used over 75 years by millions of players on all brands of guitars with about a 100% success rate.  Once the process is complete simply maintain humidity over 55% (we keep our shop at 65%) and you will have no other issues. 
 
When woods get dry the face lowers 1 millimeter which throws off the geometry of the instrument causing buzzes, rattles, poor sound and multiple issues. This is true for all quality solid wood guitars made by all manufacturers, but happens more frequently on higher level instruments with thinner hand scalloped bracing which give you deeper sound and easier playability. This method of sealing moisture inside the body raising humidity to 90% puts the woods back into their original position. If you have a crack this method can also naturally repair a crack.
 
Simply place your guitar standing up on a wall facing you. Take 5 soaking wet washcloths, wring them out and drop them into the bottom of the guitar and plug the sound hole with your Zager humidifier. If you don’t have a humidifier you can cover the sound hole with a baggie, but it’s important to seal the moisture in. Let the guitar sit standing up and you should be good as new in 72 hours with no buzzing. This video will guide you. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2F-IX1JlnA

Amplifier jack loose

This is a serious sign of dry woods. When a guitars woods get dry, they contract. When this happens metal parts become loose. A good guitar vibrates a lot as vibration puts out big sound, but it also causes those metal parts to become even looser.
 
This is an easy fix, and we have two videos that will guide you, but it’s imperative to check your humidity levels and make sure you maintain minimally 55% humidity as dry woods will begin to warp and they will eventually crack. This video will show you how to tighten the amplifier jack if it’s only slightly loose: https://youtu.be/4cnbN8IXA_I .
 
This video will show you how to tighten the amplifier jack if it’s really loose spinning and dangling: https://youtu.be/nJlp9YBiz6U

Metallic splatting sound playing certain chords

If you’re hearing a metallic splatting sound as your holding chords down the neck Mr. Zager’s grandfather created a hydration method you can do in 72 hours that will make your guitar play and sound like it did when new.  This method has been used over 75 years by millions of players on all brands of guitars with about a 100% success rate.  Once the process is complete simply maintain humidity over 55% (we keep our shop at 65%) and you will have no other issues.  
 
To begin place your guitar standing up on a wall facing you. Take 5 soaking wet washcloths, wring them out and drop them into the bottom of the guitar and plug the sound hole with your Zager humidifier. If you don’t have a humidifier you can cover the sound hole with a baggie, but it’s important to seal the moisture in. Let the guitar sit standing up and you should be good as new in 72 hours with no buzzing. This video will guide you. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2F-IX1JlnA
 
When woods get dry the face lowers 1 millimeter which throws off the geometry of the instrument causing buzzes, rattles, poor sound and multiple issues. This is true for all quality solid wood guitars made by all manufacturers but happens more frequently on higher level instruments with thinner hand scalloped bracing which give you deeper sound and easier playability. This method of sealing moisture inside the body raising humidity to 90% puts the woods back into their original position. If you have a crack this method can also naturally repair a crack.

Getting the same note on different frets

If you’re getting the same note on different frets this is another sign the face has moved and is throwing off the geometry of your guitar. Mr. Zager’s grandfather created a hydration method you can do in 72 hours that will make your guitar play and sound like it did when new.  This method has been used over 75 years by millions of players on all brands of guitars with about a 100% success rate.  Once the process is complete simply maintain humidity over 55% (we keep our shop at 65%) and you will have no other issues.  
 
To begin place your guitar standing up on a wall facing you. Take 5 soaking wet washcloths, wring them out and drop them into the bottom of the guitar and plug the sound hole with your Zager humidifier. If you don’t have a humidifier you can cover the sound hole with a baggie, but it’s important to seal the moisture in. Let the guitar sit standing up and you should be good as new in 72 hours with no buzzing. This video will guide you. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2F-IX1JlnA
 
When woods get dry the face lowers 1 millimeter which throws off the geometry of the instrument causing buzzes, rattles, poor sound and multiple issues. This is true for all quality solid wood guitars made by all manufacturers but happens more frequently on higher level instruments with thinner hand scalloped bracing which give you deeper sound and easier playability. This method of sealing moisture inside the body raising humidity to 90% puts the woods back into their original position. If you have a crack this method can also naturally repair a crack.

Uneven volume string to string when plugged in

This has to do with placement of the transducer under the saddle and is a very easy adjustment. When woods get dry they shift causing the saddle (the white piece on the bridge) to become misaligned with the transducer underneath. This will give certain strings more volume than others. Now your heavier strings will always carry more volume than the thinner strings so if you’re lacking volume on the thinner strings this would need to be adjusted using the dials on your electronics control box.
 
