Scandinavian Airlines now prohibits violins as carry-on.

November 25, 2010 at 03:16 AM ·

SAS just informed me in writing that small stringed instruments such as violins, mandolins, etc are now banned as carry-on items on their planes.

Their exact words were "A violin (with normal measurements)will not fit within the maximum measurments thus not possible to bring it on board."

Nevermind the fact that a single violin in a typical case is smaller in overall volume than most  carryons and easily fits in the overhead bins.

Each instrument must be checked (and very possibly will get smashed)  for an additional fee of $60 USD.

This happened recently to some friends of mine on a flight from the US to Sweden. Luckily their instruments weren't damaged, but they were out an unexpected $120 and spent the flight worrying about their violins. They have vowed never to fly SAS again.

Just FYI to players used to bringing their instruments on board.

Replies (55)

November 25, 2010 at 05:27 AM ·

Checked /and/ charged? I could understand it-- maybe-- if they charged for the right to put it in the carryon bins despite its technically being too long. But why, why, WHY should we pay extra for a method of transport that puts the instrument in grave danger?

November 25, 2010 at 06:27 AM ·

What is wrong with these airlines?  Why do they keep trying to go down this road?


November 25, 2010 at 01:08 PM ·

This is terrible and ridiculous. This idea just occurred to me: this instruments-aboard-a-plane is such an important issue, and things so keep changing with different airlines both for better and worse, that it would be great if someone developed a website just on this issue, so musicians could keep current.

November 25, 2010 at 04:14 PM ·

This is a great disadvantage for us the Swedish violinists.

November 25, 2010 at 05:27 PM ·

That's Sweden off my next world tour then.

November 25, 2010 at 06:01 PM ·

Its interesting; it is getting easier to fly with pets, and harder with violins.
How about a violin case that looks like a doggie carry-on?

More seriously, I think the musician organizations should work together on this, as there is so much investment at stake. They should negotiate arrangements with specific airlines, and publish the 'approved' airlines (the ones that meet certain criteria they establish. If they publish the information loudly and longly, using all available media, I think the airlines would take notice.

We can't do much as individuals, but as a group, we could.

Here's a challenge to; can you think of a good way for to become a catalyst for such a thing?

November 25, 2010 at 07:11 PM ·

Well, for starters go to any web site that reviews airlines and your comment and rating.  Like most businesses, they only respond to the bottom line....

Or post directly to them:

November 25, 2010 at 09:42 PM ·

 I would not like to spend a whole flight worrying about what is my pride and joy. I've already had one violin completely ruined after a tour to Germany on a coach... And I have no ability to claim insurance. I wouldn't risk another (more expensive) violin get ruined because of these people who just don't seem to understand. 

November 25, 2010 at 11:12 PM ·

trench coats ... with big pockets - that's the solution.  could be a return to 50's fashion!

November 26, 2010 at 12:40 AM ·

Hey, I think the last idea is great! How about the violin as jewelry? It is as expensive, it looks as good or better! as Jewelry is not limited or prohibited (except in cases where it could be used as a weapon), I think the perfect necklace would be a Violin.
It would need a clear crystaline case that protects it, of course. I can picture something attached as a harness rather than fully supported by the neck, with the bow beside the strings. The scroll would be next to your head, so you could still sit and buckle without the violin being in the way.

I'm sorry, someone else will have to develop the faux doggie carrier; I don't think I'll get around to it, but I will not contest their millions when it becomes a success.

November 26, 2010 at 01:10 AM ·

So what about a violin with a foldable (reverse, hinge at the button) fingerboard so that its the same length as a regular bag?

November 26, 2010 at 02:20 AM ·

 It's not the violin itself that defines the length of the case – it's the bow.  I have seen a short violin case that is actually violin-size, and the bow is in a cylindrical detachable container that can be carried elsewhere, in a suitcase perhaps.  Before anyone asks, no, I don't know the name of this short violin case :( 

November 26, 2010 at 02:27 AM ·

Yes, I've seen those short cases, which are made to carry a violin only, and the bow is separate in its own case. It's especially designed to fit more compactly in the overhead. But it seems to me that if the airlines want to be real sticklers, they can declare the bow case too long, even though its circumference is obviously very small. You don't want to check your equally fragile bow with your luggage.

