How often do inexpensive cases cause instrument damage?

November 12, 2016 at 06:36 PM · Just curious. We've all heard of that lady who foolishly sat her instrument on the ground and then proceeded to drive her car onto it, but really, I sometime wonder what is the real likelihood of instrument damage from failure of the case to protect it under normal condition (as opposed to rare extreme situation)? Tell us your story, have you ever had instrument damage due to a case failure to protect it?

Replies (40)

November 12, 2016 at 07:33 PM · Hard to say. I'd guess likely not that often, and that most damage occurs due to 'handler error' instead, in that they a) forgot to latch the case, b) put music in it, c) didn't make sure the bow spinners were in place, d) didn't notice that a handle or straps were about to fall off, etc.

November 12, 2016 at 08:59 PM · What's a normal condition?

For me, the most "normal" condition is a fall, which is closely related to simply dropping the case or having it knocked off the table. I've subjected my Musafia Aeternam to a couple of accidental falls and drops, some instances where it was slammed into something, and one really cold, wet hour out in a snowstorm. Each time my violin and bow escaped unscathed.

My previous Bobelock rectangular suspension case survived some petty knocks and falls without any issues, either. It was never exposed to harsh weather.

My teenaged Bein & Fushi rectangular suspension case (made by American Standard, I believe, though I'm not sure) never let any serious damage happen to its contents, but the instrument could be knocked out of tune, and could get very cold in the winter.

My cheap-o hard cases from my early student years banged up the varnish on the violin pretty routinely, probably due to inadequate clearance, no suspension, etc.

November 13, 2016 at 03:24 PM · How often do inexpensive cases cause instrument damage?

Even if not often, damage is damage.

A case must be crush-proof, split-proof, rain-proof, and provide heat and shock insulation. The case must never, ever touch the scroll, neck, the middle of the back, or the bridge, even with padding.

November 13, 2016 at 05:46 PM · @Adrian, I agree with you, but I'm interested in the likelihood (and type) based on evidence of damage people have experienced that can be attributed to the case failure to protect the instrument. We often see decades/century old instruments in people closets that were carried in what was essentially a simple box with no padding, no suspension, no lining, no shock or thermal insulation what-so-ever with the instrument rattling inside, and now we all wish to have cases that could virtually survive a nuclear blast... so where's the evidence that actually justify our feelings for such protection? I do want protection, and like everyone else feel it can never be enough, but I thought it would be interesting to hear stories other than the few extreme anecdotal evidence that seem to be fuelling our perception. Other than the evident lack of durability, do inexpensive cases all that sub-standard when it comes to protecting the instrument from the daily transport hazards?

November 13, 2016 at 06:22 PM · Attic instruments in cheap cases are often cheap instruments that have been pretty badly subject to their environment.

High-quality instruments, back before the modern day, were carried in expensive handcrafted cases. That "Hill-style" case that you see advertised in the modern day is based upon the cases made by the Hills, back then.

November 13, 2016 at 10:09 PM · Most certainly true Lydia, good point.

Other than those who occasionally find a way to drive over their instrument, fall/walk on them, drop them while riding at high speed down a hill, or carry them outside in torrential rain during monsoon season, I am wondering what sort of damages routinely afflicted under "normal" conditions(and I admit than "normal" is rather vague) from using a modern inexpensive case? I am not saying that a good quality case isn't desirable, but I'd find it interesting to hear the horror stories.

That said, I must admit that I've used in the past a cheap, light, $70 Chinese plywood shaped case as carry-on onto several flights across the continent, and short of throwing it on the tarmac, can hardly see how I could have inflicted the sort of damage a $700 case is suppose to guard against.

November 13, 2016 at 10:35 PM · If you merely trip and fall (or slip on some ice, etc.), it's not hard to end up slamming your case into the ground. You might very well fall onto it, as well. That's a perfectly ordinary scenario.

November 13, 2016 at 11:15 PM · I went for years with a "basic" case until a fall cost me (my insurer, actually) 1000 euros. The end shock sent 3 nasty cracks up the belly.

November 14, 2016 at 12:43 AM · What are the odds of a plane crash?

What are the odds of surviving a plane crash?

The same goes with violin case accidents; even if the probability could be very low, once it happens, chances for your violin to survive undamaged are also quite low.

I had an accident with my old Gewa case (while it was still less than 1 years old); it's shoulder strap plastic ring broke while I was walking down the stairs on a subway. The case flew down the stairs. Needles to say, I was terrified to open the case. Luckily, my violin was not damaged.

There are myriad of other possible scenarios, and Mr. Musafia has got 9 of the most frequent tested for the Satravi certification (

Violin case is not a luxury item, but an important accessory in your violin protection.

At the end of the day, it all depends what do you put inside your case and can you afford to get it damaged or totaled.

November 14, 2016 at 04:25 AM · Violin cases with such "crucial" protections, unfortunately, are a luxury for many. It's easy to forget how expensive "fair protection" can get (not saying it's a rip-off, but it IS expensive). Go for it if you can afford it-if not, just don't buy a bad quality or badly made case. Imagine telling to a poor student/parent that just acquired with ample sacrifices a good to great violin that to prove hiw much he/she "cares" about his/her instrument, he/she must add hundreds to thousands more for merely a "decent" case-that market is really tailored for the well-off.