In adjusting the saddle over the transducer the first thing we do is make sure humidity levels are minimally 60%. If not humidify your guitar as shown in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2F-IX1JlnA as this alone can move things back into position and cause the saddle to go back into alignment with the transducer underneath.
 
If you’ve humidified your guitar and you’re still having an issue the second thing we do is tap down hard on the saddle to make sure the saddle is seated securely and tightly over the transducer underneath. It may sound a bit crude but in working on these guitars over 3 generations it’s sometimes the simple things that get the best results.
 
If you’re still not hearing any sound differences after tapping on the saddle at that point we recommend loosening the strings (about 25 on turns on your tuning gears) and make sure the saddle (white piece) is seated in proper position over the transducer underneath. If they’re out of alignment and not touching fully you may hear some sound loss. Mr. Zager goes over this in more detail on this video: https://youtu.be/CnbYhbtZTtE 
 
If you’re still having an issue most any shop can adjust this in a few minutes which is much less costly, time consuming, and risky than spending $200 to ship your guitar back and forth across the country.

Bridge separating from the face

It’s not uncommon to have a little lift with full string pressure, meaning you can slide a piece of paper under the edge of the bridge.  We’ve had guitars that were like this for 40 years and never caused any problems.
 
When the bridge cracks or separates from your guitar this means at some point the humidity levels got extremely dry. When the woods of the face get too dry it causes the woods to contract and the face will lower one millimeter, sometimes two millimeters, which break the seal between the face and the bridge.
 
No guitar company warrants this type of damage as it’s preventable, but if you have a broken bridge let us know and Mr. Zager will make you a brand-new bridge and we’ll ship it free of charge.
 
If your bridge is only lifting, the best remedy for this is filling the gap with Elmers wood glue (with full string pressure) then loosening the strings so the bridge drops down into the face. Remove any extra glue with a damp towel as Elmers is water soluble, and in 72 hours you should be good as new.
 
If you need to install a new bridge any shop can do this for a minimal fee, and this is much less expensive than spending $200 shipping your guitar back and forth across the country. It also minimizes down time and risk of more damage. Mr. Zager has a video that explains what happens in greater detail here: https://youtu.be/UIrH0agQl6k

Cracks in face, body, neck or bracing

Cracks on guitars are caused by only one thing, dryness. Most shops recommend refinishing cracks, meaning they remove the finish from the entire face if that’s where the crack is, they then repair the crack, then apply new finish.
 
If you talk with the best luthiers in the world though, most will tell you to glue a crack and nothing else. The reason shops recommend refinishing is it’s an expensive procedure. You can easily spend $700 refinishing a portion of a guitar.
 
The problem with refinishing is not only is it expensive, but you’re layering new finish over old finish and this ruins sound quality.   There’s a reason players like Willie Nelson have never refinished their guitars. https://www.texasmonthly.com/arts-entertainment/trigger/
 
On guitars with cracks  Mr. Zager simply runs a line of Elmers glue wherever the cracks are and wipes off the excess as it’s water soluble.   It makes your guitar strong as it was new, without ruining your sound quality, and without costing you a fortune.  If you maintain humidity going forward you will have no other issues.

Frets protruding sharp from the edge of the fret board

This is a major sign of dryness. When your woods get dry the neck contracts and shrinks leaving the metal frets sticking out. On these guitars Mr. Zager takes a small piece of fine grit sand paper and folds it over a few times making it thicker and runs it lightly down the side of the neck going over those protruding frets. This smooths them out so they’re no longer hurting your fingers.

High Frets & Sprung Frets

This type of damage is only caused by dryness as when woods get dry they shrink causing metal parts like frets to pop out of position. This repair should only be done by a qualified shop. If you have buzzing strings this is rarely caused by a high fret. 99% of buzzing is caused by the face lowering due to dryness which is easy to fix using the Zager hydration method: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2F-IX1Jln

A hump on the fret board

A hump on the fretboard is only caused by dry woods shrinking in opposting directions and rates of the various pieces of wood comprising the neck, heel, and body joints. As long as the hump isn’t too high these can be repaired by filing the frets but should only be done by a qualified luthier. If you have buzzing strings this is rarely caused by a hump. 99% of buzzing is caused by the face lowering due to dryness which is easy to fix using the Zager hydration method: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2F-IX1Jln

Warping of the neck

This happens when the woods of the neck get so dry that they shrink and contract actually warping the neck. All Zager guitars have truss rods so we have fewer issues with this as the truss can be turned to straighten the neck back into a position that alleviates any string buzzing or rattling. We have videos on how to turn the truss on our help page at http://zager.com/help

Truss rod locked or broken

A truss rod becomes locked when the woods of the neck get so dry that it warps the neck to a point that the truss rod will no longer turn and move the neck back into proper position. Truss rods are generally hard to turn, but if you’re pushing hard and it’s not moving at all, do not continue pushing or you will break the mechanism.
 
