It has also traveled in a padded case just down the street to a gig or the local guitar store.
In both cases (ha! unintentional pun) my guitar made it safely to my destination.
I’ve learned along the way, however, that choosing the right case is about the situation and not necessarily about the budget.
Should I Purchase a Soft or a Hard Guitar Case?
Back in my days as a salesman at a big-box music store, a guitar case was an almost certain add-on sale. People would always ask me “Should I buy a soft case or a hard case for my guitar?”
Of course, when you’re earning commissions it’s quite simple to do the math –> hard case is more expensive, therefore earning me a larger paycheck. Many of my co-workers were quick to make the larger sale, but I urged people to ask themselves a few question before buying their guitar case.
Questions such as:
- Do I intend to travel long distances or pack away my guitar?
- Do I consider my guitar an investment or an experiment?
- Do I live in an extreme climate? (i.e. it’s really dry or really humid)
If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, a hard case is usually a good fit for you. Still, there’s no “one size fits all” answer, so I want to take a quick look at the advantages of each.
The Advantages of a Soft Case (Padded Gig Bag)
I’ve owned a soft case for about 10 years now and love using it from time to time. It’s not what I store my guitar in (I’ll explain more about why below), but I do use it for simple transport to places close to where I live.
There are quite a few reasons to want and use a soft case:
- Convenience: soft cases are usually easier to carry (many have backpack straps) and are lighter than a hard case
- Storage: soft cases usually offer more pocket space to carry things like cables, guitar tuners, books, straps, etc.
- Space-Saver: once you remove your guitar from the case, a soft case can fold away into a cabinet, bag or small corner
- Cheaper: …sometimes. You can go really cheap with a soft case (not recommended), something you can’t do with a hard case
If you rarely travel and don’t own a laminate wood guitar, a soft case could potentially save you $50-$100 or more. And really it’s all you need.
I highly recommend a case similar to this one by Profile. There are cheaper options, but you’ll find that the padding is almost non-existent and the craftsmanship is shoddy.
The Advantages of a Hard Case
First of all, before I go any further, if you spent any more than $400 on your guitar…BUY A HARD CASE.
Ok, now that I’ve got that out of the way, let’s move on. 🙂
There are obvious advantages to having a hard case as well as some not-so-obvious ones. Let me explain:
- Travel Protection: airline baggage handlers don’t heed the “Fragile” sign, so your hard case better be good.
- Climate Protection: extremely dry or humid climates are your guitar’s worst enemy. Hard cases act as a kind of vacuum capsule that protects your guitar from the elements. This is why I always store my guitar in its hardcase.
- Idiot Protection: and yes, that includes me the owner. My uncle once ran over his guitar with his car (not all the way, of course) because he set it by the trunk and never got around to putting it in. The hard case was pretty banged up but the guitar didn’t have a scratch.
Many high-quality guitar manufacturers provide cases with their guitars, but if yours doesn’t and you answered yes to one of the three questions I asked above, you need to just bite the bullet and buy a hard case.
Hard cases are a bit trickier because they are supposed to fit the guitar like a glove. If you have a Dreadnaught guitar, I recommend the SKB Standard Acoustic Guitar Case. For those with a Jumbo style, check out the SKB Universal Jumbo Hardshell.
Why SKB? They are the best quality of hard case at the best price. That’s not just my opinion either – most anybody who’s played guitar for more than a few years knows this.
Some guitarist only need to get a soft case while others truly need a hard case.
And then there are those (like me) that like having the option of both.
Whichever you choose, just make sure that you’re protecting your guitar from whatever is most dangerous in your environment – whether that’s the weather, a kid…or even you!