Can Hanging a Bass on the Wall Damage the Neck?
Q: I have several basses that I keep out of the case both on wall displays and on a Hercules stand for easy access. I’m wondering if there are any ill effects on the neck of the bass if it is left suspended by the headstock on a hanging stand for an extended period. Music stores do this all the time but it has always made me wonder.
A: I do exactly the same thing. I’ve never noticed any ill effects on the instruments.
I do however retune any basses that don’t get played very often in order to maintain the proper tension. This helps to avoid the neck bowing one way or the other too much. Even with consistently tuned instruments, unless they are stored in a climate controlled environment, the necks will give a bit, one way or the other, depending on temperature and humidity. Some necks move more than others, but all will move a bit (with exception of any graphite necked basses or extremely reinforced necks). I tend to check all of my basses occasionally and tweak the truss rod as necessary.
I also have a horror story which is appropriate to share here. At one time, I had a beautiful Taylor acoustic bass. It was Bubinga and looked wonderful on my wall. One day, while sitting at my desk working on some music, I heard a huge bang and the ringing of strings. It took me a second to realize that it was the Taylor. It then took me another second to pull it off of the wall and realize that the back seam had popped wide open, leaving a giant gap up the middle of the back of the body, from tail to neck. Apparently, there was a focused beam of light coming through one of my windows on the same wall as the instrument and it was heating the bass up pretty well.
Of course, any upright bassist or acoustic guitarist is probably giving me a big, “Duh!” right now, but it had never occurred to me to beware light streaming through windows and any instruments in the room. Food for thought. Try and keep your instruments away from any sudden changes in temperature or humidity, if possible and certainly keep them away from blazing direct sunlight in the summer (yikes). The bass still played well, surprisingly (I hung onto it for quite some time until I decided to move back to the East Coast for a hot minute and sold it to help fund the move).
While I am not overly careful with my instruments – I spend so much time with them that they become a part of EDC (Every Day Carry) it seems and get a little too flippant with them, balancing them on stools while I run into the next room, leaning them against chairs, etc. I am training myself to stop being overly casual with the tools of my trade. I do believe though, that they are more than tools. They are works of art and I love to look at them. I also believe that they are happier out in the world and not stuffed in cases day in and day out. I honestly don’t know if they would be maintained in better climate control in a case than on a wall or on a stand but they bring me joy. I’d rather look at my basses than a stack of cases. I do have one Gibson 330 from the 60’s that was my grandfather’s which lives in it’s case for not other reason than I want to keep it tucked away, and I don’t actually use it. The basses get used and they live on my wall.
Here’s what my luthier, Pete Skjold, had to say about it: “There is no issue because the weight of the body is supported by the tension of the strings so the whole thing just hangs as one piece with the focal point being the neck where it meets the hanger.”
I would love any luthiers or wood workers to give us your two cents. Should we all actually keep our instruments inside it’s case until gig or shed time? Or is it just as well to keep it in a stand? Does it actually help to maintain a straighter neck if it’s hanging by it’s headstock? Please share in the comments.