Musical instruments are very delicate things, sensitive to the climate and conditions around them. Even when mass produced, an instrument has a way of becoming deeply personal. A good musician can adapt to different instruments, but will usually prefer to play an old familiar friend. Over the hours and hours of practice, an instrument gets broken in like a pair of shoes. It becomes a perfect fit for one person, and that person would rather play it than any other. So what happens when that person moves or travels?
Again, musical instruments are delicate. Wooden instruments such as guitars, violins, cellos and mandolins can easy be damaged in cold weather or when they experience dramatic changes in temperature. While every type of instrument should be packed with the utmost care, wooden musical instruments are especially fragile. But with proper care and attention, they can be shipped safely in all climates and weather conditions.
How to Protect Wooden Instruments During Shipping
The first step is to research and pick the most responsible shipping company. Your best bet is a company big enough to have first class facilities and small enough to care about how precious your instrument is to you. The second step is to pack it properly.
- Pack your instrument in a hard-shell case, not a soft case or a box. A hard case specifically designed for your instrument will protect it best.
- Add foam or cloth between the instrument and the case for extra cushioning and insulation.
- Never use newspaper or bubble wrap to pack a wooden musical instrument.
- Reduce the string tension. If you are shipping an instrument with a bridge such as a violin or viola, consider putting the bridge down. If you are unsure how to do this, find an experienced repair person who can.
- Put the entire case in a larger box filled with packing peanuts or crumpled paper. Make sure the material is deep on all sides of the instrument so it is well protected.
- Put your name and contact details inside the case.
Unpacking: The Most Dangerous Part
Once you are reunited with your instrument it is natural to want to examine it right away. Do not! Resist the temptation to open the case at all. Your wooden instrument needs time to acclimate to the current temperature. And if you open the case too soon, the finish will probably crack severely. Give it several days to adjust to the temperature slowly before you open it. Many people who complain of instruments being damaged have actually received their instrument in perfect condition, but damaged it when they opened the case too soon. Even if it there is not a dramatic temperature difference between its destination and origin, consider the temperature en route. If it flew in the cargo hold, it experienced very cold temperatures. If it travelled by sea, the temperature could vary quite a bit. If it went by land, consider the route. Did it cross over mountains or other cold regions?
Your musical instrument is very special, and it is important that it arrive to you safely. Following these steps will help ensure it sounds and looks as beautiful after its journey as it did before.