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Air Travel: Loosen the Strings, or not?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by lefty007, Jul 19, 2007.

  1. Loose the strings completely

    0 vote(s)
  2. Loose the strings and the truss rod so there is no tension in the neck

    1 vote(s)
  3. Loose the strings just a little bit

    9 vote(s)
  4. Don't touch a thing

    20 vote(s)
  1. lefty007


    Jan 19, 2004
    Miami, FL
    I know this topics has been discussed, but I've recently read at Victor Wooten's Web page that he advices to loosen the strings on your bass when traveling by plane, before either "gate-checking" the bass, or when tendering as luggage.

    I've also read a little article in Bass Player Magazine about doing exactly the opposite when shipping a bass either via ground or air: they said that loosening the strings can lead to damage.

    My logic tells me you should not loosen the strings, because the string's tension is balanced with the truss rod tension. In any case, if you loosen the strings, you should also loosen the truss rod so there is no tension in the neck.

    I would think that if you travel a lot and loosen the strings only, but not the truss rod, this will cause damage to the neck. Furthermore, if you loosen the strings and the truss rod constantly, I would think that will also lead to the neck suffering.

    I just don't see how loosening the string and truss rod can minimize any damage during shipping. My own experience: I use a good gig bag and I wrap the bass inside with t-shirts and bubble wrap. I've never loosen the strings. Many times I can take inside the cabin, but sometimes I have to tender it at the gate, and never have suffered any damage whatsoever.

    Any thoughts?

    [EDIT - Typo: By the way, the questions in the poll were supposed to say "loosen," not "loose."]
  2. Diego


    Dec 9, 2005
    San Francisco, CA
    Here's what I think:

    I think you should tune down by half step or 1 step at most. In this way you keep tension on the neck and the tension/compression balance between neck and truss rod, while allowing the neck to have some "room" and move somewhat freely when exposed to temperature and humidity changes in the cargo bay of the plane. I would define this colloquially as giving the neck some "wiggle" room. Just MHO on the subject :)

  3. keb


    Mar 30, 2004
    I wouldn't touch it.
  4. don't touch a thing.
  5. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    I've traveled by air several times with one of my basses. Have never loosened the strings, and have never had the slightest problem. I wouldn't think that's much of an issue.

    What IS an issue, however, is the type of container you use to enclose & transport it. Unless you are absolutely guaranteed the right to bring your instrument into the cabin - and have it completely within your reach & your control at all times (such as in the overhead compartment above your seat), using a gig bag is just asking for trouble. It's just a matter of time before you get burned...

    Even using a standard-quality hardshell case is risky, given the crazy way most ground crews fling stuff around. The ONLY reasonably safe option is to use an ATA-approved flight case. In most cases, if your instrument gets damaged or destroyed in transit, most airlines will not pay for its repair or replacement - even if it's obviously the airline's fault. And in those rare instances in which they will pay, it's only if you were using an ATA-approved flight case.

    Sorry for the thread derailment. But this is important stuff that too few musicians realize...

  6. Here's the deal:

    Check out how all of the high-end bass builders ship their basses - tuned to standard pitch.

    Every single one (I worked at Bass Central for 5 years before coming to work at Roscoe - where we tune everything to standard pitch before shipping!) I've ever pulled out of a case, new from the builder was at standard pitch.

    If you detune the bass, you are changing an element in the system of balance between the trussrod and string tension, and getting it back again could be difficult or even impossible to get it right again.

    Don't detune, not necessary, and CAN cause trouble.
  7. Diego


    Dec 9, 2005
    San Francisco, CA
    I think Michael brings up an excellent point...and speaking from experience, although I do find loosening the strings a little bit good for air travel (having traveled form a dry cold place to a VERY hot and humid one) the choice of casing is of much more concern. A transient neckbow you can always fix by adjusting your rod, but a damaged instrument...well....:rollno:

    I traveled once with a Modulus Q6 and was not allowed to put it in the main cabin. I trusted my Modulus' hard shell case (post formed plastic with aluminum railings). Sure enough when I picked my bass from the carousel, a corner of the case was destroyed and a lock was busted. You could even see the bass inside through the slit (the case look like pry-opened). Thank God the bass was OK. If this were a gig-bag that bass would have been destroyed, and there you go...$3K that the airlines won't EVER pay (sometimes I just feel this is so unfair, I mean after all you ARE paying for a service and many airlines nowadays provide you with a service that I would call substandard for the fares they charge).

    In line with Michael's post, I also apologize for deraiuling the thread, but as I said, he touched an extremely important point IMO.

  8. +1 to both posts. Also, thank God you had a graphite neck bass, because a wooden neck would likely have cracked given that level of abuse.

    Do not loosen your strings or truss rod. I love Victor, but I doubt he packs his own basses for transport, know what I mean. Like Gard said, tune to pitch. You may have to make minor adjustments to the truss rod, but nothing too major, even if you're traveling across different climate zones. Necks aren't THAT susceptible to change, not with the graphite reinforcement and excellent truss rod systems in place on today's basses.
  9. No. Nay. Never.

    Don't touch it... I mean, what's the difference in the neck if the bass is travelling or it's sitting around in your house? None. And would you loosen the strings in your bass while it was sitting around your house? I hope not unless you wanted to leave playing bass and start to practice your archery skills...
  10. steve21

    steve21 Banned

    FL Knifemaker just sent me a bass from Florida. He kept it in tune.

    It arrived with the neck PERFECT and in tune here in California.

    Don't touch it.
  11. JoeG


    Oct 30, 2007
    New Jersey USA
    I understand why you should leave it tuned so the neck keeps the proper tension. My concern is when the bass is in the luggage compartment it's not temperture controlled. Would this cause problems with the neck? It gets very cold up there.
  12. False.

    The cargo hold of an airliner is pressurized and climate controlled. They don't keep it quite as warm as the passenger cabin, but it's still not -60F in there either (the typical ambient temperature at FL 30-35).

    Remember, they ship pets in there!

    Do not detune your bass.

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