From the May/June 2019 issue of Acoustic Guitar | BY MAMIE MINCH
I have a vintage steel-bodied resonator guitar and I’d like to display it. Would hanging it on the wall alter the setup or damage it in any way? If so, are there any other types of stands you feel are safer to use for display purposes? —Danial McCourt
Thanks for writing in—this is such a common question! It sounds like you, along with many of my clients, would like your favorite guitar to be on display at home. I support this idea, for a couple of reasons. First, you get to show off your handsome resonator guitar! I’m with you. I still think nothing looks cooler than vintage Nationals: The stylish lines, the great finishes, with worn-in patinas—they’re good-looking hunks of metal. I keep mine on the wall in my living room and I love seeing it there.
The second reason it’s great to have a guitar hanging around is that it’s in your sightline. You’ll be way more likely to pick it up and do that thing that we’re all here to talk about—play it! As a creative person with a day job, I struggle with finding time and motivation to make space for writing and playing. This is a sort of life hack: if all you have to do is reach up and grab your guitar, you’re more likely to actually play it.
Of course, I need to play the role of the conservative luthier a little and say: the absolute safest place for your guitar is in the case, stored in a stable environment. It won’t suffer any unexpected bumps or bruises if it’s safely tucked away. If you are going to have it out, a floor stand would be my least favorite choice; you can’t predict when a dog’s tail, an absentminded guest, or even (gasp!) you might knock it over. This often means a headstock break, but punctures and dings are also common injuries. Getting it up on the wall, in a padded hanger, is the better option; it’s simply more out of the way.
Part of your question is purely mechanical—will the guitar suffer at all from hanging by its headstock? The answer is no. It’s generally accepted as a safe way to hang a guitar because the downward exertion from the weight of the guitar isn’t nearly as strong as the pull of the strings in the opposite direction. Be sure to check that the tuning machines won’t be damaged by the hanger, and see that it is coated or covered in some inert, soft material that won’t damage your guitar’s finish.
The last thing we want to think about, of course, is humidity. (Yes, even with a metal-bodied guitar.) In a perfect world, our homes would be 70 degrees and 50 percent humidity, but that’s a struggle for most of us to maintain, as temperatures and relative humidity fluctuate throughout weather changes. So, get an inexpensive hygrometer and have a look at how your home measures up. You may need to run a humidifier in the room with your guitar during the winter when the heat is on. And of course, keep an eye on the humidity and temperature. If, despite your best efforts, you keep getting humidity-related problems, like cracks, maybe this isn’t the right guitar to keep out.
All that said, I still feel that a guitar that’s been played and paid attention to is one that’s doing its job, even if that means it gets a little dusty now and again.
Mamie Minch is the co-owner of Brooklyn Lutherie and an active blues performer.
Get stories like this in your inbox
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2019 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.