November 26, 2010 at 02:31 AM ·

BAM; great case for travel.

November 26, 2010 at 02:31 AM ·

Regarding the hinged violin neck, one's imagination boggles at the carpentry involved, the effect on the instrument itself – if the job isn't done properly, the fiddle might well fold up on itself during a performance (all 50lb of string tension making its presence felt), and wouldn't I just like to be there to see it happen! – to say nothing of the expense of having the engineering done in the first place (it would be cheaper to hire or borrow a violin at the destination). 

November 26, 2010 at 03:34 AM ·

I ship violins to customers all the time.  We use special cases that are fine for a violin but shorter than the bow.  That cuts the shipping cost in half, compared to full sized cases, and even with the foam padding, I can send a violin anywhere in the USA for overnight delivery for less than the $60 SAS fee that Roy has reported.

When I get back into my shop on Monday I will post some contact information on where such cases can be purchased.  I had mine custom made a long time ago when FedEx started charging by "dimensional weight".  But they are available from a few different vendors.  There are even double violin cases available that fit within the size limits for overhead baggage.

Regarding the bow, it can be carried in a separate bow case that slides into a pvc pipe which easily complies with airline regs for checked luggage.  Short of being lost in transit, they are indestructible. 

Its sad that airlines don't see the needs of their customers in a more proactive way.  I mean, violin bows have been around far longer than airline companies.  Even on the smallest commuter flights, a normal case will fit in most overhead compartments.  Its not like string players are inventing an unserviceable need here.  So why do they do this?  I agree with Nicole and Raphael, this is something that we have to come together on.  Does anyone have an estimate for the volume of air traffic that string players use each year?  I might take this on.

In the meantime, unless someone else gets to it first, I will post again with sourcing information for the short case I use.

Happy Thanksgiving to all,

Gregg Alf

November 26, 2010 at 04:34 AM ·

I've seen 2 shipping cases from Bobelock online. And that's all I know of since they don't publish the length but I know it's few centimeters longer than the violin itself. Sadly I don't see the 3/4 size, only 4/4 available.

I'm looking forward to Gregg information. I don' travel abroad that often but I do do sometimes, more often on domestic one so buying one is neccessary if I don't want to stop practicing.

Funny though, in Vietnam, regular airline is more strictly than cheap airline in term of carry-on size.

November 26, 2010 at 08:06 AM ·

I wonder what is the European equivalent of the AF of M?

November 26, 2010 at 11:33 AM ·

Trevor - you have the hinge on the wrong side!  It should be on the back of the violin so that the whole fingerboard/neck fold backwards, not forward.  In that cse the tension of the strings will hold the fingerboard in place. 

But heck, this is v'com - there's a whole topic on this already of course!!

But no violin like the one I suggested...


November 26, 2010 at 01:52 PM ·



It may help to carry this letter, but it still will not obligate any particular airline. I hope it won't reproduce in letters too large, but it is too important not to try:

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Arlington, VA 22202

November 3rd, 2005

I look forward to Gre'gs info. But I still wonder about the length of any bow case or tube. Obviously it will be very narrow in girth. But if an airline wants to be nasty, it can say that it is too long, no? Of course the whole thing is ridiculous and unfair, and if pursued by too many airlines, it can bring international music making to a halt. In most planes, not only standard violin cases can easily fit in overhead compartments, but even viola and double violin cases. Meanwhile we see many people bringing in huge duffle bags on board, simply because they don't want to be bothered checking them - but musicians with precious, fragile instruments are given a hard time.

I haven't done international travel in some time. Within th USA I've used Jet Blue, and so far they've been good. But I'm still concerned every time until my case is safely in the overhead. One 'trick' I use as I'm getting ready to board, is to hold my case length-wise by the 'subway strap'. This really minimizes the appearence of its width.


