A sound engineer friend casually asked me the other day about how long my guitar would last. Well, I replied: It would last for a long time. Yet, in hindsight, I think his question would surely elicit varied answers. Why—because guitars came in different designs and made. Moreover, owners of guitars vary in their care for their guitars. Hence, his question deserves an afterthought.
Of course, anything that is well-maintained and taken care of will last long. Besides, if your guitar is of high quality, it will last even for several generations, given the proper care.
Most cheap guitars will have a maximum lifespan of 10 years if used regularly with average maintenance. You can even make an affordable electric or classical guitar to last up to 30 years if you maintain it well. However, with an expensive and well-made electric guitar, you can expect it to last for a lifetime with average maintenance.
It is clear at this point that various factors determine the longevity of a guitar. These factors include maintenance and proper care, the regularity of usage, materials and made, temperature, humidity level, and many other factors. Below is a detailed discussion of the lifespan of electric guitars, acoustic guitars, and classical guitars.
How Long Would An Electric Guitar Last?
If you are Pete Townshend, The Who’s guitarist, your guitar would surely not last more than a decade. Why—because you will keep on banging your guitar after every concert. Yet, if you are only an average guy who plays an average electric guitar, you can make your electric guitar last for a lifetime.
If your guitar comes with good wood, it can even last for hundreds of years. For this reason, you see expensive violins dating back to the 16th century. These violins are sometimes played on classical concerts and still sound great.
Electric guitars have different parts. For example, the electric guitar body can be wrought in maple, mahogany, ebony, rosewood, or other wood types. If you take care of the wooden parts of your guitar, they will last for a lifetime.
Yet, an electric guitar is not only made of wood. It has pegheads and tuners, fingerboard inlays, frets, pickups switch, Tune-O-Matic Bridge, volume and tone knobs, pickguard, and many other parts. All its components function together to make the electric guitar functional.
The thing is your electric guitar can last longer, even for a lifetime. However, its small parts like the frets and pickups may wear out faster than its body if you frequently use your guitar. So, if you want your electric guitar to be fully functional for a lifetime, you need to replace those worn out parts.
How Long Would an Acoustic Guitar Last?
On the other hand, the acoustic guitar needs more meticulous care than the electric guitar because the wood used for its soundbox is thin. Being made of thin wood leaves this wood more susceptible to the weather’s vicissitudes that usually leave their marks on the acoustic guitar.
The thing is your acoustic guitar may sound different after several years of usage. Humidity and heat will undoubtedly impact your acoustic guitar. Hence, if you want to make your acoustic guitar last, you should take extra care not to expose it to temperature changes.
But don’t be saddened by the fact that acoustic guitars don’t last longer than electric guitars. You can prolong your acoustic guitar’s lifespan by doing the things that make it last longer and avoiding the things that weaken it.
Some of these don’ts include not exposing the guitar to extreme humidity and temperature changes, not cleaning it with water, not using soap or furniture polish to clean it, and not wiping it with a paper towel or tissue. Take some encouragement from many guitar owners who were able to bequeath their antique guitars to their grandsons.
How Long would Classical Guitar Last?
Like the acoustic guitars, the classical guitars have thinner wood. However, the main difference between acoustic and classical guitar is that the classical guitar uses nylon strings that exhibit lower tension, allowing the guitar to last longer than the acoustic guitar.
If you have a classical guitar, it will help if you know how to take care of it and avoid doing things that may damage or weaken it. The maximum lifespan of a classical guitar is 30 years if you give it proper maintenance.
Of course, just like with the acoustic guitar, sometimes you need to perform minor maintenance and adjustments on the classical guitar like conditioning your fretboard, using the right cleaner for your classical guitar, using guitar polish, and storing your guitar correctly.
Factors Affecting the Lifespan of a Guitar
When left alone outside, guitars will deteriorate in quality because of many external factors like humidity, temperature, UV light, and many more. Yet, if it is well-stored and taken care of, it would be useful for a long time. Here are some factors that may play well in the determination of the lifespan of a guitar:
If you have a guitar, it will help if you know how to store it properly. You should keep your guitar inside its case if it is not in use. It should not be lying down but standing up when you store it. You should also keep its string tension on its neck. Yet, you should loosen it up two half steps, for they don’t need the standard tension when storing them. Without tension, however, the neck may experience a bowing problem.
