Learning to play the guitar could be quite intimidating. If you’re just starting out, it’s normal to have multiple questions and doubts about playing the guitar and the instrument in general. One of the common questions most beginners have about the guitar relates to the prospect of playing it in wet conditions.
So, can electric guitars get wet? Or, are they playable in wet scenarios? The answer is yes – you can play the electric guitar when it’s all damp. However, it’s not recommended to do so. Keep reading to learn why.
Water and the Electric Guitar
An electric guitar is usually subject to a wet environment when it’s being rocked in a concert or performance in an open stadium, and it suddenly starts to rain from nowhere. Despite the rain, the guitarist continues to perform – owing a lot to the energy they derive from the crowd.
As mentioned before, playing the electric guitar when wet is possible and even acceptable to some extent. However, it’s not recommended. One of the reasons being water could come in contact with the electronics in the guitar and cause them damage. A guitar amp’s electronics and water don’t mix well. The issues usually do not come to light overnight. They invariably show face after a few months or a year of usage.
And if you take the instrument to a repair shop, the repair guy won’t be able to tell what the damage really is since the damage to the electronics is not really physical or visible.
It’s not much of an issue when your electric guitar is exposed to water. It, unlike an acoustic guitar that’s made of wood, is usually made of plastic materials. Plastic repels water. In other words, water doesn’t permeate an electric guitar’s body as it does with an acoustic guitar, due to the latter’s wood build.
If your electric guitar has been exposed to water, you can always pour the excess water out and play the instrument once it’s completely dry. When you try to play the guitar when there’s water inside, that is when you may come across potential issues.
It could, in fact, be hazardous to play an electric guitar wet if it’s employing standard AC current. Generally, when your fingers come in contact with the strings of an electric guitar, a 60-cycle hum disappears. As soon as you take your fingers off the strings, the hum comes back again. What does this indicate?
This basically states that when your fingers are touching the strings, your hands are functioning as an electric ground. It’s, in fact, an aspect of the chain of signals leading to your amplifier. Therefore, when you stand in a wet area and the electronics of your guitar come in touch with the water, and you happen to touch the guitar strings right then, your body could be helping complete a 120-volt electric circuit. That’s something you really do not want to do.
If you have a vocal microphone on, the hazardous situation only gets worse since the mic is most likely hooked on using a PA (public address) system, which could loop you into a completely different circuit when your lips come in contact with the mic. Adding salt to the injury are the venues that electric guitar performances are usually performed in.
Unlike the Olympic Games, music band performances are typically hosted in old structures that possibly could have substandard or poor wiring. Such wiring would not have ground fault interrupters (GFIs). In case you didn’t know, these GFIs could prevent you from getting electrocuted in situations where standing water could be a factor. One of the reasons GFIs are mandatory elements of building codes is water-induced electrocution, which is pretty well-documented.
No doubt, there have been instances when people have gotten away with playing an electric guitar in wet weather. But it’s something you still should not be considering doing. Therefore, if you are playing the electric guitar out in the open and there is a sudden downpour, the first thing you should do right away is unplug all your gear and move to a dry area.
If you are an amateur guitarist or part of a band that’s just learning the tricks of the trade, you will gain more knowledge about this topic as you continue to play and gain experience. Maybe someday, like some professional guitarists, you would be able to or know how to play an electric guitar all soaked and not get hurt in the process.
A Wet Electric Guitar
As aforementioned, water doesn’t cause any structural damage to an electric guitar – the way it does to an acoustic guitar. When wet, your electric guitar’s lacquer body could have random water spots all over it. If the water has not penetrated the insides of the guitar and it’s only on its surface, you can simply wipe off the water droplets with some soft, clean cloth.
The cloth should be delicate to the touch. Otherwise, it could end up causing scratches on the guitar’s body. You may even use a blow dryer for the job. Just make sure you do not overdo the blow-drying. Use the blow dryer for too long and you could end up causing damage to the guitar’s body.
All that said, your electric guitar is still not meant to be played wet. You must, therefore, make sure it stays as dry as possible at all times.
The following are symptoms of a wet acoustic guitar. Though they may not concern an electric guitar that’s exposed to water, check these signs off when inspecting the condition of the guitar anyway.
- High action, or strings unusually elevating off the fretboard – which makes playing the instrument difficult.
- The guitar sounding lifeless and dull.
- Uncharacteristic warp at the rear of the guitar.
- Improper neck angle, or the neck sighting to the bridge, causing the frets to hit underneath the bridge.
Kindly note these signs do not necessarily denote that your guitar is wet, or it has developed structural issues. Therefore, make sure you get your guitar inspected by an expert technician before coming to conclusions.
Thinking about buying? Look at this post on the best electric guitars under $300 here.