A guide to maintaining your musical instruments

With the proper care, a musical instrument can be a companion for life — one that can always carry a tune! How you store and transport it are particularly important.

A guide to maintaining your musical instruments

Keep instruments out of car trunks

  • No matter how hot or cold it is outdoors, it's bound to be hotter or colder inside the trunk of your car. Extreme cold makes wood brittle and affects the tuning of many instruments.
  • Extreme heat can ruin varnish and can destroy joints by softening the glues that hold instruments together.
  • Keeping an instrument in the trunk of your car also puts it at risk of being stolen or damaged in even a relatively minor collision.
  • Many instrument thefts involve popped trunks, which insurance companies won't cover. Put your instrument in the backseat instead — and take it with you when you get out.

Follow the warm-up act

  • All musical instruments need to be protected from extreme temperature changes when traveling from place to place.
  • If you don't have a padded or protective hard case, wrap the instrument in a blanket or a thick towel.
  • When an instrument is moved from a cold to warm environment, don't open it immediately upon arriving at your destination.
  • Keep it in its case or wrapped up at room temperature for at least two hours to give it time to acclimatize to its new surroundings. (If it feels cold to the touch when you open it, give it more time.)

Drop the gig bag

  • These popular padded fabric carriers can make it easier to transport your instrument across town.
  • However, they offer little in the way of real protection and shouldn't be depended on for long-term storage. Hard-shell cases are much better for instruments — and hold up better to the rigors of the road.

Don’t overstuff cases

  • Although it often seems like there's room to spare inside your music case, that doesn't mean it's okay to fill it up with books or accessories.
  • Small, loose items can bounce around inside the case and damage the instrument.
  • Placing books or sheet music underneath your instrument can put unwanted stress on the instrument when the case is closed.
  • A bit of space inside your case will never hurt a musical instrument, but overcrowding it will.

Never check instruments with your luggage

  • An airplane's baggage compartment is no place for a musical instrument.
  • In addition to the cold, crowded conditions of most baggage areas, there's the ever-present risk of mishandling.
  • If you can't carry it on, don't take it with you.

Keep instruments in their cases

  • Always keep an instrument lying down flat in a protective, hard-shell case or a padded bag when it's not in use.
  • Not only is this the best way to prevent damage resulting from accidental bumps, falls or curious fingers, it also offers some protection from environmental dangers, such as excessive moisture (in humid climates, always keep a packet of silica gel inside your case as well), dryness, or damaging fumes.

Tend to battered cases

  • A banged-up case can put an instrument at risk. An unbalanced case can tip over and damage the instrument inside, while an exposed wooden frame may invite insects and other pests.
  • If you have an antique case, you may want to have it professionally refurbished, although finding a qualified repair shop may be difficult in some locations and the job is usually quite expensive.
  • Consider replacing the case if it's badly damaged — especially if the handle is broken.
  • You can also use duct tape to patch up minor splits and gashes. It will usually prevent the damage from getting worse.
The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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