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Viola Case Buyer’s Guide

The Ultimate Guide To Buying A Viola Case

viola case buyer's guide

Introduction

Viola cases are one of the hardest cases to shop for when it comes to orchestral instrument cases! Unlike violins and cellos, they don’t always come in set sizes. Some could have wider lower bouts, and some could be a little shorter.

Plus there aren’t as many options when it comes to buying viola cases compared to violin cases. Which is quite unfortunate! We often have violists asking us about the newest violin cases, and when that specific model will be available for violas.

The truth is, case makers largely focus on violin and cello cases because there are more customers! Which is why more time and energy is spent on creating newer models for violins and cellos.

But worry not! In this viola case buyer's guide will help you understand how to find a best selling viola case, which key features to keep in mind, and what to look out for when shopping online.

Table Of Contents

What To Look For In A Viola Case

viola case interior

In this section, we’ll go over some of the essential features to look for in a viola case.

Protection

As simple as it sounds, protection is still the most important feature of a case. Who would want an un-protective case?

So what makes a case protective? The material used to create the shells. Some of the best materials include Bam Hightech, carbon fiber, fiberglass, and wood.

Un-protective cases are usually made of styrofoam and thin pieces of wood.

A protective case will also include a suspension system. Which prevents the instrument from touching the shells of the case. A suspension system usually consists of foam paddings that secures the viola in the right places.

So if you drop the case, the viola won’t knock against the hard shell of the case itself.

viola case suspension system

Durability

A durable case is one that’ll last you for decades to come. How can you tell if a case is durable? By the brand name. Brands are reputable for a reason (including the bad ones). So when choosing a durable case, look for a name that orchestral musicians trust.

Don’t assume clasps and locks are more durable than zippers. Yes, zippers usually wear out sooner than clasps. But a cheap case with cheap clasps can easily wear out years before a quality case with quality zippers.

Lightweight

Every musician wants a lighter case. But in general, the lighter the case, the more expensive it gets. Because engineers have to figure out a way of using less material without sacrificing strength.

A cheap styrofoam case can advertise how light it is, but it can also break just by sitting on it.

A good lightweight viola case usually weighs around 4 to 5 lbs. Standard viola cases weigh between 6 to 8 lbs.

Temperature Resistance

temperature resistance

Violas are fragile wooden instruments. The sound can be negatively affected by unfavorable temperatures. A decent case will do a good job of protecting your viola from harmful temperatures.

Some of the best materials for temperature resistance are wood, styrofoam, Bam Hightech, ABS, and polycarbonate. The last 3 mentioned are different types of plastics, which do not absorb heat.

Carbon fiber cases on the other hand, do absorb heat. If you leave your carbon fiber case in the trunk of your car in 90 degree weather, it’ll cook your viola. If you live in an area with extreme temperatures, you’ll have to be more careful where you place your carbon fiber case.

Suitable Shape

viola case shapes

Viola cases come in 3 shapes: oblong, contoured, and half moon.

  • Oblong viola cases are spacious. They can fit larger shoulder rests, and many of them have zippered compartments for sheet music.
  • Contoured viola cases are light and compact. They’re usually better as carry-on for flights, since they don’t take up as much space as oblong cases. However, contoured cases do not have space for sheet music, and they can only fit a Kun style shoulder rest.
  • Half moon viola cases are the “between” cases. They’re almost as spacious as oblong cases. Most violists get these cases for their unique shapes. The most famous half moon viola cases are the Bobelock viola cases.

Unique Features

Cool features are not essential, but they can make your life easier.

Removable accessory pouches - instead of the traditional lidded compartments, removable pouches allow you to bring all your accessories with you to your music stand.

Combination locks - you can lock your case without worrying about losing your keys!

Hygrometers - helps you understand the internal humidity levels of your case. But hygrometers don’t fix the problem. You’ll still need a humidity kit to control the humidity.

Blankets - viola blankets provide an extra layer of protection between your instrument and your bow, so rosin dust doesn’t fall on your viola within the case.

Padded shoulder straps - almost all cases come with one or two shoulder straps. But the nice cases will come with padded shoulder straps. This is a great feature for musicians that carry their viola cases like backpacks.

How To Buy A Viola Case Online

You’ll definitely find more options buying online. Again, viola cases aren’t as popular as violin and cello cases. So many local music shops will prioritize violin and cello cases in their limited retail space.

Online stores don’t have to worry about retail rent. They often store their cases in warehouses out in the middle of nowhere. Then ship the cases directly to their customers.

They can stock up on a lot more case options, but you won’t get to try the case until you buy it. So in this section, we want to give you a few tips on buying a viola case online.

