DE-TUNING GUITARS

 
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The question asked is whether one should de-tune or loosen guitar strings when storing a guitar or traveling, or not playing a certain guitar for a while?
 
Today adjustable truss rods eliminate the need to de-tune or loosen strings on a guitar; however, old habits and stand-by methods remain.
 
Back in the old days (very old) guitars did not have truss rods. We see that in the old Harmony, Silvertone, and vintage guitars (e.g., Martin). At some point in time a steel rod came into being in guitar necks. These ran the lenght of the guitar neck and provided much need stability to the neck. However, these rod inserts were not adjustable so there was no way to adjust neck relief if needed when strings curved the neck. So guitar necks lived or died over the course of the guitar's age under normal care and maintainance.
 
In older guitars, labels stated use medium or light strings to avoid neck curve. Players who used a heavier string de-tuned after playing to avoid a neck bow. This method worked in those days or for guitars with no neck rod (a.k.a. truss rod).
 
Fast forward to modern times, most guitars (acoustic and electric) have adjustable truss rods. Even some classical guitars are beginning to have them (e.g., Cordoba). Having truss rods in a guitar neck allows one to use different guages of strings and setup a guitar for different tunings. So the invent of the guitar truss rod was, and is, a major step forward; however, the truss rod is not the end all for a good playing guitar. Simply, many guitars with truss rods play poorly and do not adjust to any better position.
 
Today's guitars are made to hold up better to various conditions. Neck angles are set better, body geometrics are truer, and bracing patterns are more defined.
 
Norwithstanding the above information, many owners still de-tune strings when storing or traveling. Frankly, we advise owner's to slightly (meaning 1/2 step down) loosen strings if shipping a guitar or traveling by air. Maybe de-tuning is not needed on a well built guitar (e.g., Taylor, Martin, and etc): Maybe!
 
We won't argue that point for the better built guitars, that is, maintaining a steady balance on the neck created by the string tension offset by the truss rod. For weaker or level entry guitars its a judgment call and should be reviewed before traveling or putting the instrument in storage, or garage, or attic.
 
And its always a good idea to periodically check the status of the guitar that is stored or unplayed for a period of time, but overall it's fairly safe to leave a guitar tuned to pitch and maintaining a correct humidity to insure the instrument remains in a prime condition.