Mr. Thomas Lee


American Federation of Musicians

1501 Broadway Street, Suite 600

New York, NY 10036

Dear Mr. Lee:

On December 20, 2002, TSA modified its Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) to allow for the carriage of one musical instrument through security screening checkpoints in addition to the standard allotment of one carry-on and one personal item. There has been some confusion regarding this modification and I am writing to clarify the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) policy regarding the screening and carriage of a musical instrument as a carry-on item.

The TSA policy only covers procedures at the security checkpoint, and does not apply to restrictions imposed by individual airlines. TSA will screen one musical instrument per passenger. However, even though TSA allows the instrument to pass through the screening checkpoint, passengers may still be prevented from bringing the instrument onboard an aircraft by airline representatives as they each impose their own restrictions. These restrictions vary from airline to airline, so we recommend that musicians check with their individual air carrier prior to arrival at the airport to ascertain specific restrictions that will be enforced by the air carrier at the boarding gate.

Should your membership experience problems at the security screening checkpoints, please advise them to request to speak to a screening supervisor for resolution. However, if a passenger is prevented from carrying the instrument onboard the aircraft at the gate by airline personnel, TSA has no authority to alter the airline’s policies.

For the most current information on the security screening of musical instruments, please visit the TSA website at, and click on Travelers & Consumers, then Air Travel, then Transporting Special Items.

I hope this letter clarifies TSA’s policy concerning the screening of musical instruments and clears up any confusion.


Sincerely yours,

Lee Longmire

Acting Assistant Administrator,

Office of Transportation Security Policy



Mr. Hal Ponder

American Federation of Musicians

1741 K Street, Suite 500

Washington, DC 20036

November 26, 2010 at 01:56 PM ·

Sorry - I don't know why the letter and my commentary intersperced like that...

Meanwhile, I've wondered about something else: what do major globe-trotting soloists with big, very busy careers do? There's an excellent DVD about Hilary Hahn, which not only includes a lot of playing, but also interviews, her commentary about things, etc. It includes footage of her carrying her case, how she packs up after a concert to run to catch her next plane, etc. She has a pretty substantial case - especially when surrounded by a cushy case cover. Is it that she and other stars travel first class and such regulations are relaxed?

November 26, 2010 at 02:34 PM ·

 As cellists have done for decades, purchase another seat right next to you?  Cellists also travel with both a soft padded AND a hard case.  The soft case is for the instrument to sit next to you (thus reducing bulk) and the hard case (which carries the bows) goes in with the luggage.

November 26, 2010 at 05:39 PM ·

"What is wrong with these airlines?  Why do they keep trying to go down this road?"

To me, it's part of a wider trend, already prevalent here in the USA, of companies trying to find new creative ways to nickel and dime the consumer in tough economic times.  The beauty of the free-market system is that we can boycott the offenders and switch to their competitors -- and we can tell them why.

I quit flying some years before 9-11; so this issue doesn't personally affect me as a traveler or player.

Still, the subject is very much on my mind; and I feel greatly for musicians who fly -- and any other flyers these days, based on what I catch on radio and the Internet.  I am on the alert for news items like this and will definitely add my voice to yours, when I can, via petitions and letters.

Although I was an infrequent flyer, I carried my violin on aircraft a number of times when I was 17-22 y/o -- never a problem.  And security?  It took about 10 seconds.  Carry-ons went on a conveyor belt.  Passengers walked through an archway next to the conveyor and picked up carry-ons on the other side.

November 26, 2010 at 09:35 PM ·

Jim -- yes but didn't they see how it played out with the Delta boycott by the AF of M (Delta ended up capitulating), and the United Breaks Guitars episode, among other things?  You would think they should have figured out by now not to mess with us in particular.

Eric -- I know you have little choice and I'm sorry.  The problem violinists have run into is when they try to tell you it will not fit in the overhead, when we know very well that it will, when other passengers clearly have larger bags they are trying to stuff in, and the difference is hundreds of dollars that we may not have.

For instance, in what world is a twelve-year-old's violin larger than "standard baggage"?

From an older article:

Recently, a Delta supervisor would not allow Laurie Carney to board with her violin in Indianapolis, where she and her husband William Grubb, a CCM faculty member, have a home.

