Why I Had To Get A Lighter Cello Case
My first cello hardshell case was a 16-pound fortress on wheels (25 pounds with my cello in it) that did a great job protecting my cello while I was growing up in suburban San Diego.
When I had to take it anywhere, we would just stick it in the trunk, drive to school or to youth orchestra, and I would wheel it into the building from the parking lot.
When I went to college, that case also kept my cello secure through all my flights – including one where my cello case was strapped to the seat upside-down! – and buses between home and college.
However, when I moved to New York for grad school, I quickly realized that the cello case I had worked so well for almost ten years wasn’t going to cut it in Manhattan.
Compared to suburbia, getting around New York is like a high-speed obstacle course – constantly dodging other pedestrians and tourist groups, puddles and cracks on the ground that you *hope* only have water in them, and cars and cyclists who may or may not be obeying the lights or the direction of traffic.
It’s also much more walking (or running, if you’re trying to catch the subway or the bus) than in the suburbs.
So naturally, I decided to start carrying my cello case on my back instead of wheeling it around, with my cello on my right shoulder and my bag with my laptop and books on my left.
While I no longer had to contend with my case hitting the curb or splashing through mystery puddles, all this led to a terrible amount of strain on my back and shoulders, but as a minimum-wage student worker, I balked at the cost of lighter cases.
Invest In A Light Cello Case Or Get Physical Therapy?
Finally, my Alexander Technique teacher sat me down one day and told me point-blank that my right shoulder muscles were overdeveloped, my alignment was thrown off, and my options were to either get a lighter cello case or get physical therapy down the line.
This turned out to be the wake-up call I needed, and with my savings from my first job after graduating, I bought an 8-pound Gewa Air cello case that I could lift with one hand.
I remember actually laughing out loud with relief the first time I tried walking around with my cello in my new case and realized that the tension in my shoulders was gone.
What To Look For In A Cello Case
Before shopping for a cello case, you should first determine what kind of transportation you will use most frequently with your cello.
If you’re planning on taking the New York City subway every day, a hard but light case is a must to take all those knocks and navigate the city crowds easily.
If you drive everywhere on well-paved roads or you’re planning on simply keeping your cello in your living room, you can probably get away with a softer or heavier (and usually cheaper) case.
If you’re thinking of getting a high quality soft cello case, I’d highly recommend the Bam Performance cello gig bags.
They’ve definitely got quality zippers. The worst is to replace your gig bag cause the zippers broke.
Once you have that down, the main factors that I would recommend anyone who’s looking for a cello case to consider are:
A cello case’s price and weight tend to be the first things people think of when shopping for a new case.
Cello cases can range in weight from around 5 pounds for a soft or an ultralight hard case to a 16 pound fiberglass case like my old fortress, even before adding in your cello.
The more you’re planning on carrying the case on your back, the lighter your case itself should probably weigh.
Cases come in a variety of materials, each with their pros and cons.
Soft cases will tend to be lighter, but won’t be able to protect your cello from the elements or hard knocks the same way hard cases can and so will require more care when handling.
Hard cases tend to be heavier, but are more durable and offer better protection for your cello, as well as more color options and shapes, if aesthetics are a major factor for you.
Besides the shell, also consider the materials of the handles, lining/padding, straps (both inside and outside the case), and latches – do they seem to be durable and high-quality?
It may not be the first thing people think about when shopping for a case, but the little things on the side can make a big difference in the efficiency and comfort in carrying around your cello.
Are there enough handles and straps for you? If so, are they all placed (or at least can be adjusted to be) in convenient and comfortable positions for you?
If you’re getting a heavy case, are there wheels (and by the same token, are you willing to get a heavier case if it means having wheels)?
Are there pockets inside the case for your sheet music, rosin, rock stop, spare strings, pencil, etc.? If not, could you attach a music bag or backpack to the case if you wanted to?
Just like buying clothes, furniture, and appliances, you should pay attention to the size and measurements when considering a cello case.
While most full-size cello cases should fit most full-size cellos, it’s still a good idea to get your cello’s exact measurements, especially if you have any custom parts or a non-standard cello model (such as a Montagnana).
Last but not least is the price. Soft cases start at around $133 and usually top out around $300, while hard cases can range from $200 to around $3,000 for ultralight models.
Just as you make the investment in your cello and bow, your case is your investment in protecting your cello and (in my case, at least) your health, especially if you plan on using a particular case for a long time.
In the end, the “best” case is not necessarily the most expensive.
When I was finally able to get a new cello case, I didn’t get the lightest or the most expensive case on the market.
My new Gewa cello case was still light enough to make a significant difference in how I carried my cello and strong enough to protect my cello during my commute, but was also about $1,000 less than the absolute lightest cases.
The best case for you will be a combination of your budget, preferences, and what you’re able to compromise on if necessary.
If you’re looking for some personalized recommendations, feel free to take the online survey at Great Violin Cases! It takes less than a minute to fill out, and one of our team members will reply by email with some recommendations!