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How to Pack and Move Guitars

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Guitars are probably the most widely used musical instrument--almost every band imaginable has at least one. However, you don't need to be a professional musician to own one; there are also many casual guitar players. Guitars come in many shapes and sizes and can be both fragile and expensive. What do you need to do to keep your guitar safe when moving?

Guitar anatomy 101

Guitars are more complicated than they look. Certain parts of a guitar's anatomy are more vulnerable to damage than others, so it is important to understand what makes up a guitar. If your guitar does get damaged, you can better describe what is broken if you know the accepted names of all a guitar's components.
  • Body: The main, rounded part of a guitar. It is usually hollow in acoustic guitars and solid in electric guitars.
  • Neck: The long part of the guitar, where the strings are stretched over the frets.
  • Headstock/Head: The top part of the guitar where the strings are adjusted.
  • Tuning keys: The knobs in the head that you turn to adjust the strings' tightness.
  • Nut: Where the head meets the guitar's neck. The strings also go through it, leading to the tuning keys.
  • Frets: The grooves in the neck that cause different tones in the guitar by shortening the vibrating string's length.
  • Bridge: Where the strings originate on the guitar's body.
  • Pickups (electric only): The metal parts on the guitar's body that detect the vibrations from the strings.
  • Sound hole/ sound chamber (acoustic only): The hole in an acoustic guitar's body that makes it hollow.

Guitar cases

Guitar cases are designed to make moving your guitar easy, but you need to get the right one. Choosing the right case depends on your guitar's size and type, as well as the type of move.

TIPA case that is specifically designed for your guitar's type and brand will always fit the best and keep it the safest.

  • Gig bags: These bags are designed for gigs rather than long term moves or storage. The soft bags usually have an inch or two of padding and a strap for safe and easy carrying. Some bags are waterproof. They protect from minor impacts, scratches and sometimes wetness. These are best used for short term gigs where the transport time is minimal, and you are more concerned about carrying your guitar by hand.
  • Hard shell cases: This is the standard for guitar transportation. These cases are hard on the outside and have a furry, plush material on the inside to protect your guitar. These cases should be fitted to your guitar. The plush interior is designed to touch the strings while the case is closed. A good fitting guitar case won't allow much movement within the case and the hard exterior should have no give. These cases should suffice for almost all moving and storage situations.
  • Flight cases: These cases are the heavy duty cousin to hard shell cases. They are designed for shipping, so they should protect your guitar for the longest period of time in turbulent conditions.

Packing a guitar for a move

If you are moving your guitar, you can use a standard hard shell case in addition to other packing materials. This will work for most moves and storage situations.
  • Loosen the strings. Tight strings can exert enough pressure on the neck of a guitar to bend it over time. If you plan on storing the guitar for a long time, you may want to remove the strings. A guitar with an even slightly-bent neck will never be quite in tune.
  • Use an appropriately sized hard shell case. The case should fit the guitar so that it is unable to move during transit.
  • Fill in the extra space around the guitar in the case. You can use packing paper, newspaper, or bubble wrap to do this. You want to make sure that the head and the neck are evenly supported. Most guitar cases have a little extra space here. You will also want to fill in any space around the outside of the guitar's body.
  • Close the case, slightly compressing the packing material. The case is already designed to hold your guitar tightly, so the added material will make the fit very tight. You should have no movement in the case. Be sure not to stuff things too tightly-- you don't want to put pressure on any part of the guitar, especially if it is a hollow acoustic guitar.
  • Put the case in a long shipping box. The box shouldn't be much bigger than the case.
  • Fill the space in the box with packing paper and/or peanuts. Make sure the case doesn't move within the box.
  • Seal the box with packing tape. Make sure the box is tightly closed.
  • Label the box "fragile." This is especially important if you are shipping the guitar and other people will be handling it.
Of course, if you are worried about your guitar and think packing it yourself is too risky, you can hire professional movers to pack and move your guitar. Either way, you should be ready to take your show on the road.

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on September 18, 2014 - Moving Expert
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