"I've been on that plane dozens of times, and I know the violin fits in the overhead compartment," says the violinist, who is a member of the American String Quartet. "I waited seven hours for a U.S. Airways flight. It's happening more and more often."

November 27, 2010 at 01:26 AM ·

Nicole:  Point well taken.  I was only responding to the question regarding options that people exercise when they really need to get onto a flight with their valuable instruments, and would prefer to have their instrument within sight.  Recalling that flight attendants always remind us to carefully open the overhead storage because things "may have shifted" and having watched so many people's carry-on luggage simply fall out during opening, even using the overhead compartments can be a bit unnerving.  This is a toughie...

November 27, 2010 at 12:46 PM ·

Personally I only fly once every two years or less now, and then I don't take an instrument. For more serious shorter distance travel, if I can't use a more civilised form of transport such as boat or train then I won't go.

One day when most of the airlines have gone bust those remaining will be begging us to fly with them, so then we can stick two fingers up and let them rot.

November 27, 2010 at 12:49 PM ·

Who wants to go to Skandinavia anyway, it's a cold horrible place! (I did a tour there once, and it was very boring. OK Bergan is nice, and some of Norway, but New Zealand knocks it into a cocked hat!!) (Sorry Lena!)

November 28, 2010 at 10:20 AM ·

till flat fees for carrying instruments on-board all airlines comes into effect (as i think will - bound to happen) the following advice might be of use (gleaned from the and acoustic guitar sites:)

- gigbag (black) slung over the shoulder away from check-in personnel.
- pre-book ticket at the back of the airplane to board first.
- unobtrusive positioning near boarding gate so as to get there first - transfer gigbag to shoulder not facing boarding crew.
- if told to check the instrument at boarding gate, don't argue ... take the ticket and remove it as you walk down the ramp.
- shift gig-bag to right shoulder, away from the watchful gaze of the "trolley dolly's" awaiting you in the galley.
- be courteous and compliant through-out - perfect pussycats.

i don't know if violins have gig-bags but a slimmer, less obtrusive, over the shoulder carrying case should do as well (as opposed to those beefy, foam filled monsters with gigantic pockets.)

what could possibly go wrong? ...

November 28, 2010 at 12:07 PM ·

A Bobelock shipping case is 26" long (66 cm), and the Bam "Trekking" appears to be about the same. Is that small enough to do the job?

Neither will hold standard length bows. The Bam has an external bow tube, which might be less conspicuous overall than a case large enough for internal bow storage. Or it could be detached, and slid up your pant leg. LOL

There is at least one "rehair by mail" provider supplying special shipping tubes for bows, so these might be sturdy enough for a bow which needs to go in baggage.

Edit: Just checked the SAS website, and it gives a maximum dimension of 55 cm, so either of these cases will be too long, if these dimensions are enforced.

Looks like there would be a market for an extremely sturdy case with a huge cushy cover, and a GPS locating device inside. Unless the locating device would be considered one of the "electronic devices" which must be turned off during takeoff and landing. :-(

November 28, 2010 at 01:41 PM ·

If you are into fly fishing, there are airline approved rod cases (e.g., see and look up "deluxe rod tubes with ID cap") which have wonderful foam cushioned linings and are easy to carry and store.  These can be quite nicely stored in the overhead compartment and are available at 30" tube lengths ~ for US$19.99, plus shipping.  When one travels into the backwoods with thousand dollar plus fishing rods, one tends to take some care.  Most of these also float, if you drop it in the stream...

As one who has been "patted down" at US airports in recent weeks, I think a bow case along your pant leg would be something interesting and new for airport security to discover.  All you can do is look back ~ with confidence ~ and smile... 

November 28, 2010 at 06:22 PM ·

“…gigbag (black) slung over the shoulder away from check-in personnel….what could possibly go wrong? ...”

Not sure if your response was serious or tongue-in-cheek?

What could possibly go wrong is that you are standing there with your valuable violin in a flimsy soft gig bag, then they charge you $60 USD to chuck it in the baggage hold where it will definitely get smashed to pieces, not even having a hard case to give it a chance of surviving.

