Cases to Protect Your Guitar
A guitar case is so important to your guitar that many manufacturers include the case in the price of the guitar. Many manufacturers make cases specially designed for particular models and ship the guitars inside these cases to retailers. This practice makes buying the guitar without the case difficult — and rightly so.
To buy a serious instrument and then try to carry it away from the store without the appropriate, quality protection is a foolish way to save a few bucks. The most important gesture of respect that you can show your instrument is to give it a safe place to sleep.
Cases come in three basic types: the hard or hard-shell type, the soft variety, and the gig bag. Each has its advantages, and the protection factor is proportional to cost: The more expensive the case, the better the protection it offers your instrument.
Hard guitar cases
The hard case is the most expensive option ($80 to $120 and more) but offers the best insurance against damage to your guitar. It’s composed of leather- or nylon-covered wood and can even survive the rigors of airline baggage handlers, providing crush-proof protection to your instrument. They can drop heavy objects on the case and stack it safely under other luggage items without any damage accruing to the precious guitar inside. Some hard cases are made of molded heavy-duty plastic, which makes them resistant to punctures, dents, and scratches, but are lined with fabric-covered padding to provide your guitar a shock-free environment during transport and storage.
The safest thing to do is to go with a hard case, unless you have some really compelling reason not to. If you don’t already have a case for your guitar and are thinking of buying one, try to think of any situation where a hard case may not be appropriate. If you can’t produce a quick and ready response, spring for the hard case and be done with it.
Soft guitar cases
The soft case isn’t completely soft, being in fact more stiff than truly soft. It usually consists of some pressed-particle material, such as cardboard, and can provide some protection for your instrument — for example, if someone drops a coffee mug on it (an empty coffee mug, that is). But that’s about it. You can pick up these cases for about $30.
The soft case is the inexpensive alternative to the hard case because it enables you to transport your instrument without exposing it to the elements and at least prevents an outside intruder from scratching it. But these cases easily buckle if put to any real stress (such as getting caught in an airport conveyer belt) and cave in, fold, and puncture much more easily than a hard case does. In most situations, however, a soft case provides protection against the daily bumps and grinds that would otherwise scratch an unprotected guitar.
The gig bag provides almost no protection against shock because it’s a form-fitting nylon, leather, or other fabric enclosure — you know, a bag. Gig bags zip shut and are about the consistency of any other soft luggage carrier. They cost anywhere from $25 to $150.
The advantages of gig bags are that they’re light, they fit on your shoulder, and they take up no more room than the guitar itself — making them the ideal case if you’re taking public transportation or trying to fit your electric guitar into the overhead bin of an airplane.
People who live in big cities and take public transportation favor gig bags. With the gig bag over their shoulder and a luggage cart toting an amp in one hand, they still have a hand free to operate a subway turnstile and hold the poles on a train car. But a gig bag isn’t nearly as protective as a soft case, and you can’t stack anything heavier than a scarf or a sweater on top of a bagged guitar.