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I think we can all agree that musicians are crazy and among them, I consider guitarists the wildest of the bunch, but then you have electric guitarists, and I must tell you, we are from another planet!
That’s why I’m not surprised that someone would actually ask this question, I mean playing under the pouring rain, and a roaring thunderstorm seems so metal, but also so fittingly mad!
So, can you play electric guitar in the rain?
If you’re planning on playing the electric guitar in the rain, you’re running the risk of getting electrocuted by being exposed to dangerous voltages. But even if you are using a wireless battery amp getting your electric guitar wet might cause irreversible damage to the body, its electronic parts, and strings.
If you want to learn more about the dangers of getting your electric guitar wet while playing in the rain or when playing with wet heads, and what to do if that happens then keep on reading!
Can You Play Electric Guitar In The Rain?
Of course, you can play electric guitar in the rain, but what makes you think this is actually a good idea, for you or for your guitar?
Unfortunately, I know who gave you this idea and that’s MTV. I mean there must be over a hundred music videos where the whole band is playing outside in the rain, or even in the midst of a freaking tornado!
I hate to break it to you but music videos are not to be trusted, because the musicians are not playing the electric guitar or any instrument for real, and nothing is actually plugged in.
Now you might be thinking about all the live recordings where guitarists are soloing in front of a soaked-through crowd, but even in those cases they most likely have a roof above them and their equipment.
Most importantly whoever is organizing the concert, makes sure that the stage meets the safety conditions before any band starts playing. All electronics are also waterproofed, and the stage is usually covered with rubber to stop the electric current from going to the ground.
I’m sure you are still not satisfied with my two points so I’m going to give you a third one. I know that bands and guitarists have played in the rain, one musical Icon that comes to mind is Prince.
This amazing musician performed Purple Rain at the 2007 Super Bowl during a literal downpour, and he played his guitar like a God!
I can’t even describe it you have to see and hear it for yourself!
But how did he do it? Well with a much safer system, a battery amplifier that is wireless.
There were also other guitarists and bands that have done something similar, like Slash on their Not In This Lifetime Selects: Latin America, as well as Metallica in Manchester.
So, this proves that this can be done, but there are multiple reasons for not performing in the rain and that’s what I’m going to talk about next!
Why You Shouldn’t Play Electric Guitar In The Rain?
To some, the answer to this question might be quite obvious, but as we’ve seen plenty of guitarists like to break the rules, let’s discuss why it’s not always the best idea.
It Will Ruin The Guitar
Electric guitars are generally made from wood, but that’s something that some people may not realize since electric guitars are known for their plastic or metallic sheen. They also come in different colors and the designs can actually look crazy.
Nonetheless, electric guitars are made from wood which means that any type of moisture like rain and even high levels of humidity can cause serious damage.
Because wood is a hygroscopic material it can absorb water in its liquid form or when it comes in contact with the vapor from the surrounding atmosphere.
When playing the electric guitar in the rain you are not only going to ruin the guitar’s finish but the wooden body and neck itself will end up absorbing the moisture. This will expand the wood and not only will it affect the look of your guitar but also the sound it produces.
But aside from the wood, there are other materials that make up the electric guitar. Guitar pickups for example are built around permanent magnets that are usually made from aluminum, nickel, and cobalt.
The frets are also made from nickel-silver or stainless steel, and the bridge, the tuners, and the strap buttons are also made from metal materials.
These parts shouldn’t come in contact with rain or any water simply because the moisture will corrode them and cause them to rust.
Let’s not forget that any electronic components on an electric guitar can start to malfunction after coming in contact with rain, so it’s better to keep them dry.
It Will Ruin The Guitar Strings
When it comes to strings electric guitars use steel and nickel, more specifically the string consist of a steel wire that is plated in nickel, but the winding could also be cobalt.
These materials are susceptible to corrosion and rust which is a reaction that occurs when steel comes in contact with oxygen and water.
So, as you can imagine if you are playing your electric guitar in the rain, you’re not just risking the life of your guitar but also your strings.
The biggest difference here is that if your strings get wet you can change them relatively cheaply but getting a new electric guitar will definitely hurt your wallet.
It’s Not Safe
Losing an electric guitar to a wet medium like rain might not be heartbreaking for some, I mean if you have the money to replace it then it’s easy to think that there’s nothing stopping you from playing in the rain.
However, I do want to mention that you are not simply endangering your electric guitar, or your strings, while expensive these are all still replaceable, but you’re also endangering yourself.
“Water,” according to ScienceABC, “is capable of conducting electricity due to the dissolved ions and impurities a conductor of electricity.”
