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Notes from a SHAR Apprentice - Cases


When you're picking out a violin case you usually have three choices of materials - compacted foam, wood, or carbon fiber. There are benefits and drawbacks to each type as well as structural factors which contribute to safety and weight of each case. So, to break it down simply, here are some facts about each type of case:

Compacted foam - lightweight, low-cost, thermally protective; these cases are a good price point and weight option but one should be careful not to put the case under pressure.

Wood - sturdy, heavy, controls temperature moderately; a wood case will usually last a good long time, though they tend to be on the heavier side of cases. A good oblong wood case will provide lots of storage space and years of use, but lugging it around may be a chore.

Carbon Fiber - lightweight, strong shell, low temperature control; carbon fiber cases generally provide sleek, light-weight options for those who need crush-resistant cases. They provide the structural protection you may find with a wood case while keeping the weight down, though these cases provide little thermal protection.

I find that a compact, lightweight case is safer for me to carry because I won't run into things and am not tempted to leave it somewhere. If you know yourself well, these factors should help you decide which case is a good fit for your needs in terms of price, durability, and size restrictions. The SHAR Professional series is available in either a foam or a wooden shell, or choose the new American Case Eagle wood shell case. You can also choose from two different interior looks making the Pro and Eagle series very versatile.

Oh the Places You'll Go! (with your case)
You've bought a brand new case, and now it's time to show it off to the world! But no matter what kind of case you buy, you'll need to help your case out so that it can do the best job possible protecting your instrument. As a well-seasoned instrument traveler, here are some tips and tricks I've picked up:

By Car: Instruments are very sensitive to changes in heat and temperature, and even the most protective case won't prevent damage from heat or cold. Never leave an instrument in a car, if you can help it! When you drive somewhere with your instrument, make sure the case is not upside down - you don't want to put stress on the bridge! If you put the instrument in the trunk, make sure it's a heated trunk, and support it with boxes or blankets. Just like people, instruments don't do well if they are slammed into the side of the car!

By Plane (violin, viola): Yes, most cases are larger than the average carry on. But don't despair! Though there is no law that requires airlines to allow instruments as carrry ons, many airlines specifically mention instruments as allowable carry-ons in their policy statements. Check the individual airline's  website for its official policy - some airlines are more musician-friendly than others. Consider buying a dart-shaped case, which fit more easily in overhead bins. However, I've never been on a plane (even small puddle-jumper planes) that couldn't accomodate my (16.5") oblong viola case! If you run into trouble, be firm (but gracious) with the gate agent, and explain that your case will fit in the overhead bin, despite appearances.

By Plane (cello): If you can, buy an extra seat for your cello (this is the way most professionals travel with their instruments). It's inadvisable to EVER check your cello - even the most protective case cannot guarantee protection against a luggage compartment.

Christine Beamer, Hilary Lewis, Katherine Thompson - SHAR Apprentices


I appreciate the comments regarding traveling by air. Since I will be making a (first) airline trip with my violin, I am looking for names of airlines who are musician-friendly towards violinists who would prefer not to purchase separate airline tickets for instrument travel. Please tell me which airlines (Pennsylvania to Florida routes) which fall into that category. Thanks!
Posted @ Thursday, June 16, 2011 9:44 PM by Alene
Actually, you can take your pick of airlines, since they all allow travel with a violin. It counts as your carry-on, and you are then allowed your purse or other personal item. 
It is a good idea to go to the website of the airline you choose and print off the page that states that you can travel with your violin or smaller than guitar sized instrument. You can also go the the TSA website and print out their instructions too. Carry that with you, just in case.  
So when you go on your trip, send your violin through the scanner machines (it won't hurt it), smile and tell the TSA people "It's a violin!". When you're getting on the plane, just put it on your back and walk proudly. If they press you, you can show them their policy, but I doubt they will. They see violins pretty regularly, and know the drill.  
Happy Travelling!
Posted @ Friday, June 17, 2011 11:18 AM by Katherine Thompson
My favorite airlines to fly are Delta and Southwest, just because they specifically list instruments in their carry-on descriptions. Less friendly airlines (in my experience) have been US Airways and Continental. But Katie is right, no airline should make you buy another ticket--they just might be difficult and ask you to gate-check the violin (which you should never do, if possible). 
Hope that helps!
Posted @ Monday, June 20, 2011 8:26 AM by Christine Beamer
Thanks so much for the helpful comments, Katherine and Christine.
Posted @ Thursday, July 07, 2011 11:45 PM by Alene
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