Leaving a Guitar Out of Its Case [Guitar Maker’s Thoughts]

I love having my guitar on hand to just pick up and strum out a few chords and oftentimes I would leave it out. So, I looked into whether it’s OK to leave a guitar out of its case, and based on my research here’s the answer.

It is not OK to leave a guitar out of its case. A guitar should always be stored in a case when not in use according to the owner’s manual of the leading guitar manufacturers Ibanez and Fender. A guitar should also be stored in its case standing up, rather than lying flat.

There is an ideal temperature and humidity range for a guitar that you should be aware of, to ensure your guitar remains in good condition and doesn’t need to be repaired. 

So, below I will explain what temperature is ideal for a guitar, what happens when you leave a guitar out of its case and the best way to keep your guitar when not in use.

What happens if you leave a guitar out of its case

Extreme temperatures and humidity can negatively impact your guitar. Almost all guitars are made primarily of wood, including electric guitars. Wood is known to respond to changes in temperature and humidity.

For example, when the air temperature heats up a bit the wood in your guitar will expand. Once it cools down it will shrink. 

As you may know, a guitar is made from individual pieces of crafted wood. The neck for example is one piece, and the back of the guitar is another piece. Each of them is glued together. When they expand and contract they push and pull on the glue.

The constant shrinking and expansion put pressure on the joins.

This can lead to minor cracks in the wood, and where the wood joins together which will impact the resonance of your guitar. And also make it weaker if you do accidentally bang it against something or drop it.

Overall, a guitar can be repaired but is generally inconvenient.

According to one guitarist that kept their guitar in a humid environment it developed a crack in the neck, which he had to repair.

The ideal humidity for a guitar to be kept in is 45% to 55%, say Taylor Guitars

Interestingly, a guitar can hold up quite well in high humidity. My first steel string guitar I took to a very humid tropical island for 1 year. The average humidity was over 80% and it was very hot.

All I kept it in was a hard case, and it never developed any rust or cracks.

I bought the guitar for around $150, and it was a steel-string acoustic guitar. I mainly bought it to learn Metallica songs. But, after that, I got into classical and flamenco guitar. Because the guitar was fairly inexpensive I didn’t give much thought to protecting it from the elements.

Faint lines known as finish checking

Finish checking is a term used to describe the normal aging of a finished surface. And guitars will develop finish checking over time. Finish checking appears as faint, small, parallel lines in the finish.

They can be seen when the light is shining directly on them, from a distance of about 6 feet (2 meters). There is no way to avoid a guitar from developing finish checking. 

Do you need a case for your guitar?

A guitar case can help protect your guitar. But, I was curious to know whether you absolutely must have a case for your guitar?

Overall, you do need a case for your guitar. The top guitar manufacturers such as Fender and Ibanez say to always keep your guitar in a case when not in use. A guitar will generally be fine kept out of it’s case if the air temperature is 68–72 °F (20–22 °C) and the humidity is between 45% to 55%.

In that case it’s not so much the temperature and humidity that will damage your guitar but there’s a risk of causing cosmetic damage by knocking it over, or tripping and dropping it.

A guitar case will protect your guitar from extreme temperature and humidity changes by providing a barrier of protection. It’s also easier to carry, and put in a car.

Accidents, though rare, do happen. For example, you might drop your guitar or bang it against a chair or doorway as you’re walking.

If your guitar is in a case, the case will take the ding rather than your guitar.

How do I keep my guitar when not in use?

I would often leave my guitars out while I did something else. But, when I knew I wouldn’t be playing it for a while I would always put it back in its case. So, I wanted to know the best way to keep my guitar when it’s not in use.

A guitar should be kept in a case when not in use. It should also be stored standing up in the corner of a room or against a wall in the cupboard, rather than laying down flat. A guitar should also be kept at room temperature and at roughly 50% humidity.

If the guitar isn’t going to be played for a few weeks or more, loosen the strings a bit but keep the tension on the strings. 

Also, avoid keeping it at extreme temperatures and high humidity environments. About room temperature is ideal, and the further you get away from room temperature, either hotter or colder the more likely it is your guitar will get damaged by shrinkage and expansion of the wood.

Does sunlight fade a guitar?

Sunlight will also fade a guitar, which can be desirable in some cases. Certain woods will darken, while others will become a lighter color when left in direct sunlight. I often played my guitar in the sun, but you may be curious whether leaving a guitar in the sun is bad for it.

I recently explained the answer to this question in this article about whether you can leave a guitar in the sun.

Fender, who is one of the most well-known guitar brands, has said that if you have more than one guitar don’t stack them one on top of another. And ideally, you should store a guitar standing up.

Usually up against a wall in a cupboard or in a room is best, but it can also rest in the corner of a room.

If you’re unable to store it standing up then it’s best to rest your case on its side, rather than laying down flat.

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