At this point we recommend turning the guitar upside down and putting penetrating oil on the truss where you insert the truss key and letting that oil soak and run down the rod for 72 hours. Once it’s moving you should be okay but only 50% of locked truss rods are repaired using oil. The next step would be to take it to a luthier, we usually recommend Guitar Center.
 
If you break a truss rod there are shops who repair them, but the cost is significant due to the amount of work involved in replacing the entire neck and mechanism to the body. 20 hours of work even at $50 an hour is often more than the price of the entire guitar on our entry models, and even then they often never play the same. In these situations please contact us as Mr. Zager will often replace the guitar at material cost only which is significantly less than retail cost.

Body Separation From the Neck

When woods get dry on a guitar they shrink and contract moving in opposing directions and when this happens the body will separate from the neck. The only thing recommended when this happens is using Elmers glue as it’s water soluble and filling any gaps. If it’s still playing and sounding well you should have no problems going forward.

Binding Separating from the Body

This has to do with lack of humidity.  At some point your guitars woods got dry.  When woods get dry they shift and contract causing movement of the face which can shift the binding but most of these issues are purely cosmetic.  Sometimes humidification can help as adding water back into the woods will put them back into position. This video will guide you https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2F-IX1JlnA  Mr. Zager highly discourages painting or refinishing as you would be applying new finish making the soundboard thicker which will affect sound quality.  There’s a reason Willie Nelson doesn’t refinish his Martin that has many cosmetic defects on it.  It’s because he knows if he did he would lose the sound quality he’s gained by years of aging. https://guitar.com/features/interviews/story-of-willie-nelsons-trigger-most-famous-acoustic-guitar/

Neck Dropping into Sound Hole

This is a serious sign of dryness. This happens when the woods of your guitar become so dry that you lose structural integrity which causes the neck to actually drop down into the sound hole. Sometimes if you catch these guitars in time and begin humidifying them raising humidity back to 60% the drop will stop and you can continue playing these guitars with no real issues. If you do not humidify it will only get worse to where the guitar becomes unplayable and you will soon have major cracks inside the body and around the neck. Repairs like this should only be attempted by a qualified luthier.

Electronics System Vibrates

This comes from dry woods shifting in different directions which can cause the electronics door to rattle when strumming certain chords. Mr. Zager has a video about this here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKzrNXntYOA&t=3s

A leaning saddle

This happens when the woods on the bridge become so dry that the saddle slot (that holds the saddle) expands and soon with string pressure your saddle begins to lean. This is not ideal but there are many guitars that continue to play well after this and if you choose to leave it alone Mr. Zager advises to at least begin humidifying your guitar with a humidifier. If you’re experiencing a playability or sound issue you can either replace the bridge or saddle. We recommend having a custom saddle (white part) made specifically for your wider slot by a luthier who can see your guitar so they can measure the slot and make a saddle that fits your slot.

A peeling pickguard

This is only caused by dryness. When woods get dry they shift and contract causing movement of the face. When the woods are moving under the pickguard they will cause the adhesives holding the pickguard down to release. In these situations we recommend removing the pickguard and installing a new one. You can get a new pick guard on our parts page at https://zagerguitar.com/accessories/#replacement-parts Removing and installing a new guard can be done at any shop for minimal expense or you can do it at home. Mr. Zager has a video on that at http://zager.com/help

Loose wires

This is only caused by dryness. When the woods get dry inside your guitar they shift and contract and will make the adhesives that hold your wireholder to the body of your guitar come undone. You can get new wire holders on our parts page at https://zagerguitar.com/accessories/#replacement-parts and Mr. Zager has a video on reattaching the wireholder at http://zager.com/help

Flat face or flat back

All acoustic guitars from all brands should have a face and back that bow outwards like a balloon. Some brands have more of this, some less, but they should all bow out on the face and back. If your guitar has a flat face and or a flat back this means your woods are dry and need water and you will soon be experiencing other issues like buzzing strings and eventually cracks. This video will guide you on hydrating your guitar to get water back into the woods https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2F-IX1JlnA

Loose bracing/creaking on body

When you hear creaking this means your woods are so dry that your bracing inside your guitar as separated from the body leaving parts of your guitar unbraced. When this happens you can push in on certain parts of the fack and face and you will experience creaking of the body. In this situation we highly advise watering your guitar as shown in hour hydration video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2F-IX1JlnA and Mr. Zager recommends gluing those braces that have come loose. Some players do this on their own with Elmers glue as it’s water soluble but at these levels it’s usually recommended to take your guitar to a qualified shop.

