Hard Shell Vs. Soft Shell (Gig Bag) Guitar Cases – Which is Better?

We’ve got to make the right choices for our instruments, and this extends far beyond the purchasing of the instrument itself! What are we going to do with the instrument once we get it home? Will we only play it on weekends in the comfort of our homes, or will we take it across town to a friend’s house for a jam session, or will we take it onstage to play live?

There are so many factors to consider. An important accessory that you will want to purchase with your instrument is a case. You should absolutely get a case to house and protect your instrument whether you leave it at home or travel far distances. A case will keep dust from accumulating on the instrument and will make it easier to carry, as well as house it so as to protect it from damage. There are two different styles of cases you can get: hard shells and soft shells, also known as gig bags. Which is the right one for you?

With this article we will look at all the possible factors that would go into your decision, so you can make an educated choice for your lifestyle and of course, your beloved instrument.

First, let us look at hard shell cases.

Hard Shell Cases

A hard shell case is the type with a hinged lid and snaps to keep it closed, and usually has feet. The hard shell case maintains its shape when the instrument is not inside it. For this reason, the hard shell case is a popular choice since it stands on its own. It can be inconvenient to have to structure and form the case every time you want to open or close it up. The hard shell will simply sit there once you have laid it down, and will remain like that until you need it again. This makes it very easy to take the instrument in and out.

Hard shell cases are ideal for far distance travel. If you are in a band and travel with other musicians and instruments, you will want a hard shell as it offers the best protection. Hard shell cases range in price from $75 to $500 and up. Quality is of course a main factor in the pricing of these cases: for example, a $75 case will protect the instrument from banging off walls or being crushed in a vehicle amongst other instruments, but it might not hold up to a car driving over it. A more expensive case will offer stronger protection.

Hard shells are also favoured because they cannot be broken into. They usually come equipped with lock and key, which will deter theft. The hard shell, unlike the soft shell, cannot simply be sliced open. For this reason soft shell cases do not come with locks.

Hard shell cases are favoured for long term storage. If you have several instruments and don’t use certain ones for long periods of time, you will likely want a hard shell, rather than soft shell, to store it away in the garage or attic or music room.

Hard shells will protect the instrument from minor damage too, including scratches or dents that you might not notice on the outside of a soft shell, but would certainly reach the instrument inside, thereby damaging it. A hard shell is a firm and durable barrier between the instrument and anything that lies outside the shell.

Hard shell interiors are usually lined with velvet or plush fabric to create a snug nest for the instrument. The tight fit will only serve to further protect the instrument. Their waterproof nature also sets them above the gig bag.

Additionally, hard shell cases tend to be the most attractive looking cases. They come in all kinds of colours such as black with burgundy interiors, or creamy pearl exterior with blue velvet interior.

Now we will look at soft shell cases, otherwise known as gig bags.

Soft Shell Case (Gig Bag)

Soft shell cases, like the hard shell, provide a convenient handle by which to carry the instrument. They also tend to be lighter in weight so they are good for anyone who walks a long distance to and from gigs with their instruments.

They take up less space so they are favoured by those who may take public transit, for example. Gig bags are far less cumbersome than hard shell cases, but they are not usually waterproof (unless you spray them with waterproofing spray) so any liquid damage will get the better of the case and then your instrument.

Soft shell cases often include pockets on the front in which you may store sheet music and other accessories. They are known as gig bags because they are most convenient for players who get regular use of their instruments. Gig bags are the cheaper option of the two, so this may affect your decision.

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