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It’s an iconic image: musicians taking a break from playing in the studio with multiple guitars propped up against different surfaces. That might make you wonder: Is it bad to lean your guitar against the wall?
You should never lean your guitar against the wall. Doing so makes it much more likely for the instrument to fall over and be damaged. While a stable guitar stand can be a temporary option, guitars should be stored in a case that offers protection from impacts and temperature and humidity changes.
Let’s look at why you shouldn’t lean your guitar against the wall, and also look at some other dos and don’ts when it comes to guitar storage.
Will Leaning Your Guitar Against A Wall Hurt It?
First, let’s put a myth to rest. You’ll hear a lot online about how leaning a guitar against the wall with the strings facing in could cause the neck to warp, so you should always rest it with the strings facing out from the wall.
That’s nonsense. As I mentioned earlier, and I’ll explain more momentarily, you should never rest your guitar against the wall, but that’s mostly to avoid a possible fall.
While the strings definitely do put a large amount of tension on the neck, that force is counteracted by the neck itself and in most guitars, the truss rod. The direction the neck is facing doesn’t affect the way the strings put pressure on the guitar.
This video explains the way a truss rod counteracts string tension.
The real reason you should never lean your guitar against a wall is the big risk you’re taking that your instrument will get bumped into, knocked over, or otherwise take a fall. And when — not if, but when, if you leave your guitar against the wall for long enough — it falls, you risk a whole range of damage.
In some cases, you might get some cosmetic damages — dings, scratches, dents — or a broken strap button. But in more serious falls you could break the headstock or the neck, twist the neck out of the proper position, or damage the tuning mechanisms.
On a guitar with a cutaway, you could break part of the wood, as well, depending on where and how hard the guitar hit the deck.
On some kinds of guitars — Gibsons have a bad reputation here, but they aren’t alone — the headstock can be quite prone to breaking in a fall. That’s because Gibson and many other guitar brands use a steeply pitched headstock.
The angle gives the strings more downward pressure, keeping them securely in the nut slots without using string trees like Fender and other brands do.
One drawback is that if the guitar falls, the headstock is likely to hit the ground first, taking all the weight of the instrument and concentrating it on the thinnest — and therefore weakest — section of the neck. In that case, the headstock is likely to break off and you’ll need to have a very serious repair done, as shown here.
Is It Bad To Rest A Guitar On Its Neck?
Another iconic image you’ll see is someone resting their guitar against an amplifier, with the back of the neck against the edge of the amp. While this does make a very striking image, it’s also a very unsafe way to position your guitar.
To see why just pick up an electric guitar. The body is usually between 1.5 inches and 2 inches thick. Most electric guitar necks, however, are just under an inch thick.
Even factoring in the hardness and strength differences between the woods commonly used for electric guitar necks, they have less surface area and can be quite easily damaged if someone runs into the instrument.
Mild damage could include dents and scuffs on the neck or fingerboard, while the chance of a crack in the neck is the obvious concern when it comes to major damage.
In the case of Fenders and other guitars with a similar bolt-on neck style, there is the possibility of breaking the neck pocket, as well.
Is It Bad To Rest A Guitar On Its Back?
If you’re on stage and need to put your guitar down, then, should you put it flat on the floor? While this might seem like a good idea at first, and it would cut down on the risk of the instrument falling over, it’s still not very safe.
With a guitar on the ground, someone stepping on it accidentally becomes far more likely. Add in typical stage conditions like dark paint and low light and you have a recipe for disaster.
And someone wouldn’t have to step on the body or neck to do damage, either. An accidental kick could knock a tuner off or bend the tuning mechanism arm, while running into the neck could pull on the bridge or damage the neck pocket.
How Should You Store Your Guitar?
The answer to this question will always be the same: In a hard shell case that has some kind of provision for humidity control.
A case does a good job protecting the instrument from drops and falls, as well as from being damaged when kicked or hit. A soft gig bag, like most inexpensive guitars come with, is often OK, because it’s heavily padded, but the guitar might still be damaged if something is dropped on or someone accidentally steps on the bag.
If you’re using a bag like that, keep the guitar up off the ground when in the bag.
When Is It OK To Use A Guitar Stand?
Many players, especially those who use multiple guitars during a show, like to have a guitar stand on stage. Stands, especially sturdy ones that can keep the instrument from falling out, are a good choice for temporarily holding a guitar.
They don’t make a great choice all the time, though. First, they don’t protect the instrument from being hit. Second, they don’t control temperature or humidity. And last, leaving the guitar in contact with just a few points on the stand might cause damage to the finish over time.
A case is a much better storage solution, but stands are great for keeping multiple instruments available when you might need to quickly switch between them.
It might not seem like a big deal to lean a guitar against the wall for just a moment, but anyone who’s ever watched their instrument fall away from them in slow motion and then hit the ground with a sickening thud — or, worse, crack — knows it can be quite dangerous.
But as I have mentioned already, there are a few solutions to keep your guitar safe when you aren’t holding it on stage or during practice. Using a stand that holds it securely and keeps it from falling out is one, and putting it back in its case or bag is another.
Doing that will keep your instrument safe, so you can keep playing it.
I’ve been a musician, particularly a guitarist, for more than 25 years. I love writing about guitars, gear, recording, music in general and more.