Loosen strings before shipping?

Discussion in 'Vintage Gretsch Discussion' started by goldTopDeluxe, Sep 15, 2020.

  1. goldTopDeluxe

    goldTopDeluxe Electromatic

    Aug 25, 2009
    Melbourne, Australia
    What's the verdict here - particularly for a vintage Gretsch with a floating bridge?
    Guitar would be shipped internationally by air freight.

    Its been a while since I have had to ship a guitar, and I always detuned by half a step.. but I've just been reading up on this and seems a lot of people think it should be detuned completely.

    And any other tips/advise on how to pack securely to minimise chance of damage?

    Last edited: Sep 15, 2020
  2. Merc

    Merc Country Gent

    May 6, 2017
    When I shipped my 6118 with a Bigsby I tuned it down a half step. It made it there fine but it had a pinned bridge. However if it’s unpinned, I’m not sure which is best.
  3. tartanphantom

    tartanphantom Friend of Fred

    Jul 30, 2008
    Murfreesboro, TN
    I generally don't worry if the bridge is floating or not-- I'm going to set it up anyway no matter what type of bridge it has.

    Generally, I ask the seller to de-tune strings enough to where they are almost slack against the fretboard, and if the bridge is floating, I ask them to remove it completely and store it separately, wrapped up and in the case pocket. This keeps the bridge from possibly damaging the body during shipment.

    It's usually easier to cure or adjust out any temporary back bow which could develop over an extended shipping period, which is pretty unlikely. I've had guitars that were left completely unstrung for weeks at a time, with no resulting back bow issues in the neck. Of course, if the integrity of the truss rod is suspect, or if it anticipated that the guitar will sit in customs clearing (international shipments) for several weeks, this may not be a good idea, particularly if the guitar is subject to several drastically different climates during shipping.

    If the bridge is fixed or pinned, I just ask them to de-tune it about 2 or 3 steps.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2020
  4. Gretschmen65

    Gretschmen65 Synchromatic

    May 20, 2016
    QLD Australia
    Well I don't believe in de-tuning as a precaution for shipping.

    At least one manufacturer is clear on this subject.
    From Larivee Guitars:

    "NEVER take tension off the strings when shipping your guitar. This is a dangerous practice as the machine heads and headstock are the heaviest parts of the guitar, and the string tension from proper tuning serves to counteract the stresses these parts place on the instrument. Some people on the internet will tell you that loosening the strings is a good idea but it is NOT."

    I have shipped new and second hand guitars from the USA to Australia, both acoustic and electric. Never de-tuned and never had a negative outcome.
    ColoCoug, Groutsch and thunder58 like this.
  5. ZackyDog

    ZackyDog Friend of Fred

    Feb 6, 2015
    In the USA
    jan murphy instructions.png

    I prepared this for a friend, who shipped my G6122-1962 from Renton, WA, to Fairifeld, CT.
    CaliforniaSlim, Tom_L, Stefan and 2 others like this.
  6. calebaaron666

    calebaaron666 Friend of Fred

    Aug 15, 2018
    Portland, Maine
    I’ve only shipped a guitar with regular tension. Floating bridge and all.
    It was a success.
    I’ve received two guitars with detuned strings and the floating bridge fell off the guitar and was found loose in the case both times.
    I suppose if one is going to detune, they oughta tape the bridge down or take it off.
    mrfixitmi and wabash slim like this.
  7. drmilktruck

    drmilktruck I Bleed Orange

    May 17, 2009
    Plymouth, MN
    In Bob Taylor’s book, he says Taylor Guitars ships their guitars tuned up. I would agree with removing the floating bridge if you do though loosen them though. I have seen them move during shipping.
  8. thunder58

    thunder58 Super Moderator Staff Member

    Dec 23, 2010
    tappan ny
    Admin Post
    I would do what @ZackyDog recommends but would not remove the bridge . I'd just hold it in place with blue painters tape
  9. radd

    radd Country Gent

    Dec 27, 2017
    Santa cruz
    I received a shipped Tennessee Rose PE that had a pinned bridge. The cardboard box was crumpled on the bottom end indicating the box had been dropped. As a result of the impact the bridge and base were knocked over, the metal bridge separated from the base and rattled around under the Bigsby causing some minor surface scratches. The impact also cracked the bottom of the guitar case along the seam.

    The case was replaced and the company compensated me for the few small scratches.

    I tape the non secured bridges, even pinned bridges, in place for shipping. I also de tune slightly.
    mrfixitmi likes this.
  10. Merc

    Merc Country Gent

    May 6, 2017
    Reverb recommends you loosen strings at least on a regular guitar.

    When I left for a few months before and arrived back, some of the guitars tuning went higher than standard pitch. Which is worse on the neck, detuned or increased tension if tuned high? I don’t know which would be safer on the headstock from snapping if dropped hard causing a whiplash effect.

