Left to right: Monster Cable’s Cable-It, Gator’s G-ROTO-112

Handy Extras to Take Along with Your Case or Gigbag

In addition to the proper guitar case, a few essential pieces of onstage gear will help you keep everything in order at jams, rehearsals, and recording or performing gigs. A good guitar stand such as Musician’s Gear tubular model ($10) or Hercules with folding yoke ($49) is a no-brainer that avoids tragic falls when you think your guitar is leaning against an amp, wall, or chair. If you need one that accommodates multiple axes, the K&M Guardian comes in versions that hold either three ($190) or five ($230 street) electric, acoustic, or bass guitars in a row. Ultracases GSX models are rugged road cases that open up into a stand that can accommodate or four ($399), six ($449), or eight ($499) guitars. Similarly, Fender offers a guitar-case stand that resembles a vintage tweed or black case when closed, but opens to hold either three ($250) or seven ($310) guitars. One benefit of the several-in-a-row-type stands is that they’re much less prone to tipping over than conventional single-guitar types.

Whichever stand you choose, make sure it’s one that doesn’t feature materials that can damage or chemically alter the finish type of your guitar (nitrocellulose lacquer finishes are particularly prone to this discoloration). And even if the stand is chemically safe for your finish, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to cover the points of contact with scraps of soft cotton in order to prevent damage.

Given how many of us are using combo amps these days, another great take-along tool is a stand to get your amp off the floor and where you and the audience can hear it better. Sure, you can try the cheap milk-crate option or maybe a chair, though neither is particularly stable—and definitely not adjustable. For a minimal investment, the On-Stage RS7000 ($40) is adjustable for height and tilt angle, and its rubber pads and feet grip the amplifier and prevent the stand from sliding. Other makers to check out include Musician’s Gear, whose Deluxe Amp Stand is an affordable option at $20; Ultimate Support, offering the compact Amp-150 Genesis stand with folding arms and legs ($30); and Quik-Lok, which designed its double-brace low-profile stand with large amps in mind ($50).

Another aspect you might want to consider about your amp is that it’s often as vulnerable as your guitars during transport. So, it’s never a bad idea to stow them in cases when not in use. Some of the manufacturers featured in this piece—Anvil, SKB, and Gator—offer roadworthy cases for any type of amp, from a 1x12 combo to a 4x12 cabinet In the Fly Anvil line (from $285) you’ll find a relatively lightweight option for everything from a 100-watt head to a 2x12 combo. SKB’s neat Amp Utility Vehicle ($385) fi ts any 2x12 and doubles as a riser for onstage projection. And Gator has a range of sensibly priced amp cases from the G-ROTO-112 ($105) for a 1x12 combo to the G-ROTO-212 ($125) for a 2x12. Whatever case you choose for your amp, be sure it has some serious casters—three inches in diameter, at minimum—to provide a smoother roll, which translates to less potential shock to the amplifier parts and circuitry inside.

And, finally, cable clutter is a musician’s enemy, and there are a number of easy ways to fight it. Planet Waves makes elastic ties ($9 for a 10-pack) that will keep your 1/4" cables unkinked and neatly organized. Monster Cable’s Cable-It (from $19.95) is a cable-management kit that zips up a bunch of cables into one unit—perfect for guitarists and bassists with complicated setups.

All of these solutions remove potential distractions from what’s most important—keeping your mind on making music when it’s time to hit the stage.

Hardshell Cases
Traditional hardshell cases are typically made from a multi-ply wooden structure covered with a material such as vinyl, a textile such as tweed, or leather. This type usually either follows the contours of the guitar (similar to most Gibson acoustic or electric cases) or is rectangular, like those for Fender solidbodies. It is secured with a series of metal latches and carried with a handle made from plastic or leather. Some hardshell cases also include a pair of hooks designed to accommodate a strap for carrying. Many also have metal feet on the butt end to protect their coverings when placed in a vertical position, and on the bottom to keep them level when horizontal.

Many moderate- and most high-priced guitars come with hardshell cases, and if you’re a bedroom rocker, or if you play local gigs and have a streamlined rig with little to carry other than your axe, then this may be your preferred method of transport. If you acquire an instrument that doesn’t include any sort of case, or it came with a gigbag and you’re worried it won’t provide enough protection (which may not always be the, er, case—again, it all depends on your playing circumstances), one obvious solution is to simply buy the model of hardshell case offered by the instrument manufacturer.

But there are many other options for a good wooden hardshell case at all price points. For less than $100, companies like Gator and Silver Creek offer well-built wooden cases with Tolex covering (the faux-leather material used on many amplifiers) in a range of sizes that will fit everything from parlor-sized acoustics to Precision bass–style solidbodies. TKL—which manufactures many of the cases that come with new instruments from Gibson, Martin, and others—offers a similar style of case, the Prestige, that has a tougher DuraHyde covering, a thickly padded interior, and a roomier accessory compartment. These start at around $90 street.

If you want the snuggest possible fit for your guitar or bass—especially if you’ve got one in a nonstandard size or shape—then a custom hard case is the way to go. Fill out a spec sheet with a couple dozen measurements of your guitar, and a company like Cedar Creek (a division of TKL) or C&G (which also makes cases for the Fender Custom Shop and Paul Reed Smith, among many other high-end clients) can build you a smart case with your choice of exterior and inner coverings, hardware packages, and other options.

Erich Solomon, a master luthier who ships many of his finished archtops with an American Vintage Series CC720 Cedar Creek case, is a staunch proponent of making sure a case hugs its contents tightly—a fit that is pretty much guaranteed with a custom build. “A proper fit is a must for any decent guitar case, especially in regards to the way the neck and neck angle are addressed in the case,” says Solomon. “If the neck is supported on too short of a distance—or the neck angle is not correct and the body falls too deeply into the case, and the neck just contacts in one spot—if there is a shock, it will act as a fulcrum, and potentially cause damage to the instrument.” This is why Solomon says it’s critical to take precise measurements of your axe when ordering a custom case.

In the late 1970s, SKB pioneered an alternative to wooden cases—the acrylonitrile butadiene styrene molded hardshell case. Better known as ABS plastic, this is the same lightweight, resilient material used for athletic helmets, sprinkler pipes, and car bumpers. SKB currently offers its vacuum-molded ABS cases—made by pouring warm thermoplastic into a mold and applying suction—to fit a wide range of guitar and bass styles. The SKB-FS6, for instance, with its universal fit for almost any solidbody electric guitar, has a street price of $100. At the other end of the spectrum, beginning at around $500, Hiscox offers its Liteflite case, available in the Standard, Pro II, and Artist versions, with an ABS outer layer and a semi-rigid cellular foam inner layer with thermal insulation. The standard case has a crush resistance of more than 1,100 pounds, as is neatly demonstrated in a video on the company’s website, while the Artist series is four times as resistant to impact and puncture.