I get asked about storage a lot. What’s the best way to store your guitar or bass? What’s safe? Will it be a broken or warped mess if I do something wrong?
So let’s give it some thought, then.
Is it safe to hang my guitar on a wall hanger?
Well, put it this way: I don’t feel that the act of hanging your guitar from its head will unduly affect it. You should obviously be careful not to fall into it, or bash it, or otherwise cause it damage, but the act of hanging your guitar or bass isn’t going to cause any problems.
Is it safe to put my guitar on a stand?
With the same caveats as above—try not to fall on it as that’s unlikely to end well.
What about the neck warping from hanging/standing?
I read this thing, right. On this forum. And this guy said he hung up his guitar for a second and when he looked back, the neck had literally turned into a rubber-like substance and he had to chop it up with a hatchet and burn the pieces 'cos it was so warped it was useless.
The neck on your guitar is already under a whole heap of tension. For example, if you’re playing an electric guitar strung with 10-gauge strings your neck has over 100 pounds of tension on it. Your four string bass is closer to 200 pounds. And they’re handling it quite well. The bit of pressure that a guitar stand will put on your neck isn’t going to freak it out. Same goes for, the 'straight-down' pull of your instrument’s weight as it hangs.
Give it some credit. It’s not a problem.
What about the finish?
Ah, this one might be worth considering. Some stands and hangers have a padding/cushioning that can actually corrode or eat into the finishes on some guitars (I think it's chlorine in the padding that reacts with the guitar finish, melting and marring it).
If your guitar has a nitrocellulose finish, you need to be a bit more careful. Check to see if your stand or hanger is listed as 'nitro-safe' or something similar. Poly finishes are a bit tougher but be vigilant.
If you want to be super-sure, wrap your stand's cushioning with some felt or cotton or similar. Socks are common stand-protectors. ;-)
Is my guitar safe in a case?
Depends. What sort of case?
In a gig bag, it’s a bit more protected than it would be were it ‘unbagged’ but it’s not great. Consider a gig-bag the minimum protection for your guitar or bass. They’re really handy and are usually easier to carry but do bear in mind that they’re definitely not invulnerable.
A Hard Case
A good hard case should protect against most knocks and bangs that your guitar will get in general use/transport. If you’ve a nice axe that you care about, you should put it in a hard case for transporting it.
NOTE: SCARY WARNING
I’ve repaired more than a few headstock breaks that happened in the case. Les Pauls and SG headstocks in particular are just dying to break and your case may not save them.
Keep this in mind, particularly if you decide to sit your case upright (vertically). A fall could still break the neck. More on this below.
Flight cases (we’re talking serious stuff now) are even better again. They’re designed to be super strong with reinforced bits and pieces all over and great clasps that should not come undone by accident.
A good flight case is NOT cheap and it’s NOT handy. If you’re planning on travelling or touring a lot, though, it’s definitely worth considering.
How to store the cases
If it were up to me, guitars and basses would be stored in a hard or flight case that’s standing on its long side. That is, the guitar is pretty much in the ‘playing position’.
I don’t recommend storing cases upright because of the increased risk of falling and I don’t recommend storing them flat because of the risk of some idiot falling onto them (and because they’ll inevitably become a ‘stack’ of cases which makes things awkward).
If you really want to reduce the risk of broken headstocks (and this really just applies to angled back headstocks, and mostly Gibson-style), you can slacken off the strings a little before popping your guitar in the case. It’s a pain and it’s no absolute guarantee, but it will certainly move the odds back in your favour a little.
It goes without saying…
Don’t store your instruments anywhere you wouldn’t want to be. No freezing temperatures. No boiling-hot cars on sunny days. No dank, damp basements. If you’re comfortable, your guitar will be comfortable. Give it some thought when you’re storing or transporting.
If you’ve just played an outdoor gig in the rain, dry the guitar off for a bit before putting it in the case. If you’ve just come into a warm venue after hiking through the icy cold, leave the case closed for a while to allow the guitar to acclimatise gradually rather than opening straight away and shocking it.
Or ignore all of this and give me a call when you need a repair. ;-)