Should You Lend Your Guitar? [Guitar Borrowing Etiquette]

Lending and borrowing etiquette is a topic as old as man itself. Most men do not lend their guitars and for good reason, but let’s say you do decide to lend your equipment out to someone. Some things you should know…

You should only ever lend your guitar to someone who you trust and who has shown that they take care of their things well too. Don’t lend to inexperienced guitarists and make sure that you’re both clear on what is permissible and what is not.

There’s nothing wrong with handing the borrower a contract that outlines every conceivable situation and what is allowed in each and what the consequences for others will be. Communication isn’t a bad thing.

Is it a good idea to lend your guitar to a friend or bandmate?

It really depends on how well you know the person. Most people say they wouldn’t lend their gear to anyone. I am in that group, mostly because my guitar is like a piece of my soul or my firstborn child. Would you lend someone your firstborn child?

I would rather they ask someone else because I know that if a friend borrowed my guitar from me and returned it damaged, we may never speak again.

On a serious note, it’s generally not a good idea to lend anything you value highly to anyone. There’s a saying with lending: “don’t lend someone something unless you don’t intend to get it back.”

This holds true in my opinion. If you happen to have a spare guitar lying around that you never use, that should be your go-to for lending.

Either way, you should go over the instrument with your borrower before they take it, noting any existing damage so that an argument doesn’t start later.

What to do if something goes wrong?

This should be discussed beforehand so you’re both in agreement. The last thing you want is to find out something got damaged and then have a disagreement on what reparations need to be made.

If something does get broken or damaged, it should be the person borrowing who fixes or replaces the damaged part and if adjustments are made, they need to be reset.

If they refuse to repair the damage and it’s more of a cosmetic thing like a scratch or a bump, it’s perfectly within reason to end that friendship. You don’t want a friend who doesn’t respect your stuff.

If it’s a costly thing, you could even sue for damages.

A side-note on borrowing etiquette. If you’re borrowing from someone, and they don’t bring up care instructions and handling, you should bring it up. The burden rests heaviest on the borrower because it’s not your instrument at the end of the day.

Ways of saying no to a friend asking to borrow your guitar

When someone asks you if they can borrow your guitar, and you don’t want to lend it to them. You can simply say no. You don’t need to justify why you don’t want to borrow your guitar, it’s simply an instrument that is off-limits for you to lend out.

Let’s say you’re not that good with confrontation though. Here are a couple of good explanations for you to use:

  • You simply don’t borrow gear, and while you do trust your friend, you’d rather not borrow your guitar, to them or anyone else for that matter.
  • You could provide them with links to places where they can loan guitars online. That way, they can still get a solution for their problem.
    • rents guitars
    • If you live in Vancouver, their public library lends instruments.

At the end of the day, you should be as straightforward about it as possible. No if’s or but’s and don’t make excuses that leave them with potential wiggle room to offer a workaround. 

Especially don’t lie to someone about why you won’t lend them your stuff, it’ll make them respect you a lot less, even if they are putting you in a tough spot by asking. 

Reasons why lending a guitar could be a good idea

  • If your friend happens to be someone you trust, lending them your guitar opens up the possibility of lending their gear in the future. They’ll owe you one!
  • You could do a gear swap instead. Where they lend you a guitar of theirs that you’ve been eyeing while you lend them yours. That way there’s an equal risk, and most of the time these types of trades go better.
  • It could be a good idea to lend your guitar to someone that you know is an enthusiast and will take good care of your guitar. 
  • If your friend is a more experienced and skilled player, you could lend them your guitar, they’ll likely know how to take good care of it. You could also ask them to give you some tips on playing better down the line.

Things to do before lending a guitar

Discuss the lending period. Make sure you’re both in agreement on when your guitar should be returned by.

Go over the settings on your guitar. Make sure you’re both clear on what can be adjusted and what not. Some people prefer different string action, that’s something to be clear on whether it’s adjustable or not. Don’t get too pedantic here though, telling them they’re not allowed to adjust volume knobs is going too far.

Things to do if you borrow a guitar (or things to expect if you lend one)

If you’re the person borrowing, there are a couple of great things you can do to ensure that your friend is glad they lent you their guitar. Remember that you’re borrowing something that’s usually a very precious item for someone.

The keyword is appreciation.

You should always return the guitar clean. Before you return it, make sure you clean the neck and body and you may go so far as to clean the fretboard too. Try to return it in better condition than when you borrowed it.

To say thanks, you can return the guitar with a fresh pack of strings to go along with it. In this case, I would recommend just buying the strings rather than putting them on yourself. 

Your friend might not appreciate you just adding things to their guitar without letting them know.

In a similar vein, you could also return their guitar with a fresh pack of picks in the case. 

Buy them some lunch or a pizza. Most food items do well, especially with guys. Beer works too.

At the end of the day, it’s always a good idea to at least verbally thank your friend for lending you their guitar. 

These are at least a few ways to show appreciation when borrowing a guitar.

If you’re lending one though, you shouldn’t expect any of this to be the case. The most you can expect from the person borrowing your guitar is that they return it in the same condition it was when you lent it to them.