As a primary means of protecting your instrument, cases perform an essential function. However, instrument cases need to be in good shape in order to provide your instrument with the full protection it deserves. Since hard shell cases provide optimum protection, and are most often recommended by music teachers, we’ll focus on hard cases for the sake of this article. If you use a gig bag or soft case, some of the items touched on this article may still apply. From loose latches to ripped handles, here are a few signs your instrument case needs an upgrade.
There’s a reason latches and locks are one of first things you should inspect before purchasing a brand new case–they’re the glue that holds your instrument case together, literally. If you notice a loose latch on your instrument case, and can’t seem to tighten it on your own, take it to a professional repair shop to see what a repair technician can do. If fixing the loose latch is a lost cause, or the latch breaks altogether, you should start looking for a new case as soon as possible. Think of it this way: would you ride in a car with a loose seat belt that can bust loose at any time? If you answered “no”, then why would you take that same risk with your precious instrument?
If your current case has backpack-like straps or cloth handles, a rip or small tear in the handle can signify that it’s time to start looking for a new case. Ultimately, you use the handles to carry your instrument around in its case, and a slight rip usually means a complete tear is in your near future. The last thing you want to do is have this tear happen while you’re transporting your instrument across concrete or asphalt, as your instrument will be sent tumbling to the floor. Some tears can be fixed by a seamstress, or a friend who has access to a sewing machine, but in many cases musicians find it easier to replace the case altogether.
High-quality cases are supposed to keep your instrument super snug during transportation and storage, but over time the padding can become loose or damaged. If you notice your instrument is rattling around while being transported in your case, you should either have your case re-padded or invest in an upgraded instrument case. One word of advice: if you’re looking for a temporary fix, you can carefully place bubble wrap around your instrument while it’s in your case. Just keep in mind that this is a temporary fix, intended to provide enough protection to safely get your instrument to the repair shop, granted you don’t drop it, but in no way, shape, or form should bubble wrap be thought of as a permanent solution.
No Room for Accessories
As you become more advanced with your instrument, you’ll require more and more accessories. From music stands and metronomes to spare sets of strings and sheet music, sooner or later you’ll need to carry around a lot of things in addition to your instrument. If your current instrument case doesn’t have separate compartments for these items, either invest in an instrument case that does or purchase a separate bag for your accessories. Under no circumstances should you carry accessories in the same compartment as your instrument–this is an easy way to scratch and dent the surface of your instrument. Although in most cases this damage is cosmetic and won’t affect the sound, anything you can do to prevent damage to your instrument is key.
While wheels aren’t an essential part of every instrument case, they’re essentials for some instruments–double basses and cellos, included. If you transport a heavier instrument around, and rely on the wheels to make this easier, broken or malfunctioning wheels are a sign you should purchase a replacement case. Although using a case with broken wheels is okay in the short-term, in the long-term it can lead to back issues or a damaged instrument. Ultimately, wheels make transportation easier. Without them, the chances that you drop or accidentally damage your instrument are increased.
For tips on how to purchase a case for your specific instrument, check out the following guides: