A tour is an exciting and fun time for independent bands, but it can also be dangerous for their equipment. Guitarists, especially, must take special steps to deal with the hazards of the road, from thieves to humidity to temperature issues. Here are a few tips for touring guitarists who want to protect their instruments without spending too much time worrying about the condition of their guitars.
1. Buy a locking hardshell case. Soft cases and gig bags simply don’t provide enough protection, especially for acoustic instruments. Get a decent hardshell case with a lock and keep the key with you at all times. The lock will serve to ward off thieves looking for an easy couple of hundred bucks, and the case will protect your instrument from inevitable falls and physical damage. If you need to travel via plane during the tour, be sure to use some extra padding on the guitar, especially around the neck; make the case hard to close. This will give it further protection from the sometimes careless airport workers.
2. Take your guitar inside each night. You cannot leave your guitar in a car or bus–it’s extremely important not to do this. First of all, expensive instruments basically have a “STEAL ME” sign on them, and secondly, your guitar may be damaged by heat, moisture, or worst of all, cold. The first guitar that I’d ever bought has cracks running all through the finish from too many nights where my band had gotten back to a hotel and decided, “ah, we’re tired, and we’re leaving first thing in the morning, the guitars will be fine.” Trust me: they won’t. Spend a few seconds and take them into the hotel or house where you’re staying.
3. Monitor the temperature of your guitar. If your vehicle doesn’t have a lot of heat, your guitar might get very cold while you’re travelling. When this is the case, be sure to get to the gig early and leave your guitar in its case for a while. This will give the instrument time to warm up and avoid cracking issues. If a guitar gets too hot, leave it in the case wtih the case open for a while.
4. Watch humidity, too. At night, in humid areas, you should ideally put your guitar in the middle of a well ventilated room, so bring some guitar stands along on tour with you. Many music stores sell inexpensive humidity monitoring devices for acoustic instruments, so you might look into those, too.
5. Don’t stack much on top of a guitar case. No guitar case is designed with stacking in mind. When your guitar’s in a case, treat it like it isn’t in a case at all.
Do you have any other tips for protecting a guitar while touring? Post them in the comments section below.