A FEW WORDS ABOUT GIG BAGS FROM GLENN CRONKHITE . . .
Bottom line! As musicians, our well-being and our livelihood depend in part on our instrument being exactly the same when we pull it out of the case at the gig as it was when we put it in after the last one.
Gig bags have been getting a bad rep lately, and after visiting NAMM 2005, I can see why. I don't think the people who design some of these things have the health of a musical instrument at heart. Over 40 years ago, when I made the first soft cases that actually protected an instrument, mine were the only ones available. Now, however, gig bags have become so commonplace that it's hard to know just what to look for. Why, and under what circumstances, will they work well? I think we need some straight talk at this point, and what I'd like to focus on is not price point - it's point of impact.
First of all, a gig bag is not for everyone. If you have other people handle your instrument or you tend to stack stuff on top of it in the van, forget it! On the other hand, if you like to keep it close to you, and you handle it with care, a good gig bag can make your life a lot easier, and can be the cheapest insurance you ever buy. However, all gig bags are not created equal, so be careful when looking for the right one. I believe these things are a safe alternative to a hard case only when made by someone who knows what he's doing.
There are many reasons why cheaply made gig bags don't protect the instrument.
MATERIALS: Foam padding is usually too soft, thread is too thin, outside is too easily damaged.
CRAFTSMANSHIP: Let's face it, the last thing you need is for your case to fall apart on you in the middle of a tour.
DESIGN: A case is not a purse, nor is it skateboard gear.
The contents of a gig bag are easily damaged, extremely expensive, and hard to replace. It's nice if it looks hip, but its design must honor its function. Also, I don't like all the extra pockets, laces, chains, etc. I see on some of these things, all of which can get hung up on anything, or anyone, you happen to pass. If you can't move easily through a crowd without bumping into things, you're in trouble with a gig bag. I know, it's great to have everything you use in one bag, but all that extra weight and bulk just make your case a bigger target. If you lug a lot of stuff around, put some of it in a separate bag. Your instrument will thank you.
Another issue is FIT: If your case is not properly balanced, or the instrument moves around inside, look out! Beware the company that has a limited number of generic sizes and tells you they fit everything. What these companies do is make a case that fits the largest instrument in each category and the smaller ones end up dancing around inside the case. Not good! This is why, if you have an instrument that has an unusual shape, I will custom fit your case. At times, it may require your participation (some measurements or a tracing), but considering the case may be with you for the life of the instrument, it's time well spent.
During my lifetime as a musician and as a craftsman, I have been fortunate to have known a lot of people who did something extremely well. Most of them shared something in common. They had a philosophy about what they did - an internal statement of intent which they used to evaluate and direct their work. In the beginning of my work, when I was trying to decide if a gig bag was something the music world needed, I had my own statement of intent. It has not changed. Build a Ferrari, lightweight and streamlined. Build it tough, to take a beating. Build it to fit and protect what's inside. And make it look as elegant as possible. Otherwise, don't bother!
Glenn Cronkhite has been a professional musician since age 14. His cases began the gig bag industry. He founded Reunion BluesTM and designed, under licensing contract, the cases made in their San Francisco factory. He is no longer affiliated with RBTM or their trademark in any way. He keeps over 2000 patterns on file, and has a full line of stock and custom sizes in leather or fabric. His cases are manufactured and sold out of Berkeley, California. Most orders are shipped within two weeks. Glenn's sewing crew, Estrella Sewing Shop, also accepts repair work on all his cases, including those made by RBTM in the U.S.