How to travel on a plane with a guitar - Myths and Tips
Author: Ian Bush Date Posted:12 March 2018
So around 20 years ago, I was working with Craig Upfold, one of Australia's renowned luthiers. And he told me a story during our travels and factory visits, about the time when he was working with Daniel Johns. This was when Silverchair were just starting out, when they first had a few hits, and Daniel Johns was flying to gigs in America and other parts of the world. He came back to Craig and he said, "You know, everytime that I get off the plane and go to the gig, I'm having problems with my guitars." And Craig said to him, "Well what do you do before you get on the plane?" Daniel replied, "I detune my strings." And Craig said to him, "Well look, you should really never detune your strings for a long period of time because it's going to affect the setup of your guitar." So after that, Daniel stopped detuning his guitars and the problem went away!
Now I just want to explain to you why it causes a problem when you detune your guitar, and what a lot of people do. So a lot of people will detune the guitar because they're worried about the pressure in the plane. The pressure in the plane is about the same pressure as being on a mountain, it's not particularly high pressure, and people worry that that will somehow affect the wood. But what they actually do by loosening the strings, is they make the neck bow backwards! The reason that happens is, when your truss rod is adjusted and your guitars are in pitch, it's pretty much straight or very close to straight. If you loosen the strings, the truss rod is still pushing against string tension that is no longer there, so it bows because the forces are out of balance. If you leave a piece of wood bent like that for any period of time, it wants to stay bent and you really don't want your guitar to be bent like that. So actually what you should be doing is you should be leaving your guitar in tune so that the neck is even and straight and the wood doesn't really change during that flight. So all you need to do is tune the guitar, find yourself a strong and sturdy case, and just simply put it in the case.
Now there is another solution to this, but it's not one that I would recommend. You can loosen off all the strings completely so that there's no tension, but you also have to loosen the truss rod so it's disengaged and also not providing any back-tension. For most people this is too difficult to do, so I wouldn't recommend this method.
If you still have problems when you arrive in your destination country, you can go to our tutorial on "How to adjust your truss rod" to make a fine adjustment of your truss rod and get everything working perfectly for you.
If you have any comments or questions, please leave them in the comments section below.