You’ve just decided to move across the state, across the country, or across the world, and you have long travel hours ahead of you. And whether you’ve decided to travel by car or by airplane, you need to find a way to ensure your violin, viola, cello, string bass, or other string instrument arrives intact. You have a fragile instrument, and you would feel devastated if anything happened to it.
Below, we’ll tell you more about safely packing and transporting your string instrument. We understand how much you value it and not just for monetary reasons. Your instrument represents one of your most important sources of artistic expressions, and its musicality exhilarates you. Use the tips below to protect it.
1. Purchase a Hard Case
Violins, violas, and some guitars usually come with hard cases. However, larger instruments like cellos do not. You want a hard case because they protect your instrument against the elements, like heat and moisture, which could warp the wood and ruin your instrument’s sound. Hard cases also protect your instrument in case it falls out of your transport vehicle.
Even though hard cases cost more than their soft, fabric counterparts, you’ll find they merit the expense. They also give you a safe place to store your bow, rosin, tuners, mutes, and other accessories.
2. Loosen Your Instrument’s Strings
Even with a hard case, your instrument will still have some exposure to hot and cold temperatures. And like all objects, your instrument expands and contracts with the temperature. String instruments also consist of several different materials that expand and contract at different speeds. This means the different materials put strain on each other-especially the strings.
The wood in your instrument expands faster than your strings, so the strings will stretch ever tighter until they snap or the fingerboard breaks. Loosen your strings, but not so much that they don’t support your bridge.
3. Loosen Your Instrument’s Bow Hairs
A similar principle applies to your bow, if you have one. The hairs and wood expand at different speeds, so the hair or entire bow could break if you don’t loosen the hairs. But don’t loosen them so much that they could fall out if something snagged them.
4. Turn All Tuning Keys Parallel to the Scroll/Headstock
You don’t want your tuning keys to catch anything and snap off, so turn them to sit parallel to your instrument’s scroll or headstock. But if you worry about your tuning keys breaking, you can also remove them and store them in your case. Just remember that your bridge may not receive adequate support. Luckily, you can find many online tutorials for refitting your bridge, or you can have an expert do it for you.
5. Add Plenty of Padding
Even though you have a hard case, it needs help to protect your instrument from bumps and falls. Use soft cloths, bubble wrap, or crumpled paper to wrap your instrument and bow. But first, make sure these packing materials don’t apply too much pressure.
Don’t use smaller packing materials like peanuts or shredded paper either. These materials could fall inside your instrument, and you’ll have a hard time retrieving them, especially if you have a violin or viola.
6. Purchase an Instrument Insurance Policy
Insurance helps you pay for repairs or replacements if your instrument sustains damage. You may not want to buy a new instrument because you’ve become attached to your current one, but at least you’ll have a financial safety net if an emergency occurs.
7. Put Contact Information on Your Case
If you have to ship your instrument, contact information gives mailing companies a way to return it to you if it becomes lost. A similar principle applies if you have to check your instrument on an airplane or you accidentally leave it at a hotel.
8. Verify with Airline Policies
Most of the time, you can take smaller instruments like violins, violas, and banjos onto the airplane as your carry on. However, you should check with your airline. After all, your instrument needs extra insulation if it has to travel under the plane with the rest of the checked baggage.
For larger instruments, you may have to purchase an extra ticket to take it into the cabin with you. Again, contact your airline to learn more.
9. Keep Your Instrument Away from Light, Heat, and Moisture
If you plan to drive with your instrument instead of flying, store it somewhere in your vehicle where it won’t have exposure to heat, light, or humidity. Keep windows closed, and use window screens to shield it from light. Keep your vehicle at a comfortable temperature as well.
10. Strap in Your Instrument
For extra safety, use your seatbelt to secure your instrument across the back seat if you have room.
If you have additional concerns about transporting your instrument, especially if you have to put it in a moving van, talk to your moving company. Their experts likely have solutions for you.