Storing a bass

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by brock29609, Oct 21, 2006.

  1. brock29609

    brock29609 4 strings, 2 wheels

    May 11, 2003
    Greenville, SC
    Never thought I'd saying this, but I realized recently it's been over a year since I've played my Fenders. The band breaking up, the new baby, the stressful job and a motorcycle in the garage keeps me far from my Jazz and P-bass with no change in sight.

    So, how should I store my basses? Should I keep them tuned? Any truss adjustments needed for storage? Should I oil up any of the hardware? Anything special I need to do to the onboard pre in my Jazz?

    All advice appreciated.
  2. 62bass


    Apr 3, 2005
    For long storage, I'd detune the basses, clean them up and store them in their cases in a dry environment without extreme temperature swings. I had a friend who stored his Jazz for several years tuned to pitch in a warm storage area above a furnace. The neck was badly bowed after and needed to be straightened with heat and clamps. You also don't want them to get damp from condensation either.

    I have a storage closet in an upstairs bedroom that I'd like to use to store a couple of my basses that I don't use often. But, it's uninsulated and in summer can get up to 100 F in there and in the worst of winter,about 40 F. It's not suitable. So I store 2 basses in their cases under the bed.

    In the active basses, I'd remove the batteries in case of leakage.
  3. +1

    everything 62 bass said and i'll add that its best to keep them in an environment that you (or the average person) would feel physically comfortable.

    be sure to check on them at least every 6 months of possible.
  4. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    This post is not meant to start a street fight. In the short time I've been reading and posting here I have gained a lot of respect for the knowledge of some of the posters, 62bass not the least. However I feel that I must respond in the contrary.

    I disagree with the idea that instruments should be slack tuned or detuned when they are going to be store for extended periods. I've seen far more neck problems due to this concept than any other. Most of these problems were due to a severe back bow although I a have seen a few S curves, too. Here is the reason why this is a bad idea.

    A guitar neck is typically a laminated wood product. For the purposes of this analysis we are not concerned with graphite or other composite necks. The lamination (the fingerboard) is typically a veneer. The term veneer as is used in wood working refers to the wood (plastic, phenolic, whatever) that is glued to the substrate and can be up to an eighth of an inch thick. When the neck and fingerboard are glued and cured it is a relatively stable product. Think plywood. The fingerboard and neck are straight. Other than adjusting itself to the heat and humidity of the environment in which it exists it will not move or bend unless it is acted upon by an outside force.

    The nature of wood is that it is flexible and can be bent and will hold the new shape more or less permanently unless acted upon by another outside force. When in a production situation we bend wood by soaking it in water first and applying heat or by steaming the wood. After treatment the workpiece is placed in a jig to maintain the desired shape. Often the bend(s) in a jig is slightly exaggerated to allow for the wood to "spring back". The nature of wood is that it "desires" to return to it's original shape. However, once acted upon by a constant outside force it will tend to take a set and maintain it's new form.

    Most necks receive some sort of reinforcement when they are constructed. Over the last fifty years the reinforcement method of choice is an adjustable truss rod. Sometimes a luthier will add some carbon fiber "bars" to stiffen the neck but this is usually in addition to the truss rod. Most often the truss rod is installed in a straight channel and is anchored at one end but is not at tension when it is installed. The channel is routed deep into the neck from the fingerboard side and a filet of the same wood as the neck is used to fill above (fingerboard side) the truss rod. This means that there is more material above the rod than below. When the truss rod nut is tightened it squeezes the neck along it's length. Since there is more material above the rod than below it bows the neck backward where there is less resistance. There are some exceptions such as the original Fender method of construction but this analysis encompasses their function also. As it sits we have the same stable construct that is referred to above.

    When a guitar neck is strung it is placed under tension. This causes the neck to bow forward. The truss rod is used to combat this situation and make the guitar easier to play. By placing the neck in compression we cause the neck to bow in the opposite direction. Since there is more material above the rod than below it causes the neck to bow in the opposite direction of the tension place upon it by the strings. We add a little more compression than the tension that exists from the strings to provide proper relief. If the compression and tension were equal the neck would be straight. There would be no relief. When properly adjusted the neck is easy to play and is stable as long as the tension/compression equation remains constant.

