Caring For Instruments – Top Tips For Touring Musos

Caring For Instruments – Top Tips For Touring Musos

Your musical instruments are like your children. They cost almost as much to maintain and look after, but they’re a lot less maintenance and often WAY prettier. But travelling with your instruments can be surprisingly stressful.

Handing equipment over to people who often have no idea of its value or importance is, to be polite, unsettling. I regularly get to take 2 guitars in cases as well as a pedalboard on an aircraft as hand luggage, although I still have to hand it over to the air hostess as I get on board. I’ve never experienced an airline complain to me about this although I suspect trying to get a drum kit on board might yield different results. Yes, they’ll probably slap a “fragile” sticker on it. But it’s still put into the bowels of a plane along with hundreds of other pieces of luggage. All you can do now is hope it arrives safely at the other end.

Caring For Instruments While Travelling

 Yes, when it comes to your instruments you might have trust issues, but that’s normal. I’ve got a few friends who’s guitars snapped in baggage and that terrifies me. Make sure your musical instrument arrives safely at your destination by following these great pointers:

Caring for Instruments - An image of a violinAn Image of a young man playing a cello

Use A Hard Case

It doesn’t matter whether you have a guitar, trumpet, clarinet or cello. When it travels, it needs to travel in a hard case. Not a polyfoam case; a proper, sturdy, hard shell case. It’s not nice to think about, but your baby may experience a bit of rough handling before, during and after the flight. This is also why it needs to sit snugly inside that hard case. Some of the more high-end cases are padded and lined to cradle your instrument very snugly. If yours isn’t like this, pad any open spaces with clothes… This is also a great tip for local flights, because if you’re cheaping it and want to cut on baggage costs, this is how you do it. I’ve packed my entire wardrobe for 5 days in 2 guitar cases, toiletries included, and didn’t have to pay for a single bag.

Toss The Tools

Any tools or accessories that normally live in your instrument carry case during day to day use should not travel in it. Items such as multi-tools, string cutters and cleaning supplies may seem every-day and harmless to you, but to the non-muso security staff at the airport, they represent potential hazards. When caring for instruments while traveling, it’s always best to err on the side of caution.

Just Stringing You Along

Detune your stringed instrument. Some people think you don’t need to detune your instrument before a flight because your stringed instrument is designed to withstand string tension and cabin pressure doesn’t drop that much in baggage during flight, however, the temperature fluctuates in baggage hold and wood expands and contracts as temperature fluctuates, which can really mess with your neck and intonation. I always detune slightly just to be safe, but when it comes to my guitars I’m pretty paranoid.

An image of travel bagsAn image of a map and the beach

Handle It Yourself…

If your instrument is small enough, you may be allowed to hand carry it onto the plane with you. However, it will form part of your overall hand luggage weight allowance, unless the airline has a separate policy for musical instruments. Still though, use a hard-shell case even if you’re hand carrying.

…Or Not!

Very large instruments, such as harps for example, usually have to fly as cargo – not as checked in luggage. This means packing them in a hard trunk, or crating them properly, and delivering to the airport a few days before your flight. Check with your airline to find out what their policy is.

Car Smarts

If you’re traveling by car, this makes caring for instruments much easier, but there are still a few things to remember.

Guitars in particular need care traveling by car. If at all possible, don’t put your guitar in the boot, but rather strap it in on the back seat. Boots aren’t heated or air-conditioned, which means you expose your guitar to fluctuations in both temperature and relative humidity. Heat is a particular enemy of guitars as it can break down and loosen the glues that hold parts of the instrument together. The bridge is particularly vulnerable. If you’re traveling long distances in the heat of summer, put a humidifier in your guitar case to help prevent cracking.

Try not to leave your guitar in a hot car for an extended period – such as if you stop for lunch halfway through your trip. A good rule of thumb is to care for instruments as though they were your pets – if it’s too hot to leave your dog in the car, it’s too hot for your instrument.

If you’d some more advice on caring for instruments while traveling, the passionate music lovers at Marshall Music can help. Our sales assistants are all either musicians themselves or have a deep love of music and the instruments used to make it. We also stock a wide range of travel cases for musical instruments, so why not pop in and see us today.

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