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How-To | Sheltered Turtle

How to clean and maintain your acoustic guitar like a pro! (Video tutorial + shopping list)

If you’re serious about maintaining the condition of your precious acoustic guitar, using your sleeve to wipe off fingerprints isn’t going to cut it!

For today’s tutorial, I’ve compiled a shopping list on Amazon so you don’t have to go searching for all the parts individually (they’re not necessarily hard to find but do require trips to multiple stores). The videos below detail the steps I use to maintain my guitars. If it’s good enough for Taylor, it’s good enough for me! Let’s get started.


Prep: your work station

An old beach towel and a pillow is all you really need to set up a work station. You’ll be putting the body of the guitar on the towel. The neck will rest on the pillow. Use a pillow that you won’t be using to sleep: the pillow and towel will likely be covered in steel wool fibers and some chemicals. If you’re clumsy like me, you’ll also be spilling linseed oil and car wax. You’ll also want enough table space to have access to the tools and materials. Bridge pins in particular have a tendency to roll around and get lost.


Part 1: De-stringing, polishing, and cleaning


First, here’s what you need (links open in a separate tab):

String/wire cutter – This multi-tool will cut strings, quickly wind tuning pegs (alternatively, here’s an electric winder), and remove stubborn bridge pins. Must-have for any guitarist!

Microfiber cloth – For polishing the guitar

Clear wax or guitar polish – Protective coating for you guitar

Painter’s tape – For preventing steel wool particles from getting into your guitar

#0000 Super fine steel wool – For cleaning and polishing frets

Paper towel – For cleaning your fretboard

Linseed oil – Conditioning your fretboard

10mm Socket – For tightening down tuning machine heads & pickup jack

Phillips head screwdriver – Adjusting your tuning machine heads



Part 2: Restringing, adjusting neck/action, and properly stretching the strings

Materials Needed:

New strings. I generally use medium gauge strings, so if you prefer a lighter gauge, you’ll want to get the correct gauge (most players prefer lights or medium-lights). You’ll want to try out different strings to see what sounds and feels best on your guitar. My favorites are:

  • D’Addario EJ-17. My go-to strings. I buy in bulk because I change strings before every show and recording session.
  • Elixir Medium Nanoweb 80/20 Bronze. I use these on my teaching/workshop loaner guitars because they last a long time. If you don’t want/need to change strings all that often, these are a great choice.
  • John Pearse 700M Phosphor Bronze. These are my favorite sounding and feeling strings. However, sound quality degrades pretty quickly (for me, within about a week of heavy playing). Fortunately, they’re inexpensive.

String/wire cutter – This multi-tool will cut strings, quickly wind tuning pegs (alternatively, here’s an electric winder), and remove stubborn bridge pins. Must-have for any guitarist!

Digital/Chromatic Tuner – Unless you have perfect pitch, you’ll want one of these

Phillips head screwdriver – Adjusting your tuning machine heads

Truss rod wrench – Some guitars come with it. Others (like Martin) have to be bought separately. Generally, it’s recommended to get a professional to do neck adjustments as it’s very possible to permanently damage your guitar beyond repair if you don’t know what you’re doing. If you want to do it yourself, you’ll want to make sure you have the right size and length wrench. Every guitar has its own dimensions.



Questions? Did I miss something? Have a hot tip? Let me know in the comments below!

7 Essential guitar accessories

Walk into the guitar section of Guitar Center or a similar store and you’ll find no shortage of accessories available to guitarists. It’s dizzying!

For your convenience, these are things that I recommend to all my students minus obvious things like strings, picks, and fingernail clippers:



#1. Hard shell guitar case

A case will let you transport the guitar safely. A good $100 hard shell case (be sure to check the dimensions of the case with your guitar to ensure a good fit) is much cheaper than repairing or replacing a broken guitar. A case like the one above also has compartments to store many of the accessories listed here and offers much better protection than a gig bag. A hard shell case is also crucial if you live in a particularly dry or humid climate. Which brings us to …





#2. Humidifier

A humidifier is an often overlooked but very important part of maintaining a healthy guitar. Guitars are made from thin pieces of wood after all. A lack of proper humidity (or overly humid environments) can lead to warping of the wood, cracks, and damage beyond repair. Humidifiers are cheap. Just get one.




#3. Headstock tuner

There lots of different tuners out there, but this one’s my favorite. It’s cheap, easy to use, and very low-profile.


#4. Sting winder multi-tool

If you’re changing strings on your guitar, this will help a lot. I always keep one with me on the road. You can use it to wind strings quickly when restringing a guitar, cut excess string, pull stubborn bridge pins out, and cook a 5-course dinner. Ok, maybe the last part’s a lie, but this is still a darn-good deal.

#5. Cooper Guitar Stand

A stand will prevent you from doing stupid like leaning it up against a sofa or wall. Many a guitar broke thanks to our friend gravity. I love the Cooper Stand design because it’s compact and fits both acoustic and electric guitars.



#6. Metronome

Everyone likes to think they have good rhythm. Don’t fool yourself until you’re able to stay with a metronome. Incorporating a metronome into my practicing has been the single most source for improvement. Most metronomes aren’t loud enough to be of use (read: cell phone apps), but this battery-powered one has been my favorite sidekick. It’s loud, has traditional tempo markings, gives two tone options, and even provides a 440Hz tuning note.


