How Austin weather affects instruments
Jack Antonoff of Bleachers performs at SXSW in 2019. Source: Jim Bennett/WireImage
- 2 min read

How Austin weather affects instruments

That good ole' Texas humidity is coming for your Fender. A tip? Keep it in its case.

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Introduction

This is Austin, baby. We like our music like we like our biergartens: outdoors.

What visiting — and even hometown — performers might not know is just how unpredictable (and OK, weird) the weather and climate in Texas can be. And bad news: It can cause significant wear and tear on their instruments.

Whether you play a stringed instrument, percussion, brass, or a woodwind, they can be damaged by things like humidity and temperature. 

“When wood takes on moisture, it expands, and when it dries out, it contracts. Any major swings in temperature and humidity are bad, causing warping and cracking,” said Clint Strait, the president and owner of Strait Music Company in Austin.  

To keep a guitar in good condition, you should maintain a humidity level between 40% and 50%. Interestingly, this is the same range a perfectly tuned HVAC system should operate – which, as residents know, is a struggle in Central Texas. 

Relative humidity is a measure of how much moisture is present in the air compared to how much it can hold at a given temperature. A relative humidity of 50 percent means the air is holding one-half of the water vapor it could hold, which is perfect: not too dry, not too wet. 

Depending on the wind direction, Austin can be either very humid (hello, Gulf of Mexico) or very dry (howdy, Big Bend), so getting the perfect humidity is near impossible, but Strait said you can create ~~humidity harmony~~. 

“Most wooden instruments need to be stored in their case because humidity is easier to control in a small space,” Strait said. 

You can even use a hygrometer to measure humidity levels in your instrument's case and invest in a humidification system to regulate moisture levels as needed.

Temperature can also be a stressor on instruments, causing significant problems with tuning and performance. Cold weather can cause notes played on wind instruments to go flat and notes played on string instruments to become sharp. Conversely, warm weather can lead to string instruments expanding and potentially sounding "sluggish."

So how do you shield your instruments from the wonky Texas weather? Strait said don't leave them in a hot or cold car — drastic temperature changes can be damaging. 

A good rule of thumb: Put your instruments back in their cases after playing 'cause that Central Texas humidity don't mess around.