April 09, 2015
Musical Instrument Storage: A Guide
As the proud owner of a brand new musical instrument, proper storage should be one of your top concerns. You just invested hundreds, if not thousands, into the instrument itself- shouldn’t you do everything possible to protect it? Along with routine maintenance and proper care, storing your instrument properly will help protect it from accidental damage. In some cases, damage can cost more than the instrument to fix. From humidity to the storage environment and everything in between, here’s everything you need to know about musical instrument storage.
Check the Environment
Whether you want to store your instrument in your hall closet or a local storage unit, the main thing you should be concerned about in regards to musical instrument storage is temperature and humidity. Extreme heat and extreme cold should be avoided at all costs. Similarly, drastic or sudden changes in temperature and/or humidity can be very harmful to instruments, particularly wood instruments. Wood is a highly sensitive material and is prone to warping in certain environments. To best protect your instrument, look for steady and moderate temperatures. Musical instruments of all types do well in temperatures of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit, at humidity levels of between 40-60%. To keep your instrument at the appropriate humidity level, purchase a humidifier that you can insert into your instrument’s case. If you’re storing your instrument in a storage unit, ask for an indoor or temperature controlled unit.
Know How to Store Them
Just as every instrument produces a different sound, every instrument needs to be stored differently. Store all instruments in their original case, if applicable, above ground, and towards the center of a storage unit. Since storage units tend to be drafty, surround your instrument with other household items, such as mattresses or furniture. Baby grand pianos are best stored on their side, while guitars are best stored vertically. Each instrument has different storage requirements, so head to your local repair shop and ask the repair technician about the ideal storage situation for yours. Chances are, many of the instruments they have fixed are accidentally damaged due to improper storage, so they should have plenty of good advice. For even more storage tips, speak with your band or orchestra teacher.
Storing Wood Instruments
When it comes to wood musical instrument storage, proper care needs to be taken to prevent them from warping. In addition to using only climate-controlled storage and keeping a humidifier in its case, you can protect your wood instrument even further by storing it in a polyurethane bag inside its case. Before storing, disassemble your instrument and clean each part individually. If you want to polish the instrument, avoid oil or alcohol-based polishes. These can cause the wood to dry out and deteriorate. If you plan on storing your wood instrument for an extended period of time, release any tension on the strings before storing. This will prevent the strings from snapping or the neck from warping over time. To prevent an accumulation of dust, clean your instrument every few months- even if it’s not being used or played.
Storing Brass Instruments
Before storing your brass instrument for an extended amount of time, disassemble it and remove the mouthpiece. You’ll also want to clean, oil, and polish the instrument to the best of your ability. If it doesn’t look brand new, keep cleaning and polishing until it does. In addition to cleaning the outside, you should thoroughly clean the inside of the instrument with an instrument cleaning brush. To prevent rust, brass instruments should be as dry as possible during storage. If you have time, let your instrument “air out” for a few days before storage, and ensure it’s free from all moisture before putting it into its case. And, as with every other instrument, avoid using household cleaners. If you don’t have access to specialized instrument cleaners, use water or a dry, lint-free cleaning cloth.
The truth of the matter is, no matter how well you store your gear, there’s always the possibility that elements out of your control can cause damage to your instrument. If you’re storing something that’s borrowed or especially expensive, you may wish to consider purchasing insurance for your instrument. If you’re invested in your instrument and are taking extra precautions to ensure it’s in great condition when it comes out of musical instrument storage, insurance is the logical next step. It’s particularly a good idea if you have very valuable pieces of equipment, an instrument that’s been passed down through the generations, or a one-of-a-kind instrument.
Note: many self-storage companies are insured, or offer insurance as a part of their packages. Review the contracts in full, and pay attention to the fine print, in order to understand what’s covered and what’s not. Sometimes, self-storage insurance is limited in nature, so you may still need to purchase your own.
Maintain Your Instruments
If you’ve properly prepared your instrument for musical instrument storage, you won’t have much to worry about in regards to short-term damage. However, it’s still a good idea to visit your storage unit every once in awhile and inspect your instruments for damage, especially if you aren’t keeping them in a climate-controlled storage unit. If you’re storing a wood, or wood paneled, instrument without a case you should inspect it regularly for insect damage. Typically this damage shows up in the form of wormholes and should be addressed by a professional immediately. When inspecting an instrument that’s been in storage for a long time, you’ll want to check for things like surface discoloration, mold, cracked joints, or deformation of the instrument. If you notice any of the above or are otherwise concerned that your instrument may be damaged, take it to a repair technician immediately for a diagnosis.
As you can see, there are many things to take into consideration when it comes to musical instrument storage. If you’re concerned about temperature in particular, learn more about protecting your instrument from temperature and humidity.