Finish cracks

Finish cracks are only caused by dryness. Finish cracks are caused when your guitars woods get do dry that the woods on the face, sides or back contract and shrink causing the thin outer finish to crack. This is purely cosmetic but is a sign that your woods are dry and should be hydrated as shown on our hydration video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2F-IX1JlnA Refinishing your guitar is never recommended as not only is it expensive, but you’re layering new finish over old finish and this ruins sound quality.   There’s a reason players like Willie Nelson have never refinished their guitars. https://www.texasmonthly.com/arts-entertainment/trigger/

Abalone inlay moving on face

This is caused by humidity and or temperature changes. Depending on the temperature and humidity levels of where you’re storing your guitar the wood under the inlay can swell or contract causing part of the inlay to raise or lower. If your climate is changing there will be some movement but this is common and generally, nothing to be concerned about unless you’re having a playability or sound issue. Be sure to keep humidity above 50% at all times…we keep our shop at 65%.

FAQ

I tried your hydration method and it didn’t work

Zager’s hydration method has been used over 75 years by millions of players with close to a 100% success rate.  If you didn’t get results it means you didn’t follow the method exactly.  If you watch this video it will guide you and you WILL eventually get results. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2F-IX1JlnA

I raised my humidity to 50%, why is my guitar still buzzing?

50% humidity is a good number to maintain your guitar (we keep our shop at 65%+) but it will not move the woods back into their original position. To do this you need humidity levels at 85% to 90%. This is only done by super hydrating your guitar using the hydation method as shown in this video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2F-IX1JlnA

Your hydration method improved my guitar but it’s still buzzing

This tells you immediately your issues are 100% water related. By simply repeating the process your guitar will continue to improve. If your guitar’s been dry for several months or several years, it may take several rounds of watering to build water content back into the woods. Remember though that dry warped guitars most shops won’t even attempt to repair as it’s impossible straightening warped woods using conventional methods. Our watering technique takes guitars shops call “non repairable” and puts them back to within 1% of their original playability and sound.

My local shop said my guitar needs more than water.

If your guitar’s been really dried it may indeed need more than water, but in three generations building guitars over 100 years, we’ve found all these guitars need is what they lost…water. Guitar shops are notorious for telling uninformed players their guitars need massive amounts of work so they can charge massive amounts of money. It’s unfortunate, but being in the guitar business over 100 years we’ve seen this is quite common. 99% of issues caused by dryness can be repaired with water. If you think your guitar needs more work we recommend at least 3 rounds of watering . If you see ANY improvement this tells you immediately your problems are water related.

My local shop says my guitar has structural issues 

Your luthier may be correct.  When you dry out the woods on a guitar they warp causing movement, separation, and eventually cracks which are all structural.   By putting water back into the woods though it will move the woods back into their original position which is why this method works so well. Depending on how dry your guitar is it may require additional work from a shop but always start with hydration first, minimally 3 rounds.

My local shop says my guitar is not dry

If your guitar’s experiencing any of the signs of dryness listed at the top of this page your guitar’s woods are dry.  These symptoms have been documented and verified by EVERY guitar manufacturer in the USA. 

Why is my Zager more sensitive to humidity than my other guitars?

Zager Guitars have a higher level bracing system you generally see in high level $10,000+ guitars which give them their extreme playability and sound. This system is more sensitive to temperature and climate changes, but it’s also why Zager guitars are rated in the top 2% in the world.  This video explains in greater detail https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4Ps67D2BaA

I hydrated my guitar and it plays and sounds great, but it now has dark spots on the back.

This is because your guitar was on its back when you watered it . Your guitar must be standing up vertically when doing the process as the woods at the bottom are thicker. Generally we find as your woods settle after the hydration process most of these spots disappear.

I hydrated my guitar and it plays and sounds great, but it now the grains on the face are bumpy

This is caused by water being introduced back into the woods and is very common. Usually we find this dissipates as the water absorbs into the grains.

What should string height be after my guitar has been fully hydrated.

