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The Weekend Vote

V.com weekend vote: Has your case ever failed you?

February 8, 2013 at 8:44 PM

Has your violin case ever failed you?

I can remember picking out my first violin, as a child: I wanted the one with the pretty case. Of course, the adults around me explained that I shouldn't be influenced by such things: pick the fiddle for the fiddle. And when it comes to cases, I confess: My head is still turned by a pretty case. But I'm wise enough now to know that "protective" beats out "pretty" any time. I'm willing to pay more, to sacrifice aesthetics for protective features, to carry a heavier case, if it protects the fiddle.

I've owned only three primary cases as an adult, mostly because they served me so well: two were American cases from Shar, and the third Musafia. And they were pretty, as well as protective!

These days, one must watch out for pretty (or lightweight) cases that are surprisingly inexpensive. One must make sure that under all that plush velvet, the support system involves something stronger than styrofoam! And it's not just the strength of the shell that matters, either; there is more to consider. I've heard of the shoulder straps that give out after a few months. Those straps are important, for someone carrying around an instrument all the time!

Or there is the case that simply goes to shambles, despite good care.

Also, cases exist with faulty design. For example, one must look at how the case closes. Some cases may be designed in a way that the bow scratches the violin. I've seen a few student cases in which the lid of the case pushes down on the bridge, or even pushes the bridge to the right or left. ("Gee I fix your bridge every single week, what is going on?")

Recently a V.com reader warned about a case in which the red color from the interior fabric bled onto the instrument. I've seen this happen with some very old cases as well, in which the interior was green. A teacher told me that all the backs of the little violins at her school wound up a light green!

Here's another really unexpected one: this image from 2007. Violinist.com member Caeli Smith reported that a dressing-room light burned a hole this high-tech lightweight case, which was brand-new at the time it happened:

Photo
The hole left an impression of the light bulb in my brand-new case!

What are your experiences? Has your case ever failed you? I welcome your thoughts about various cases in the comments below.


From William Rhoden
Posted on February 8, 2013 at 10:18 PM
While I was in High School, I broke my case hinges by loading too much music into the music pocket on the front. I think it was the blue Flesch scale book that pushed it over the edge. To this day if I have a lot of music in my case, I'll lean the back of it against something when I open it.
From Patrick Tinney
Posted on February 8, 2013 at 11:53 PM
When I bought my Knilling in 1990 it came with a plastic gray formed case. I still see a lot of similar cases. In those days the clip that holds the bow was a cloth covered piece of bent flat metal that rotated on a screw and washer.

At one point I noticed that the Bakelite chinrest had some chips missing from one of the edges. I was finally able to determine that the screw head was hitting the chin rest.

When I took up the violin about two years ago I replaced the chin rest (with a Flesch) and along with a neck pull-up and a new bridge I bought a better case.

I now also have a better violin with a better case by the same maker.

From Laurie Niles
Posted on February 9, 2013 at 12:21 AM
Blame Flesch! ;)
From Kevin Keating
Posted on February 9, 2013 at 12:25 AM
I real picky about cases. I like the instrument to snug and not moving around inside. I've added pieces of foam covered w/ material to tighten up the fit. I don't like the scroll (or headstock on a guitar) to rest against the case interior. Even a cheap instrument should be protected. After all, that's your instrument! That's your means of expression, how you speak through your heart. What good is a cheap case if it's not protecting it from getting damaged. Good quality cases don't have to cost a fortune. A higher end instrument should be in a case that costs 10 to 20% of the instruments value, or more. I paid $120 for a case to hold my $800 Capri Maestro and I still had to snug up the interior a bit. A good case is important so you shouldn't short change on it.
From Dimitri Musafia
Posted on February 9, 2013 at 7:03 AM
I was 13 when I got my first 4/4 size violin, a new one from the Bitterer family in Mittenwald. I got to choose the case too, so I picked out a famous-name violin-shaped model with an elegant imitation leather cover and a plush gold-colored interior.

Even at that age however I wasn't sure about the bow holders. They were these click-in, click-out plastic things that clamped onto the button of the frog, but while novel, I couldn't see how they could possibly last very long.

And in fact they didn't!

From Aditya Chander
Posted on February 9, 2013 at 2:00 PM
My case just broke yesterday :( the handle came off my Gewa Idea 2.3 and it was only 20 months old!
From Kevin Keating
Posted on February 9, 2013 at 2:41 PM
Ok, so I forgot to actually answer the question. No, my cases have never failed me, but then I'm very OCD about protecting all of my instruments. Once, I accidentally dropped an acoustic guitar in a hard case down a short flight of stairs. All I could do was watch it tumble down. Fortunately, the case stayed closed. The guitar was fine, just a little out of tune.
From Patrick Tinney
Posted on February 9, 2013 at 4:53 PM
Kevin, & al.