Check The Return Policy

Violas are more unique in their shapes and sizes. Without trying your viola in the case first, there’s always a slim chance the fit may not be right. So make sure there’s a good return policy.

All online stores will require you to cover the cost of return shipping if the case doesn’t fit. This can range from $15 to $40. However, you’ll want to check for restocking fees. Since many online stores charge a 10% or 15% restocking fee on top of the cost of return shipping!

Ask About The Size

Contact customer support and check the size first! Viola cases often have interior dimensions that may not be listed on the website. So double check with online support to make sure.

If you’ve got a viola with a unique length, you can consider an adjustable case. For example, many NON-adjustable cases come in 15”, 15,5”, 16”, 16,5”, or 17”. But if you’ve got a viola that is 15.75”, you can consider a case that is adjustable between 15” to 17”.

adjustable viola case

Check The Weight

When buying online, always double check the weight of the case! Since it’s something that you won’t actually feel till you get the case. This is especially true if it’s a gift. You wouldn’t want to buy a cute little pink viola case for a student, just to find out later that it’s one of the heaviest cases available.

Light viola cases are between 4 to 5 lbs. Standard cases are between 6 to 8 lbs. Cases can get as heavy as 10 lbs., so definitely check the product description for weight.

Avoid Unbranded Cases

It’s now easier than ever for people to sell online. However, that also means you got a lot more low quality options as well. Stay away from cases with no brand names, especially on Amazon. They may have very attractive prices. But putting a name on a case is the cheapest part of the manufacturing process. There’s a reason the seller doesn’t want a memorable name on the case!

The Top Viola Case Brands

Any case can look great when you open the box. But it’s incredibly disappointing when it breaks within a few months, or it cracks when you drop it on the floor. So looks can really be deceiving when it comes to orchestral instrument cases.

How do you know if it’s a protective and durable case? By the brand name! Especially if it’s a name that has been around for awhile. It means their cases have stood the test of time.

In this section, we’ll be going over some of the most popular viola case brands. And what you can expect from their cases.

Bam Viola Case

bam viola case

Almost every orchestral musician has heard of Bam. They’ve been making instrument cases for well over three decades. And they’re cases are some of the most protective and stylish cases out there.

Bam viola cases can range between $350 to $1200. With their signature Hightech viola hard cases starting at $700. The Hightech viola cases are possibly the best viola cases you can find.

To learn more about the different collections of Bam cases, check out thisguide to Bam violin cases. Many of the collections are the same for viola cases.

Tonareli Viola Case

Tonareli viola case

These are some of the most popular student cases. They also make great gifts! Tonareli fiberglass viola cases come in an assortment of colors. No other brand has as many colors as Tonareli.

All of the Tonareli cases are adjustable. And their oblong cases are adjustable to fit violas up to 10.75” wide, and 18” long. Making them the most “universal” viola cases.

Bobelock Viola Case

Bobelock viola case

Bobelock viola cases are a little heavier. They usually weigh between 7 to 9 lbs. But they’re also the most protective fiberglass viola cases you’ll find. Which is why many professionals choose these affordable Bobelock cases over more expensive cases. They have the same protection as many $500 cases.

The Bobelock fiberglass viola case also has the best adjustable padding. Once you’ve adjusted the neck padding to fit your instrument, you tighten a little screw that keeps the padding in place. This is much more secure than velcro padding.

All Bobelock fiberglass cases come with travel covers! And these covers have zippered compartments for sheet music as well.

Pedi Viola Case

Pedi viola case

Pedi viola cases are designed in Taiwan. They feature reinforced titanium frames along the exterior of the cases. You can stand on these cases!

They’re also quite functional with their padded backpack straps and padded sheet music pouch. Which makes carrying the case like a backpack more comfortable.

The Pedi cases are non-adjustable cases though. In fact, there’s only one size - 17”. However, depending on the size you choose, you’ll get differently sized foam inserts. For example, if you get a 15.5” Pedi viola case, you’ll get a 1.5” foam insert with the case that you can place under the instrument.

Summary

Buying a viola case does require some research. And we’re glad you spent the time learning about buying a viola case through this article. There are tons of options online, but understanding what you’re looking for is an important first step.

Don’t just go with the “nicest looking” case. It would be awful if it ended up being the wrong size, heavy, and costly if the return requires restocking fees.

Find a shape that suits you. Go for a style that you find attractive. See if it’s a reputable brand. Read other musician’s reviews.

Then check to make sure it is the correct size. Ask customer support to verify the size. Look for the weight of the case in the description. And always check the return policy for those hefty restocking fees.


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