The ideal--and less ideal--ways to protect your instrument on an airplane
Flying with gear is always a stressful task that shouldn't take as much planning as it winds up having to. I've flown around the world with guitars and amps and been amazed at the amount of work it's sometimes taken and the amount of prayer that's always given. Much has been written about how to navigate the TSA’s rules and regulations for the safety of your instrument. In fact, there’s a petition sponsored by the American Federation of Musicians to add language to a bill currently in congress that would streamline all airlines’ instrument carry-on policies. Until that becomes a reality, however, the fate of your instruments is in the hands of individual airline employees and baggage handlers. Because of this, there are a few extra precautions you should take to guard your belongings when traveling by air.
The Ideal Options
For starters, buying an extra seat on the plane is the safest way to go, but that simply isn’t reality for most musicians. If you can’t, try to use the instrument as a carry on item. Use a well-padded gig bag and ask the flight attendant if they will store it with the crew’s luggage. This has worked out pretty well for me in the past, but it's a gamble. If they don't have room in the overhead compartments or won't give up any closet space they can force you to either leave it or gate-check it. And a soft gig bag under a plane spells disaster.
Checking an instrument is not the end of the world. If you find yourself flying often, I highly suggest buying an ATA (Air Travel Approved) case. Yes, they are expensive, but more than likely so was your instrument that you hold near and dear to your heart, and getting it from A to B is a high priority. It's a one-time expense that will ease some of the stress of traveling. These cases are typically 3/8" thick plywood with a Formica laminate on top, aluminum edging, and oversized ball corners with a foam interior that should be cut to fit your instrument snug tight. A bit of warning, though, is you will pay an overage charge for size and quite possibly weight for any ATA case.
The Other Options
Expensive ways aside, you can also employ a few little tricks to pack your guitar well in the hardshell case that came with your instrument. As a precaution, I always detune the strings to take the extra tension off of the neck before it gets packed. The right amount of pressure hitting a headstock that has full string tension—especially angled ones—will be enough to decapitate your guitar. Once, you’ve detuned, go buy some bubble wrap from an office supply store. Wrap around the headstock and place the guitar in the case. Depending on how deep the pocket is where the headstock lays, you may want to put a little more there before the guitar goes in. Be very careful not to put too much—you don't want the bubble wrap to be pushing that end of the guitar up out of the case.
You can also cut a long strip of bubble wrap and lay it the full length of the strings to take up any extra space there may be between the guitar’s top and the lid of the guitar case. On cases that aren’t the tightest fit, I've cut a second long strip and placed it between the sides of the guitar and the walls of the case. The idea is to eliminate any and all areas where the guitar can rattle around.
After you get the guitar situated snugly in its case, tape the latches down. There's no need to wrap the whole case with tape—a piece the same length of the latch will do nicely to keep them from coming open at inopportune times. You definitely don't want latches opening and getting broken off, or even worse, the case lid coming open. TSA will pull the tape off for security checks, but they should put it back before approving it and placing it on the conveyor belt. If they don't, tell them to. It's always a good idea to watch security go through anything you check in with an airline.
Nothing I've described is a surefire way of protecting your belongings from being tossed around by a baggage handler, but at least you're as prepared as you possibly can be for them. Remember, “Murphy” is out there... try to eliminate him wherever possible.
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
Outlaw Effects introduces their next generation of NOMAD rechargeable battery-powered pedal boards.
Available in two sizes, NOMAD ISO is a compact, versatile tool that offers the convenience of a fully powered board plus the additional freedom of not having to plug into an outlet. NOMAD ISO is ideal for stages with limited outlet availability, quick changeovers, busking outdoors, temporary rehearsal locations, and more!
NOMAD ISO builds upon the legacy of the ultra-convenient and reliable NOMAD rechargeable pedalboard line originally launched in 2018. The brand new NOMAD ISO editions feature eight isolated outputs (1 x 9V DC, and 1 switchable 9V/12V DC) for even more versatility and clean, quiet power. With an integrated lithium-ion battery pack boasting 12800mAh capacity, NOMAD ISO can fuel a wide array of pedals, and will last over 10 hours* on a single charge.
Each NOMAD ISO pedal board includes adhesive hook & loop pedal-mounting tape, eight (8) standard DC connector cables, and one (1) reverse polarity DC cable, giving you everything you need to build your ultimate "off-the-grid" rig. A rugged, road-ready padded gig bag with shoulder strap is also included, to safely protect your gear while you're on the move.
NOMAD ISO S: MSRP $309 / MAP: $249
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 5 ¼"
NOMAD ISO M: MSRP $349 / MAP $279
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 11"
More info: https://www.outlawguitareffects.com.
Dunable announce new Minotaur model featuring Grover Rotomatic Keystone tuners.
The Minotaur's DNA is rooted in their classic Moonflower model, which Dunable discontinued in 2017. However, they have long since wanted to create a fresh take on a carved top guitar design, and various attempts to rework the Moonflower led them to a brand new concept with the Minotuar.
Dunable's goal is to give the player a guitar that plays fast and smooth, sounds amazing, and gives maximum physical ergonomic comfort. The Minotaur's soft and meticulous contours, simple and effective control layout, and 25.5" scale length are designed to easily meet this criteria.
- 25.5" scale length
- Dual Humbucker
- one volume, one tone, push pull for coil splitting
- Grover Rotomatic Keystone tuners
- Grover Tune O Matic bridge with brass Kluson top-mount tailpiece
- jumbo nickel frets
- 12" fretboard radius
This full-amp-stack-in-a-box pedal brings a new flavor to the Guitar Legend Tone Series of pedals, Missing Link Audio’s flagship product line.
Adding to the company’s line of premium-quality effects pedals, Missing Link Audio has unleashed the new AC/Overdrive pedal. This full-amp-stack-in-a-box pedal – the only Angus & Malcom all-in-one stompbox on the market – brings a new flavor to the Guitar Legend Tone Series of pedals, Missing Link Audio’s flagship product line.
The AC/OD layout has three knobs to control Volume, Gain and Tone. That user-friendly format is perfect for quickly getting your ideal tone, and it also offers a ton of versatility. MLA’s new AC/OD absolutely nails the Angus tone from the days of “High Voltage” to "Back in Black”. You can also easily dial inMalcom with the turn of a knob. The pedal covers a broad range of sonic terrain, from boost to hot overdrive to complete tube-like saturation. The pedal is designed to leave on all the time and is very touch responsive. You can get everything from fat rhythm tones to a perfect lead tone just by using your guitar’s volume knob and your right-hand attack.
- Three knobs to control Volume, Gain and Tone
- Die-cast aluminum cases for gig-worthy durability
- Limited lifetime warranty
- True bypass on/off switch
- 9-volt DC input
- Made in the USA