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How to Ship Musical Instruments (and Save!)

By Rob Zaleski, May 8, 2018

When you sell musical supplies on a marketplace like Reverb, Amazon, or eBay, one of your biggest challenges is having to figure out the best way to ship musical instruments. Due to the weight, irregular size, and fragile nature of most instruments, it can be costly and difficult. Recently, ShippingEasy partnered with Reverb on a new integration, so it seems like a perfect time to discuss how to ship musical instruments that are commonly sold on Reverb and other marketplaces!

Supplies to Ship Musical Instruments


No matter what instrument you are shipping, there are some basic necessities you should have on hand.

  • Plenty of newspaper or brown Kraft paper you can crumple up
  • Sturdy packing tape
  • Appropriate-sized boxes
  • Guitars pose a particular challenge due to their size and shape
  • You can find guitar-sized packing boxes at a local guitar store (some give them away for free) and office supplies stores like Staples or Office Depot, or you could even try a local storage company
  • Reverb carries 3-packs of guitar-sized boxes, as do many other marketplaces
  • Consider double-boxing, if possible
  • Bubble wrap
  • Rubber bands
  • Optional: DO NOT LAY FLAT stickers

According to multiple sources we’ve researched, avoid packing peanuts when shipping a guitar, and possibly other instruments, if you can find a better option. Mess aside, unless you really pack them in, they can shift and potentially not offer the level of security you need to keep your instruments safe. If you want to use packing peanuts, try packing them in a plastic bag to keep them together, and then use that as your packing material.

Now, let’s get into some specifics.

ship musical instruments shippingeasy reverb

Shipping a guitar


Shipping a guitar can prove to be one of the most challenging due to its size specifications. That aside, you also have to worry about the strings catching on anything in the box (if it’s not in a guitar case), the neck getting warped or broken, the fragile nature of a guitar in general, the list goes on.

Let’s look at some important steps to prepare your guitar and box for shipping.

  • In the box, create a bottom layer of crumpled newspaper or Kraft paper for the guitar/guitar case to sit on top of
  • Loosen the strings slightly to release tension (not necessary to completely detune the guitar, just release the pressure)
  • Use newspaper or microfiber towels to fill in loose space around the base of the guitar inside the case (if shipping in a hard case) to keep it from sliding around
  • Our research found two schools of thought when it comes to the guitar head
    • Some professionals, like Reverb, suggest elevating the neck of the guitar with crumpled paper
    • Others suggest padding (not packing) paper just below the meeting point of the neck and the head to avoid shock
    • Still others suggest neither, so we will leave that up to you
  • Reverb also suggests paper between the strings and the frets
  • Close the case and shake it a bit to see if you hear movement—if you do, add more padding of paper or towels to stabilize the guitar

Once the guitar is firmly packed into the case, it’s time to pack the case in the box. Since you’ve already created a bottom layer of crumpled paper in the box, place the case in the box. Liberally pack more paper around the open spaces, as tightly as possible. If done correctly, you should have a difficult time moving the case with your hand.

After you’ve filled the empty spaces in the box, create a top layer as you did at the bottom. Tape all edges firmly. You may consider adding DO NOT LAY FLAT stickers to each side of the box to avoid heavier boxes ending up on top of the guitar box, potentially crushing it.

Shipping a drum kit


Much like a guitar, when shipping a drum kit, it’s important to fill all empty space and create buffer space to avoid damage from drops or collisions.

Reverb created a great video explaining all the details of properly packing up your kits.

Many of the tips discussed for shipping guitars and drums should be applied when you ship musical instruments of all other shapes and sizes:

  • Fill all empty space with newspaper or Kraft paper
  • Secure and separately wrap pieces that could break off during transit
  • Perform a “shake test” to make sure your instrument is securely packaged before taping the box closed and weighing it for shipping

How to Save When You Ship Musical Instruments


We found many who ship musical instruments defaulted to UPS and FedEx. If you aren’t keeping USPS in consideration, especially if you use a shipping solution like ShippingEasy to get Commercial Plus shipping rates, you could be vastly overpaying.

Dimensional Weight


One thing you need to keep in mind, particularly when you ship musical instruments that are larger, is that your shipping costs may be calculated based on Dimensional Weight. This means the shipping cost is based more on the amount of space the package would take up on a truck rather than its actual physical weight.

For example, a guitar may come in at around 20 lbs with packing materials. However, because of its dimensions, you may be charged the Dimensional Weight, which for USPS is around 43 lbs and for UPS is a whopping 60 lbs! Take a look at the cost difference below.

Carrier Choice


You’re probably aware that choosing the right carrier can make a difference in your shipping rates. When you ship a musical instrument, that difference can be major. Here is an example of how shipping pans out for a guitar using USPS and UPS.

Guitar, 20 lbs, 52” x 20” x 8” guitar box:

  • UPS: Zone 6, Delivery up to 5 days, DIM weight of 60 lbs, ship cost $85.89
  • USPS: Zone 6, Delivery in 2 days, DIM weight of 43 lbs, ship cost $66.23

As you can see, choosing the right carrier and shipping method can save you nearly $20 shipping for one item! Not only that, but using USPS Priority Mail is likely to get the item there faster than USPS Ground. This will, of course, vary depending on which instrument you’re shipping and how you package it, but is certainly worth noting.

If you sell musical instruments, Reverb is a marketplace you should be making use of. And to ship musical instruments, use ShippingEasy to get the best rates, automatic order downloads from Reverb (and all major stores and marketplaces), an easy-to-use platform, and much more.

Learn more about ShippingEasy for Reverb sellers

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Rob Zaleski

Content Marketing Manager at ShippingEasy
I'm a digital content and social media nerd with a passion for telling stories, helping connect people, and finding joy in the details.

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