If you own musical instruments, you know how expensive they can be. If well-maintained and stored properly, they can last a lifetime. Whether it’s an antique Stradivarius or the guitar you played in your garage band, you will want to keep it in the best possible condition.
Using anything but climate-controlled storage for musical instruments isn’t really an option. Musical instruments can be severely damaged by high humidity and fluctuating temperatures. Strings can snap, and glues and adhesives can soften or even melt. The felt, rubber, and cork used in many brass instruments can deteriorate and the metal can corrode. Wood instruments can shrink and crack. When you make the decision to store an instrument, you can’t just put it in its case and forget it. Even in its case, an instrument can sustain damage if something falls on it hard enough.
You need to find a reliable, safe storage facility that offers security and climate control. Check out the following tips to help you correctly prepare your instruments for storage.
A piano is a percussion instrument as well as a string instrument and needs extra special care. Climate-controlled storage is essential for a piano because extreme temperatures and humidity can ruin a piano’s strings, keys, and wood exterior.
If not stored in a climate-controlled unit, piano strings can become rusted and corroded. A piano’s structure also presents problems. It has approximately 15,000 glued joints; this glue will deteriorate if the instrument is stored in a humid climate.
While cleaning these instruments prior to storage, closely examine them for damaged areas that need attention. Use a soft cloth, avoid harsh chemicals, and check for rust and corrosion.
- Drums – To keep your drums from stretching, loosening the tension on the heads by about half is a good idea. However, the heads should still be taught enough to keep the tension rods in place. For snare drums, the vertical tension should be loosened slightly as well. Don’t reduce the tension on the timpani and concert basses. They should remain in tune while stored.
- Cymbals – Cymbals require a special cleaning solution. Don’t use a regular all-purpose cleaner. You should check with your manufacturer or music store to find the right cleaner.
- Xylophones and Mallet Instruments – After cleaning, remove the bars from these instruments. They should be stored off the floor in a soft blanket or bar bag.
If possible, break these instruments into sections to prevent pressure on the joints. Clean with a soft cloth and place tissue paper between the pads to prevent them from becoming sticky. These instruments should be stored between 40-55% humidity to prevent drying, shrinking, and cracking. You don’t want these instruments to become ill-fitting and uncomfortable to play.
Brass Instrument Storage
Not storing brass instruments, like trumpets, in climate-controlled spaces can cause corrosion and bacteria growth. Materials like felt, rubber, and cork can break down in these conditions. Be sure to properly clean with a soft cloth and oil these instruments prior to storing.
Wherever you choose to store your instruments, try to keep them off the floor where the more extreme temperature fluctuations take place. Even pianos should be stored on wooden pallets instead of directly on the floor. Try to keep them in the middle of the space, away from drafts. For additional protection, use tarps.
Storing musical instruments can be a time-consuming, complex process but, with the proper precautions and a secure, climate-controlled space, your instruments will make memories for generations.