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Buying A French Horn Case?
Buying A New Horn Case
Horns aren't cheap, and when you've invested several hundred dollars or more in your instrument, a high quality French horn case is essential to protect it. Many people are happy with the case they get when they buy their horn, but if yours is due for an upgrade, or you just want a different type of horn case, it's time to go shopping. Read on to find out more about the different French horn cases that are available, and where to buy them.
French Horn Case Types
There are two basic types of horn case: those for fixed bell horns, and those for horns with detachable screw bells. In general, screw bell horn cases are smaller and easier to carry – many (though not all) French horn backpack cases are for these horns. For both types of horn, you can buy solid cases, or more lightweight padded French horn bags. A horn gig bag is lightweight and usually comfortable to use, but doesn't offer as much protection as most solid cases. You can also get bags that fit over solid cases, to make them easier to carry.
Fixed Bell Horn Bags & Lightweight Cases
Fixed Bell Moulded French Horn Cases (No Bag)
Detachable Bell Horn Cases & Bags
Things To Consider When Buying A Horn Case
Tips for making the best choice
Like all instrument accessories, some horn cases are better than others. What's 'best' for you will depend on your needs, but here are some things to think about before making your purchase?
Is the case well put together? If you're buying in person, check it for loose parts, poorly stitched seams, shoddy hardware and the like. The case should also be very well padded on the inside, to protect the horn from knocks and hold it securely.
Durability & protection
Will the case stand up to the kind of use you'll put it through? Obviously if you travel a lot with your instrument, you'll need a sturdier case than someone whose horn rarely leaves their house. If you fly a lot and your horn will be going in the baggage hold, look for a heavy duty case that's designed with air travel in mind - these will cost more, but are still likely to be cheaper than having to replace or repair a damaged horn!
Is the lock strong enough to secure the case, or is it flimsy?
Space for accessories
Most cases have some space inside for a cleaning cloth, oils and other accessories, but some are better than others in this respect. If you like to carry lots of horn accessories around with you, a case with several compartments or pockets (in the case of horn bags) makes it easier to keep things organised. This is especially true if you use multiple mouthpieces - look for a case with an inbuilt mouthpiece pouch or storage area that will hold these.
Ease of cleaning
If you want to keep your case looking nice, make sure the material is easy to clean. A solid case with an easy to wipe surface may be lower maintenance than a bag made from fabric that shows up every bit of dirt.
Like other instrument cases, horn cases have traditionally been black in colour, but these days there's more variety available. Black is still the most common colour, but if you shop around a bit you can find both hard cases and bags in blue, green, brown and sometimes louder colours too.
Solid horn cases are often made from wood or (especially these days) moulded plastic. This is pretty durable in most situations, although you could damage it if you were careless enough. Other cases may be made from fibreglass or foam-covered plywood, with a fabric outer shell. This fabric could be synthetic or natural, and some cases are made with leather.
Full size horns do vary a bit in size, depending on whether it's single, double or compensating, the make, model and wrap type (Geyer wrap horns need a bit more room, for example), so although most horn cases will fit most horns, if your horn is towards the larger end of the spectrum, you might find you need to take this into account when buying a case. This is something to think about if you want a compact case for travelling - these are often made to be small, but on the downside they may lack storage space for accessories, and might be a tight squeeze for large horns.
Ease of carrying
Some cases are easier and more comfortable to carry than others. Older style horn cases have a single handle on the curve of the case (or sometimes on the flat side - I personally prefer this style), and may have fittings for attaching a shoulder strap of your own. Other cases these days offer more carrying options, such as multiple handles (which may be padded for extra comfort), a shoulder strap, a backpack strap, or even wheels so you can pull it along.
French horn case prices vary from around $100 for a budget case to about $500 for a high end case from a brand such as Marcus Bonna. One advantage of buying a more expensive case is that these cases are often made to order, and can be tailored to your individual requirements. Bear in mind that you can sometimes get top quality cases more cheaply from stores selling damaged stock (this is usually just minor cosmetic damage), or second-hand horn cases.
Traditional solid cases can be on the heavy side. If you carry your horn around a lot, you might want a lightweight horn case, such as one made from fiberglass.
General shape & appearance
If you have a fixed bell horn, your horn case is going to look like - a horn case! But for those horns with detachable bells, you can get cases that are more generic looking. Some even look more like briefcases or suitcases than musical instrument cases. So if you like to keep a low profile and don't want it to be immediately obvious what you're lugging around, this is something to bear in mind.
Some people care about brand names, others don't. Popular brands of horn case include (but are not limited to) Protec, Marcus Bonner, Gard, Reunion, J. Winter, Gator, Ritter and SKB.
When buying a new horn case, check the kind of guarantee you get. This may come from the retailer or the manufacturer. Some manufacturers, such as SKB, offer a lifetime guarantee and will repair or replace the case if it is damaged.
Buying A Horn Case In The UK
I live in the UK and am currently looking for a new horn case. I haven't made my choice yet, but here are some of the sites I've found useful so far:
As with Amazon.com, you can find some great bargain horn cases on Amazon UK.
Paxman is the most famous store for horns and horn accessories in the UK, and unsurprisingly they sell a nice range of cases.