All Things Saxophone

Equipment Fundamentals — Cases

Last modified 05/31/09


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Saxophone cases come in a wide variety of shapes, styles, and materials.  As a result, you can pay just about as much or as little as you’d like.  The important thing to remember is that a saxophone case’s primary purpose is to provide a protective medium for storing and transporting your saxophone & accessories.  That being said, this article discuss the types of cases available to the saxophonist.

Vintage Cases

Vintage cases like the one pictured at left usually have a wood frame covered in leather.  The inside is lined in a felt as are almost all cases.  Until recently this style of case wasn’t made anymore (hence the reference to vintage) but this style is being built again by some manufacturers (see my article on the Cannonball Vintage Tenor).  Vintage  cases are cumbersome because of their boxy design, but the classic look is very appealing to some players.  Also, the box design leaves extra space for storing accessories.

Gig Bags

Gig bags are the convenient way to carry your saxophone.  They are designed to follow  the contours of the body of a saxophone and are typically made two different ways:

· Canvas wrapped around a soft to firm foam frame.

· Hard molded plastic with metal trim.  (This is sometimes called a molded case)

The former looks great and is comfortable to carry over the shoulder, but does not protect the saxophone from strikes and drops (I know this from personal experience).  The latter doesn’t look very good but does offer more protection  against strikes and drops.

Gig bags save space in storage but conversely don’t offer much storage for accessories.


This style is my personal favorite.  Tri-packs like the Pro-Tec brand pictured at left blend the features of traditional cases and gig bags.  Usually made of canvas wrapped around a sturdy wood and hard foam frame, these cases have side pouches for music and accessories, plus special compartments for your flute and clarinet (a must for doublers).

Flight Cases

These cases are truly designed to take a beating and protect the contents inside.  They get their name from their primary use — riding in the cargo hold of an aircraft.  They are made of layers and layers of metal, wood, foam and felt.  Some of these cases are designed to have saxes in gig bags placed in them.  This is a feature geared toward the traveling musician — enabling the flight case to be left at the hotel and the gig bag to be used for local travel to the gig(s).

Flight cases are heavy, bulky and expensive, costing $1,000 or more.  However, if you’re traveling with a saxophone a flight case is necessary unless you want to buy a seat for your horn.  After just a few flights that becomes even more expensive than a flight case and with airline rules changing it’s getting more & more difficult to buy an extra seat.

Another note about flight cases.  There are some manufacturers out there that are making cases that look like flight cases and they’re attractively priced but that is plainly because they aren’t as tough as they need to be.  Check the vendor out thoroughly before making a purchase.

Caring for your case

I’m a proponent for remembering that the saxophone case is just a case.  It’s the instrument inside that needs the care, and the case exists to fill part of that need.  That doesn’t mean though that a case should be abused — that can lead to damage to the instrument.  Some players (usually beginners) figure that the case must do a good job of protecting the horn so why not be careless.  Not a good idea.  Many times I have seen instruments get badly damaged while sealed up inside the case.  This is particularly true in the case (no pun intended) of gig bags.

So, the best thing you can do to “care” for your saxophone case is don’t overestimate its ability to protect the instrument (unless it’s a flight case).  When it’s time to pack it in the van or the bus for the gig make sure it’s not buried under the weight of a bunch of other stuff or awkwardly placed such that it can rattle around during travel.  An even better thought would be to keep it with you (easier done for Alto sax than for Bari).  Good luck and I’ll see you on the bandstand.









A typical modern tri-pack case (alto, clarinet & flute)

A Vintage Case (this one is for a King Super20 Tenor)