Mr. Zager sets action at 3/16 measuring from the 12th fret space to the top of the big E string. If your guitar has been dried out you will not be able to go this low without buzzing. By hydrating your guitar and raising the face back into its original position you will be able to turn the truss key clockwise to lower action to 3/16 at the 12th fret space.

I hydrated my guitar and it plays and sounds great, but the frets are still sticking out and sharp.

When your guitar got dry the woods on the neck contracted and shrank leaving the metal frets sticking out. All Mr. Zager does with these guitars is takes a small piece of fine grit sand paper and folds it over a few times making it thicker and runs it lightly down the side of the neck going over those protruding frets. This smooths them out so they’re no longer hurting your fingers.

I hydrated my guitar and now string height is too high

This is very common as hydration will make the face of the guitar raise back into position. At this point you can turn the truss key clockwise to lower action. Mr. Zager has a video on setting action on our help page at http://zager.com/help

I hydrated my guitar and it plays great, but it’s now cracked!

Yes this can happen and is actually common on guitars with really dried woods. At the top of this page you’ll see the key indicator of a dried out guitar is cracks. What you didn’t realize is your guitars woods were already cracking inside, which is why its face dropped several millimeters giving you buzzing strings. Introducing water back into the woods causes the woods to expand back into original position and is now exposing what was already underneath, a crack. This is nothing to be alarmed about as cracks are common on acoustics https://www.texasmonthly.com/arts-entertainment/trigger/ and are easily repaired using a few drops of glue as Mr. Zager demonstrates on this page. The good thing is you just took a guitar that most shops would have considered non repairable and repaired it to within 1% of its original playability and sound.

I hydrated my guitar and it plays great, but a brace fell out?

This is very common. If you refer to the top of this page you’ll see “loose braces” are one of the first signs of a dried out guitar. This happens because as the woods of the face and back dry, they sink which lowers the face and pushes in the back. At this point the braces are already loose. When you then put water back into the woods, it moves the face and back into their original position. This back and forth movement that can cause a brace to loosen or fall out. This is nothing to be alarmed about as a brace can be reinstalled using a few drops of Elmers glue. On a positive note, you just repaired your guitar bringing it back to within 1% of its original playability and sound for free.

Why guitar shops don’t talk about watering

Here’s a secret many guitar shops don’t talk about. 99% of buzzing, playability and sound issues can be solved with water. When a guitar gets dry the face lowers 1-2 millimeters. This lowers the strings closer to the fretboard causing buzzing, playability, sound issues and throws off the geometry of the entire instrument. To repair your guitar shops will recommend installing new frets, filing the frets, dressing the frets, building a new bridge, building a new saddle, building a new nut, replacing the entire neck. All these repairs can help alleviate issues caused by dryness but you’ll spend hundreds of dollars and your guitar still won’t be quite as good as it was new. Another option is you can hydrate your guitar which will put the body parts back into original position fixing all these issues naturally for free. Why don’t shops talk about this? BECAUSE THEY CAN’T CHARGE YOU FOR IT. We’d like to say these practices are rare, but being in the guitar business 100 years we’ve seen it’s actually the norm.

What is proper humidity for my Zager

We keep our shop at 60-70% humidity depending on the season and recommend these numbers for all our models, especially our 80 and 900 Series guitars which have a higher-level bracing system. All guitars from all manufacturers must be stored in minimally 50% humidity at all times. On higher-level acoustics like our 80 and 900 series we recommend over 60%.  If not the woods will warp causing playability and sound issues and will eventually crack. Damage can happen in a matter of weeks if conditions are severe.  New guitars with high-quality solid woods and low action are most susceptible.  Less expensive guitars with high action will not be affected like a precision-made solid wood guitar with low action.  This type of damage is not warranted by any guitar manufacturer but it is repairable.

I’ve tried everything and my guitar is still buzzing

When Mr. Zager repairs a dried out guitar that’s been deemed “non repairable” the first thing he does is hydrate it using the method in this video and nearly 100% of these guitars play perfectly again. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2F-IX1JlnA The thing he does differently though is he hydrates these guitars multiple times. If you have a guitar that’s been dry for months or YEARS it may need 3, 5 or even 7, 72 hour rounds of hydration because it takes time building water in a guitar that may have zero water content.
 
No guitar company warrants damage from dryness but Mr. Zager provides all the knowledge he’s gained in working with guitars over 80 years which allows most of our players to fix their own guitars free of charge. With that said if you’re the type that is not “hands on” most shops like Guitar Center can repair these issues in a short amount of time for little investment. Mr. Zager also services guitars on our service page at http://zager.com/service