When to buy a hard case and when to get a gig bag
Hard guitar cases are ideal if you will be travelling more frequently or longer distances (outside your city or local area) especially if you will be going on train, bus or van where your guitar could slide around and get knocked or have things fall on it. If you're travelling on a plane and the guitar will go in the cargo hold I would recommend getting a flight specific case which can survive having other, potentially heavy, luggage stored on it while also help insulating against the extreme temperature differences associated with flight cargo holds.
Soft Cases and Gig Bags
Soft cases and gig bags don't offer the same protection as a hard case however if you are only occasionally travelling with it a decent gig bag should be fine in terms of protection, and easier ergonomically to carry. This is especially true if you will be walking with your guitar or carrying other equipment (like an amp) as some come with straps that enable you to carry it on your back.
How much you invest in either a hard case or soft case/gig bag it is worth it getting a decent one as it will definitely be cheaper than the cost of repairing or replacing your guitar.
What to look for when buying a Guitar Hard Case
When buying a guitar case one of the most important considerations is to make sure you get a case that will fit the guitar you have. A better fitting case will help stop the guitar moving around inside the case and protect it from bangs and scratches.
This means not just getting one specific for your guitar type e.g. acoustic, bass, electric, but also where appropriate for the model.
- For example if you have an acoustic is it a full size, or ¾? Is it a 12 string? In which case you may need extra room for the larger head.
- If it's an electric guitar is it a telecaster, stratocaster, les paul, flying v, does it have a reverse or slanted head? Some cases are are universal but others are more specific. Most cases are made for the standard tele/strat shape and are built with the most common producers, fender, gibson and epiphone in mind so in most cases you should be fine. However it is worth considering these elements before you buy. We have tried in most cases to state if the case is built for a specific design or if it is more universal. Particularly unique shaped guitars it is worth making sure the case will fit your guitar before you buy.
Another consideration alongside the fit is the padding. A decent quality case should come with decent padding, but if you are looking at a cheaper model it is worth paying particular attention to this as this can be an area where cheaper models and brands cut costs. I would recommend a minimum padding of 10-15mm.
The type of padding can also be important as you want to make sure the lining is soft enough to leave the guitar finish in pristine condition. A fake fur or velvety lining is ideal.
Another thing we look at when assessing a quality case is what it is made of. Most are made of plastic, wood or light metal. Of some combination of them. Often with a plastic or vinyl finish, which has the added bonus of being water resistant as well. But you should also pay attention to what the the handles made of. You want them to be of equally sturdy material, as the case and that they are securely attached. You don't want to it to break on transit. In addition to this you want to ensure the fastenings of a decent quality. Even worse than the handle breaking is the case opening by itself while you are carrying it and banging on the floor.
Ultimately the main advice would be don't get a super cheap one. In particular if your guitar has some value. Cheap cases often don't fit the guitar well, provide poor padding, plus handles and fastenings can break or be poor quality build (which can break under pressure). The main point of a hard case is to protect your guitar and so it is worth getting one that will properly do that. You don't have to break the bank, £60-100 should normally be adequate and there are plenty decent ones in the price range.
Other Cool Uses for Guitar Cases
So we’ve all seen the hollywood movies where 1920 & 30s gangsters mow each other down with sprays of bullets from the tommy guns they would hide in their violin or guitar cases (not condoning these actions). Well it turns out that you can actually do this, there are even videos on youtube about how to do this very thing. As in how to store a tommy gun in a violin case, not how to mow people down (please don't do this!). Problem is that in real life then the case was rarely used for this purpose. Real life mobsters would prefer to use the large broadsheet newspapers of the day as it was easier to fire quickly (don't need to stop and open the case) and bullets fire easier though paper than a wooden case meaning you can keep the gun concealed while shooting (again not condoning this).
This idea was taken to the next level in the Robert Rodriguez’s Mexico Trilogy (El Mariachi, Desperado and Once Upon A Time In Mexico) starring Antonio Banderas as El Mariachi in which he, and his fellow Mariachi musicians, store their guns in their guitar cases.
But surely there are other things you could do with a guitar case? So this got us thinking, you’ve heard of people carrying a briefcase full of money, usually with the obligatory set of handcuffs securing it to the carrier. Amatuers! Think how much cash you could fit in a guitar case! Plus no one will suspect money in there because they will also expect it to be filled with guns (or in some unlikely events maybe even a guitar). Pro tip, get a case with a lock. Cases are all about safety after all.
Alternatively, for the creatives out there (which we assume many of you are as musicians) did you know you can also use an old guitar case to make some funky shelves for your house? Neither did we but there are some great examples on pinterest of people doing just this. Using them to store CDs, ornaments or even wine and glasses. Probably a better choice than the other options above let's be honest.