At least I have never seen those cardstock cases that used to come with guitars used with violins. For those that don’t know these cases are shaped like the outline of the instrument and consist of a thin card stock with no padding.

I still have two. One came with a Martin 0-18 (1970) and one was what was available when I bought a Washburn Mandoline (1991).

They flex and can easily pop open. I came out of an elevator one day (1971) and watched my 0-18 tumble out of the case. Fortunately I squatted quickly, but it did hit the ground. No discernible damage, but not a happy moment. I still have a tendency to have my index finger over the top when carrying some cases.

At my son’s high school, which houses the McCallum Fine Arts Academy, I do see guitars carried without cases. These are generally decent classical guitar players.

Of course in today’s world cardboard cases have been replaced by Gig Bags. I haven’t looked at those made for violins, but the guitar ones have no structural features. They are just a zip up sack. I wonder if anyone puts their Concert Instrument in one of these when they head off in the woods.

From Victor Andzulis
Posted on February 9, 2013 at 11:06 PM
I had a Heritage oblong viola case that fell apart one piece at a time despite good care. First the shoulder strap broke, then the music pocket ripped open, then the the ring that the shoulder strap hooks into came off, then the handle itself started to come off. I had to a friend who had the exact same experience with the same case.

I have a Gig Bag for my violin and I like the looks, but practically it's no good. Everything goes in a different spot. The instrument in one place, the bows in another, and shoulder rest and other accessories in another. It takes much longer to unpack. Plus, there isn't anywhere to carry sheet music in it. Looks aren't worth the trouble. But I don't play violin enough anymore to replace it.

From David Johnson
Posted on February 9, 2013 at 11:03 PM
I had a Jaeger oblong violin case fail in 1980 when the van driver backed over the bow tip end. ( I had set my fiddle down for just half a minute to run back inside and retrieve a piece of equipment.) The end of the case was crushed but everything inside was fine. Even the bottle of cleaner/polish was OK. I was impressed: with the case and the importance of keeping the violin on a "short leash".
From Dimitri Musafia
Posted on February 10, 2013 at 7:45 AM
I would say the van driver failed but the Jaeger did it's job! ;-)
From David Beck
Posted on February 10, 2013 at 3:42 PM
The one failure I have experienced was with a case that came "free" with a violin I bought on impulse on a visit to Cremona.
It was OK for almost 10 years, then the handle simply dropped off !
No damage to anything inside. The case was on the floor - I just went to lift it and the handle came away. It looked to have been fixed with Araldite.
The case doesn't "owe me anything". It served to bring the instrument home. But I think the manufacturer was pleased to know of the failure (backed by photos) because he needs to keep an eye on what in this instance was a sub-contractor.

From Royce Faina
Posted on February 11, 2013 at 1:20 AM
I have not been fortunate to own an expensive case, modest family means. I have totted my violins many a miles with moving a neccessity and fortunately I have avoided any significant failure from stupidity (Thank God!) and with good planning after advice my cases have held up very well! With an $800 bill for knee surgery April of 2012 (Fortunately Workman's Comp settled outside of court/hearing denying benefits at 1st.) I don't have to pay the entire $12,500 USD! Still... the bill comes first so after paid in full in the on coming months I can finaly have a much nicer case hopefully next year... God willing.! :o)
From Ann Marie Cordial
Posted on February 11, 2013 at 12:24 PM
As someone who began studying the violin earnestly in middle-age, I took very good care of my violin and violin case, which was pretty cheap (the case, that is). I was in Manhattan one weekend about to play in a coaching Quartet when my case failed while crossing a busy street. When I say failed, it literally FAILED.

The 'back pack' straps (which had cheap plastic connectors) snapped in half, and the case fell off my back and hit the street. The impact popped the case open and my violin came half out in the street. At that second, the light went green, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw several taxi's move forward.

I remained resolute, and picked my violin up as well as the case, which looked like a Mission Impossible bomb had self-destructed it. I don't recall anyone honking at me. But I grabbed my instrument, case, and ran to the nearest street corner where I removed my bow and other things from the case, shoved the case in the closest trash can, and proceeded to the nearest violin shop and purchased a new case.

---Ann Marie

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