Faster than a speeding heavy metal lick!
More powerful than a 1,000 watt amp!!
Able to leap tall concert speakers in a single bound!!!
Or at least, that’s what your music equipment hopes you will be for them.
Mighty WALL against destructive onslaughts!
Your instruments & gear look to you, their gear-wise musician, to take good care of them… through touring, transport, temperature changes, seasons, storms, and all that the entropy of our universe can sling at ’em.
Are you ready? Let’s go save the world… of GEAR!!
The Case for Cases
I once did a tour across Europe with a few other musicians from around the U.S. We started in Amsterdam and played the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Hungary and finally to Romania.
It was a fantastic tour with lots of memorable, musical moments. We had our own big van that fit all of us and all of our gear. I was one of the main drivers and spent much of my time behind the wheel, which gave me a front row seat to the scenery we were movin’ through. Good times.
In fact, I can’t think of a single thing that went wrong or was bad in any way… except one:
I transported my electric for that tour in a soft case.
This was a really bad idea, although I didn’t really know it at the time. When I returned home from the tour, I noticed that the bolt-on neck of my Jackson Dinky electric guitar had a severe crack in it, where it joined to the body of the guitar.
This is probably why, in the last few concerts, I was struggling with keeping my guitar in tune. ;-(
Moral of the story: if I’d have had a hard case for that guitar, that damage would have never taken place. I definitely learned my lesson, and that was the last time I used a soft case for any of my expensive instruments again.
Now, if you’re going on a gig and your instrument will never leave your hands? Fine – use a soft case. But if it has to be put anywhere else… with a bunch of other gear, in back of seats, on an airplane, a ship… whatever, then do your gear, and yourself, a favor – get a hard case.
These days there’s no excuse for not getting one, since you can defend Music City by jumping on eBay, Reverb or Craigslist and find one really cheap… pretty much any day of the week. Like THIS ONE, for example:
Take my advice: treat your instruments with the dignity they deserve and protect them in a hard case. You will be their Bat-cave hero forever!
You’ve Got the Pow-wah!!
Electricity. What a miracle! We take it so much for granted it, yet without it, astronauts wouldn’t have nearly as cool pictures of our cities, and we wouldn’t be sitting here sharing this internet moment in such audio bliss. lol
In fact, life would be unfathomably more difficult without it. But wait… it does have its dark side! Power surges; megajoules spikes; sudden outages! All these things can wreak havoc on your delicate electronics gear, and send studio session players running for fearful cover!!
So what do you do? Well, over the decades of owning studio gear, I’ve always installed a power conditioner. These come in different grades, and with different options, but you basically get what you pay for. They’re also not really that expensive, especially considering how much we spend on just software plugins for our DAWs!
Even if you get the most basic power conditioner though, it’s still putting up at least one line of defense between you and a surprise electric villain that could zap your electronics into the Dead Zone.
Add to that that they are also extremely helpful in organizing your power cables. They give you a long strip of outlets, so you can bundle all of your power cables together, tied or velcroed, and string them in an orderly fashion throughout your studio, or in your rack-mount cases if we’re talking live gear.
Here are three power conditioners I use in my studio and live racks:
Do they work? Well, in my decades of doing studio and live music work I’ve never suffered loss due to electricity issues. Is it because of these conditioners? Who can say? But I know they certainly didn’t hurt, and since all it would take to destroy my computer with THOUSANDS of dollars worth of products on it, I’m not taking any chances.
I know it’s much more sexy to buy a new guitar, or keyboard, or mic pre, but sometimes… ya gotta be the responsible bloke, and look out for those that can’t look out for themselves.
If you’re just starting up, here’s a good, inexpensive power conditioner option that will start you down the road of defending your gear like the hero I know you are and being an organizational wunderkind with neat cables as well. 🙂
Does it Seem Humid in Here to You??
If you have wooden instruments then you need to seriously be thinking about humidity. If you have very expensive wooden instruments, all the more so!
That beautiful tonewood which makes up your favorite axe is very sensitive to temperature and humidity changes.
What happens when wood dries out? It contracts. What happens when wood gets too humid and absorbs water? It expands. This accordion action is no joke for the poor wooden instrument that takes the brunt of its push and pull brutality – it can literally crack under the pressure! The seams can come apart and, even worse, permanent warpage can occur.
Case in point: I went over one day to see a drum set that belonged to my favorite drummer, Jim Lewis. He had regrettably passed away a couple of years before, and one day subsequently, in conversation with his widow, I heard that Jim’s drum kit was still in their garage – their unheated-through-Michigan-winters garage!!
I was immediately concerned for its safety. This was no clear plastic acrylic kit – these were wonderful Maple wood drums made by Ludwig (See the review HERE). I surmised it probably had already taken some damage, so I went to have a look.
We went into the garage, pulled out each drum and looked them over, and I instantly saw the damage that the seasons had inflicted upon this kit. On most of the drums the black wrapping was cracking off. Some of the wrapping was even missing, cracked off in pieces somewhere.
It was too sad for me to walk away from. I paid her market-value price on the kit and took it out of that hostile environment and into its new, warm, loving home. Today it sits in my rehearsal room, safe in a humidified environment with a consistent temperature… a lasting tribute to a fantastic musician and a dear, departed friend.
