Guitar Maintenance; the Complete Guide




About: I'm back!

So now that you have gone out and bought your first guitar (or fifth if you're like me) you need to know how to properly maintain it. This is a colloection of what I have learned from my grandpa, what I have figured out myself, and what I have seen online.

Step 1: The First Clean Up

If you bought your guitar new or used, you are going to want to do this first. These next few steps will make your guitar look better, feel better, and play better.

Step 2: Remove the Strings

The first thing that you should do as soon as you get home is change out the strings on your guitar. Most guitars that you can buy at stores come pre-strung, or with strings. Buy a good set of strings, as the pre packaged sets are never good sounding. A string unwinder is good for this task, but it is not necessary. Unwind the tuning peg until the string is very loose. Take the string out of the tuning machine's top part. Then pull the string out of the bridge, completely removing it from the guitar. Set it aside for now (if you plan on using it in a later project), or throw it away. Do this for all six of the strings. Be careful not to let the strings slide over the guitar's finish, as it may scrach the guitar. The pictures below are of my Fender Squier Affinity Series Telecaster and my Grenada that was given to me by my uncle before he passed away. To take the string off of an acoustic guitar with the pegs in the bridge, loosen the string, then remove it from the tuning machine. Pull out the peg with piers, but be gentle. The pegs dent very easily. Some of guitars with these pegs have pegs that are easy to pull out, so you can just do it with your hand.

Step 3: Clean Off the Grime

Take a washcloth, and get it slightly damp. Clean off all of the dirt, dust, and grime that has built itself up. Dry off with a dry washcloth afterwards. Also make sure none of the water gets onto the electronics of the guitar (i.e. near the pickups, pickup selector, ect.)

Step 4: Apply the Wood Polish

Use wood polish to make your guitar shine. I used a light wood polish for the neck of my Telecaster, and a darker colored polish for the body. Apply it with a washcloth, or crumpled up newspaper. Make sure not to get it on the electronic components if you are cleaning an electric guitar. I do not have any pictures of me doing this.

Step 5: Re-Stringing Electric Guitars

To re-string an electric guitar, take the proper string. Look at the diagram below as if you were looking at a guitar face on.

   the neck                                                The nut            the head
5-------------------------------------------------I                                            I
4-------------------------------------------------I                                               I
3-------------------------------------------------I                                               I
2-------------------------------------------------I                                             I

Put the string through the bridge, whichever way it goes. Then put the tip of the string into the tuning peg, and turn. Look at the instructable by "alvincredible" for more advanced instructions. I do not know how to describe it.
Also, try to find these strings. They sound amazing. (phosper bronze I believe)

Step 6: Re-Stringing Acoustic Guitars

Look at the last slide for instructions. I am not sure how to describe stringing a guitar. I can give the first few steps though. Take the correct string, and remove the peg (if the guitar has them) that that string belongs to. Put the ball end of the string into the hole. Then slide the peg down over the string (there should be a crevasse in the peg where the string goes.) Push it in tight and continue to tighten the strings. Look at the last instructable for the link showing exactly how to do this. Also, look for these strings.

Step 7: Tuning the Guitar

In order for your guitar to sound its best, it must be in tune. This is done by using a digital tuner. You can also tune the guitar to itself. Tune the low E (6th) string as close as you can just by ear. If you press on the fifth fret of that string, it will sound like the next string should. This is the same all the way down, except for the fourth fret on the third string sounds like the seconed string. Look at the diagram below for more information.

Step 8: Properly Storing Your Guitar

Electric guitars can easily be stored on guitar stands. Look at my other instructable "My Multiple Guitar Stand" if you want to build one of these. Acoustic guitars need to be kept humidified, so I never keep my good one out on a stand. I will discuss this topic more later. If you by an extremely expensive guitar, you may wish to keep it in a case. You can do this, but store the case somewhere flat, where it can't fall, and where nothing can fall on it. NEVER NEVER NEVER leave a guitar standing on its own, just leaning againts something. The neck of a guitar is under so much tension, that a simple fall can snap it in half. ALWAYS keep your guitar on a stand, or in its case. Also try not to leave a guitar stand out in the open, try to tuck it away in a corner or something.

