Cases – Front Line Instrument Care
Keep your instrument in its case when you are not playing. Although this seems obvious, you’d be surprised how many people leave their valuable instruments lying on beds, sitting on chairs or tables, stuck in between the cushions of a couch or just hanging around. We have seen far too many instruments in our repair department that have been damaged because they weren't in their case. A clean case is also important. If your instrument is left exposed to air, and hence dust, the mechanism is more likely to be corroded or clogged with airborne impurities. Clean dirt and lint out of the case regularly using a vacuum cleaner or the old tape trick (a strip of tape patted sticky side down onto the case lining will pick up all sorts of stuff you probably didn’t even know was there).
Do not leave coins or other small objects unsecured in your case. Coins especially can get stuck inside the tubes which make up your instrument, but any foreign object can also get stuck. Keep a separate bag for sheet music, cleaning gear, instrument stands and so on, many cases have an outer pocket for this purpose. These items can bend the key rods or create dents in your instrument if jammed into the case with the instrument. You should always wrap any small items in a cloth or bag to stop them floating around inside the case, thus preventing them from getting into the instrument.
Keep your case dry If you put wet pull-throughs or cleaning cloths straight back into the case, you may as well not bother using them, as the moisture remains inside the case and causes the same kind of damage to pads as just leaving them wet. This also has a disastrous affect on wooden instruments, not to mention the increased problems of mould and/or corrosion on the mechanism. Let the cleaning cloths dry out for a few minutes before putting them back into the case.
The instrument can be air-drying at the same time.
Always make sure your case is fastened shut before you pick it up. Lots of modern cases have zips to close them, and it is not always possible to see clearly whether or not they are closed. The same applies the more standard clips and locks. An old trick is also to carry the case with the lid next to your leg/body, so that if the locks do come undone for some reason the lid will fall against you and not just open completely allowing the instrument to fall. It’s easy for locks and catches to be opened accidentally, especially if you are in a crowded place or carrying lots of things. Coloured tags/keyrings can be put onto zipper tags to show more clearly if they are closed.
To lock or not to lock? If you lock the case you know that the locks won’t accidentally be opened, but don’t think that locking the case will somehow deter thieves. If someone wants to steal an instrument, they will, and they don’t care what sort of damage they do once they’ve got it. The other danger is that you may lose the keys! Keep a spare somewhere, and if travelling, get someone you are with to also carry a spare – after all, you don’t want to be breaking in to your own case. You might consider locking the case if the instrument were going to be travelling separately from you (e.g. as checked luggage on a flight, in a bus etc), as this will prevent accidental opening.
Cases should be silent: When putting your instrument down, it should not make any sound. Most modern cases fit the instruments snugly, so there is less danger of the instrument being damaged in transit by bouncing around inside. No case will offer perfect protection. Enough force applied by dropping, bumping or something landing on it will distort the case to the point of breaking, damaging the instrument inside or both.
Ensure that shoulder straps are secure before using. Please also note that the handle should be used before the shoulderstraps. Picking up the case by the straps could loosen the catches or clips, as well as send the instrument swinging around to collide with something near you.
Instrument stands are a great idea for short-term placement of your musical instrument, but they are not a storage option. While it is a good idea to leave your instrument exposed to air for a short time (ie 3 – 5 minutes) after playing to ensure thorough drying, try to avoid leaving your instrument on its stand for any longer than you have to. Use the pull-through or other drying implements before allowing to air-dry for a short time. The stand can be good for this purpose.