With student viola cases that start at $100 to professional models that can exceed $2,000, you may be curious about which is the best. Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy answer and finding the right viola case can be as involved as purchasing the instrument itself. Whether you’re shopping for yourself or your child, purchasing the right violin case is crucial. After all, the last thing you want is to purchase an intricate (and expensive!) viola only to have it damaged a few months later. From material and durability to security and humidity concerns, there are quite a few things to pay attention to when purchasing a viola case.
Materials & Protection
Although viola cases are constructed from a variety of materials, those manufactured from wood laminate and fiberglass are the most durable types available on the market. Although wood laminate cases are heavy, they’re super strong. If you plan on running your case over with your car or dropping it out of a second story window, this is the kind of case you need. As an added benefit, wood cases tend to maintain more consistent humidity levels than any other kind of case. If you’re shopping for an especially stylish child, consider fiberglass cases. Often available in attractive and colorful designs, they’re resistant to crushing but not as durable as wood. If a fiberglass case is dropped or banged on a hard surface it can crack or break. Due to its sheen, cases with a fiberglass finish tend to get scratched easily.
Protect Against Humidity
When it comes to playing the viola, protecting it from humidity is essential, particularly if you live in area that’s prone to extreme climate. Some cases come with hygrometers and humidifiers built in, while others require that you purchase them separately. If you aren’t sure what the difference is, hygrometers measure humidity levels and alert you if your viola is too wet or dry, while humidifiers actually correct dryness via a small tube that releases water in a controlled rate. If the case doesn’t come with these built in, make sure there’s space in the case for the humidifier to be mounted. If you aren’t sure about the exact “needs” of your child’s viola, speak with their viola teacher or an instrument repair technician for more information.
Number of Compartments
To figure out how many compartments you’ll need in your viola case, sit down and think about how many accessories you’ll be carrying around with your viola. Sheet music? Metronome? Cleaning cloths? Spare strings? If you answered “yes” to all of the above, you’ll need a viola case with a lot of compartments. If you aren’t really sure, it’s always better to overestimate and purchase a case with too many pockets than underestimate and be scrambling for space. Generally speaking, viola cases have between one and four compartments, so how many compartments you need is purely a matter of personal preference. If the case is for a child or friend, sit down and ask them how many accessories they plan on lugging around.
Comfort & Convenience
Although comfort and convenience should be considered by everybody, it’s an especially important consideration for young children. If you’re concerned that your child won’t be able to comfortably carry their case from class to class, keep an eye out for a case with wheels. If you plan on purchasing a case with straps, be sure to read online reviews or ask a salesman for information the comfort of the straps. The size and shape of the case will also affect how it sits on your back and how top-heavy it may feel. Although most of the lightest cases on the market are manufactured from polystyrene foam, they aren’t recommended for especially expensive instruments. If you’re seeking a middle ground, many composite cases combine lightness with protection.
Whether you’re heading cross country or just across the state, travelling with a viola can be difficult. If you predict a lot of travelling in your future, there are a few ways you can make the process easier on yourself. First, examine the latches. If the latches seem flimsy or don’t close all the way, your case won’t make it onto the plane without bursting open. If you’re concerned about your viola being stolen, purchasing a viola case with a lock may give you the peace of mind you need. Some manufacturers even make cases with TSA-approved locks. If you do hope to fly with your viola as a carry-on, a smaller case is key, otherwise you may be forced to check it at the gate.
If you’re a violist (or the parent of a violist) and are having a hard time finding a case that properly fits your instrument, one option is an adjustable case. Adjustable cases are a good choice for growing students who may need to switch to a larger viola at a later point in time. When browsing the market for adjustable cases, watch out for exposed adjusting hardware that could accidentally scratch the back of your viola. Another thing to keep an eye out for is hardware that holds the adjustable shoulder block in place so there’s zero chance your instrument will slip during transport. If your child plans on playing the viola through high school or into college, consider purchasing a double case with room for two violas. It may seem excessive, but carrying a backup instrument is often a necessity for professional instrumentalists.
Viola cases are only one part of the equation. Learn about mutes and other essential violin accessories.