Again, sorry if you were just joking, but wow that’s a really bad idea.




November 28, 2010 at 07:45 PM ·

Wondering if the editor here, Laurie Niles, would be interested in contacting SAS and interviewing them for an article about this issue?  That would be an interesting read!

November 28, 2010 at 10:35 PM ·

roy - wish you hadn't edited my reply.  for the record:

"i don't know if violins have gig-bags but a slimmer, less obtrusive, over the shoulder carrying case should do as well (as opposed to those beefy, foam filled monsters with gigantic pockets.)"

i think "small is beautiful" is the essential principle here - as well as being (hopefully) effective.

have a nice flight and thanks for flying ... (fill in blank.)

November 28, 2010 at 11:00 PM ·

 I wouldn't buy a gig bag in a million years... just check out their strange way of advertising on the violin one! LOL

November 28, 2010 at 11:24 PM ·

I am an airline Captain in the USA.  I hear the same kind of worries and complaints about guitars being brought on board.  My family travels with numerous instruments on vacation, and we have also run into determined ground agents trying to get us to check our instruments.

At least in the USA, the ground agents have no power to force you to check your instrument.  But they may be very insistent.  What I do is tell them I will take it to the aircraft and see if there is a closet that it will fit in.  The flight attendant is the final authority on what goes in the cabin, so a polite and friendly request to the flight attendant is your best bet getting an instrument on board.  Be prepared for them to refuse, but we have not had it happen yet.  You can always check it planeside.  In any case, this is usually a much better situation because your instrument only has to go from the door of the airplane down into cargo, and you will get it back at your destination right at the door.  This avoids the whole checked baggage system and thus reduces chances of damage or loss.

Each airline posts their carry-on rules online, and be sure to search under 'musical instrument' to get their specific rules.  Print it out and bring it with you to the airport in case you have to educate a hostile ticket agent.  Checked baggage rules are important to know, too.  Sometimes the airline will disallow damage claims if the instrument was tuned to concert pitch.  Put some kind of belt around the case to prevent it opening if it has to be checked.  Always use a hard case, not a gig bag by itself.

Flight crews generally want to help, so be courteous to the flight attendant and you have a good chance of getting your instrument on board.

November 28, 2010 at 11:42 PM ·

"roy - wish you hadn't edited my reply. "

There is no way to edit other people's posts here.  All I did was quote part of your post where you seemed to be suggesting that people try to sneak their violins past the gate agents in a soft gig bag. 

I was just pointing out what a huge risk that would be, since even in a gig bag, a violin and bow exceed SAS's clearly stated carry-on dimensions.  The gate agents are just doing their jobs and may risk disciplinary action or even termination if they allow you to sneak past them with a prohibited item.  Is that really fair to them?

When you're caught you then have only two choices: allow the completely unprotected violin in the flimsy gig bag to get smashed in cargo. Or turn around and go home, forfeiting your ticket.

Why risk it?  Until and/or unless SAS changes their policy, the only real choice is not to fly with them.


November 29, 2010 at 08:55 AM ·

here's the article i alluded to earlier - it describes what happens to your instrument - hard case and all - should you be forced to check it as luggage:

steve - interesting read - thank you for your informed opinion.  if all else fails and you're forced to put it in the hold, that "last in/first out" scenario at the cabin door makes good sense.  i'm sure your confidence and captain's bearing were a help at check-in - in similar circumstances i think my bulging eyes, knocking knees, pallid complexion, etc., etc. would bring different results ...

November 29, 2010 at 01:23 PM ·

Steve - very insightful post! But I'm not visualzing what you mean about "checking it planeside", and how that differs from regular baggage checking. Could you explain that further?

Also, in a case where they are unbending, what about asking if we could put our instruments where pets are put? This way, it seems to me it is temperature-controlled, and we get to bring our musical "pets" to the area, and come and pick them up, ourselves.

November 29, 2010 at 06:09 PM ·

Bill, it probably has a lot to do with my 18 yr old daughter's assertiveness!

