While we’re often sold the whimsical idea of picking up your trusty guitar and going on a random adventure with your beloved instrument, in reality, there are a lot of things that can go wrong when travelling with a guitar.
To make sure you don’t end up with a broken axe, damaged strings or a missing case, Nik from guitar resource website Pedal Rockstar has put together this handy guide for travelling musicians…
Thinking about driving or flying with your guitar? If yes, you better keep reading, because we will be discussing essential tips on how to keep your guitar safe while doing just that.
Whether it be for leisure or work, taking your baby on the road can be a very stressful experience. So, let’s start with what you should be using to place the guitar in.
Type of Case
You want to go for the strongest hardshell case you can find on the market. The tough shell of this case will not only protect your precious guitar from bumps or reckless airport staff, but will also preserve a part of the “habitat”, of what your guitar is used to.
If you haven’t got yourself a hardshell guitar case yet, be on the lookout for cases with reinforced corners, as this will drastically increase its lifespan.
It might be very obvious to you that you would be very careful if you were handling some other guitarist’s axe, but others need more clarity. Putting stickers on your case saying “Fragile” will definitely increase the chance of others being more cautious with your guitar. This applies if the guitar is taken with you as carry-on luggage, checked baggage or when you are taking it on the road.
Setting Your Guitar Up
To safely get your guitar from point A to point B, setting it up is essential.
De-tune Your Guitar
You want to start with loosening the strings on your guitar. Due to changes in air pressure, temperature or humidity, the wood and strings of your guitar will start working. Some guitars can handle this better than others, but results might vary from no visual changes to cracking of the strings, neck or body. Loosen the strings by roughly 1.5 tone to prevent this from happening.
Especially when travelling on the road, the temperature inside the vehicle can get extremely hot. These extreme temperatures can be too much for humans or animals, and your guitar! So, don’t park your car in the burning sun with rolled up windows. Take your guitar with you!
Place a dehumidifier in your guitar case. As explained, humidity is one of the factors that could cause some serious damage to your guitar. By placing a dehumidifier in your guitar case, this is at least one thing less to worry about. When a guitar is placed in an environment with a high humidity, it will absorb some of that moisture, thus expanding and possibly cracking. The dehumidifier will absorb the moisture in the guitar case instead of the guitar.
Filling Up That Case
Something what you absolutely want to avoid is having a lot of extra room that your guitar can move around in. Extra room in your guitar case will make it easier for the guitar to bump around in and cause damage to itself. Especially fill up spaces around the neck as this is a delicate part of the guitar.
Block Strings From Fretboard
When a guitar is placed in an environment with a lot of vibrations, say a plane, naturally the strings will start vibrating. Now, we have already filled up space around the guitar, but still want to add some cloth or such between the strings and the fretboard for precaution. The constant and high-frequency vibrations of the strings can cause fret wear due to the constant contact.
During and After
Some other things you should keep in mind during and after your travel.
Timing is Everything
This is probably a no-brainer: Place your guitar on top. You will have to make sure that whenever you have the opportunity, say you’re going by bus, to try to have your guitar placed on top, especially when you are not using a hardshell case.
When travelling by plane, you want to make sure to board the plane first, as this leaves out the chance that your guitar will be denied on the plane when there’s no room in the overhead cabins. Also, you could try and persuade the cabin crew to place your guitar in one of the storage closets.
Don’t Open Immediately
Leave the case closed for some hours after flying or driving around in a hot car. The guitar needs to slowly adjust to the room temperature while staying in the case. Opening the case immediately will cause a change in temperature and humidity, thus inflict loads of stress upon the guitar and possibly breaking the body, neck or strings.
Travelling with a very favourable and/or expensive piece of equipment can be a very stressful and “dangerous” experience. But, when taking the time to prepare your rig and understand the tricks of the trade, you can decrease the chance of damaging your guitar drastically.
If you haven’t gotten yourself a good guitar case yet, make sure to check out this article, which is filled with some of the best guitar cases on the market.
Nik is a musician and the founder of guitar resource website Pedal Rockstar. Find out more at https://pedalrockstar.com/