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.

Have a question for Damian Erskine? Send it to [email protected]. Check out Damian’s instructional books, Right Hand Drive and The Improviser’s Path.

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  1. I hang mine and have for years. Including an old epiphone that has had the headstock broken off 3 times and been reglued each time. No issues at all. They don’t even really go out of tune. I recently pulled down a fretless I haven’t played in 2 or 3 years, and it was perfectly in tune (being a fretless there’s a joke in there somewhere).

  2. Tyler

    To avoid temperature changes, never hang them on a wall that is an external wall on the other side… only internal walls.

  3. Sebastian

    Mine hangs all the time. Only take care is in perfect perpendicular position depending on the shape of the headstock. You may need to twist the hanger a little for that matter.

  4. that bass guy

    I wouldn’t do this for other reasons. With the instrument constantly exposed to changing temperature conditions and just plain old dust flying around the room, there are bound to be repercussions. That being said I think there’s a difference between displaying electric instruments and acoustic. I keep my electric one in its case to protect the electronics from dust, etc. I keep my string bass leaning against a corner out of direct light and away from heat sources. I am also fastidious about keeping the instrument humidified whether through an actual humidifier or a dampit. For an instrument that I play virtually every day this system works and I’ve been doing it with my main bass for over 30 years.

    • Gabbs

      If dust made electronics stop working, most folks’ computers would have bitten the dust long ago. It’s unsightly, but benign.

  5. Just this past weekend I asked the same question to the luthier I brought my bass in for a set up. He said since my case wasn’t air tight it doesn’t really matter, and also he keeps his guitars at home out on stands like I do.

  6. Sharon

    I live in Colorado where it is quite dry. I always humidify my solid-wood acoustic guitars, but I don’t humidify my electric bass (which I keep in the gig bag) and my cheap (laminated wood) acoustic bass, which hangs on my wall. Do electric instruments that are solid-body need to be humidified? Does lack of humidity damage them when you hang on a wall? What about laminated wood acoustic instruments? My one big experience with lack of humidity is when I moved to Colorado from Louisiana and my solid-wood acoustic started coming unglued…I had never heard of humidifying ANYTHING back in Lousiana! I’d appreciate hearing the wealth of info you all have out there! Thanks!

    • My father moved to CO a few years back, and the bridge pulled up on one of his guitars due to the lack of moisture. But, too much moisture will cause the same problem. The main issue with having your electric bass dry out, is that the neck will have shifting occur. It’s a good idea to keep it somewhat hydrated, and the easiest way to do this is to oil your finger board on an occasional basis. When I say “oil”, I mean edible oils (I like olive oil because of the scent). With a finished finger board (say, a solid maple neck), you won’t be able to oil the wood because the finish is in the way. But, that also means the wood is not “breathing” as much as an unfinished board (rosewood, Ebony, etc) would do.

      For my guitars, I usually oil the finger board whenever my fret ends start to feel sharp. I do my fret work in the summer when the humidity is high, so that I can gauge the dryness of the wood using the frets as a barometer. But, I still live in Maryland, Colorado doesn’t get nearly the “swampy season” we do here.

      • Sharon

        You know, Dustin, that’s a great reminder for me. I oil my guitar fingerboard every time I change strings (I use a lemon-oil) but because I don’t change bass strings as often, I don’t do that regularly. I need to get that done, especially as we head into winter where our furnace-dried air will really hit the instruments hard! Thanks!

        • Dan Gard

          The folks in the know say never use lemon oil and recommend linseed oil. Check out Dave’s World Of Fun Stuff on youtube.

    • pdgood

      My luthier pointed out that he is often asked to file the ends of frets to make them smoother along the side of the neck. He tells his customers to consider that when the humidity changes (I think he said when you have less) the wood shrinks slightly and of course the frets don’t. This leaves the frets sticking out a bit. The solution is to properly humidify the air that the guitar is in, thus saving the unnecessary fret repair.

  7. Buy an American-made Fender bass. Set the neck relief where you like it. Let the graphite rods in the neck keep it that way for 5 years. In 5 years you may need to loosen the truss rod a quarter turn. Done.

    • Brett Jensen

      I agree with Brock. I just wish my Stratocaster was as stable as my P-bass.

  8. Just a thought from a mechanical perspective. Each string has over 10 kg tension to it, for a total of 50-90 kg tension on the neck due to the strings. How much exactly depends on string number and gauge. The body weight itself of maybe 4 kg is negligible compared to the stresses caused by the string tension. That being said, the neck at the nut, especially for angled headstocks, is a weak point, and this is exactly where you’re hanging it from. But I’ve only heard of breakages there due to falls.

    And here’s my horror story, luckily happened just to a cheap guitar. The hanger fell out of the wall one day, and the instrument with it. She survived, a bit bruised. Lesson: on old brickwork, even three dowels may not me enough. to hold a few kg. Two more anger technology considerations: Telecaster type slender headstocks may sometimes slip through hangers when the protective foam compresses and thins out over time. And some foam or rubber materials will stain light necks (I was warned by the stores who sell them). Then again, so will the foams on floor stands.

    Me, I hangs them, and I love looking at them.

  9. Dave

    What about Hipshot d-tuners – can hanging on a wall or stand bend the d-tuner?

