As a working musician, the quality and state of your equipment directly impact your livelihood. Do everything you can to ensure they serve you well and for a long time. Here are 10 ways to care for your instruments.
1. Store Your Instrument Safely
Musical instruments are fragile objects, as any musician will attest. Given that they sometimes cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, you want to keep your collection in top condition for as long as possible. There may be times when you need to put instruments into storage to keep your band equipment centralized or because you don’t have any space to spare at home.
Although self-storage might be an excellent choice, not all storage facilities are the same. You’re better off with climate control rentals for delicate items such as musical instruments. Changes in humidity and temperature can cause all sorts of issues for your guitars, for example. Wood is particularly susceptible to environmental changes, which can cause warping over time. To ensure all your instruments stay in optimal shape, get a unit with humidity levels of between 40-60% and temperatures ranging from 20 – 25°C.
Like with any valuables, regularly visit the storage unit to inspect for signs of damage. Look for cracks, deformation, or color changes. Take an instrument to a maintenance specialist if you see any symptoms of degradation. The sooner you spot an issue, the sooner and more effective your repair efforts will be.
2. Keep Your Instrument Out of the Elements
The elements won’t go easy on your instrument. Too much humidity and heat will affect different types of instruments differently. For example, acoustic guitars are primarily made of wood. Some guitars feature a mahogany back and a spruce wood top. In contrast, others may be entirely constructed of laminated or spruce wood. Electric guitars often use mahogany or alder for the body, while the neck is made of mahogany.
If you live in an area with high humidity levels, like in the South, your acoustic guitars are at a higher risk of absorbing excess moisture, which may cause the wood to swell. The metal components, like strings, can also start to rust and turn green. Lack of moisture, on the other hand, may cause the guitar to split or crack, particularly where the tension and pressure from the strings is greatest.
The weather elements can also take their toll on drums and affect the sound quality. To avoid such issues, you must be careful about your approach to storing your musical instrument collection. Start by ensuring that everything that has a case is stored in one. These cases protect equipment from humidity, high temperatures, and pests.
However, their effectiveness can sometimes be impacted by the conditions of the surroundings. If you use your basement as storage, take some time to address the humidity issues typical of these rooms. A dehumidifier will go a long way in keeping the moisture levels in check.
Depending on how big of a space you have, you may need a couple of these. However, get one first to see how it performs. Get one first and assess its performance. You should be good to go if it can reduce humidity levels to 50% or lower. Many different dehumidifier alternatives are available today, ranging from large-capacity commercial dehumidifiers to portable models.
It’s also a good idea to waterproof the space with the help of a crawl space waterproofing service. These professionals will begin by looking for leaks in the basement and performing any necessary repairs. After, they’ll put in place measures that’ll help reduce the likelihood of leaks occurring again.
3. Find a Way to Transport Your Instrument
Transporting musical instruments always requires a careful approach. You can’t just throw everything in the car boot or truck bed as long as they fit. The cargo is often expensive, fragile, and sometimes has unusual shapes and sizes, which only makes things more difficult. Failing to secure it properly can result in serious and possibly permanent damage.
Before loading any piece of equipment, consider its size. Some musical instruments, like clarinets or concert flutes, can fit in your car or an adequately sized backpack. Others, like bassoons, have many parts and allow for disassembly.
This makes it possible to transport them in the trunk of a vehicle, while some variants can even fit in carry-on luggage. However, certain instruments won’t fit in your car boot. Things like drums need extra room or special handling during transport.
The material used to make an instrument will also determine how you transport it. For instance, wooden musical instruments must be kept under the right temperature and humidity. If either is too high or too low, the instrument is at a higher risk of developing a fracture.
You’ll also need to consider the jostling and minor vibrations that typically occur during transportation. Constant exposure to vibrations can cause some instruments to go out of tune, which can be annoying when you’re already up on stage and didn’t have time for warm-up, or result in significant irreversible damage. For your stringed instruments, place them with the strings facing upward. A high-quality case will safeguard against vibrations, but it also helps to wrap the instruments using a cloth before placing them inside the case.
As you put in place measures to safely haul your equipment, don’t forget that your car or truck can also sustain damage during transport. As you load things onto the truck bed, they can damage the surface, and as a working musician who’s always on the road going from one gig to the next, things will only get worse over time. For this reason, it would be wise to invest in a truck bed liner. This way, you won’t have to worry about leaving scratches and dents on the surface, and even better, it’ll ensure your cargo doesn’t keep sliding around when you’re on the road and act as a shock absorber that reduces vibrations.