    Assume the properly adjusted, stable neck. Remove the strings. What do we have? We have a neck that is no longer a balanced system. It is a neck in compression. And since the tension is removed all that remains is the compression that we placed in the neck by way of the truss rod. The neck is in a back bow. If it is not in a back bow it is on it's way to a back bow. Remember that the wood may have taken a set from it's balanced (properly strung) state. As the truss rod acts on the neck over time it will continue in it's path in the opposite direction. Hence the back bow problems seen in guitars that have been stored slack tuned.

    This is a bit more of a problem to take care of than simply having too much relief-even if it's grossly way too much relief as in the condition we have been analyzing. When the neck has too much bow at least there is a truss rod that will hold the proper position once the neck has been readjusted through the use of clamps and occasionally with the addition of heat. Without a double action truss rod, that is, one that acts on front bows and back bows, the remedy is restricted to clamps and heat.

    So how to store a guitar long term? Assuming that the guitar will be stored in a similar environment as normal just leave it tuned with the truss rod at tension. That's how it was the day before storage. If one fears that the neck will take a forward bow set then return the neck to the condition it was in the day it was born. Remove the strings and adjust the truss rod to a slack position. Now the neck is at stasis.

    Respectfully submitted

  5. pkr2


    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    Great post, 202dy.

    I've heard it argued pretty convincingly both ways.

    My thoughts are along the same line as yours.
  6. 62bass


    Apr 3, 2005
    202-you may be right. I've never had a problem with any of mine I've stored this way but maybe I've been lucky. Anyhow, slacking off the trussrod in addition to slacking off the strings seems wise and isn't much of a chore.
  7. RWP


    Jul 1, 2006
    My two oldest basses are a 78 Gibson B302 and a 83 Aria SB1000. Bought them new and have never stored them de-tuned. Necks are still razor straight.
  8. pkr2


    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    That's one part of the convincing argument in favor of no tension storage. The only reason that I don't subscribe to it is that I've seen enough necks stored both ways to come to a conclusion based on my own experiences.

    If you loosen the strings and the truss rod, a bass guitar neck has very low resistance to bending. In fact it's amazingly flexible. Basically, a truss is much less resistant to flex than a solid beam. With everything relaxed, it's no longer a trussed system. There are stresses in the wood that the compression of the neck by the truss rod is holding in a precise balance. Remove that clamping force and the wood can change dimensions over time.
  9. FronTowardEnemy

    FronTowardEnemy It is better to go unnoticed, than to suck Supporting Member

    Sep 19, 2006
    Chicago Illinois
    I had always stored my bass's in standard concert tuning. I own 2 American Fender Jazz's that get played regularly, and I have an Ovation Viper Bass A/E, that hardly gets played. I had contacted the R&D guy for my bass through Ovation to ask him how to store the bass. He told me to take the battery out, keep it standard tuned and play it for at least 1/2 hour a month if possible. I have a master bedroom closet that is climate controlled and keep all my bass's in there. (Wife hates it!) I tend to play the Ovation for about an hour every three months. I have been doing this for 11 years and have not seen a problem with this or any bass. This method of playing and storage seem to be OK. If something does arise you may be able to catch it early on and correct the problem ASAP.
  10. bassmanjla


    Feb 16, 2010
    Hollywood, CA
    Ok so seriously, some of you guys keep suggesting solutions like "getting it out and playing it once a month"


    That is infrequent use.

    I'm leaving for music school next week. I'll be gone for about two years, and likely won't be able to visit home during the first year due tomoney concerns.

    Two of my basses have to stay home. one is a thunderbird that i still can't seem to get a proper case for.. the other is an acoustic micheal kelly.

    No one here is going to be able to pull them out and play them. no one here understands them enough to pul them out and check them.


    the house of storage is a 112 year old two story with no wall insulation, in western oregon. wet winters, wet springs, wet summers, wet autumns. the exceptions being mid january tends to get really cold and dry. and there is usually a late summer/early fall heat wave that lasts about a week and gets into the low triple digits (106 this year), humid, but not new orleans humid.