Hard to find anything close to a bargain related to violin, of course. Strings, rosins, minor accesories, and minor repairs are the closest to "affordable" we have in the violin playing world. Great violin cases have never been affordable, as far as I remember (please prove me wrong so I can recommend them to others.)

November 14, 2016 at 05:04 AM · At this point in time, a good-quality case (like a Bobelock suspension case) costs about what two sets of good-quality strings cost -- around $200-ish. In a lot of major cities, that's the cost of two or three violin lessons.

A student playing a violin they don't feel is replaceable and isn't a student-quality instrument should definitely downgrade from, say, Evah Pirazzis to Dominants for a year, if that's what it takes to buy a decent case.

November 14, 2016 at 05:15 AM · I guess I was thinking more about those people for which Bobelock are not good cases or not protective enough. Suspension cases can be found more affordably, but Musafia-like stuff is out of the reach of thousands of players (to be fair , nothing against Musafia or similar good, protective cases-just a "cry" against "casism".)

I am not sure I should make a case fund. Mine is fair enough and I love it (got it discounted, used to be more expensive), but nothing like the supposed standard. My violin deserves it and is a priority in my life, but it does seem like a luxury from my budget point of view.

November 14, 2016 at 06:19 AM · I've used a Bobelock for years and never felt like my violin was in the least bit of danger.

Defining a "safe" case as a Musafia or equivalent is a bit like defining a safe car as a Porsche and then asking the rest of us schmos driving around in Hondas what the worst thing that could happen to us might be.

November 14, 2016 at 08:43 PM · I have thermoformed cases from Gewa (well, "designed" by Gewa). I have customised them extensively. The honeycomb stucture is very resistent when new, but as with all plastics, become brittle with age.

And my violin and viola may only be in the 4k bracket, but they are all I've got, so I try to avoid a repeat of previous accidents.

November 14, 2016 at 10:09 PM · I agree with Mary Ellen.

I own a Musafia Aeternum, which I received as a gift, and I love it. I credit it for ensuring that even with my clumsiness, I haven't done any harm to my violin. I would probably have stuck with my Bobelock if I hadn't gotten it as a gift, though.

Nevertheless I intend to upgrade to a Musafia Enigma, so that I can get a case that is custom-fit to my current violin, and that has the weatherproofing features that are more important where I currently live. But it's undoubtedly something of a luxury, even if it does protect a valuable instrument.

November 16, 2016 at 11:39 PM · I like my Gewa Bio-S, which features a detachable music holder. It cradles the violin nicely, and the its snug enough to not let the violin rattle around at all.

November 29, 2016 at 04:56 AM · I am in mourning and still in shock from an unfortunate accident that happened to my violin. We wer packing up after a gig and my fellow band mates were helping to pack my car with the sound system. I was chatting with the guy who ended up trying to make the (new to me) sound system work without any luck [terrible noises and broken sound etc.]

anyway we were crabbing about what to do.

The other guys had brought my fiddle outside/ must have put it down where I was standing near my car in the dark.

Somehow I said goodbye to the guy I had been chatting with. The other two guys had already split.

I got in my car and drove home.

...Do you want me to continue?

Well anyway not until the next evening,at my house, when I went out to my car to get my violin, did I realize it was missing.

We drove down to the pub and it was there.

I was so thrilled. The bartender said that they'd found it over in corner by the bar the night before, and had put it in basement for safe keeping.

I took it home and that's when I opened it.

My Anton Schroetter Violin was smashed,

I'd had it since I was a kid/ it had the best tone.

My Omnibow was broken in middle. My antique horsehair bow on upper bow holders was untouched. The rosin in the larger interior compartment was pulverized.

The neck and scroll, tailpiece, chin rest are all ok.

The left hand side of fiddle is mostly intact. The righthand side in the curved area was splintered badly.

I am really a mess because of losing this beloved violin.

I had the violin appraised a few years back and could only get it insured for $1500. (That included a bow)

To me the value of my violin was priceless!

I thought I had a pretty good case - I was told it was strong but lightweight too (Protec Travel Light Violin Pro Pac Case); but now I know differently/ it wasn't crushproof.

It's pretty obvious a car or pickup truck drove over it; but there is no sign of dirt or tire marks on the outside of case.

November 29, 2016 at 03:17 PM · I think, unless you abuse it so hard, any case over $100 would survive any normal accident. Mine is a $150 "cheap" violin case, but it's more than enough to protect a violin. I've accidentally hit it while it was stand up and it has fell that way to the ground several times, no damage at all. Just make sure the straps are fine and won't broke. Normally, all the cheap cases under $70-80 have weak strap joints that need to be cared of to be minimally good. I myself replaced all the joints in my previous case because the joints and C rings were terrible, I don't think the case would have lasted more than 3 months if you carry the case 4-5 times per week, like me.

November 29, 2016 at 04:59 PM · Dinah - Oh my goodness, that's terrible. So sorry for your loss.