#7. Capo

There’re lots of different capos out there, but this one’s my favorite I’ve encountered so far. You can adjust the tension (important as you capo further up the neck) and easily operate it with one hand.

This is by no means an exhaustive or comprehensive list. There’s no shortage of things you could get for your guitar. However, all of the items above are standards in any professional guitarist’s arsenal.

Did you find this article helpful? Here’s an easy way to help me out!

For your convenience, I’ve found everything on Amazon and linked it above. By clicking on the links or pictures in this article, you’ll let Amazon know that you want to support me. When you make a purchase using my affiliate links, Amazon will give a small percentage of the proceeds to me at no extra cost to you. All you have to do is click on one of the links above before you buy. It’s that easy, and you’ll be helping me a ton!


Did I miss something? Not entirely convinced you need all of these things? Write in the comments below! I enjoy hearing from you. : )

What’s a good beginner guitar? Here’s a quick and easy guide you need to get started!

Short answer: Buy this guitar.

(If you’re buying a guitar for a smaller child, get this guitar instead. Most children 12+ years old can work with a full-sized guitar. It’s best to consult your teacher or try one out at a local music shop.)


Why spend that kind of money? Can’t I get a guitar for $100-200?

Of course. And chances are that you won’t be able to tell the difference between the $100 and the $400 guitar. But they’re there.

  • Let me put it this way: when you do music, you want to sound good. A cheap instrument won’t stay in tune, so you’ll always sound bad.
  • Cheap instruments will also fall apart and break much easier and faster than a quality instrument. It’s happened to me, and I’ve seen it happen to plenty of other aspiring guitarists.
  • After a year or so of ownership, you’ll be spending more time and money trying to get the darn thing to work and sound correctly.

Often, it’s tempting to start with a cheaper instrument to “see if I/my kid sticks with it.” Look at this this way: functionally, a ping pong paddle does the same thing as a tennis racket. Would you want to play tennis with a ping pong paddle rather than a fully-functional racket? No! You’d get frustrated and quit. From a teacher’s standpoint, it’s much easier teaching a student with a decent guitar. Lessons with students with bad instruments go one of two ways:

  • A large part of lessons is spent getting the guitar in tune: the guitar gets tuned at the beginning of the lesson then gets tuned again when it goes out of tune 5 minutes later. Or …
  • The student just plays with an out of tune instrument. They aren’t able to fully develop a good ear for intonation.

Personally, I feel that cheap guitars are responsible for frustrating many aspiring guitarists early on and causing people to quit. If you/your child sticks with it, you’ll end up spending more money in the long run buying a replacement guitar.


I want details. What do I get for the extra money?

Simply put, you get better materials and better craftsmanship.

  • Cheap guitars are made out of laminated woods. While laminated/figured wood fares better against temperature and humidity changes, those benefits are offset by poor construction. Nicer guitars are made from solid wood.
  • Nicer guitars will come with a straight, properly setup neck (not always the case with cheap guitars). When a guitar is properly setup, it’s easy to play and sounds great up and down the fretboard. Cheap guitars can be difficult to play (require a lot of effort to keep the strings pressed down), and will buzz instead of ring on some frets.
  • If something were to go wrong with the guitar, a guitar tech or luthier would have a much easier time working with a nice instrument than with one where the labor will probably come out to more than the guitar is worth.
  • Nicer guitars are easier to and benefit more from aftermarket upgrades if desired.

Now regarding this particular guitar, here are the nice features which make this guitar a steal for the price:

  • It’s made in North America. Most American-made guitars cost closer to $1000 because they’re built to more rigorous standards.
  • Solid cedar top. The top of the guitar has the most profound effect on the sound, and cedar is a great-sounding wood. Unlike spruce tops, cedar tops generally don’t have a break-in period and sound as good right out of the box as they will years down the line. The fact that it’s solid wood instead of laminate (sometimes referred to as “select”) will translate to a much richer tone.
  • TUSQ nut and saddle. Cheap guitars will use cheap plastic for the nut and saddle (the strip of white at the head of the guitar and the strip of white by the six buttons). Plastic can work just fine, but TUSQ is a synthetic material that has sonic qualities very similar to bone and ivory, materials traditionally used on very high-end guitars. TUSQ is also much more durable than plastic and will need less frequent replacing.
  • Semi-gloss finish & polish. A good coat of gloss will help preserve the instrument in the long run without deadening the natural sound of wood.


Now to reward you for your research! : )

Phew! That’s lot of information! But there are some more options that you might want to consider. The first one won’t cost you a penny more!

  • For the same price as the guitar alone, you can get it with a gig bag and a stand!
  • For a little bit more money, you can have the added protection of a hard shell case.
  • If you want to be able to plug-in the guitar to an amplifier, you can buy this model. It’s the same guitar but with electronics already installed. I have pickup systems that I like more, but they do require some technical know-how or money for a professional tech to install.

1 Very easy way to help me

For your convenience, I’ve found everything on Amazon and linked it above. By clicking on the links in this article, you’ll let Amazon know that you want to support me. When you make a purchase using my affiliate links, Amazon will give a small percentage of the proceeds to me at no extra cost to you. All you have to do is click on one of the links above before you buy. It’s that easy, and you’ll be helping me a ton!


In the days to come, I’ll be sharing my top 10 accessories I recommend to my students!


Have more questions? Disagree? Have cute puppy pictures you just can’t help sharing? Use the comments below! I love hearing from you!