Step 9: Humidifing Acoustic Guitars

Acoustic gitars (that are not cheap) need to be humidified if the humidity levels where you are are low. You can use a store bought humidifier, or a homemade one, as shown in my other instructable.

Step 10: Input Jack Problems

I have had this happen to me twice, so I am assuming it has probably happened to you. The nut that holds the input jack on my electric guitar has loosened, and then fallen off. The jack itself is pushed into the body, and you are angry. To get the jack fixed, take off the jack cover that screws into the guitar. Grip the jack with needlenose pliers, and push it through the hole in the cover, and screw it back on. Slide the actual nut over the cord that plugs into the guitar. Then, grip the jack with pliers, and plug in the cable. Slide down the nut, and screw it on only enough that it doesn't fall back into the body of the guitar. Then remove the pliers and jack, and tighten it the rest of the way with a wrench. Do not tighten it too much, and the same goes for the screws.

Step 11: Truss Rod Adjustment

The truss rod is a rod that can be tightened or loosened in the neck of the guitar to raise or lower the action. I would not attempt a fix if you are new to guitar. Go to a local guitar store and ask them for help. Most guitars have truss rod acess in their headstock. It can be tightened by a simple turn of a hex wrench. You can seriously mess up your guitar by messing with this, so please don't, unless you know what your're doing. The truss rod can also be found on the inside of the body of some acoustic guitars, if it isn't on the headstock.

Step 12: Good Luck!

May your guitar stay tuned, your fingers develop callouses, and may you finally learn how to play!



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    17 Discussions


    3 years ago

    and why exactly is the g tuned on the 4th frett and not the 5th like the rest?

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Because G to B is 4 half steps; on the other strings (E to A, A to D, etc.) it's 5 half-steps. This is for doing relative tuning only. It's better to tune each string individually with a tuner.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Hey great article. I'm a pro guitarist and have and to learn all this stuff over the years. It pays to look after you're equipment. I ready an article on the same subject here that has a few more tips on cleaning you instrument you might like to read:

    Thanks for the info and happy music making!


    7 years ago on Step 11

    This guy is correct actually. The truss rod does not adjust the action, the nut and the bridge are the only two things that do that. The truss rod is only (supposed) to adjust the curvature of the neck, which is typically going to be almost perfectly flat, but most people will play with a slight forward bow. You never EVER want a back bow though, as this will cause strings to buzz, and quite possible even for them to go dead when played on certain frets.

    Robot Lover

    7 years ago on Introduction

    I am rebuilding a half sized strat and I can't seem to get this one question answered. You seem to be good with guitars so maybe you can answer it. Is a half sized stratocaster's pickguard the same size as a full sized strat's pickguard? Thanks! Anyway, good instructable!

    8 replies

    If you have the guitar already you can measure/sketch the size of the pickguard you want by using a strat image template and adjusting the size so that it leaves about 1cm from the edge of the pickguard to the edge of the body. You can always buy pickguard blanks from a site like and cut them to size. It's an easy material to work with.

    Robot Loverfreeza36

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    it's kinda like that. I don't think it's a child sized one though. I think it's a little bigger than the child sized ones.

    freeza36Robot Lover

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Yeah i dont know. Strat (stratocaster) is a registered trademark of fender..... I have heard of johnsons before.... I am going to go with no, the pickguard will be smaller on that than on a normal size guitar


    Reply 7 years ago on Step 5

    im not. I use the same brand for both, but I do not have any d'ardio (or whatever) electric strings at the moment


    7 years ago on Step 11

    Truss rods adjust the amount of relief or curvature of the neck. The action, or string height above the frets, is a product of the bridge and nut height and the relief or bow of the neck.