4. Find a Reliable Shop
People who only play instruments as a hobby can often do with just one piece of equipment for their entire life. They don’t use them as much, meaning less wear and tear, and there’s not much need to have the latest equipment. However, as a working musician, your instruments will likely wear out faster. At some point, you’ll need to get replacements. Besides that, you must keep updating your collection to stay competitive and deliver quality that meets your audience’s expectations; the pressure is real here.
You must find a reliable musical instruments shop for this. One known for offering quality products at an affordable price. Start by performing a quick online search to find some leads. Be sure to look for reviews of past customers to see what they have to say before settling.
If you can find the clients’ contacts, it’s even better. Talk to them directly about their first-hand experience. The info you get will help inform your decision. Whether you’re looking for a computer shop, flower shop, or even a gun shop, always do your due diligence.
5. Have a Good Practice Space
As a working musician, you must create a practice space that inspires creativity. A spot where you can unwind, get away from daily hassles, and refocus your attention on what you love. Look for an isolated room or any other private section in your home, and create your set-up there. Clear the area of clutter and make your instrument the center of attention.
Remember to switch off your phone and any other gadgets that may distract you while practicing. The aim is to give yourself the time and space to enjoy and concentrate on your music. If feasible, place a ‘do not disturb’ sign at the door and set your phone on silent.
You can also message your loved ones that you’re in a practice session, so they don’t worry when they can’t reach you. If you don’t have a spare room, look for second-hand trailers to re-purpose. This will give you a long-term solution, plus you’ll keep the noise outside your home.
6. Maintain Your Instrument
For your musical instruments to serve you for as long as possible, you must be careful about how you use them. It’s good practice to wash your hands or at least wipe them right before you play. Over time, the oil, sweat, and other impurities on your hands will damage your instrument’s finish and make it look dirty. After finishing the gig, gently wipe down your instruments with a dry towel. Always use a soft microfiber or lint-free towel to clean your instrument off rather than applying water directly.
Ensuring you play and handle your instrument appropriately is another important aspect of instrument care. Always work on your playing technique and properly handle instruments when putting them in or out of their cases. This has a dual advantage in that it will improve your playing while lowering the possibility of unintentionally damaging the instrument.
If you have a pile of instruments that no longer work in your home, it’s time you get rid of them and free up valuable space. You may try to convince yourself that you’ll fix them one day, and they’ll appreciate in value, but that could just be the hoarder in your talking. Have a junk hauler come to your property to pick them up and dispose of them on your behalf.
7. Replace Parts When Needed
There are instances where only a section of a piece of equipment, like the jack output on Fender guitars, may be faulty, but the rest of it is in working order. In such a case, you don’t need to rush to your nearest music shop to get a new guitar. It doesn’t make sense even if you’re financially capable, considering you can just replace the faulty output. If a few nuts and bolts are missing, you can always get replacements from your local nut and bolt manufacturer. You could also ask the staff at your preferred music shop if they have any extras they can sell to you at an affordable price.
8. Use Proper Technique
Your playing technique directly impacts how long your instruments last. For example, if you use too much pressure when strumming your guitar, don’t be surprised if you have to get new strings every month. They’ll keep breaking, which is the last thing you want, especially when you’re in the middle of a performance where the crowd is already vibing with you. It’ll kill the flow.
Take time to learn the best techniques for playing the different instruments in your collection. Don’t just assume you know. Ignorance has never gotten anyone far. Technique always wins, whether it’s when playing music or using medical products.
9. Clean Your Instrument
While people know that musical instruments tend to accumulate dust over time, it’s no excuse to let them stay dirty. Always clean your equipment before putting them into their respective cases and when you take them out to play. The good news is you typically don’t need to do much. A wipe-down with a soft, lint-free cloth should be enough for most cases. Pay special attention to the most frequently touched parts. The inside of a guitar shouldn’t worry you too much. Remember to use an instrument-specific cleaner when sanitizing or performing any other form of intensive cleaning.
10. Learn Your Instrument’s Components
The thing with being a working musician is you won’t always have the motivation to play, even if it’s just for practicing. In such times, use the opportunity to familiarize yourself with the workings of your instruments. Unscrew, take apart, inspect the components, and learn what they do. Obviously, you should exercise caution so you don’t end up causing more damage. After some time, you’ll find that your knowledge will allow you to effectively perform some minor electrical repairs, like replacing jacks.
Consider this scenario. You’ve just landed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play for a big producer who is on vacation. You were lucky to bump into them, but when you take out your guitar to play your best track, a couple of strings break. Failing to care for your instrument will just make your career frustrating.