Storing Musical Instruments

The ability to play a musical instrument is an extraordinary talent. Whether or not you’re an award-winning concert pianist or you enjoy playing the maracas, the drums, or a trumpet for your college band, there may be reasons why you will need to place your musical instruments in self storage.

Whatever your reason is for placing your musical instruments in self storage, your instruments will need to be properly prepped and cared for prior to placing them in storage. Long-term storage can deteriorate many items, thus depreciating their value, if not properly cared for prior to storage.

storing musical instruments

When choosing the right self storage unit, keep in mind that all musical instruments from slide trombones to snare drums are sensitive to environmental factors such as extreme hot and cold temperatures, humidity and dust. Cold and heat can cause brass instruments such as cymbals, French horns, slide trombones and tubas to expand and contract, causing damage. Humidity can warp and dry out wood instruments such as acoustic guitars, pianos and clarinets. Dust can get inside electric guitars and electric key boards, amplifiers and electric sound mixer boards. A heavy buildup of dust can get inside these sensitive items causing them damage and to stop working properly.

Climate control features will work to help resist the growth of mold on leather drum skins. These features will also deter the infestation of insects and mice. A climate controlled self storage unit is the best choice for all types of musical instruments.

Placing musical instruments in a climate controlled self storage unit is the first step in preserving your instruments in storage. A climate controlled unit will keep temperatures even year round. A climate controlled unit will also reduce moisture in the air from humidity and help to eliminate dust.

Each instrument will need to go through a specific process of preparation prior to storage. This process will vary depending on the classification of the musical instrument and the materials it is made from. Musical instruments made from a single material such as brass trumpets, cymbals, slide trombones, tuba's, French horns, etc., or wood violins, Chellos, violas and the like, are the easiest to prep for storage as they are made from a single material. Musical instruments made from several composite materials make prepping the items for storage more difficult as the materials they are made from may not be compatible with one another. As an example, an instrument may be made of both wood and metal. These components, wood and metal, have different expansion rates when exposed to high levels of humidity, making climate controlled storage especially important.

General Care of Instruments

Some tips can be generally applied, when caring for all types of instruments. They are:

  1. Be sure to store the instrument in its original case, or a case specially designed for that type of instrument.
  2. Make sure that the cases are clean and in good condition. They should not have any fraying or powdering.
  3. Cases that show visible signs of wear such as fraying and powdering should be lined with a paper that is buffered and acid free. This type of paper is relatively inexpensive and can be purchased from your local music store.
  4. When placing instruments in storage, keep them away from open vents and doorways.
  5. Store musical instruments in their cases, off of the floor.
  6. Place them on shelves on top of wooden pallets.
  7. When taking instruments out of long term storage, give the instrument a tune up before playing it again.
  8. Give your musical instruments and equipment maximum protection by having the contents of your self storage unit insured. Many self storage facilities will offer insurance for $2,000 to $10,000. This insurance will protect your valuables from fire, burglary, vandalism and natural disasters.

Brass Instruments

  1. Brass Instruments are susceptible to dulling in appearance. They should be thoroughly polished with a brass polish that also cleans and conditions the brass.
  2. A white cotton cloth should be used to apply the polish and to rub it into the brass.
  3. Disassemble the instrument, remove reeds and mouthpieces.
  4. A special brush should be used to clean the interior tubing of all brass horns.
  5. Special attention should be used to clean the keys, remembering to get between and underneath them.
  6. Store in their original cases when possible.

Care of Wood Instruments

Wood instruments that are not properly cared for can warp, dry out and splinter.

  1. Relax strings on stringed instruments.
  2. When placing stringed instruments inside their cases, cover the strings with a clean white cotton cloth.
  3. Clean and condition wood instruments with a specially formulated wax paste. Never use an oil or alcohol based polish on wood instruments as this will cause the wood to dry out and deteriorate.
  4. Remove mouth pieces and reeds, mutes and straps.
  5. Disassemble the instrument and carefully clean and polish each individual piece before placing in its case.
  6. For added protection against humidity, place the instrument enclosed in its case, inside a zippered polyethylene bag.

Pianos

  1. Cover pianos with a sheet or tarp.
  2. Pianos are extremely large and heavy in size. Their size and weight make them difficult to move. Consider hiring an experienced professional mover to get the job done right.

Percussion Instruments

A percussion instrument is any instrument used to create music by hitting two objects together. These include drums and xylophones. Or the instrument may be shaken or scraped to produce music. These instruments include maracas and chimes. Care of percussion instruments are relatively simple in comparison to other instruments as they do not come in contact with a person's mouth. They also do not generally have to be disassembled prior to storage.

  1. Drums should be cared for by oiling leather drum skins to prevent shrinking, drying out and cracking.
  2. Glockenspiels when not properly cared for can suffer from cracked, loose or bent rails, missing or torn up felt, and missing rubber tubing and bar pins. These parts should be repaired or replaced prior to storage.
  3. Properly clean the Glockenspiel to remove dust and smudges. The instrument should be stored flat in its specially designed case to prevent further damage.
  4. Marimbas and Xylophones are subject to broken off bar support pins. Prevent this by folding up the lower octave of bars prior to storage. Inspect the insulated rubber tubing around the pins. If they show visible signs of cracking or if the tubing is missing, it should be replaced. Use black neoprene tubing to replace the tubing. Do not use tubing made from moleskin or other materials which can pull off the pins. Clean the instrument well and lie flat in its case for storage.
  5. A vibraphone is a simple electric key board with metal bars that is played with a variety of different sized mallets. Clean the vibraphone and carefully oil and lubricate the moveable parts. This should be done twice a year. Replace the bar felt when it becomes worn and matted.
  6. The precautions should be taken prior to placing the encased instrument flat for storage to prevent further deterioration to the vibraphone.
  7. Chimes should also be inspected prior to storage for frayed tubing and suspension cords. Replace these parts, and wipe the metal parts clean before storing them.
  8. For proper care and storage of other percussion instruments, refer to their owner's manuals.

Electric Guitars

  1. Clean the outside of the guitar shell with a clean damp cotton cloth to clean off dirt and smudges.
  2. Gently rub the guitar shell with a clean dry soft cotton cloth to give it a glossy shine.
  3. Never use paper towels or other rough cloths that might scratch the exterior shell.
  4. Relax the guitar strings and place in its case to store.

Electronic Keyboards

  1. Clean and dust removing all dirt and smudges from the keys.
  2. Remove the suspension cord, storing it away from the keyboard to prevent scratching it.
  3. Cover the keys with a white cotton cloth when inside its case to reduce dust.
  4. Do not store on the floor. Store on shelves or pallets.

Storing Musical Equipment & Music

  1. Dust equipment thoroughly when prepping for storage.
  2. Cover with a sheet or plastic tarp to help keep dust off of equipment.
  3. Place musical equipment such as amplifiers and electronic mixer sound boards on top of pallets or shelves.
  4. When storing CD's, DVD's and music flash drives, be sure to store these items in air tight plastic, waterproof containers.

The advice on this website is provided as a courtesy for informational purposes only. “Storage Tips” are offered as-is and no warranty is expressed or implied. For more information, see StorageFront’s Terms and Conditions.

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