For musicians with hectic schedules, finding a safe and convenient carrying system for a violin, viola, cello, or bass can be difficult. Busy students and professionals jumping from taxi to bus to subway and back again need to have hands free not just for balance and stability on bumpy public-transit rides, but also to juggle cell phones, PDAs, and other travel essentials. A gig bag or case cover can transform a bulky case into a convenient backpack, provide added protection to a travel case, or act as an alternative mode of instrument transportation between gigs.
How do you know if a gig bag is right for you?
Maybe you have a battered old case that you’ve fallen in love with over the years, despite its being heavy and bulky, and you just can’t part with it. Perhaps you’re looking for a quick slipcover to protect your cello between late-night gigs. Or possibly your pocketbook just doesn’t allow for a new lighter-weight case. Whatever the reason, gig bags and case covers are a reasonably priced way to upgrade your current case, or transport your instrument around town without the added bulk of a hard case.
Professional musicians say most of the players who visit his shop looking for gig bags and case covers are professionals and preprofessionals. Their reasons? “To protect their cases and to give extra carrying capability“.
Hard-shell cases, especially with the larger instruments, are quite unmanageable for some – adds Artonus, case manufacturer.
Some musicians feel that gig bags and case covers are even a worthy replacement for the traditional case, especially when it comes to hauling unwieldy basses. “Bass padded covers are the most practical and safest means of protective ‘everyday’ transport of the bass violin” – says. Artonus.
What To Look For
“I am looking for quality construction with good protection for my instrument; light weight and easy to carry–also easy and safe to pack and unpack” notes novice musician. He is not alone in her quest for a light, safe, and convenient way to transport her instrument. Such requests are the reason most musicians begin their search for a gig bag or case cover.
But what should you look for when evaluating these products?
Artonus says most of his clients are looking for “good-quality construction, good padding, and large pockets for music and accessories.”
Padding is always a prime concern, particularly in cello and bass covers. Bow pockets, rather than a detachable bow case/pouch, are favored, as are pockets for rosin, spare strings, and bridges. Zippers as the most important aspect of any case cover or gig bag. When a zipper broke on his case last season, the violinist says he suffered a “catastrophic failure” that irreparably damaged his instrument.
The most important traits of a good gig bag or case cover include “serious protection for the instrument, generous accessory/bow pockets, and, above all, substantial zippers. Give serious thought to the amount of convenience balanced with the exposure to damage. A hard-shell case is hard to beat for best protection.
When shopping for your own gig bag or case cover, take along an evaluation checklist. Case manufacturer Artonus recommends “[looking] at the overall structural quality of the cover, the amenities and the features of the cover, and the aesthetics.”
You’ll also want to consider the padded and/or insulated linings; reinforced seams and linings; extra-strong zippers; multiple, reinforced, and well-positioned handles; comfortable padded shoulder or backpack straps; and bow, accessory, and/or music pockets.
The Perfect Match
Some musicians find it difficult to nail down that “perfect” bag. Straps may be well-padded and handles well-placed, but the lining may not be as thick as you’d like.
“I recently bought a cello and found it difficult—impossible—to find a bag case that fit,” one of the novice musicians laments. “The cello is larger than most and we had to go with a larger, heavier, hard case instead of a lighter padded case. I wish that all cases had a place for music and rosin while protecting the instrument.”
One of the proffesor at the british university found success with a case cover as well. “I love my Cushy! Its padding keeps my Vuillaume safe from extreme weather and cushions any small impacts incurred in transit. The strap is also totally reliable, unlike the one that came with my case, case cover, easily slips over any standard full-size oblong violin case and I definitely recommend it!”
Better Shop Around
Like shopping for any instrument accessory, it will take time to locate the best gig bag or case cover for your purposes. If you find yourself looking at a variety of brands and wishing you could take the zipper off one, the handles from another, and the lining from still another, you’ll be glad to learn that there are companies that will take your favorite qualities and design a custom gig bag or case cover.