Raphael, on all USA flights they will check bags right at the aircraft door.  Frequently it is things like baby strollers and oversized carry on bags, or if the overhead bins are full they will check carry on bags.  These items get pink- or green- tagged in the jetway at the aircraft door, and are hand carried to the cargo bin.  They are then returned to the jetway when you arrive at your destination.

Regular checked bags are checked in at the front ticket counter and are put on a conveyor belt to the bag sorting area.  The bags are tossed onto carts or into bins, and then driven out to the aircraft where they are put into cargo.  At the destination they get tossed a few more times on/off carts and conveyor belts.  These bags are prohibited (for security reasons) from being given to the passengers except at baggage claim at the destination. 

As long as the item is not blatantly oversized, the gate agent should let you take it down to the aircraft even if they are confiscating bags at the top of the jetway.  I've seen this when they are overzealous about their job.  There are numerous closets on most airplanes, and even crew bag storage areas where crew might find a spot.  It is even legal to seat belt a carry on item into an empty seat, as long as it does not impede seeing any signs or block any exits.  Window seat in a non-exit row should work fine.

November 29, 2010 at 06:57 PM ·

November 29, 2010 at 07:53 PM ·

In US airports generally, and all worldwide airports on international flights, there is NO WAY to be "marched back to the ticket counter.!" For the domestic case, such an ct would require leaving a secure area and re-entering through the screeners, which is frowned upon. Of course it is physically possible, but if the airline is forcing that, then TELL 

In the case of international flights, it is IMPOSSIBLE to go back to the ticket counter. Passport Control will NOT allow it! Not in the USA, not anywhere!



November 29, 2010 at 08:05 PM ·

Bill, like I said, I'll ask them what happened when I talk to then next.

However, exactly where they were "marched" isn't really relevant anyway.  The salient point is that the instruments were prohibited on board as carry-on.  They were forced to check them and pay a fee.  This was on a transatlantic flight on a big wide-body jet (Airbus 330-300). Not some puddle-jumper w/limited overhead bins or anything.

November 29, 2010 at 08:10 PM ·

"These items get pink- or green- tagged in the jetway at the aircraft door, and are hand carried to the cargo bin.  They are then returned to the jetway when you arrive at your destination."

If you're lucky. I've had "gate-checked" and gate tagged items end up in the baggage carousel at the destination.

November 30, 2010 at 04:05 PM ·

So again, what about the pet area idea? Would that work?

November 30, 2010 at 04:57 PM ·

What if a pootch piddles on a nice expensive case? 

November 30, 2010 at 05:14 PM ·

The answer is simple.  Buy a cat, modify its cage so that the violin fits into the base and then check the animal in.

You are guaranteed that the instrument will be taken care of (yes, make sure its case is waterproof) and you get a wonderful companion in the process.

November 30, 2010 at 05:31 PM ·

Rather than a stash compartment (which may end badly if someone starts searching for contraband, and thinks that little puck of hill dark is some other material), how about a pet carrier that has a violin compartment displayed as ornamentation? Have a lucite frame and solid mounts which display the instrument to it's best, and on top, not on the bottom. I think it will end better.

December 1, 2010 at 05:16 AM ·

I'm not a pro but I travel a fair amount on business these days and I always take a violin with me when I travel.  I've probably logged well over 200K miles in the air (mostly domestic US travel) over the past few years with a violin.

My take on this -- I think it's a grab for fees by one airline.  Fortunately one that most of us don't have to fly although I feel bad for the folks who are forced to deal with this airline.

A number of US airlines used to be instrument unfriendly.  There was a period of 3-4 years where I wouldn't fly Delta because they did not officially allow violins as carry-on luggage.

But in recent years, US carriers and certainly some international carriers have been pretty accomodating about carry-on musical instruments.

My advice (and remember, it's worth what you paid for it):  for US domestic flights, select a seat that allows you to board early so you can get your instrument into the overhead space.  I spent a number of years riding in the back of planes on airlines that boarded back to front until I earned elite frequent flyer status that let me board early no matter where I sat.  If you can't select such a seat or are flying a real small plane, poilitely tell the gate agents that you're carrying a violin and need overhead space and ask nicely if you can board with an early group.  And don't make a big deal if a gate agent asks you to check your instrument, particularly on the small regional jets  Just mention that the instrument is very expensive, easily damaged and politely refuse to check it.  (Note that having a fancy-looking Musafia case helps when dealing with gate agents.)

