Essential Tips for Guitar Storage

Three men with suitcases by a car boot.
A hard case is an essential accessory for any guitarist.

This article “Essential Tips for Guitar Storage” was contributed by guest writer Shawn Leonhardt for Guitar Tricks and 30 Day Singer.

When a beginner guitar player buys their first guitar, they commonly focus more on the budget of the instrument itself and neglect to invest in a durable, high-quality guitar case. Guitar players often rely on gigbags or simply nothing at all, which is not suitable for most situations. If you like your guitar and want to make it last for many years to come, there are some essential tips on guitar storage that are important to follow.

A Tragic Guitar Story

There was once a 1955 Silvertone parlour guitar that was made by the American company Sears and Roebuck. They were simple guitars that were played by many in the 1950s, including The Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia, Jimi Hendrix, and Bob Dylan. They weren’t as amazing as a Fender or Gibson, but they were wonderful guitars with incredible tones. Despite having no truss rod, this 1955 parlour guitar had perfect action and intonation.

One particular 1955 Silvertone guitar was someone’s beloved instrument. It was often the first guitar they picked up and used for lessons and even appeared on some recordings. The wood had perfectly aged, giving it a special sound unlike any other in this guitarist’s collection.

Suddenly, tragedy would strike during one dry winter in 2014. The Silvertone, hanging on the wall as it usually did, ripped apart with an explosive sound. In an instant it became damaged beyond repair, transitioning from a half-a-century guitar beauty to firewood in a split second. 

Two things killed this prized acoustic guitar – dry air and humidity. If only it had been in a proper case!

The moral of the story is to not take any guitar for granted. Many other guitarists have experienced their own horror stories. Broken necks, warped bodies, rotten wood and more. All because they didn’t invest a little time into learning some simple storage techniques and some money into a quality case.

Storage Environment

A room’s temperature plays a very important role in where a guitar is stored. Like the porridge in the Goldilocks and the Three Bears, it must be just right! Generally, heat that you’d find in a car boot or attic can be much more damaging than extreme cold. As a rule of thumb, you want to keep the guitar away from heaters, furnaces, and any place where the sunlight may shine directly.

Humidity is another factor that can cause major changes in a guitar’s structure. It can contribute to drying out or, at the opposite end, mould. Whilst humidity is not as easy to control as temperature, a simple dehumidifier can work wonders. Usually, attics and basements are places to avoid due to inherent humidity and moisture issues. I highly recommend using a case that has humidity controls for your most prized and favourite guitars.

Man sitting with an electric guitar next to hard cases.
Take care of your guitar and it’ll take care of you in the studio and on stage.

Guitar Storage Tips

Store Them Upright

Ideally, your guitars should be stored upright, as if they were suits on a rack. Do not lay them on their side and stack them or place any weight on top. The average hard case is meant to protect it from blows, not have weight stacked on it. If they can’t be fully upright, at least make sure they are not flat.

Detuning the Strings

Leaving a guitar without strings will cause severe neck bowing. For this reason, keep it strung and just slightly detuned. Lowering the string tension by a tone is sufficient. That way there is still some tension on the neck but not too much.

Remove That Bar

If you have any whammy or tremolo bars be sure to take them off and store them appropriately so they will not move around in the case and damage the body of the electric guitar.

Stands and Wall Holders

Realistically, we can’t always keep our guitars in a case. A durable floor guitar stand or wall holder is alright, especially if you’re regularly using the guitar. However, do keep a close eye on the temperature and humidity of the room the guitar is out in. Whilst your beater guitars can get away with living on a stand beside the sofa or on the wall long term, it’s worth going the extra mile for your expensive and, most crucially, your old guitars.

Woman in a field with an electric guitar and suitcase.
Travelling with your guitar unprotected is a surefire way to damage it.

Cases and Bags

No case is the worst-case scenario! Always have a case, even if the bare minimum of a gig bag is met. Many musicians like gig bags because they are light, portable, and cheap. However, many do not provide adequate protection with just cloth and padding. Some professional-quality gig bags, such as those made by Mono, are sturdier but not as roadworthy as a hard-shell case.

A hard-shell or solid case is your best bet for both short and long-term storage. Though they are often expensive and bulky, any musician that has damaged a valuable instrument thanks to a flimsy gig bag can attest to this. Make sure to note your guitar’s body shape (Gibson ES-335-style, parlour, dreadnought, double cutaway etc.) so you buy a case that fits.

A hard case for your guitar is absolutely essential if you’re regularly touring or travelling. Even top-of-the-line travel guitar cases can be damaged while flying or in the back of a van. You won’t regret taking extraordinary care of your guitar when you leave home. There are a million and one ways it can be damaged!

Woman walking near a bridge with a guitar case.
That’s better!

Long Term Care 

When storing a guitar for a long time, some extra preparation and maintenance go a long way. Whether it is an acoustic or electric guitar, you will want to detune the strings and thoroughly clean the wood and fretboard. Specialised oils for certain wood grains can add an extra layer of protection.

Electric guitars will need their pots and inner workings at least given a good cleaning with an air duster. Some players use Deoxit contact cleaner to clean the pots and eliminate any crackles/noise that can occur. Ultimately, cleaning off any dust that may cause long-term damage to the electronics is highly beneficial for your electric guitar’s longevity.

You will also want a great hard case with a humidification system for long-term storage as the temperature and moisture will slowly cause serious problems. If possible you will want to occasionally get the guitar out and maintain it. In fact, if you are storing it that long, maybe just sell it to someone that will play it!

Closing Thoughts

If you have a good hard case and pay attention to the temperature and humidity, your guitar will likely last for a long time. In addition to these essential tips for guitar storage, be sure to regularly clean and maintain your instrument. It’ll keep it in good shape and ensure it’s sounding its best. Don’t just take the time to practice and learn your guitar – care for it right and do your best to avoid a musical tragedy!