Published since 2007
Professor String is a leading expert in the musical string business. He leads a development group that specializes in guitar and bass string research for musicians. You can visit their site at www.professorstring.com
When you step outside to play your guitar, one of the first things that will happen is a molecular change. Every material known to man has something known as the Coefficient of Thermal Expansion (CTE). The CTE is the measure of how much a material will expand or contract under specific temperatures. In the case of a guitar neck made of wood, the neck will slightly change in profile as it is exposed to different temperatures. This will have a direct impact on the action of the neck. A guitar, with low action, that does not have buzzing frets indoors might have frets buzzing when it is exposed to outdoor conditions. The frets, strings, neck, bridge and nut will all have their respected CTEs changing with the climate. You will certainly be reaching for the tuner more often at your outdoor gigs. While we are on the subject of tuning, let's now turn our attention towards the strings.
There is one particular part of playing outside that does not get much airplay. When the humidity goes up, your hands will become a little stickier on the neck and fret board. There will be considerably more drag on the strings. Shifting positions on the neck will become more challenging. The tone and sustain of the strings might start to change as gunk from your fingers starts to build up on your strings. So what do you do? Here are some solutions:
What should be avoided?
Avoid using lotions on your hands. This might sound tempting at first as lotions can make things more slippery and comfortable. In the end, your fingers tips will soften, and the strings will get excessive gunk build up. The lotion will do no justice to your fret board as it will build up with gunk.
Contrary to popular belief, dry cotton cloths to wipe of the strings will not improve the problem encountered outdoors. Excessive wiping of the neck and strings with cotton cloths will remove any natural oils left behind from your hands. This will increase friction and cause more string drag. If you have a lot of sweating and making the fret board slick, then lightly dab the cotton towel on your hands and the strings. If you rub and wipe, that will surely remove any natural oils from your skin, strings, and fret board.
Hopefully, these few pointers will make your next outdoor gig more comfortable and rewarding.
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