Protect Your Cello
Every cello, regardless of its price tag, is a significant investment. The cello that you practice on and perform on becomes a part of your music, and it just makes sense to do everything that you can to keep it safe. Here are a few suggestions of things to think about when planning for your cello’s safety.
Choose Your Cello Case
The kind of case that you choose for your cello is one of the biggest things that you need to consider. Here are a few different case options:
Bag or Cover - A soft-shell, lightweight fabric, canvas, or leather cover can provide minimal protection for your cello. Some cellists find this to be a good, inexpensive option. If your cello tends to stay in the same place (in your home or in a locker), and that place is quiet and calm, then this may be a good option for you. But be careful. A soft-shell cover can have a lot of dangers and drawbacks. Any time you carry your cello anywhere, you run the risk of accidentally dropping it or bumping it against a wall--or having somebody else accidentally run into it. There are so many variables at play anytime you take your cello anywhere, that if you are going to be transporting it with any kind of frequency, you should be very careful about using a soft-shell cover.
Hardshell Case - These cases are generally made from wood or wood-plated styrofoam, wrapped in a fabric or canvas covering. These cases are generally inexpensive, and thus make a good fit for a lot of students and beginning cellists. The hard shell can provide good protection from many of the bumps and falls that frequently happen when transporting a cello from one place to another. They are a little bit heavier than a bag/cover, but in most cases, are well worth the little bit of extra weight.
Fiberglass Case - This is a really good option for many cellists. The fiberglass case is stronger than a simple hardshell case, and provides much more protection for the cello it carries. Many fiberglass cases are also designed as suspension cases. A suspension system is sort of a case within a case--the padding surrounding the cello is “suspended” within the outer shell, further protecting the cello against shaking, vibration, and dropping. The biggest drawback to fiberglass is the weight of the case. They are generally significantly heavier than a simple hardshell case. For a violinist or a violist, the extra weight of a fiberglass case may not make much of a difference. But when you are already carrying around an instrument that is almost as tall as a person, even a pound or two can make carrying it seem a lot harder. However, the increased protection for the cello makes it worth it for many cellists to carry that extra bit of weight around.
Carbon Fiber Case - These tend to be much more expensive than fiberglass cases, but they have advantages that make it worthwhile for some players to use carbon fiber. The biggest advantage in a carbon fiber case is the lightweight strength. Carbon fiber combines the lightness of a hardshell case and the protection offered by a fiberglass case. Like fiberglass cases, most carbon fiber cases are designed as suspension cases, meaning that not only is the exterior extremely hard, but there is also an additional measure of protection from bumps and jarring inside the case. Many carbon fiber cases are also designed as single-latch (or “central-latch” or “uni-latch” or “central locking”) cases. This type of case has a series of 7 or 8 latches that are all operated simultaneously by a single central switch. Many cellists enjoy the convenience of this one-switch open and close mechanism. The central mechanism usually has a latch lock, preventing the case from accidentally falling open if bumped against something while being carried.
Beyond what kind of case you carry your cello in, there are a whole range of other things that you need to be thinking about all the time if you want to keep your cello in one piece and in good condition:
Never ever ever leave your cello in your car. Yes, it might be ungainly or awkward to carry your cello into the grocery store or restaurant with you. Yes, you’ll probably get tired of the number of times you hear people commenting on the “guitar” they see on your back. But your car is almost never a safe place for your cello. According to some studies, the temperature inside a parked car can rise as much as 40 degrees in less than 60 minutes. That kind of heating--even on just a mildly warm day--is not good for any instrument. There’s the threat of theft--intentional or unintentional. In Glendale California in November 2015, a million-dollar cello was accidentally stolen along with the car whose trunk it was sitting in. Just get into the habit of always taking the cello out of the car with you--it’s really worth the extra effort.
Never leave your case standing up with a cello in it. This seems obvious, but it can be so easy to set it down, think “I’m just going to go get a drink,” and come back to find your case knocked over and your cello dinged up. It’s always worth the extra little bit of effort to lay your case down on its side.
Plan ahead if you plan to fly. There are cello case covers that can protect your cello if you choose to check your cello as baggage on a flight. These are great big fluffy bags that you put around your regular hard-shell case. If you decide to go this way, cover the case with fragile stickers and stickers about how awesome baggage handlers are, and then make sure to take a plate of cookies for the workers that will be handling your cello. Really, though, the best way to travel with a cello is to buy an extra seat on the flight. This is an expensive option (and reminiscent of the Piano Guys’ So Happy Together), but it is still far better than repairing a broken neck, or finding a loaner cello for a performance while yours is in the shop getting fixed up after a rough flight. Some airlines have refused to let cellists board with their cello even after a second ticket was purchased, so before you buy your tickets, make sure to talk to a real person at the airline and confirm that their airline policy allows instruments to sit in purchased seats.
Consider buying instrument insurance. There are lots of ways to get insurance for your instrument. Some people add it to their home-owner’s or renter’s insurance. No matter how careful you are with your cello, someone around you won’t be. Or you’ll trip while walking on stage with it. Or a hundred other things.
Following these suggestions may be inconvenient, but It is worth every effort to protect your investment and your ability to make music.