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How to Prepare Musical Instruments for Shipment

Whether you own a small music shop or manage a whole symphony, shipping musical instruments can be stressful. Some of these instruments are art as much as they are functional, and they can cost quite a lot of money. Many musicians are emotionally attached to their instruments as well.

The best way to ensure your instruments arrive in one piece is to prepare them properly for shipment. Here we’ll go over some guidelines on how to do this for various types of musical instruments.

General Rules

When it comes to shipping instruments, there are three general rules.

Use Good Packing Materials

Don’t skimp on the boxes, tape, or bubble wrap you use. Make sure even the cloth or newspaper you choose to secure the instruments in their cases is good quality. You don’t want to use poor packing products if you want your instruments to arrive without a scratch.

You should also hire a professional packing company to put the prepped instruments into crates or boxes for shipment.

Get Good Cases

If your musical instruments’ cases have seen better days, invest in new ones. You want every violin and flute to sit securely in its case, and for the cases to withstand some jostling. Although you won’t ship your instruments in their cases alone, the cases should still have a hard shell and hold up well under pressure.

Insure Your Instruments

No matter how confident you are in your packing abilities and your shipper, take out insurance policies on all your instruments. This way, you don’t have to worry as much about them getting damaged or broken. Even if something does happen during transit, you can rely on insurance to cover it.

Stringed Instruments

For stringed instruments such as violins, guitars, and basses, follow these guidelines.

Loosen the Strings

Turn the tuning pegs on your stringed instruments and let the strings out a little bit. You don’t want any of the strings to be pulled taut before you send the instrument on its way. Since the packages may go through hot and cold temperatures along their route, the strings could snap or pull on the necks during the journey.

Wrap the Headstock

Use bubble wrap or soft cloths to wrap the necks of your instruments. Instruments that have very long necks, such as basses and guitars, need extra support around this delicate area.

Secure the Instrument

As mentioned in the general rules section, you should have a good case for your instrument. Some cases will contain enough padding that you don’t need to secure the instrument any further. However, you want to make sure that when you wiggle the case, you can’t hear or feel anything jostling around. Your instrument should be securely strapped in so that it doesn’t move.

Brass Instruments

Instruments such as trumpets, trombones, and tubas are handled slightly differently from stringed instruments.

Use Only a Box

Unlike with many other instruments, brass instruments are best shipped outside their cases. This is because it’s very difficult to secure the various pieces of these instruments inside their cases, and they are bound to slide around.

Set aside your brass instruments’ cases and focus on prepping them to be packed in a box or crate instead.

Wrap Each Piece

Carefully wrap each piece of your brass instruments with bubble wrap. You should take the instrument apart first and separately wrap things like the mouthpiece. To properly protect the instrument, you’ll need about two layers of bubble wrap around each piece. Secure the edges of the wrap with tape.

Secure Trombone Slides

Trombone slides should be packed separately in their own boxes. Have your packer put them in wooden boxes lined with thick foam. The foam should prevent the slides from hitting the sides of the boxes.

Woodwind Instruments

Unlike brass instruments, woodwind instruments should be shipped in their cases.

Secure the Instrument

Be sure that no part of the instrument jostles inside its sturdy case.

Wrap the Case

Before you have your woodwind instruments packed, wrap the cases themselves in bubble wrap. This will lend extra shock absorption.

Wrap Loose Joints

If instruments such as bassoons have any loose joints, wrap them tightly to keep them from moving.

Percussion Instruments

Many percussion instruments don’t have cases, so you’ll need to pack them carefully.

Remove Heads and Hoops of Bigger Drums

Take off the heads and hoops of bigger drums if you want to nest smaller drums inside them. Once you’ve placed the smaller drums inside, put the heads and hoops back on and tape down two of their sides. Put tension rods and other small pieces in a separate bag.

Wrap Drum Exteriors

Wrap the drum exteriors in two layers of bubble wrap before you have your packer put them in crates or boxes.

With the proper preparations, you can safely ship musical instruments anywhere you want to go. Follow these guidelines and find a good packing company to secure these treasured possessions.


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