Musicians’ Tools: How To Care For And When To Upgrade Your Gear

Just like how samurai warriors took pride in their swords, true musicians also respect their tools. When you’re still a beginner who is still fumbling around in a world of different equipment and techniques, you’re bound to get overwhelmed by all the things you need to keep in mind. Once you lock down an instrument and decide that it’s suitable for you, you need to treat it like it’s your life companion until you feel that you can upgrade and do better. The best music teachers teach young musicians to always take care of their instruments to instill responsibility in them. 

Maintenance’s value

When you start looking beyond the physical form of a music tool, you’ll be able to see how much your soul or the artist inside of you could gain from it. Depending on the instrument itself, special care needs to be applied to keep it in its best shape. Proper maintenance doesn’t only ensure that your instrument will perform well in musical sessions, but it will also increase the lifespan of your instrument. The art of caring for your instrument is a talent that’s gained with time and passion. You may not be doing great in terms of maintenance when you’re a beginner, but as you grow as a musician, you start understanding the true value of an instrument maintenance. Always keep in mind that no matter how refined and polished your instrument is, without proper maintenance it will lose a lot of the features that make it special.

Upgrading is commitment

When it comes to upgrading your tools, there are some considerations that you should keep in mind. A beginner has to know for sure that there will come a time where their skills or talents would be more suited toward a better or different instrument. The on-going debate is whether you should spend a lot of money at the beginning or save it for later when you’re more advanced. You’ll also notice that this decision is always on the mind of someone who teaches their children music. Children can change their minds more often than adults; they can decide to switch to a completely different instrument on impulse. This is why most stores have a section exclusive to beginner instruments as they are cheap and durable. The decision to upgrade your instrument must be made on concrete grounds so you don’t end up wasting money on something you don’t need or won’t use. Passion should be your guiding compass before purchasing anything. There is a fine line between taking care of your instruments and deciding to upgrade it. Here are some tips that can help you decide which to do and when.

Avoid showing off

A lot of people like to keep their musical instrument bare and visible to their visitors. While this adds some aesthetic appeal to the house, it can damage or ruin instruments. A lot of guests love to play around with any accessible instrument. The most sensitive instruments are stringed ones as simply putting the wrong pressure on the wrong place can easily ruin it. This is where casing proves to be useful. Putting your instruments in a case makes them mostly inaccessible to your guests or visitors while protecting them from dust, heat, and moisture. It’s also recommended to keep your instruments in their case at all times when you’re transporting it to a gig or a workshop, especially when you’re using public transport. You wouldn’t believe the amount of bumping and accidental falls that your instrument can go through by simply walking down the street or using the stairs. 

Mind the case

We’ve mentioned that the Case is the first line of defense against many damaging factors. If you take care of the case, you’ll also be taking care of the instrument inside. Any case wears out faster if it has been subjected to a lot of punishment. This causes the lifespan of the case to considerably decrease. You need to always keep an eye on any worn out or damaged areas of the case to catch and repair them as early as possible. Worn out areas can bring more worn out areas that accumulate easily over time and end up damaging your instrument slowly without you noticing. If you’re going to store the instrument in a case for a long duration, you should consider adding some insect-repelling elements to deter pesky pests like rats and cockroaches from invading the case. Whether the case is strong or not, you should always keep an eye on its condition because it’s directly related to the instrument inside. 

The case is not a personal bag

While making sure that your case is in perfect shape is extremely beneficial, cramming it with other stuff so you wouldn’t have to carry another bag is counterintuitive. Using any healthy ,high-quality case doesn’t mean that you’re using the right case. You should always use the specific case designed for your instrument. Some instruments are quite sensitive to pressure and items in the case can damage or scratch it easily. Try to manage your space well and use another bag for accessories, wires, and other items. Even the smallest items can jump around in the case while you’re carrying it and damage the instrument. Always choose a case that is spacious for your instrument and keep it that way because extra space is okay while tightness is not.

Avoid car trunks

If you have a car, you may be tempted to place an instrument in the trunk so it wouldn’t take over the back or front seats. The problem with trunks is that the climate, whether it’s hot or cold, is amplified and could be worse than you’d expect inside the trunk. The coldness, for example, can make wood less flexible and ruin the tuning of stringed instruments. On the other hand, heat can affect the viscosity of the glue and loosen parts of the instrument. Any collision from the back of the car and translate to huge damages to the instrument no matter how minor the collision is. It’s worth noting that insurance companies do not cover getting your instrument stolen by a thief who popped the trunk of the car.