Many flight attendants and pilots are instrument friendly and will help out on crowded flights.  My violin has been in crew closets, been up in first class while I've been in coach and one time even rode in the cockpit!  (I think that was on a *very* small commuter plane.)

International long-haul flights are trickier.  Airlines tend to be very strict there because weight means fuel which means lower profits for them.  Before booking international tickets, check the airline carry-on policy very carefully.  Some airlines allow violins as carry-on instruments in coach. Others may not.

And if this all sounds too stressful, consider learning the banjo instead :-).  They're bigger but they're really tough.  Banjo players tell me that if you get mugged, you can beat the attacker off with the banjo and then play a gig right after :-).

December 1, 2010 at 08:43 AM ·

on the site i read about a rumpus in colorado that ended with someone being hit on the head with a banjo and the hit-ee being charged with assault with a dangerous weapon.

i personally think uke's will be our salvation - the cheaper the better.  whether it's a grab for cash on the part of the airlines or some far-fetched security measure, the resulting media attention would be shaming indeed, with stacks of purloined ukes clogging our airports ... and the "5th column" effect that's bound to happen when airport staff start bringing these instruments home for the kids and create an enemy within.

anyone know michael moore? ... there's a movie here - we could call it "plucko!"

December 13, 2010 at 09:02 PM ·

On a very brief break from a whirlwind schedule, I wanted to share a related but different concern. A colleague told me that her luthier advised her if possible, not to put her viola through the standard x-ray conveyer belt, especially if she were to fly frequently. His theory was that the instrument, made after all from organic material, might be adversely affected by relatively frequent exposure to radiation - especially an older instrument.

So in her last flight, I think it was at JFK airport in New York, she requested a hand check. "No problem", they said. But then the checker insisted on holding the viola herself, and actually asked if the top could come off, so she could examine the inside!! My colleague refused to let the woman touch it any further, packed up her viola, ran off and almost got arrested - a nightmare!

Does anybody have knowledge about the x-ray issue? Would it make less of a difference with a modern instrument? Again. I wonder what the "stars" in our profession do?

December 14, 2010 at 01:21 PM ·

BTW, I just read last night some of Hilary Hahn's journal on her website, and found an entry from a few years ago that discussed some of the hassles of travel. She didn't mention specific issues of boarding with her violin - and I suspect that flying first-class, whch I assume she does, might help. But she mentions other issues that we can all relate to.

December 14, 2010 at 03:34 PM ·

Raphael, I wouldn't worry about the X Ray exposure for your violin. We all get constantly X Rayed by the sun in miniscule doses. Your violin won't be able to get cancer from it.

December 14, 2010 at 04:57 PM ·

The carry-on X-ray machine is *much* less powerful than the checked baggage machine.

Violins are dead wood. People are alive. DNA damage isn't an issue for dead things. The amount of radiation is very very small, insofar as radiation embrittlement or chain scission is concerned, and the former is really only an issue with neutron bombardment. In fact, steel weldments are routinely x-rayed to check for cracks.  There is no detrimental effect to the steel. Of course polymers are sensitive to radiation, but it is frequency dependent. Ultraviolet is very damaging to many polymers, wood included, but x-rays are not a big problem. Note that the equipment in an x-ray room is made of polymer. You don't see it getting charred or brittle or being replaced frequently, do you? That's because this is a non-issue.

Put your fiddle through the x-ray machine and stop worrying about it.

Who is the luthier who advised against X-ray? And why does she take her fiddle to a luthier? I take mine to a violin maker and take my guitar to a luthier.

December 14, 2010 at 09:06 PM ·

Thanks! I once made the mistake of not reading carefully, and took my lute to a lube job place. It never sounded the same. ;-)

December 14, 2010 at 11:55 PM ·


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Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

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Find a Summer Music Program

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Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases Business Directory Business Directory Guide to Online Learning Guide to Online Learning

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Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine