It doesn’t take much to destroy an acoustic guitar, which is why Pete Townsend smashed electric ones. Protecting, caring, and maintaining a guitar is essential. So what about storage—should your acoustic guitar be kept in a case?
An acoustic guitar should be kept in its case to protect it from potential damages. You can store it in a soft case or display case, but you should always keep it away from heat sources and freezing temperatures. Furthermore, the optimal humidity range for acoustic guitar storage is 40-55%.
No one wants cracks in the body of their guitar, a warping neck, glue failure, or other issues that can happen from improper storage (here are signs your guitar neck is warped). However, you can prevent damage to your instrument if you store and display your guitar correctly. Keep reading to learn more about how to adequately store an acoustic guitar and tips to keep your instrument safe.
How Should I Store an Acoustic Guitar?
Storing an acoustic guitar involves more than what type of case you keep it in.
You should store an acoustic guitar in a guitar case that will prevent it from getting scratched or damaged. Temperature and humidity are also critical, so it’s vital to keep your guitar in a room with controlled temperatures.
It’s usually recommended to store your acoustic guitar in its case when it’s not in use. This helps avoid dust from gathering on the surface or inside the soundhole. For long-term storage, a guitar case can also help prevent mold.
Does the Type of Guitar Case Matter?
The type of guitar case does matter. Soft cases are more practical for short trips and gigs. At the same time, a hard case will provide more protection for longer trips and extended storage periods.
Guitar cases are not one-size-fits-all. You’ll need to decide whether you want a hard or soft case, often known as a gig bag. While gig bags are fine for short trips around town, sturdy cases are preferred by professional musicians.
Hard guitar cases tend to be more expensive than soft guitar cases, but they will provide superior protection for your instrument. In addition, it’s more cost-effective to spend a little more on a case than to keep repairing a damaged guitar.
A hard case will better protect your guitar from high-impact accidents and rigorous handling. However, for short trips across town, your guitar should be fine in a soft case.
Soft Guitar Case
There are a few factors to consider if you decide to get a soft guitar case. First, a soft guitar case should provide lots of padding. Also, make sure to get one that fits your guitar firmly, since having too much wiggle room might cause damage to the instrument.
These cases are often constructed of a lightweight material such as nylon. Besides costing less, soft guitar cases have ample storage space. Good gig bags will have compartments to store picks, strings, and cleaning cloths.
Look for removable shoulder straps, sturdy handles, soft lining, and a hook for hanging the guitar when searching for a gig bag. Don’t spend money on a cheap case with hardly any cushioning.
Hard-Shelled Guitar Case
Hard guitar cases are popular among experts and enthusiasts because they provide the best protection against shocks, and abrupt changes in temperature and humidity. While storage capacity is limited, they are the best option for guitar players who travel frequently.
Besides protecting a guitar from damage due to bumps and falls, these cases offer some less obvious benefits, such as travel and temperature protection. Extremely dry or humid environments are your instrument’s worst enemies, and a sturdy guitar case can provide protection in those situations.
Sturdy latches and hinges, storage compartments beneath the neck, soft insides, and a comfy grip are all things to look for.
Travel tip: Many airlines won’t allow passengers to check in a guitar that isn’t in an approved flight case, such as soft cases. Instead, you may have to invest in an airline-approved case. These cases have a hard shell and are reinforced with metal corners and sturdy latches.
Is Humidity Bad for an Acoustic Guitar?
Excessive humidity can be bad for an acoustic guitar. Exposing your guitar to too much humidity can cause it to swell and eventually mold. Therefore, if humidity levels rise above 55-60%, you should attempt to lower the humidity or move your guitar.
The first signs of excessive humidity will show at 60% humidity. These include swelling of the top and back. The action will also start to rise, making the instrument more difficult to play.
Once a guitar sits for an extended period of time in 80% and above humidity, it will swell, and the sound quality will diminish. Eventually, the glue joints will loosen, the bridge will fall off, and the guitar will look swollen. Finally, mold and mildew will appear.
Does Dry Air Damage an Acoustic Guitar?
Dry air can damage an acoustic guitar. Although humidity can compromise a guitar’s integrity, dry air can be more detrimental to the instrument. Air that’s too dry will cause the guitar’s wood to become brittle and eventually crack, thus, making your guitar unplayable.
Likewise, if the humidity falls below 40%, you will see signs of damage.
As a guitar dries out, the top will begin to sink. Next, the fretboard will start to sink, causing more pronounced and sharper fret ends. Hairline cracks may appear as well.
If the guitar sits in a consistently 25%-35% range, action will go lower, causing playability issues and fret buzz. Should the humidity drop more than that, the bridge will loosen, and the finish’s appearance will change. More dangerously, cracks will appear on the back, front, and sides.
Eventually, the guitar will be completely unplayable.
When Should You Always Store Your Guitar in a Case?
You should always store your guitar in a case in environments where the humidity cannot be kept in a safe range. Controlling a small space is much easier than a large one, and you can monitor humidity easily with a hygrometer and guitar case humidifier.
Here are a few ways you can use different types of humidifiers to control the humidity levels surrounding your acoustic guitar:
- Use a soundhole humidifier that sits directly on the instrument’s soundhole. They consist of a rubber tube that rests on top of the strings and goes into the guitar’s soundhole.
- Invest in a guitar case humidifier that lies within the case itself rather than on top of the strings. This sort of humidifier is ideal for instances when an in-hole humidifier would not fit, or you are concerned a humidifier might leak into the guitar. A room humidifier is best for someone with a collection of instruments.
- Try the MusicNomad Premium Humidity Care System (available on Amazon.com), which combines a humidifier and hygrometer in one. The hygrometer tracks temperature and humidity, and the humitar (their name for the humidifier) is long-lasting and low-maintenance.
- Try the D’Addario Automatic Humidity Control System (available on Amazon), which controls high and low humidity. The kit comes with a sleeve to hold the humidity pouches, which last 2 to 4 months and can be easily replaced. You can place the Humidipak inside the case or the guitar’s soundhole.
- Opt for the Guitto 2-in-1 Humidity Care System (available on Amazon.com), as a less expensive soundhole humidifier that measures the humidity with a needle humidiometer. It also uses an easily refillable container that holds a sponge to either release or remove moisture as needed.
There are several good in-case humidifier alternatives, but the essential thing is to use a humidifier consistently, even if the outside humidity level isn’t so low. The goal is to keep your guitar’s moisture level consistent.
Silica gel or bamboo charcoal packs placed in the guitar case can also help keep moisture low in places with high humidity. Occasionally, using a hairdryer may be able to reduce some moisture too.
Where You Should Not Store Your Guitar?
You should not store your guitar next to heat sources, in frigid temperatures, or in rooms with extreme humidity. You should also refrain from storing it in areas where it can move around, slide, fall, or roll.
Avoid storing your guitar against outside walls, inside unheated spaces, such as garages or basements, and above heaters. Also, do not use a car’s trunk as a storage space.
If you are storing your guitar for several days, loosen the strings before putting it in the case. The stress of the strings may otherwise force the bridge to separate from the guitar or cause other damage. Since your guitar needs some string tension, a single turn of the tuning key will do.
Acoustic guitars are delicate and require adequate storage conditions in order to maintain their integrity. Storing a guitar in a case is ideal for long-term protection and can deter potential damages. It can also keep the guitar clean, and make it easier to transport.
While you probably don’t need to keep the guitar in a case at all times, you should consider using one if you plan on storing the guitar for longer periods, or when you travel.