A Few Pointers on Selecting a New Instrument Case
A case-by-case primer
Imagine trying to carry your violin and bows to rehearsal without a case. Clearly, a case is indispensable, but selecting a new one presents a formidable challenge. The array of materials, shapes, and features available is bewildering. Cases range from simple to sumptuous, with prices starting at $24.95 and climbing into the thousands—and nearly all provide adequate protection. Choosing wisely requires balancing several factors: strength, weight, features, durability, and price. Understanding how a case works, how you will use it, plus identifying personal preferences will help you narrow the field.
Modern Case Construction
In terms of protection, today’s cases are a vast improvement over anything available a few decades ago. Most come with sturdy, water-resistant nylon canvas covers. This is your first line of defense against dirt and weather. The zippers help hold the case shut and D-rings for straps attach to this cover.
Read more about buying a violin or viola case.
The shell protects against impact. The strongest are made of laminated wood, but technology has produced lightweight synthetic and composite materials of excellent strength, including various types of foam, wood-and-foam laminates, Kevlar, and Teflon. A highly arched top adds strength as well as allowing more room between the top of the case and the bridge area. The lightest cases are constructed of foam and weigh as little as 3.5 pounds. The hardest cases weigh over twice as much.
Virtually all modern cases, regardless of price, employ a suspension system. The violin is held in place by a neck strap and “suspended” on a system of foam pads that prevent it from touching the hard shell of the case. Suspension greatly reduces damage because the shock of impact is not transmitted to the instrument.
There is no reason not to buy a suspension case.
Beyond protection, cases offer many special features. Consider where you live, how you travel, personal style, and what you carry in the way of bows and accessories. Is extreme weather an issue? Look for rain flaps, extra insulation, or perhaps a hygrometer and humidifier for combating dryness. Will you commute with your case, or tour? Choose for maximum durability and safety. How do you travel? If you walk everywhere, the case must be comfortable to carry. Do you keep music and electronic equipment in your case, or are you hoping to reduce the clutter? Shaped cases are lighter and less expensive; oblongs accommodate more bows, plus your portfolio. Crescent shapes are an attractive compromise. Style and materials can reflect personality, from high-tech to traditional, outrageous to refined.
A Case to Last, or a Case to Last ‘A While’
An inexpensive case will protect your violin, but will wear out fairly quickly. One option is to buy inexpensive cases and replace them as needed. Quality components and workmanship cost more but will last for many years. Zippers break even on the finest cases, so find out if the company makes replacement covers.
The Right Case for You
Violist Wanda Law of the San Diego Symphony suggests “shopping backstage” among your friends. You can examine details, make sure everything fits, and get first-person consumer reports. Law finds her ultralight foam case, made by Toshira (3.5 pounds, $89.95 from the Shar Products Co.), quite adequate against everyday bumps and scrapes. Her informal survey of the orchestra reveals many ultralight cases.
“They’re especially popular with older players,” she says, “who often have shoulder problems.”
On the other hand, “There’s no protection in those!” declares LeRoy Weber, inventor of the suspension case. Weber regularly receives letters from grateful patrons whose violins survive terrible accidents in his outstanding cases.
Only you can determine the combination of safety, price, and convenience that will keep you and your violin comfortable. Luckily, if you know what you want, chances are good that it’s available.
This article, "A Few Pointers on Selecting a New Instrument Case," is part of the Strings Archive, which you can access with a paid site subscription.
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