Your experience makes me appreciate more the case I bought, and reminds me that I need to always use the shoulder strap and carry it with me at all times. The case I picked up isn't a fitted case, and may be a bit larger to carry around, but its so versatile. I love the detachable music holder, and it can even go backpack.

November 29, 2016 at 05:00 PM · Dinah,

Sorry to hear about your loss. I am not confident that a better violin case would have saved your violin in this unfortunate scenario.

I hope that you will find a suitable replacement soon.


November 29, 2016 at 05:11 PM · Ditto what Rocky said! Your story reinforce the 4 things I never do... 1) trust anyone else to carry my instrument 2) leave it in the car, not even for the time it takes to get a coffee, 3) leave the instrument in the open case unattended, and 4) trust cheap Chinese shoulder straps (cheap metal hooks are brittle and break easily).

November 29, 2016 at 06:56 PM · Thank you Leif, Roger, and Rocky for your replys.

That whole evening was a complete circus.

So,my violin was at the mercy of the negative forces of the recent election two days before, plus the careless behavior of a few clowns, and me and the guitarist screwing up the sound system/ hisfirst time on the job. Oh the list goes on.

I found a nice Chinese violin to tide me over 'till I find my next true love.

November 30, 2016 at 04:26 AM · Knocking your case over is trivial, and even super-cheap cases can generally survive that. Tripping and falling on your case full-force is another matter.

November 30, 2016 at 07:16 PM · A big hug for Dinah, everyone!

November 30, 2016 at 09:42 PM · plus 2 links:

November 30, 2016 at 11:14 PM · I really didn't get it, Dinah. If you say that the case was in perfect condition, how is it possible that the violin was smashed and almost everything inside was broken?

Inner tornado?

December 1, 2016 at 06:29 AM · Force can be transmitted into the contents of something without the container itself being damaged.

Part of the role of a protective container is to absorb the kinetic energy of an impact, limiting the energy transferred to the contents. This is why cars have crumple zones.

December 1, 2016 at 11:39 AM · A vehicle running over a case is a pretty extreme incident - it would be interesting to know what proportion of cases could protect against that, as well as protecting against incidents presenting more dynamic impulses, such as dropping the case.

I have a Hiscox - they claim it can withstand 500 kg of static force applied to it, and hence there's a chance that a multi-ton vehicle might not apply more than that if driven over (since some of the weight would be taken by the other three wheels), but it would presumably be quite marginal.

December 1, 2016 at 12:56 PM · Sorry to hear about your violin!

Sounds like someone smashed it for fun.

No case will guard against that kind of vandalism. :(

December 1, 2016 at 12:56 PM · Dp

December 1, 2016 at 04:58 PM · By the way, I find it odd that insurance companies do not pay more attention to in which case your violin is dwelling.

It seems that, statistically speaking, other causes of loss are more prevalent. I doubt that they are just ignorant when it comes to $!

December 2, 2016 at 03:57 PM · I was offered a Jaeger(?) shaped case with a steel shell in exchange for my Gewa thermokern, because the owner found it impossibly heavy. But I should have had to remove the chinrest each time, so I refused.

Not internal padding though, so the violin would not have survived an external shock.

December 2, 2016 at 09:30 PM · I also have not experienced any issues with "case safety." I think most cases will protect the instrument just fine, within reasonable conditions.

December 2, 2016 at 09:53 PM · Exactly, that's the point, you should take care of your instrument, not your case. Unless you're rich and you can reasonably afford a super duper case that is worth hundreds of dollars, I think you're good to go with any case that has a minimum decent quality: good joints, good straps, cushion, etc...

December 5, 2016 at 01:44 PM · A case has to be reasonably idiot-proof; we may not (often) be idiots, others may be. It only takes one!

December 5, 2016 at 06:17 PM · Question: For the purposes of this discussion, what would be considered 'inexpensive', or 'expensive' for that matter?

December 5, 2016 at 07:43 PM · Good question, it's relative I suppose to one's wealth and spending comfort. For me that would be in the $50-250 range category. That price range would exclude pretty much most if not all of Bam, Musafia, Pedi, Negro, Jeager, Musilia, TA Timms, and GL cases.

December 5, 2016 at 10:12 PM · Well, more like (talking here about cases):

Inexpensive: $50-100

Regular: $100-350

You like your violin, "uh?": $350-550

Emmm... dude, easy, you don't have a Stradivarius: $550-700

You definitely mad. No, seriously, you're actually mad: $700-900

What are you doing with your life: $900-1500

Trump: $1500-3000

December 6, 2016 at 12:37 AM · I loved it, Tim!

I know a restorer who actually has old cases that are now worth 10k though... :D

December 6, 2016 at 03:47 AM · I would probably draw the boundaries a bit differently.

Sub-$100: Cheap. Buyer beware.

$100-$200: Inexpensive, but probably okay if you choose well.

$200-$400: Good enough cases that will satisfy most needs.

$400-$1000: Higher-end, more premium, protective, or specialized cases.

$1000+: High-end cases.

Broadly, I figure that you should probably pay at least as much for a case as you pay for instrument insurance each year. The case is a one-time investment for protection.

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