  11. Floyd Eye

    Floyd Eye Inactive

    Feb 21, 2010
    St. Louis
    I would personally not store any guitar in a detuned position. It is the position of both Rickenbacker and Carvin that you should not ship your guitars/basses in this condition either. My opinion here, but I think they should always be kept with tension on the neck.
  12. Bevo1995


    Nov 8, 2009
    Heart o' Texas
    You can store them at my house. :)
  13. pringlw


    Nov 22, 2008
    Seattle Area

    Yeah, I'm with 202y. I don't detune a bass when I store it. I suppose bringing the truss rod and the strings both to slack would be ok but to me that just seems like way too much "fiddling" with something that is designed to be at tension on both sides.

    What have I done? Tune it up - store it in a stable temperature environment - check it and retune it every 6 months or so (and play it for at least 10 minutes so that it knows you still love it).
  14. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    I'm another one from the "don't detune" camp. The neck is designed to have the tension of both the strings and the truss rod on it. If you loosen the strings, the rod is still pulling on it. The stories of people who stored them tuned up and then had trouble doesn't tell you what would have happened to those same specific instruments if they'd been stored with a slack strings. I believe the damage was due more to the effects of the environment on the wood shrinking than the string tension.

    Tune it up to pitch, make sure the rod is adjusted well. I wouldn't change strings as you're going to want a stable set of strings on there to maintain that tension. The key is however, to store it in a place that's going to have a very very stable temperature and humidity range over the entire two years. No closets in the back of the house, don't even think about the basement, etc. The neck's wood will move and adapt to every change in humidity. If it goes from 30% in the winter to 80% in the summer, that wood is GOING to move no matter if it's got strings or not. And that movement without having the truss rod adjusted to compensate is going to cause problems. So find a place that it will be stable within a range of 40-60% relative humidity, and where the temperature isn't going to swing very much either.

    If that's not possible, consider seeing if you could entrust it to a music store, repair tech ("luthiers" BUILD instruments, not just adjust them- and bolting a neck on a body ain't really "building in my book), or a trusted music friend who can check it periodically and make adjustments as needed.

  15. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician
    My $.02

    I don't feel it is necessary to detune a bass for storage. Nor do I think it is harmful to detune it. As others have pointed out, it is a question of balance - you don't want to leave the instrument in an unbalanced state. So if you detune, release the tension on the truss rod. If you leave it tuned up, be sure the trussrod tension is right.

    But in all cases, store it in its case in a stable environment at room temperature where it won't be subjected humidity extremes. If it develops a problem, it proabably would have developed the same problem even if you were playing it daily.
  16. SBassman


    Jun 8, 2003
    Northeast, US
    Another vote for not detuning. It's nonsense.
  17. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    My Dog Sam Eats Purple Flowers
    Storing a bass detuned can damage the neck unless you also back of the truss rod. It is best to store it tuned in the case. If you must detune it then only down to E flat. Also try to keep the humidity levels between 35% and 90%. Where I live in Denver that can be difficult so my goal is to not let the humidity drop below 20%. If you let it get too dry then anything made out of wood can get damaged.

    Remember wood shrinks with low humidity and it expands with high humidity. So when the wood dries out the neck bows forward and when it absorbs humidity it flattens out.
  18. Mark_L

    Mark_L Supporting Member

    Oct 23, 2005
    Don't store them. Put them on a stand or hanger in your home, keep them dusted, and play them when you can.
  19. Ewo

    Ewo a/k/a Steve Cooper Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2008
    Huntington WV
    That's worked for me, for a long time, for long-term storage.
  20. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    Based on my experience storing my '63 P for 23 years and then picking it up again to find the action perfect:

    1) Open hard case.
    2) Insert bass.
    3) Close case.
    4) Stand case on end in closet.
    5) Come back up to 23 years later to find bass in perfect condition.

    No de-tuning, no truss rod fiddling, no nothing.

    If 23 years is a long enough test for you, then the question is answered.
    Brad Hanback likes this.
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