Musicians know that their instruments are the most important part of their musical life. Whether you play the flute or the guitar, the violin, viola, or the drums, making music would be impossible without these cherished items. You might be a solo artist or part of a larger musical group, which for some musicians means doing shows and performing in locations that require a bit of travel to get to.
Packing and shipping string instruments can come with a lot of stress. Leaving your instrument in the hands of shipping agents or airport personnel can cause anxiety, and unfortunately can leave your instrument vulnerable to damage or loss. If you are an instrument dealer who often ships expensive instruments to customers, then you know all too well the stress of worrying what will happen between dropping the instrument off for shipment and delivery.
Here are a few ways to prepare your string instrument for shipping in the United States or internationally so that it remains safe, secure, and waiting for you wherever your musical journey might take you.
How to Prepare String instruments for shipping
In order to prepare your string instruments for shipping, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Some larger instruments can be broken down into smaller parts for easier shipping; however, other instruments are made from larger pieces that don’t come apart or are more fragile and need to be kept in one piece. Some stringed instruments like cellos, harps, or an upright bass are larger and need to be shipped very carefully because of their large and delicate nature. Additionally, musicians have to keep in mind that humidity and temperature changes can also affect an instrument during transit.
Here are a few ways to prepare your stringed instrument for safe shipping.
1. Check Airline and Shipping Requirements
If you are traveling with your instrument, check with your airline to see what accommodations they can make for instruments. You might be able to check your instrument at the gate for a flight attendant to put in a forward closet, or so that it can be the last on and first off the airplane to minimize damage. If you want your instrument shipped, make sure the company you are using knows about the special requirements your instrument has for being shipped carefully.
2. Check Shipping or Airline Liability Limits
If you are flying with your instrument, check to see what liability limits the airline has when thinking about preparing your string instrument for shipping. Please note that if they lose or damage your instrument, they are liable to pay for a certain amount. Make sure that you have excess valuation from the airline if their liability limits don’t cover the full value of your instrument. Additionally, if you are shipping your instrument, make sure you have insurance options from the shipping company in case of damage or loss.
3. Research Shipping Companies
Be sure to find a shipping company that is used to working with fragile objects like instruments. Check different companies’ shipping rates, shipping costs, and if there are any additional charges for shipping large or fragile items.
4. Loosen Your Instrument’s Strings
Before traveling, loosen the strings. Loosening the strings helps keep them safe if there are changes in temperature or air pressure during travel. Keep some tension in the strings, but don’t have full tension during shipping.
5. Package Your Instrument With Different Layers
If your instrument can be broken down and it makes sense to do so, put all these pieces (like shoulder rests) in your instrument case. Then, package each piece carefully. Your instrument shouldn’t be able to move inside the case during shipping, but it also shouldn’t be packaged so tightly that pressure is being put on the instrument. Pack bubble wrap or clean paper towels in between the strings, across the fingerboard, and around the bridge of your instrument. Make sure you fill all the holes in your instrument to protect it.
6. Prepare Your Bow
If you are shipping a bow with your instrument, loosen the bow hairs prior to shipping or traveling. Then secure the bow inside the case.
7. Secure Your Instrument Case
Once your stringed instrument has been securely packaged in its case, secure the case in a shipping box. Your case shouldn’t touch the sides of the box and should have a protective packaging layer of packing material like bubble wrap, packing peanuts, or crumpled newspaper to protect the case inside the box. When your item ships, it shouldn't shift inside the box.
8. Label Your Box
Make sure to clearly label your instruments and bows as ‘Fragile.’ You should also have your name, address, and other important contact information labelled clearly on the shipping box. If the airline or shipping company needs contact information during shipping, they will have it readily accessible.
9. Make Sure You Have Shipping Insurance
Your airline or shipping company can often offer a certain amount of insurance coverage if your instrument is damaged or lost, but you must make sure that your instrument is insured for its full value before traveling with it or shipping it. Common carriers' shipping insurance rates are often very high, so opt for a third party shipping insurance option to reduce costs without sacrificing coverage.
Whether you are a dealer or a musician or both, musical instrument shipping insurance is top priority to mitigate the risks of shipping. Even though perfecting the instrument's packaging is important, it doesn't account for loss, theft, or other unforeseen damage that may occur during shipment.
Cabrella offers shipping insurance for unique, fragile, oversize, and other items that require special care and handling and can save you up to 90% in shipping insurance costs.
For more information on instrument shipping, grab a free copy of The Guitar Dealer's Guide to Shipping Insurance.