Occasionally, being a guitar tech is dirty work, especially in a town like New Orleans. Over the years I’ve seen some really funky, and sometimes downright disgusting guitars, which I’ve been tasked with cleaning up and getting back into fighting shape. You would not believe some of the stuff I’ve encountered: sweat, blood, beer, unidentifiable green gunk, and even crystal meth residue. Yeah, it’s gross.
I’m not immune to getting down and dirty, myself. A couple of days ago I got called to play a last minute pickup gig with an artist I had never met, Tim Free. I made my way through downtown New Orleans, braving Super Bowl traffic, set up my rig, and jumped right into playing a bunch of songs I’d never even heard before. I intended to play through a tiny injury on my middle finger – I had developed a blood blister on the first knuckle, which I had covered with a band aid. Well, I was having difficult playing with this bandage on my finger, so I pulled it off and continued to play. Unfortunately, about 4 songs in the blood blister broke, and suddenly my fingers, strings, and bass were slick with blood. I couldn’t just stop playing, so I finished out the set bleeding profusely, horrifying (or perhaps, entertaining) the audience. During a set break, I staunched the flow of blood, got another band aid, and surveyed my now bloody bass. Yikes!
After the show, I took the bass home and snagged a better shot of my bloody bass. I think there’s an an album cover in here somewhere:
It’s important to clean blood off of your instrument fairly quickly, so that the metal parts don’t rust. Normally I use rubber gloves when I’m cleaning suspect instruments, but as I knew this was my own blood I figured it was pretty safe to forgo gloves. The strings were toast, so I pulled them off and tossed them in the garbage. Then, to clean all the dried blood of the bass, I opted to use my favorite cleaning agent: lighter fluid. Lighter fluid is a form of naptha, which is great for cleaning just about anything, will cut through the strongest gunk, and won’t harm your guitar’s finish. Well, it won’t harm your finish as long as you don’t do this:
I almost never directly apply fluids (naptha, cleaners, polishes, etc.) to guitars, and in this case I soaked the end of some Q-Tips, and went to town cleaning the blood off my bass. After just a few minutes, my bass was back to being clean and shiny, and best of all, sanitary!
It’s important to keep your guitar clean, and not just because it looks nice. Blood, sweat, and other gunk will rust your parts, strings, and can cause pitting in your hardware, and can prevent your guitar from playing it’s best. There’s been many times that I’ve had to completely replace bridges and other hardware, simply because the adjustment screws had completely fused, and the instrument couldn’t be set up properly. It’s an expense very easily avoided. Keep your guitar clean! Your guitar tech will thank you.