The average cost of a violin case is around $250. For most people with a decent student violin (between $500-$1500) that’s what they spend on just the case. My primary violin is somewhat better than entry level. My case only cost $60. It’s close to the cheapest case you can get and equivalent in price to a single 1 hour lesson in my area. It has decent amenities for a cheap case, but won’t protect my violin from much, just the normal bumps and bangs of transporting to and from lessons. On the other hand, my ridiculously inexpensive camping violin is in a $100 case. Go figure. It’s more protective, but ugly as they come, arrived used and somewhat scuffed (like the violin it contained), and has absolutely zero amenities. The case came free with the cheap violin, so it has that going for it.
Of course, cases come in all price points. I have seen cases that cost the same or more than my violin. If you are housing a famous instrument, then go for it. Mine is not so famous, or precious to anyone but me. All the same, it needs and deserves a better case. I have decided to get a custom-made case from Italy for it.
Now before you go all nuts and freak out about a bespoke handmade Italian case for a not-famous violin played by an amateur musician, keep in mind that I play a fractional size instrument due to my small hands and freakishly T-rex-like arms. Case makers only make their best cases for full-sized instruments. Because most violinists outgrow fractional sizes by age 11, it appears as if makers see no point in offering high-end cases for them. After all, what rational parent will get little Jimmy a pricey case when they can get one that gets the job done for a quarter of the cost? I can get a sturdy, functional case off the shelf, but it will be lacking much of what I am looking for in amenities.
So, what am I looking for in a case that I can’t get off the shelf?
1. Silk velvet interior – Silk is hydroscopic, which helps stabilize the microclimate inside the case. This is particularly important for vintage instruments with major repairs, such as mine. Anneliese has had issues with cracking prior to my ownership. A stable humidity will help prevent any future damage, and preserve the repairs that have already been done. It doesn’t hurt that silk velvet just feels decadent.
2. A tested suspension system – Even silk velvet will eventually wear the varnish on the instrument. The fewer places that the instrument is touched, the less wear there will be. Also, fewer points of contact will reduce transferred vibrations to the instrument, protecting it further from damage from casual bumps and bangs. Not all suspension systems offer the same protections.
3. Reinforced wooden case with proper arching – Like suspension systems, not all wooden (fiberglass, carbon fiber, etc.) cases are the same. Making a case lightweight enough to haul around, and yet protective enough to save the instrument in the event of a catastrophic incident takes a lot of R&D and a fair amount of careful construction. Proper arching of the lid allows room to clear the bridge, and prevent the bows from touching the top of the violin. Not all commercial cases have sufficient clearance in the lid, or provide enough protection. This case is lighter in weight and stronger than the equivalent sized case in a popular commercial brand.
4. Tropicalization – The new case will have special insulation to reduce temperature fluctuations inside when moving from indoors to outdoors in extreme weather, and prevent unnecessary repairs (see item #1). In commercial cases, you can generally get a strong case, or an insulated one – rarely both, and that only in the highest price range, and for full-sized instruments.
5. Custom fit – Sure, I could buy a full-size case and add foam to keep my violin from sliding around, but that is ugly, a pain, and pretty much renders the suspension system useless. This case will be custom-made to fit this specific instrument.
6. Spectacular warranty from a company with a proven track record for customer satisfaction. If something goes wrong with this case, I can return it for full repairs or refurbishment for a minimal cost. My violin is almost 125 years old. This case could conceivably protect it for the remainder of its useful life. If that isn’t in the cards, I can sell it. These cases generally resell quickly and for good prices.
7. Last but not least – customization. Don’t you get tired of seeing black instrument cases? How do you pick yours out of a line-up? I’m getting exactly the colors, amenities, fit, and style that I want, without compromises. I’m willing to pay a premium for that.
Now all that might not be important to you, and that’s OK too. I’ve gotten to a certain age and place in my life where this is both feasible and practical. As William Morris was once quoted: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” I’m looking forward to having a protective and beautiful case.