One of the most common questions I see people ask is if they need to loosen the strings of their guitar before selling or shipping.
The quick short answer is, no. You do not need to loosen the strings of your guitar before selling or shipping, and here is why.
If you have ever bought a guitar online, or even from a store, you would find that it is properly tuned. I have never seen a guitar that had loose strings on arrival, nor do I know anyone who loosens up the strings before shipment.
Retailers such as Martin, Gibson, and Fender do not loosen the strings of their guitars before shipment. Yes, a string or two might be de-tuned if you bought them from an online store, but that is not done intentionally. It is due to the shipment being carried around roughly, or being knocked around once or twice which is totally normal.
Is shipping with tight strings dangerous for the guitar?
Shipping a guitar with full tension does not endanger the guitar. However, one might say that the head of the guitar is more susceptible to damage if the guitar takes a heavy hit. This is because the strings pull tension towards the head, and if sudden pressure is applied then it could make a little crack.
But the probability of this is very low. And honestly, if the guitar is packed properly, this would not happen to begin with.
How to pack a guitar in a gig bag for shipping
Packing the guitar is quite an easy task. All you need to do is; place your guitar inside the box and make no room for movement. Below, I have simplified the process in a few easy steps.
- Secure all loose items in the case compartment – Usually, just roll paper into a ball, or stuff it with padding. If you don’t have padding, then you can order from Amazon.
- Support the head of the guitar with crushed paper or padding – This holds the head of the guitar and reduces any shock factor the guitar might face during the shipment.
- Wrap the head of the guitar with soft material – You can use tissue paper, but bubble wrap would be the best material for it.
- Wrap the entire case with plastic – You could use bubble wrap as well. This is very important, as it would reduce any environmental effects on the guitar during its shipment.
- Create a cushion for your box – The cushion can be made from paper or bubble wrap. You can even use plastic bags for it. However, one thing I would recommend is, ordering this box from Amazon. It is specifically made for guitars.
- Insert the guitar and the case inside the box – Fill any holes and empty spaces in it with paper or plastic. When you have tightly packed the guitar in it. You can pick the box up and move it a little. If you feel that the guitar has moved, then you need more stuffing.
- Mark the box – Label the up and down part of it, and write ‘fragile’ on this box.
If you have followed the steps above, you are ready to ship the guitar!
If you really insist on loosening the strings for your own peace of mind, then I need to tell you the correct method for it.
There are two main ways of doing this. Either completely remove the strings, or loosen them a little. If you are going to loosen them a little, then you can just do that and be done.
However, if you completely loosen the strings, then you need to loosen up the truss rod completely as well. To do that, simply turn the truss bolt counterclockwise until it moves freely. The logic behind this is that if you completely loosen up the strings, but do not loosen up the truss rod. Then there would be an imbalance of forces on the neck, and make it susceptible to damage.
A Note on Shipping Nylon Guitars
Nylon guitars do not have a truss rod. As nylon strings do not exert much pressure on the rod. Therefore, you can simply loosen up the strings if you want to not worry about the neck. The the wood’s own rigidness is enough to protect the neck.
The best method for shipping a guitar
In my opinion, UPS is the best way to get your guitar shipped. Whatever service you pick, just be sure on what day you send your guitar to be shipped.
For example, if you pick the 3-day shipment plan, then try to ship your guitar on Monday or Thursday. That way your guitar will not stay in their warehouse over the weekend. There is no harm for your guitar to stay in their inventory over the weekend – I just like to be time efficient with my shipment.
Also, remember to record your tracking number.
In the end, what actually matters is how you have packed your guitar.
If you loosen your strings to protect the neck but fail to pack the guitar properly, then your guitar is bound to get damaged. Do not worry about little tiny things, just make sure you have protected what actually matters.