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Traveling with your saxophone should be as smooth as the music that comes out of it. But unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
Travel can be unexpectedly rough, on both you and your instrument. But whether you hit a bump in the road, turbulence in the air, or take a spill on the way to rehearsal, a good case is there to make sure your sax doesn’t get dented, bent, or knocked around too much.
What You Need To Know About Saxophone Cases
As with any instrument case, the best one for you depends on what you’ll be using it for. If you’re a touring musician who frequently flies to gigs, a hard case is an absolute necessity — preferably one that fits snug in the overhead bins. Soft-shells can work too, but if you’re not able to carry it on-board, you’ll need something that can take a beating if it’s thrown around by luggage handlers and moving through baggage machines. If you’ll be staying local with gentler travel, however, or you plan on storing your sax mostly in your house, a soft-shell case should suit you just fine.
Sax cases generally need to be pretty bulky in order to provide adequate protection, and as a result, room for extra stuff seems to be fairly limited across the board. Some cases carve out small but convenient compartments inside for things like a mouthpiece and extra reeds, but larger items and accessories like music books may require an additional bag. There are some clever “sax-hacks” tips from the pros though, such as safely stashing your sax stand inside the bell part of your horn for a little extra carry space.
Just like how there are endless makes and models of saxes, every saxophonist has their own needs in what a case should provide. We’ve selected our three favorites here to get you started searching for the right one to keep your sax safe and sound.
1. Protec Alto Saxophone Contoured PRO PAC Case
For protection from all kinds of drops, and protection from rain and roughness, the Protec is a top-choice soft case.
This was made to travel, whether cross-town or cross-continent. The thickly-padded shoulder strap is comfortable enough for short trips, while the backpack straps are more suited to tours and longer treks (the removable luggage ID tag is a nice touch too).
Its wooden shell frame absorbs impact and still manages to keep the case light, at about six pounds. The outer lining is the next line of defense, with a weather-resistant, ballistic nylon exterior and reinforced zig-zag stitching.
Inside is lined with a beautiful, deep blue soft velvet, and should fit most standard saxes. There’s built-in compartments specifically designed for the neck and mouthpiece, but the large front pocket is spacious enough to hold small accessories like neck straps, reed boxes, holders, and even comes with a built-in organizer to keep things neat. And for the multi-talented, dual wind-instrument wielding musicians, there’s an optional flute case too.
Finally, zip it up, where rubber runners line the high-quality, heavy-duty metal zipper tape, and add a final barrier between your sax and the outside elements. Grab it by one of its two solid handles, and you’re ready for your flight or for the local open-mic.
PROS: Tough, durable exterior. Soft, velvet-lined inside. Travel-ready and is the perfect carry-on soft case. The handy QuickLock feature lets you shut the case (once you’ve removed your sax) without needing to zipper it up again, and the thick rubber feet keep it from touching the ground when set down.
CONS: Even the biggest pocket here still isn’t large enough to comfortably hold sheet music or books – they’d need to be stored inside the case, along with the sax. Also, be sure to do your research before buying and make sure your brand/model will fit.
2. Gator Lightweight Molded Alto Saxophone Case
For the next step up from padded protection, Gator’s hardshell plastic case features heavy-duty aluminum, while providing multiple ways to carry it around comfortably. The gripped handle on the top center makes it easy to grab and go, and there are rings to add a shoulder strap if you want to completely free up your hands.
The interior is softly lined, plush-padded and form-fitted, to tightly hold your sax in place when the road or flights get rough. Since there are no external pockets or pouches, space can get extremely limited here. Best bet is to get a separate bag for things like neck straps, cork grease, reeds, etc.
This case is especially good for busking too. It’s light enough to tote around town, and durable enough to be set down on city streets or areas with heavy foot traffic.
Once your set is over, lock it up with the chrome-patched latches. And if this size doesn’t fit your sax, Gator has a wide selection of other quality options too.
PROS: Extra durable, great choice if you know your case will be getting scuffed, roughed up, or tossed around.
CONS: There’s a piece of fabric that keeps the case from flopping to 180° when open, and it can occasionally feel flimsy.
3. Gator Lightweight Polyfoam Alto Saxophone Case
For students that want all the benefits of a Gator, but don’t want to shell out the cash for a hard case quite yet, the company’s got you covered with this rigid soft case option.
The rugged nylon exterior is tough yet easy to clean. Inside, it’s lined with densely-molded foam covered with a black plush padding. The outside storage is big enough to hold a sax stand, while inside has a few compartments for reeds, mouthpieces and a neck strap.
Though it does come with a no-slip rubber shoulder strap, some suggest purchasing a more comfortable, padded one (or backpack straps) if you’ll be carrying your case a long distance. Otherwise with two other handles to choose from, hauling your instrument from car to carry-on shouldn’t be a problem.
PROS: Great for students and beginners.
CONS: Though advertised as lightweight, this is actually a couple pounds heavier than the hardshell option.