It will help if you keep your guitar in a room or closet near the center of the building rather than outside the wall to maintain constant storage temperature. Properly storing your guitar helps your guitar stay functional even if you live in a place with remarkable changes in the weather.
Another factor that may affect the longevity of your guitar is humidity. It can become the greatest enemy of your guitar, and it can damage your guitar within a short period. Thus, if you live near the coast or in regions where winters are harsh, chances are your guitar might get affected by humidity.
The wood of guitars may tend to absorb moisture from the air. If it absorbs much moisture, the guitar’s neck may expand. It is helpful to remember that any change in the guitar’s shape will significantly affect its functioning and tone.
On the other hand, low humidity can also affect your guitar for your guitar may crack with low humidity. Heat can make moisture evaporate, drying up the wood of your guitar. So, you should ensure that the storage place of your guitar has a good level of moisture.
Temperature and Sunlight
Two other factors that may affect the lifespan of your guitar are temperature and sunlight. The changes in temperature may mess up the different components of your guitar. Abrupt temperature changes may expand or shrink the wood of your guitar. Besides, abrupt temperature changes may also affect the tuning pegs, frets, pickups, and plastic parts. The best temperature for a guitar is neither too hot nor too cold.
Aside from temperature, there is also the problem of sunlight. UV radiation can affect the guitar’s color and can even loosen up strings, glue, and frets. Moreover, it can engender photooxidation and photodegradation. Hence, when storing your guitar, please do not keep it in a place where there is too much sunlight.
What You Should Never Do with Your Guitar?
You would usually do things to your guitar that is injurious to your guitar’s well-being. Here are some of the things you should refrain from doing with your guitar:
Avoid Exposing Your Guitar To Extreme Humidity & Temperature Changes!
Like the grand pianos, guitars are susceptible to changes in the temperature and humidity because they are mostly made of wood. When you buy an acoustic guitar, you will notice that they come with silica bags. You may think it a free treat for you, but it is not. It is there for absorbing moisture.
Remember that extreme temperature changes and lack of humidification are the main reasons why a guitar gets damaged. Experts would recommend that you keep your guitar in an environment with 40-50 percent humidity.
It is also best to store it in a place with temperatures ranging from 21°C to 24 °C. Here are signs that your guitar is in distress: buzzing action, swollen frets, warping neck, glue failure, shrinking frets, tuning problems, cracks in the neck and body, cracks in the guitar finish.
Do Not Clean It with Water
Water-based cleaners are safe to use when cleaning your guitar. However, you should not apply them directly on the surface of your guitar. Instead, spray them on a cloth to clean up some water-soluble dirt. If you have a matte-finished guitar, it is best to avoid the creamy polishes, for they come with a slight abrasive texture that may scratch the surface of the guitar.
You should remember that guitars are not entirely waterproof. So if you are cleaning your acoustic guitar with water, you may end up short-circuiting your guitar’s wirings. Moreover, if you use water on acoustic guitar, chances are you may ruin the wood of the guitar and damage it.
Avoid using Furniture Polish, Window Cleaner, or Soap on Your Guitar.
It will help if you use only those products recommended by experts. Please do not experiment using untested ingredients in cleaning your guitar, for you may end up damaging it.
Do Not Dust Your Guitar with Compressed Air!
You may think that since your guitar has circuitry inside, you can use compressed air to dust it. Yet, if you use compressed air, you may further blow the dust into the guitar’s inner parts. Besides, compressed air may drip liquid every after use. Such fluid may damage your guitar’s finish.
Avoid Wiping Your Guitar with Tissue or Paper Towel!
Tissues may have a rough surface that may damage your guitar’s finish. Hence, you should not use them for wiping the outer layer of your guitar. Moreover, you should not use a paper towel, for it may also damage your guitar’s finish. Instead, use a soft cloth made of microfiber or cotton.
As mentioned above, anything that is well-maintained may last for a lifetime. In the same way, if you want your guitar to keep looking great and functioning well, it will help if you know the abovementioned factors that may damage your guitar and avoid these factors. It will also help to know the proper ways of taking care of your guitar if you want to make it last longer.
The query about how long your guitar would last would surely elicit varied answers. Yet, the answers would all boil down to how you take care of your guitar. As long as you pamper your guitar the way, you can expect a longer lifespan for your guitar.