How to Store Musical Instruments to Keep Them in Pristine Condition

At Compass Self Storage, we love music—and the people who make it. If there’s one thing we know about musicians in and around Nashville, TN, it’s that one instrument is never enough. Musical instruments are expensive and can last a lifetime (or longer) if they’re taken care of well—including being stored properly. What happens when your love for your craft starts to overtake your home or studio space? Self storage is an excellent option for musicians who find themselves with more gear than they have room. Whether it’s a few extra guitars or an entire drum kit, there’s a storage unit that’s right for you.

Before you pack up your gear and bring it to one of our locations, however, take some steps to ensure your instruments stay in pristine condition. Properly preparing your musical instruments for storage can be the difference between keeping things in tune and thousands of dollars in costly repairs.

Rent a Climate Controlled Unit

The only acceptable option for putting your musical instruments in self storage is a climate controlled unit. Musical instruments are sensitive to drastic temperature changes, high humidity, and prolonged exposure to heat and cold. Those conditions can have drastic effects on your musical instruments, such as going out of tune, growing mold or mildew, or even severe structural issues like warping or cracking.

A climate controlled self storage unit will help keep your musical instruments at room temperature and reduce their exposure to humidity. This isn’t just important for instruments, either; if you have other equipment, such as amplifiers and other electronic components, climate control can help keep their delicate, humidity- and temperature-sensitive components in great shape, too. For the best results, always look for a facility that offers interior units with both heating and cooling.

Use the Right Kind of Case

You wouldn’t leave your guitar out on the floor for anyone to trip over (we hope, anyway). Depending on how long you plan on storing your instrument, it’s a good idea to purchase a hard case. If you plan on taking it out of storage regularly, a soft case might suffice—but if you’re hauling instruments in your vehicle on a daily basis, a hard case may give it a little extra protection. Hard cases don’t just help avoid physical damage. They can protect your instrument from harmful UV lights and keep insects out, as long as they’re properly secured.

Two guitars. One is inside a black hardshell case, the other is not. The caption reads "Using a proper case is important for keeping your instrument in great shape."

Note that while most hard cases include some kind of padding inside, it might be a good idea to layer acid-free paper in between the instrument and the case, just in case any kind of dust or dirt has settled inside the case. This will help preserve your instrument and keep it free of scratches or residue from the case.

Prepare Your Instrument for Storage

Of course, just having the right case and a good climate controlled unit isn’t enough because you’ll need to prepare your instrument for storage. Depending on what kind of instrument(s) you plan on storing, there are plenty of steps involved with that, too. Before putting any kind of instrument into storage for any length of time, make sure to give it a good cleaning with a recommended cleaner. If polishing is required, do that, too. Never use household cleaners, since they can damage the instrument.

Three woodwind instruments, a saxophone, flute, and clarinet. They have been disassembled and cleaned to protect them from being damaged while in storage.

Woodwind Storage

For woodwinds like saxophones, flutes, or clarinets, make sure you place tissue paper between the pads of the instruments. This prevents pads from getting sticky. Take apart any reeds or mouthpieces, and don’t leave straps on instruments.

Stringed Instruments

Loosen strings and bow hairs to prevent them from expanding and contracting during storage. Even though they may be in a climate controlled unit, it’s much easier to increase the tension on loose strings than it is to deal with an instrument whose neck has warped.

Drums and Pianos

If you plan on storing your drum kit (or even a single drum), consider loosening the skins. This will help keep them from stretching and could postpone the need for replacement. Pianos, unlike other stringed instruments, don’t require string loosening—but you do want to wrap the legs, pedals, and bench in padding for protection. Covering pianos and drums with a tarp or sheet can keep them from getting too dusty.

Place Your Instruments in Storage

Once you’ve prepared all your instruments for storage, it’s time to move them into your unit. Consider renting shelves for your storage unit (or buying your own if you plan on storing them for a long time). The main reason for this is to avoid placing your instruments on the floor, especially if they’re particularly susceptible to temperature changes. Instead of leaning them against a wall, placing your larger instruments—such as guitars or cellos—on shelves can help keep them from falling over.

Never stack anything heavy on top of your musical instruments, even if they’re in a hard case. Likewise, never stack heavy musical instruments on top of other items you may have in storage; the risk of them tipping over or getting damaged just isn’t worth it.

Maintaining Stored Instruments

Even if you plan on leaving your instruments in storage and unplayed for a while, definitely check in on them from time to time. If you’ve done your due diligence and prepared them to be stored, you shouldn’t have much to worry about, but it’s still recommended to pay them the occasional visit.

Wood instruments, even in hard cases, should be checked for damage from insects. This typically looks like wormholes. In addition, carefully examine your instruments for the following issues, especially if they’ve been in storage for a long time:

  • Discoloration
  • Warping
  • Mold
  • Corrosion
  • Cracking of joints or other surfaces

If you see any signs of the above damage, take your instrument to a professional repair shop immediately. Leaving them in storage could make the problem worse and end up costing you even more money to fix.

If your instrument is particularly valuable, think about insurance. Even if you packed it properly, stored it in a climate controlled unit, and regularly check in on it, unforeseen damages (like tornadoes or flooding) could ruin it.

Don’t Play It by Ear: Proper Storage Protects Instruments

A graphic with three tips: use the right case, use the right cleaner, and use climate controlled storage units.

You’ve spent a lot of money on your musical instruments, and keeping them in the best condition possible is the key to a long, happy hobby. Whether you are a weekend warrior who plays at bars and nightclubs, are a studio musician with a regular gig, or simply want to preserve your musical instruments for your kids or other family members, storing them properly is the absolute best way to ensure they stay in pristine shape.

When the time comes to place your instruments in storage, choose a facility that offers the right features, such as climate control and great security. Compass Self Storage understands the unique needs of musicians, which is why our storage facilities with climate control are a great place to start. If you have questions about self storage—including pricing, amenities, or even what size of unit you need—visit a location near you. Ready to start storing? Reserve a unit online today.