February 8, 2013 at 8:44 PMHas 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:
What are your experiences? Has your case ever failed you? I welcome your thoughts about various cases in the comments below.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
This entry has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.
Violinist.com is made possible by...
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Violinist.com Summer Music Programs Directory
Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins
Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine