Need help choosing between a hardshell case or a gig bag for your guitar? They both have their pluses & minuses—here’s what to consider when choosing.
If you use a gig bag for your guitar you’ve probably been told, “You really should have a hard case for that guitar”. And maybe you should. But it’s likely that you also need a gig bag for it. How you transport and travel with your guitar depends on where the guitar is going and how it's getting there. Obviously the value and type of the instrument comes into play, too. Let’s look at the pluses and minuses of using a gig bag versus a hardshell guitar case.
This PRS P245 Carved Figured Maple 10 Top nestles securely in its factory case that’s covered in paisley fabric, equipped with gold latches and lined with a soft blue plush. Impressions on the plush confirms it has a safe, snug fit during transport.
Why You Should Use a Hard Case for your Guitar
At Musician’s Friend Private Reserve all of our guitars come with a factory hardshell case. This is the safest way to ship the instrument and store it when not in use. The big advantage the hard case has over a gig bag is its rigid frame. Transporting or storing an acoustic guitar in a gig bag leaves it vulnerable to being crushed. Hard guitar and bass cases are ideal for situations where the instrument is surrounded by objects that could shift and damage it. If you keep your guitar in a closet when not in use, a hardshell case will protect it from falling surroundings.
All Musician’s Friend Private Reserve guitars are shipped in their factory hardshell case, factory box and outer shipping box. Hang on to your guitar’s original box in case you need to ship it in the future.
Traveling with the band
Whether it’s a local wedding band with a van full of gear, a trailer being towed by the tour bus or a semi hauling a big arena show, you need a hardshell case if your guitar rides with other gear. Once again, the frame of the hard case is essential to protect your guitar against the possibility of other pieces of gear shifting and damaging your instrument. A hardshell case is easier to stow and will hold up to loading, unloading and crew handling better than a gig bag.
Flying with a Guitar
Nobody wants to check their guitar! Sadly, these days it’s often not possible to board with your guitar in a hard case. If you do have to check your instrument I’d recommend doing so in your hard case in a tight-fitting guitar box, preferably the original shipping box. This protects the case from scratches and also protects latches and handles.
Shipping your guitar to your destination via UPS or Fedex is another option and could save you time, money and hassles. If it’s possible you’ll end up on a smaller commuter-type aircraft with no suitable instrument stowage, shipping your guitar ahead also makes sense. Be sure to insure your guitar appropriately with the shipping company.
Two cases for one guitar?
If you own a collectible guitar with its original, pristine case, and reselling it at some point is a possibility, it may be wise to have an aftermarket case for everyday use. That way your original hard case remains in mint condition.
To review, here are some reasons for using a hardshell case for your acoustic or electric guitar:
- Use a hardcase if you’re shipping or storing your instrument.
- Packing guitars with other band gear requires a hard case.
- If you must check your guitar at the airport, use a hardcase in a tight fitting shipping box.
- If you own a valuable, vintage or collectable guitar with original case, consider an aftermarket hard case for day-to-day use.
- Check out the large selection of hardshell cases at Musician’s Friend.
Why You Should Use a Gig Bag for your Guitar
Guitar gig bags are great in many situations. They weigh less than cases, you can generally wear them on your back and they usually offer decent storage space for cables, sheet music, tuners and accessories.
Walking a few blocks to a gig in the city is the perfect scenario for using a gig bag .
Guitar Teachers and Students
Traveling to and from classes and lessons is easier with a gig bag. Wearing a gig bag on your back keeps hands free to open doors and carry things. Less weight is also good for those long walks on campus. The low-risk walk or ride in your car to and from lessons makes the gig bag the reasonable choice.
Travelling To Your Gig
If you drive yourself to the gig with just your guitar and amp then a gig bag is perfect. Once again, low-risk transport in your car coupled with the bag’s lighter weight and its hands-free advantage make the gig bag a good choice. A gig bag is also ideal for toting your guitar to the venue, rehearsal or jam when your amp is in tow.
Flying With Your Guitar
No promises that the airline will let you carry on your guitar, but you’ll have a better chance if it’s in a gig bag. And it’s much easier getting around the airport with the guitar on your back. I’ve had pretty good luck with carry-on guitars on domestic flights, but I’ve heard horror stories too.
Check out our story on the latest musician-friendly carry-on rule.
Spending a few extra dollars for a priority boarding pass is a good strategy since snagging first rights to overhead and other storage comes with it. You can also inquire about stowing your guitar in a coat closet or similar space on the aircraft. If you have doubts about whether you’ll be able to get your instrument on the plane, you’ll need to have someone at the airport waiting to take it home for you. A last resort that I generally do not recommend would be to loosen the strings and unbolt the neck from the body to meet the carry-on requirements.
Two guitars, One Gig Bag
If you need two different guitars to get the gig done, you can ease your city load-in with a gig bag that holds a pair of instruments. The Gator ELECX2 4G bag and the MONO M80 Double are good double guitar gig bag options.
Gig bags are great for weekend warriors, guitar teachers and students. Check out the huge selection of gig bags at Musician’s Friend
So there you have it. Just like choosing your axe, choose a gig bag or hardshell case based on the type of gigs and travel you do. Used appropriately, they’ll do their jobs well.
Need help finding your next case? Check out the Musician's Friend Case Finder!
Until next time, keep playing!
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Visit www.privatereserveguitars.com or contact Derek White directly at 866-926-1923. He can get you the absolute lowest price on your dream guitar. Connect with Private Reserve Guitars on Facebook and Instagram.
Brian Baggett is Video Presenter for Musician’s Friend Private Reserve Guitars. He curates the Private Reserve guitar collection on video, visits guitar factories and works closely with luthiers and signature artists to gain insight into the greatest guitars being built today. He is also a professional guitarist playing several nights a week in the legendary Kansas City jazz scene. A former jazz guitar professor, Brian continues to teach and has a book and DVD titled Keys To Unlocking the Fretboard. Find Brian on Facebook and Twitter.