To protect not only Jim drums, but all my other gear that’s made of wood, I do three things whenever the heat’s turned on for winter:
1) I switch on the whole-house humidification. Installing a humidification unit to your house furnace is obviously a more expensive option which some of you won’t be able to afford yet. But if you CAN afford it, it does make a difference. I keep a humidity meter anywhere I have music equipment and I can see, as soon as the humidification unit goes on, a 9% to 17% increase in the humidity reading. That’s a big win, and it goes a long way in helping protect your instruments and keep them in tip-top shape.
2) I bring up a small reservoir humidifier from the basement and turn it on in my rehearsal room where all my instruments are kept. This is just so my instruments get a little extra humidification during the ‘indoor dry season’. It helps keep the humidity my rehearsal room at 40% to 50%, which is right where it needs to be.
3) I place small humidification hoses, or sponges, in all of my most sensitive instruments. The thinner the wood on a musical instrument, the more susceptible it will be to expansion and contraction due to temperature and humidity changes.
So you’ll also find that my violin (the thinnest wood of all my instruments), my cello (made in the 1800s & also of thin wood!), my viola, and all my acoustic guitars have little humidity sponges in them. These little bartenders for instruments are cheap, but they do an important job.
Every Monday morning, I collect them, take them downstairs & fill them again with purified water. I use purified water so that over time there’s no bacteria growth.
Then I take them back upstairs, plug each one into a beloved instrument, and look with pride on their well-maintained and protected craftsmanship. They don’t squeal with Joy or anything, but if I could see through their eyes… I bet I’d look like Iron Man!
So how about you? Are you maintaining good humidity for your susceptible instruments? If not, try taking just a small first step: order a humidification monitor so that you can know, at any time, day or night, whether your instruments are being placed in a vulnerable place or not.
Here’s the model that I have two of and that work great:
Or just go ahead an order a small humidifier now! I’ve got a lot of these, since they’re small, unassuming and get the job done. ‘Nuff said!
You CAN Take it With You
Okay, quick survey: how many of you have gone into a restaurant or store and left your instrument in the car?
Uh-huh… gotcha!! Hey, even I was guilty of this at one time, so don’t be too hard on yourself. But a great part of life is being able to learn and grow and get better at things, right? So let’s get better at protecting our instruments: DON’T LEAVE THEM IN YOUR CAR!!!
Did you know that the temperature fluctuations in a parked car can be so extreme that a wooden instrument doesn’t stand a chance?!
According to THIS STUDY by the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, if the temperature outside is 80 degrees and your car windows are up, within 20 minutes the interior vehicle air temperature will be 109 degrees!!
Do you think that might do some damage to your guitar? Uh… yeah!
And for those of you in L.A. or other typically hot environs, if the temperature outside is hotter than 80 degrees? Then things get way worse inside your vehicle. The temperature differentials are staggering.
So don’t be a gear villain: take your instruments inside with you. No one will mind, really. I’ve taken guitars in hard cases into restaurants with me dozens and dozens of times with never a comment. I put them next to me under the table so it’s never been an issue with being in the way of customers.
Don’t let Mr. Heat Miser destroy your expensive instruments – take your instruments inside with you, and let your car be for driving YOU to Guitar Center, not as an oven, or freezer, for your expensive gear. 😉
Quick – Destroy That Villain’s Fry-Ray!!
Finally, here’s a quick tip for those of you who use any type of speakers/monitors for your studio control room, rehearsal rooms or gig setups:
- For power-up, turn your speakers on last!
- For power-down, turn your speakers off first!
I just had to add this to today’s post I have heard WAY too many times explosive sounds coming out of expensive speaker cones because the person running the sound didn’t follow (or didn’t even know to follow!) these basic rules.
Let’s cut to the chase in this superhero blockbuster: the Mega-Signal is on the move! You’re chasing him madly! He’s weaving, ducking, around audio corners, down triple-shielded cables, through the electronic jungle mazes! You almost nab him at the P.A. Aux Send, but NO… he slips out of your grip like the slippery sound eel that he is!
Oh, no – he’s made it to the speaker! He’s running towards the CONE…. NOOOOO…!!!!!
He just blew your speakers.
So, like, don’t be that guy (or girl). Don’t fry your electronics! You paid good money for those speakers. Don’t cripple ’em so cruelly when safety is just a button push away.
Listen for this is all the money pops clicks and POW-s that Electronics gear can produce when you first turn them on. I’ve got a big keyboard practice amp in my rehearsal room that does this every time I turn it on. that’s one of the reasons I never use it professionally… that and the fact that it’s huge!
Up, Up & Away…
It’s easy to fly high above all these destructive villains that I’ve mentioned today. There are many more to be vigilant against too, but the main point today is just keep up your due diligence to keep your gear safe.
All it takes is a little effort, mindfulness and, sometimes, a small investment, but nothing too drastic.
You can do this! So join me in the league up instrument Heroes DHR and banish all audio attacks from this realm!
Together, we can Vanquish tone Intruders, and put an end to all Sonic assaults! We can spread instrument longevity and electronics health across the humming globe!
You can, you will, you must… be the superhero!!!
Now go… make… sounds!