Our woodwind and brass instruments are often our most prized possession, so it’s important that we protect them at all costs. This includes storing them in the perfect musical instrument case. We’d like to click our fingers and magic one up for you, but it isn’t quite as simple as that. Only you know which case is right for you, but we’ve written this blog to help you figure it out!
The importance of a musical instrument case
The main reason why your musical instrument case is so important is because musical instruments are fragile and delicate creatures. We need to protect them from bumps, knocks, drops, and the elements in order to ensure they keep functioning as they should.
Not only are cases important to transfer your instrument from one place to another, but they are also used to store your instrument. As much as we like to think you’re playing ALL the time, we appreciate that occasionally people need to eat, sleep, got to the bathroom, etc. What do you do with your instrument at these times?
A protective case is the best solution. We’ve heard of people leaving instruments on their sofa (asking to be sat on!), on their bed (asking to be laid on!), and even on their floor (asking to be stood on!). Even if you pop your instrument on a stand, it can still be knocked over by children, pets, or even yourself. We’ll also add that an instrument left on a stand can collect dust and tarnish very quickly in certain environments. You get the idea…just put it away!
The Default Case
Usually, brand new instruments come beautifully protected in a brand new case. The case has been designed for your specific instrument, so it fits nicely, and it’s branded to match your instrument. But what if the outside of your case cracks, a handle breaks, or you purchased a second-hand instrument that didn’t come with a case at all? Or perhaps you’ve stumbled across this blog because you’ve realised there’s a whole world of wonderful alternatives out there that might better suit your needs?
Whatever the reason for looking at a new musical instrument case, here are 9 questions you should ask yourself before buying:
1) Where am I taking my musical instrument?
We know that no-one’s really going anywhere at the moment, but you need to think about where you were taking your instrument pre-COVID, and where you’ll be taking it post-COVID.
Perhaps you’re never really took your instrument anywhere, or are able to drive it from location to location. In which case, a standard case with a carry handle may be sufficient. If you do travel with it a lot, consider whether you need to travel light or have your hands free. Perhaps you ride a bicycle or motor bike, so rucksack straps would be best. Maybe you have a heavy school rucksack that you lug around at the same time, so a shoulder strap would be more suitable. If you walk with it for long distances, you may want to choose a case with backpack straps, ergonomically designed handles, or even wheels!
If you travel a lot on airplanes with your instrument, and have to keep it in the hold, you will want to invest in a flight case. Regardless of how many “FRAGILE” stickers you cover your case in, we’ve read enough horror stories to know better than to trust airline staff with our instruments. Flight cases are pricey, but will pay for themselves after several journeys, when considering the repair costs of an instrument that has been crushed under suitcases or haphazardly thrown out of the side of the plane. Not to mention the inconvenience and heartbreak caused…
2) What else do I need to carry with my musical instrument?
Do you want to store anything related to your musical instrument inside your case? If so, you need to consider if a case has space for your maintenance products (cork grease, valve oil, etc), instrument specific accessories (reeds, mutes, etc.), and general musical equipment (tuners, sheet music, etc.).
Try writing a list of everything you need with you on a regular basis. Then decide whether a separate bag would be better (you don’t want any oil leaking in your case!), if a case cover might work for you, or if you need your case to have extra compartments.
3) Will it fit your musical instrument?
Getting the right size instrument case is vital. By squeezing an instrument into a case that doesn’t fit properly, we can do a lot of damage. Ideally, you should take your instrument to your local music store, and try it inside cases. A little bit like shoe shopping! It should fit snuggly, and not move around when closed and carried. If that’s not possible, tell your local music store which make and model instrument you have, and they will be able to advise you. If in doubt, here are a few things to look out for:
- Do you play a vintage saxophone with bell keys on the left-hand side?
- Does your flute have a b-foot joint?
- Does your trombone have a trigger?
If you play a vintage or very rare instrument which leaves you with limited case options, some manufacturers can build custom cases!
4) How many instruments do I need at one time?
This may seem like a silly question, but definitely worth considering if you play more than one instrument. A clarinettist playing in an orchestra may want a case which will carry both a Bb and A clarinet. A classical trumpet player may want to carry their piccolo trumpet around at the same time. A woodwind player who frequently plays in pit bands might want a case to hold multiple instruments. The list goes on, but is worth considering if you play multiple instruments…there are some wonderful combinations of doubling and tripling cases out there!
5) Would I like any additional security features?
Some cases even come with inbuilt locks, either with keys or codes. These can prevent people from stealing or accidentally breaking your instrument. However, they most definitely don’t stop someone from stealing your case (with instrument inside!). Furthermore, forgetting your code or loosing your key is always a possibility too!
We might write a blog on how to keep your instrument safe in general, so keep an eye on the blog section of our website here.
6) How do I spot a well-made case?
When looking at a new case, we would recommend visiting your local music store to check the quality. A high quality case should be made from multiple layers, and have adequate protection. If it has latches, they should be sturdy, and able to withstand a drop or knock. Zip fastenings should be durable, and the stitching should be tight. It is also worth asking your local music store about the warranty on the case, and whether it is easy to source spare parts!
7) Am I bothered by how my case looks?
Although the main purpose of a musical instrument case is to protect your instrument, you’re allowed to care about what it looks like too! Some cases are made in a variety of different colours and patterns. Other cases come in more neutral tones. Perhaps you would like your case to show off your personality? Or maybe you would prefer a subtle, more professional style?
We think the best option is to choose a plainer case which you won’t suddenly hate if your taste changes. You can then customise it by purchasing a case cover, or by adding stickers or badges to reflect something you’re passionate about. Tying a scarf or ribbon to your case can also make sure you pick up the correct one, if your case is quite common.
(If it was us, our case would be covered in #cleanyourinstrument content, and stickers that reflect the importance of our environment!)
8) Do I want a hard or a soft case?
Whether hard or soft cases are better has been a fiercely fought debate for years. We believe that it really is dependent on the questions we’ve mentioned previously. For the sake of this already lengthy article, we’ve made a list of pros and cons for you!
9) What is my budget?
Regardless of how much we paid for our musical instrument, they can still be priceless to us, and worth protecting. However, it is important to consider their real value before investing heavily in a case. If the instrument is still in production, or relatively easy to fix or get spare parts for, maybe you don’t have to sell your soul for a case. However, maybe your instrument is of real sentimental value, and you can afford to invest in an extremely protective case.
Your budget should also be considered. Even if you aren’t in a position to purchase a case right now, you can still protect your instrument. Don’t leave it unattended in public, or leave it with piles of other instruments. Try to avoid dropping it, or knocking it into door frames, and don’t trust other people to take care of it for you!
So, there you have it – a VERY length list of questions to ask yourself, which will hopefully help you choose the ultimate musical instrument case! In future posts, we’ll be suggesting ideas of HOW to to best look after your chosen case. If you have any requests, feel free to let us know here or reach out to us on Instagram and Facebook!