Minding the temperature difference

Extreme temperature switches can be very damaging to your instruments, especially if they’re sensitive. When you’re traveling from a cold area to a hotter one, you should avoid exposing your instrument to the new temperature suddenly and instead leave it for a while in the case. If your case isn’t protected by padding or a hard-shell, you should cover it with any thick fabric to help it transition from extreme temperatures. You should keep any musical instrument in a dry place away from moist. If the temperature is too hot in your house you should consider using a dehumidifier to keep stringed instruments safe. Refrain from exposing your instruments to ambient coldness in the house by warming your house to a normal temperature so the instruments don’t get warped.

Extra care for stringed instruments

Stringed instruments are one of the most sensitive instruments among music tools. Never place your instrument with its strings facing downward even when it’s inside a hard-shell or padded case. When you’re cleaning or polishing your instruments, take extra care of the cleaning supplies you use. It’s recommended to purchase specific cleaning tools for your instrument and then test it on a small spot to see if there are any side-effects on the tool. The average lifespan of strings is 12 months, so it’s recommended to change them after 1 year at the most. When you’re replacing strings for the first time, you should do it with the help of an experienced teacher or at a music shop. When you’re replacing strings, don’t remove them all at once. Replace every string you remove to make sure you don’t imbalance the tension and damage the instrument. If you notice that your strings are constantly vulnerable and easily damaged, have a professional take a look at it and see if the nuts or joints are damaged.

Upgrading style

As you learn more about genres and instruments, you’ll find yourself starting to lean more towards a specific or developed style of choice. You start to notice very simple and almost unnoticeable details which can help you present your technique and style in the way you want. Different world-class brands are of extremely high-quality and you can’t objectively choose one over the other because of quality differences. One of the most popular solutions to develop a certain style is by using accessories or effects. You don’t buy a new thousand-dollar guitar to produce a sound which can be easily produced by certain guitar pedals in the market. What makes people so insistent on getting a specific brand or pedal are some feats that help them produce the style of music they have in mind. To choose one brand over the other requires experience and practice, so develop your style at your own pace.

Take your time before upgrading

If this is your first time to play an instrument, it can take you a year to fully realize the potential and limitations of such an instrument. If you upgrade too early, you may not even notice the difference since your ears are not trained enough to see the contrasts. You should focus on your technique and practice a lot so you could determine what kind of upgrade would suit you best. Sticking with an instrument for a while when you’re a beginner is a good sign which indicates that you won’t lose interest down the road and decide to switch to a completely different instrument. Once you decide that you’re ready for an upgrade, go for professional models; they may cost a lot, but you wouldn’t have to replace them often as you do with the beginner or mid-range models. The expensive professional equipment always pays off in the long term as it’s an investment in your ability and talent.

Think it through

People get so excited when they purchase items of high-interest. A lot of eager people fall into a common mistake which is choosing whatever that is in front of them instead of conducting actual research. You want to check out many stores, contact some sellers online and offline, and test any instrument that piques your interest. You may sometimes find great deals online and figure that it’s a bargain, but you should still for a store that offers the instrument and test it yourself so you’d know that what you’ve ordered online is what you expect. Don’t overestimate your budget thinking that the more expensive a tool is, the better it will be. While that may remain true to a certain budget or extent, it doesn’t always translate to better equipment. You don’t have to choose the most expensive instrument in the shop while ignoring all other factors. If you see an instrument that you are obsessed with but you’ll never be able to afford, consider buying used instruments.

Outgrowing your instrument

This seems intuitive, but many inexperienced musicians may not notice it. You may be used to playing on an instrument since your childhood and haven’t noticed that it’s becoming smaller as you’ve outgrown it literally. This usually happens with students using stringed instruments like violins and violas. If you notice that your form is suffering and you’re having a hard time playing notes, that were quite easy to play when you were younger, then it’s definitely time to buy a bigger and better instrument. Some equipment is designed to be played by adults as their size is too big for a small body to handle. You should get back to a professional to help you decide if it’s time to upgrade or play a certain instrument or not.

The world of music isn’t easily comprehended without experience and practice. Always free some time up to make sure that your instruments are working in tiptop condition. The decision to upgrade shouldn’t be made hastily and always consider the many factors at play before buying a new instrument.