    • Jamie

      I’ve had my Fender Jazz Bass Special with Hipshot D-tuner hanging for over a year and I’ve not noticed any issue with it whatsoever. The lever is resting against the stop built into the tuner itself so there likely is a bit more pressure on the screws holding the tuner in but, again, it’s nowhere near the tension exerted by the E string itself.

  10. Doc.Hoc.

    I live at the border of Louisiana and Texas when winter time comes my bass neck changes big time, having to adjust my truss rod , retuning during winter time all the time , I hate damp cold weather, its good for nothing but sleeping. Damp cold gets in your bones , if you have arthritis or pain of any kind its 3 times as bad as if you lived in Colorado.
    Seems a neck thru bass wall hanging would be okay but a bolted on neck makes me wonder if wall hanging doesn’t pull on the screws of the neck with the weight of body pulling down.
    I lay my bass down on the coach and cover it for the night because of dust and dirt.
    I have a maple neck , rosewood etc. dries out very fast from the heat and humidity of this area.
    If I could I would move tomorrow to Colorado Springs.

  11. Phil

    Be aware that some types of foam/rubber used to
    Cover the metal hanger can damage certain types of finishes, I had a roscoe that I kept on a stand that hung the bass from the beck and after a month or so of sitting, the chemicals in the foam rubber ate away the lacquer finish down to bare wood, needless to say I was quite upset

    • pdgood

      Yep. Foam rubber will turn to glue over time. If you ever see an old piece of it you’ll notice how it discolors first (gets darker) then becomes gooey. Hard to guess how that would interact with a finish.

  12. Marco

    I have a Fender USA P-Bass and a Fender Japan J-Bass. First is 20 years old, second is 30 years old. No problems with dust, humidity, hanging or uncareful usage or storage. Always in tune, always ready to play, nothing else to think about.

  13. As someone only practice being a luthier for the last 3 ish years now, I can say in my opinion that there really isn’t any Ill effect with having the instrument hang on your wall. Though of course, like has already been said, unless you have a temperature and humidity controlled room, it’s definitely best to keep them inside a hardshell case with humidifier. Especially if you live in an environment like my own experiencing minus 35 celcious to plus 35 celcious. I have once had a customer bring me a guitar that he said he opened up his case inside a warm house after the guitar had just been brought in from his car on a cold day and the neck completely cracked at the body from the sudden change in temperature. I now always recomend letting your instrument sit for at least an hour before opening it up to allow it to adjust in those severe situations.

  14. pdgood

    I acquired a Gibson banjo that I took in to my luthier for repair. It was very old and had been played very little throughout its life yet the binding was coming off. The luthier said that it had likely been left in its case most of its life. The finish (lacquer, I think) used on many old instruments releases small amounts of fumes which over time when trapped in a case will deteriorate glue bindings. He recommended not storing long term in cases for this reason. Note that not all modern finishes are the same as old ones and may not have this effect.

  15. Alfonso

    I must say that I have noticed the coverng varnish has break on the back of the neck of two my guitars, an Spanish Alhambra and a hollowbody Eko. So I stopped hanging guitars on the wall. Floor stands for me.

  16. All my instruments (guitars and basses) are hanged on a brick wall, and each time I look at them I have this very same question … Will there be any harm ? Many thanks for this answers and all the comments … I have my answers …. It all depends ;oD

  17. Good question. Was sort of wondering the same thing. But so far my two basses have been fine after 2 years hanging.

  18. tubedude

    Beware, the plasticizers and solvents that escape as the glue and other materials used in the case can damage an instruments finish, tarnishing metal and hazing the finish. When I get a new instrument I hang it, and leave the case open to let the vapors out. After 2 years I feel I can safely cage my beasts if necessary.

  19. Bradlee TheDawg

    SHouldn’t hurt it a bit mechanically – in fact if anything is probably good for the neck – but what MIGHT do some damage (to your finish that is) is the rubber or foam pads on the hanger. Be careful about that – particularly with Lacquer or Shellac finishes. I’ve seen horrible finish damage on older Gibsons and even Fender basses from hangers. Urethane finishes – those are pretty bulletproof but still… be careful. Leather might not be any better – you don’t know what’s in the leather and there are plenty of solvent-based dyes and etc. you don’t want trapped next to the finish of your bass. SOLUTION – Buy some throw-away cotton gloves book/antique conservators wear – cut the fingers off them and use the cut-off fingers to cover the rubber pad/bumper/etc. You can’t go wrong with clean white cotton touching your bass’ finish. PS – UV light can also raise cane with instrument finishes – unless you want your cherry red Gibson fading to Orange – take heed as to the interior/exterior wall comments – drafty old buildings…. direct heat sources… windows with no UV protection and the sun beating in…. all really bad for finishes and set-up. The safest place for your basses is in their case, with the humidity and temp monitored. A smaller space like an interior closet can be made pretty controllable. It depends what you’re hanging – if they’re daily ‘players’ that’s different than a ’58 hollow Gibby or something.

  20. Bradlee TheDawg

    It’s ‘celsius’ I believe ;-) More importantly – if you’re a Luthier, don’t underestimate the (bad) effect of the sun beating on an instrument hanging on a wall (I’m thinking in your shop) . Make sure all the glass is UV-controlled (most modern windows are – but it’s cheap enough to put some UV film on them to be sure… and older windows – forget it, they def. need help. Sun can start to fade a finish and/or darken and/or lighten noticeably in a few days – especially if the guitar/bass is hanging so half of ti stays in shadow while the other half gets direct sun. Think “tan lines” in reverse.