Bassoon Care series: Cases and protection

November 22nd, 2013 by

In this week’s installment of care related posts for bassoonists, I’d like to talk about instrument cases, and safely transporting your bassoon from home or practice room to the gig or rehearsal.

Bassoon cases are relatively expensive compared to cases for most other woodwinds. The least expensive case available from many eBay sellers is only around $100, while some newer professional carbon fiber cases can be close to $2000! All of them will hold a bassoon, but not all are right for all instruments or for everyone’s needs.

A quick note before I get started on the types of cases. Most cases are designed to rest the wing and long joint next to each other. This is very convenient, but can lead to some superficial damage to the wood or keys because the joints will often move very slightly against each other even in the most well-constructed case. It’s always a good idea to wrap your wing joint in a polishing cloth to give it a bit extra protection.

Case #1, the wood briefcase

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For many years the standard case provided by manufacturers is a somewhat heavy, but sturdy and protective, wood briefcase style case. Often they have the blocking (the specific position of the bits that hold the bassoon joints in place so they don’t move) put in place for the specific instrument it is sold for, and other bassoons will not fit, or fit poorly. These cases have the advantage of being ubiquitous, and therefore something that can be repaired or adjusted if need be. They also tend to be all generally the same outer dimensions, so many different case covers will fit them. When properly blocked, these cases provide custom protection for your instrument, ensuring that no joint is able to move and knock into another part of the instrument. The hard shell of wood also makes sure the instrument won’t get damaged by a smack against a wall, car door, or passing cellist. The down side is that they can be quite expensive, and heavy. We suggest these cases for school programs and for younger players because they usually provide the most protection for the instrument.

Please note: there is one case, the cheap “universal” case found from several eBay sellers. This case is Heavy, slightly oversized, and does not provide the custom blocking that the finer wood cases like what Fox bassoons come in. These are not recommended.

Case #1B, case covers

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These standard hard cases are nice and sturdy, but heavy and difficult to carry. A case cover can provide additional storage for sheet music and accessories, and provide shoulder straps or backpack straps for easier carrying. They also provide some extra insulation for players living in colder or wetter climates. We suggest the Altieri case covers for anyone with these hard cases. Altieri will custom fit a cover if you have an unusually sized case.

Case #2, the gigbag

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On the other side of the spectrum is the ultralight cases, designed to provide the most lightweight transportation for your bassoon when absolute protection isn’t necessary. These cases are often top loading like the Kolbl compact case, but some are briefcase style like the Altieri “Opera” bag. These cases weigh much less due to having very little, if any, hard shell in them. Just nylon or leather around a foam core. These are great if you are especially careful with your instrument, never take public transportation (or tour buses) and need something more compact. They also are usually a “one size fits all” kind of design, so there is no custom blocking to be concerned with if you are buying one as an after-market solution to your manufacturer provided hard case. We do not recommend these for institution owned instruments, or for younger players.

Case #3, the hybrid

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For a number of years there has been a huge increase in popularity with hybrid style cases. Cases that are convenient and compact like a gigbag, with backpack straps and being fairly lightweight, but with more rigid materials to compromise towards the wood hard case. These often have the best of both worlds, in that they protect your instrument from some common impacts and hold the instrument tightly. I would recommend these for professionals and older students that are able to take care of their instruments well. I personally have flown with a case like this as a carry on and had no issues.

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Thanks for the incredible support you and your colleagues serve my students. It really makes an enormous difference for their success in the profession.