Protecting Your Musical Instruments from the Cold

1.3.2018 by Team Bbop

As the winter chill grips Europe, you’re probably mostly worried about keeping yourself warm (unless you’re in Spain or Italy). But don’t forget about your most precious possessions- your musical instruments! Here’s a few tips from the Bbop team about how to make it through the freeze unscathed.

  • The best winter tip is to avoid the problem altogether and avoid exposing your instrument to extreme temperatures for a long period of time. Don’t leave it in the trunk of your car overnight, in the cold basement, or in your under-heated practice room. Hopefully you have heat in your home; keep it there.

  • Speaking of home, your instrument’s home is its case. He or she feels all warm and cosy in there. Store the instrument in its case and don’t leave it next to the radiator or fire. A good case is also the best defence against short exposure to extreme cold, like when you transport it to a gig.

  • Gradual changes are better. If your instrument has been outside in the cold for any period of time, bring it inside and leave it in its case for a few hours or even longer! Opening the case suddenly may cause cracking and warping. Don’t try to warm it up next to a heat source either, let it slowly adjust to the new surroundings. Exposing your instrument to warm and wet air while it is cold will make the problem worse. This is also a good idea if you have flown with your instrument (and some more tips on that here).

This is not what you want to see.
  • Humidity changes are the enemy of stringed instruments. As lower temperatures bring drier air, wooden instruments can dry out and shrink. This can affect tuning, change the neck action on a guitar, or cause more serious damage. The best way to deal with this is have a humidifier in your instrument case and/or in your home. Short of that, at least try to avoid big changes in humidity. Planet Waves and several other brands sell a humidifier that fits in the sound hole of your acoustic guitar.

  • It’s not just guitars and basses that are affected.

    • Brass instruments can freeze up and prevent proper movement. Make sure to keep it well lubricated and try not to play it before it is warmed up to room temperature.

    • Saxophones and flutes need a good wipe down when you are finished playing to prevent moisture remaining inside. Take care to maintain the temperature and humidity of your reeds as well.

    • Drums made of wood are under very high tension. Like guitars, they should warm up gradually and are best stored in a case.

    • Wooden clarinets, oboes etc can contract in colder temperatures, which affects tuning and can even cause cracks. Monitor humidity carefully and use cork grease when putting it together.

    • Tubes in amplifiers can break in cold weather. Don’t turn your amp on immediately after bringing it inside, if it has been in the back of the van overnight. And if possible, let the tubes cool down after the show before you move it around.

  • Don’t forget about your built-in instrument, the human voice. Just like with instruments, sudden changes in temperature are no good. If you have a gig outside, get there early to get used to the climate and do your warm up outside too. Don’t drink super-hot drinks to try to balance the cold; warm drinks are better.

  • Just in case you are travelling to a tropical paradise this winter – be careful of overly high temperatures as well :)


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