How to Pack & Ship Musical Instruments

The safest way to transport any musical instrument is in a hard case designed specifically for that instrument. But this might not be an option if you receive an instrument that doesn't have a case or the case is too damaged to withstand the rigors of shipping. This piece shows you how to ship instruments safely, whether or not the hard case is available.

1. Pack & Ship Guitars

First, loosen the strings a little and rotate all the tuning keys so that they are parallel with the headstock. Next, remove the shoulder strap—roll it up and place it in the accessory compartment of the case or the space beneath the headstock. Wrap any accessories (tramelo bar, capos, etc.) in bubble wrap and secure them inside the accessory compartment or under the headstock—make sure they can't move around and scratch the guitar in transit. You can also place them in a Ziploc bag and put them in the box with the case. Make sure that there are no loose parts (bridge, etc.) that could come undone in transit.

Lay the guitar inside the hard case. Fill the spaces between the guitar and the case with crumpled paper (don't forget the space between the headstock). Remember, the box will be bounced around a lot in shipping, so make sure the guitar isn't going to move around inside the box. Don't use tissue paper, newspapaer or crumpled magazines since these are not ideal protection; shredded paper and packing peanuts aren't good choices either, since these can fall inside the guitar.

Close the lid, lock it and give the case a gentle shake. If you can hear the guitar rattling around inside, you need more padding—but don't put in so much that you have to force the lid shut.

If you don't have a hard case for the guitar, a soft case will do; follow the instructions above, but increase the amount of padding. If you don't have a soft case, wrap the entire guitar with plastic—dry cleaner's bags or large garbage bags work well. This will prevent the sharp edges from bursting the bubble wrap. Next, wrap it in several layers of bubble wrap or protective foam padding. Be generous with the bubble wrap—remember, this guitar may be dropped from several feet, so provide as much padding as possible. Make sure the entire guitar is covered and then secure the padding with packing tape.

Use a large box for shipping: if you don't have a guitar-sized box, ask for one at a local music store. You can also cut down a wardrobe-sized moving box (make sure it will accommodate several inches of packing peanuts on all sides). Stand the box upright and line the bottom of the box with a layer of peanuts several inches thick (use more if you don't have a hard case) Place the guitar inside. While holding it upright in the center, fill the surrounding spaces with more peanuts (you may need assistance with this). Finish off with a few inches of peanuts on the top. Close the lid and give the box a gentle shake; you shouldn't be able to hear anything. If you do, add more peanuts until it is secure. Tape the box in both directions across the top and bottom, and along the seams. Place the label on the top of the box, and write "This side up" and "Fragile, handle with care" on the top and all four sides of the box.

Guitars, like other valuable items, should be shipped with insurance. We suggest you require that the buyer purchase insurance if it isn't already included in the shipping total.

2. Pack & Ship Brass and Woodwind Instruments

Take the instrument apart and place it into the hard case. If you don't have the hard case, wrap each piece separately in several layers of bubble wrap—make sure that they won't cause damage if they bump into each other during shipping. Follow the steps described above, using a box that allows for several inches of packing peanuts or inflated cushions on all sides. If you use peanuts and bubble wrap, make sure that the instrument is completely covered and sealed with tape; this will prevent peanuts from getting inside the instrument.

3. Pack & Ship Large Instruments

Cellos, basses, tubas, drums, synthesizers, amplifiers and other large instruments should always be shipped in hard cases; bubble wrap will not provide enough protection. Follow the steps described above for shipping guitars, making sure the box you use is large enough to allow for several inches of packing peanuts (you may want to use a denser cushion like foam blocks).

If you don't have a hard case, talk to a shipper about having a crate made for the item. This will certainly increase the cost and make the item too expensive to ship.

Tips

  • If you’re shipping something as big as an upright or a grand piano, they should always be transported by professional piano movers. Look in the "Yellow Pages" under Piano Movers or check Yahoo!Local to find one near you.

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