    Again, the big question is if the bridge is pinned. Thinking about it, I wouldn’t if it was not pinned unless the I removed the bridge. But I would then wrap the bridge entirely and wrap stuff under the strings so as not to scratch the body. You may want to first put some painters tape first two sides (top and bottom) of the bridge too. Just for a faster set up upon arrival.
    thunder58 likes this.
  11. swivel

    swivel Country Gent

    May 13, 2018
    I loosen them slightly. I try to support the headstock within the case LIGHTLY. Shipping people just drop, or toss boxes, the larger the box, the more they do it. A headstock can break just from momentum of the drop if it lands flat. The neck is supported but the headstock tries to continue from the weight /momentum.
    The shipper can say "there is no box damage, I dont think we are responsible" ... which is BS.
    mrfixitmi and Groutsch like this.
  12. Scott Fraser

    Scott Fraser Country Gent

    Jan 14, 2012
    Los Angeles
    I think a guitar is best under proper tension, balancing strings vs truss rod, but I'm no luthiery expert.
    What I do, and it feels important to me, though nobody else seems to do it, is to put a piece of light cardboard between the strings and the fretboard. I've had a couple of instances where a guitar arrived with nicks in a few frets, from the impact of being dropped and slamming the strings against the frets.
    Also, filling any open spaces in the case, especially around the headstock and neck, with bubblewrap so it can't slosh around in there. I used T shirts when I shipped my Strat to myself from South America to California.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2020
    ColoCoug and Groutsch like this.
  13. j.s.c

    j.s.c Country Gent

    Aug 19, 2008
    I'm full Zacky package : full strings detune + bridge in the box's case IS AN ABSOLUTE NECESSITY for hollowbodies !

    Here is my worst experiment (which is ok compare to some other stories). You never know how the parcel will be treated... breaking a bigsby hinge inside its case, which is inside a well protected cardbox parcel with bubbles and paperballs, it's a thing...

    Btw, the aluminium bridge bar was freely traveling flying inside the case on every move of the parcel ... thus it could have scratched finish... which wasn't the case hopefully.
    hogrider16 likes this.
  14. Jelly Roll Horton

    Jelly Roll Horton Country Gent

    Nov 10, 2017
    Portland, OR
    Was that my Rose? :eek: I can’t remember how it was packed when you shipped it to me, but it arrived safely :).
  15. Groutsch

    Groutsch Gretschie

    Jun 9, 2018
    Maryland, US
    Maybe this should be a poll. I'm with the slight detuners, probably a whole step or so. I think that keeps enough tension on the neck and bridge to keep them in place, while reducing the stress on the neck and strings.

    By the way, I tune up or down gradually so that the neck's force remains distributed among the strings. Also, I start on the low E when tuning up and on the high E when tuning down, so unequal tension is borne by the thicker strings and the high E is less likely to snap.
    mrfixitmi likes this.
  16. ZackyDog

    ZackyDog Friend of Fred

    Feb 6, 2015
    In the USA
    Yikes!:eek: I've never seen a broken Bigsby(!) Sorry to hear about that.
  17. Lockupyourfatdog

    Lockupyourfatdog Synchromatic

    Aug 8, 2016
    Everett wa
    I’ve seen lots of debate on this and several videos on it. General conclusion is it doesn’t really matter. The more important thing is putting something between the fretboard and the strings. I’ve Had many guitars delivered from a music company I deal with. They’ve all arrived close to in tune. The pro lines have been in tune and with something between the strings and fretboard
    mrfixitmi and calebaaron666 like this.
  18. Scott

    Scott Country Gent

    Jun 27, 2008
    Winston-Salem, NC
    Right. I bought a Gibson L-5 years ago. Previous owner shipped it from Hawaii to North Carolina using the blue tape to keep the bridge in place. It traveled a long way and got here in beautiful shape.
    thunder58 likes this.
  19. BorderRadio

    BorderRadio Country Gent

    Mar 6, 2014
    Phoenix, AZ
    I once had a FedEx manager INSIST I completely remove the strings before he would let me ship my guitar. He claimed it was FedEx policy. I told the guy that I ship guitars all the time, and receive brand new guitars from big retailers and they are fully tuned. The guy was very pushy, nosy, pretty much a jerk. I suspect he had other problems going on, but there was no excuse. Anyways he no longer works there because of that incident, smh.

    Where the guy got that idea of removing every string is beyond me. It is not FedEx policy.

    I'm in the detune the strings camp. I keep all my old shipping boxes so I wrap stuff up better than the way they ship new. I try to double box but that's pricey. I have yet to ship a hollowbody though, and I'd probably follow ZackyDogs diagram with a fully floating bridge. I save those 'string saver' pads that come on Prolines too. All comes in handy when and if it's time to sell :)
    Dave Murray, mrfixitmi and ZackyDog like this.
  20. radd

    radd Country Gent

    Dec 27, 2017
    Santa cruz
    Yup, the case took the hit and saved the guitar. The guitar, as you know, ended up with just a couple very minor scratches under the Bigsby.

    I filled every square inch of space inside the guitar case when I shipped it to you in its brand new case. I de tuned the guitar and if I remember correctly I secured the bridge so it could not move.
    Jelly Roll Horton likes this.
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