The same goes for rainwater, and if you’re playing an electric guitar in the rain and you both get wet then you are likely to become part of the electric circuit and you can get electrocuted.
That’s of course if you are playing the electric guitar with an open-top valve amplifier or if anything else is plugged into the mains. You’re only safe if you’re using a wireless system like a battery amplifier.
Can You Play Electric Guitar With Wet Hands?
I definitely don’t recommend playing the electric guitar with wet hands, not only because it sounds reckless, but because you will wear out the strings and the fretboard.
Even if your hands are clean and dry after a session, they will still produce enough sweat and grime to cover your strings. With time the accumulation of dirt will deteriorate your strings. This process is of course inevitable, but this doesn’t mean you can’t prolong the life of your strings.
If your hands tend to sweat excessively or you somehow decided to play your electric guitar with wet hands, then the strings are more likely to rust and corrode in a short space of time.
Coated strings are more resilient when it comes to rust, but this doesn’t mean they don’t need the same maintenance that regular steel strings require.
Playing with wet hands also means that the skin on your fingertips will be much softer and that can make it more difficult to press down on strings, it may cause soreness and even damage your skin.
So, if you want your strings to serve you a long time, and to protect your fingers make sure your hands are dry, and remember to wipe your strings dry after every gig or guitar lesson.
Can You Get Electrocuted By An Electric Guitar?
Keeping the electric guitar dry is important because if the electronic parts of your guitar get soaked when they are turned on the whole guitar can get damaged.
That being said, safety is one of the main reasons why playing an electric guitar in the rain is not a good idea. Similarly, if your electric guitar got wet accidentally you will need to be careful not to plug it in until you are sure it is completely dry because you might get electrocuted.
Unfortunately, this has happened to other guitar players before, and while some got away with a mild shock, Leslie Harvey, a co-founder of Stone the Crows in late 1969 was electrocuted after allegedly touching a microphone that was not earthed with a wet hand, while the fingers of his other hand were holding the strings of his guitar.
Some said that this happened on a rainy day, while others disagree, but it’s clear that a wet guitar or wet hands could have been the reason why Harvey got electrocuted and lost his life.
Are Electric Guitars Waterproof?
I think it makes sense to think that electric guitars are waterproof especially when you see them for the first time. They are usually lacquered so they look shiny and some even seem plasticky. I mean take a look at any Stratocaster or even a Les Paul.
However electric guitars are generally made of wood and that’s why they are not waterproof, in fact, it’s a really bad idea to get your guitar wet because it can damage the wood and everything the electric guitar is made of.
If you have a gig or a lesson on a rainy day and you want to move your guitar, make sure to transport it in its case and if you’re not sure the case can withstand the rain then use a large plastic garbage bag to cover it just to add an additional layer of protection.
Now for those of you who are considering playing the guitar in the rain, there’s not a lot that you can do to prevent water from entering your guitar and subsequently ruining it. So, perhaps it’s better to reconsider!
What To Do If Your Electric Guitar Gets Wet?
First, you need to make sure that the guitar is not connected to any electricity and that you don’t turn it on until everything is dry because you can harm the electronics.
Then you need to inspect the amount of water the guitar got in contact with. Perhaps you’ll only need to thoroughly wipe the electric guitar with a microfiber cloth, that includes the body, neck, strings, and any metallic parts.
If your guitar has had the time to absorb the water then some would suggest using the blow dryer in a cold setting, but to be honest, you can’t be sure how the wet wood will react to that and you might make things worse.
Most likely, and in my opinion, this is the best option, you will have to take your electric guitar to a guitar technician who can professionally dry and restore your guitar. That’s of course if it’s not completely ruined.
Can You Play Guitar In The Rain?
Just like electric guitars shouldn’t be played in the rain the same can be said about acoustic and classical guitars. Both of them are also made out of wood and moisture or high humidity can have a devastating effect on them.
The water will most likely disfigure your acoustic or classical guitar even more quickly than it would to an electric one, thus creating more string tension, and not only will that make your guitar sound worst, but the strings are more likely to snap and unexpectedly hurt you.
While you won’t get electrocuted by an acoustic guitar, I’m sure that’s not a good enough reason to play in the rain. More so, if you want your guitar to serve you for longer then you need to keep it away from water and keep it dry by storing it in its case and making sure that the humidity in your home is right.
While playing in the rain, as a few guitar legends have proved, looks legendary it’s not always the safest option.
Sometimes of course it’s not really an option but simply an unpredictable situation where your whole live show is spoiled by rain.
Either way, it’s important to keep safe and protect your electric guitar and all its parts from damage.
So, if you don’t have a battery amplifier or lots of money to replace your electric guitar then wait for the rain to pass before you rock on!