Traveling with Your Instrument

I know that all of you have kept up with the …. and the fast-paced growth in the copper. With your portfolio fat with metal investments, you smile after the past few years. Well maybe not. It is more probable that the only investment you have made into copper is the piece that goes up to your face. The price of instruments have risen because of the prices of brass and this means that when you travel you need to take the extra mile to protect your axe. Not only is it your voice, but it is probably the only instrument in your possession on that current trip. Many people call us desperate to get a replacement bell, or part of their instrument that was damaged by the airlines. Travelling all the time for Edwards and constantly carrying a bass, tenor trombone, or trumpet I felt the call to share the tips that I’ve learned over the past two decades of traveling.

Tips for traveling

  1. NEVER check your instrument at the counter.
    Even a bass trombone can go through security in a case. It will be checked out and I always offer to play. If it’s a trumpet it’s even morehumorouss because my trumpet chops are not all that.
  2. If the airplane is an MD80 or larger your tenor trombone or trumpet will fit overhead in the bins. If you have a bass trombone try for the coat closet at the front of the plane. Plead with the flight attendant to use their space. Many are nice and understanding. If not see #3.
  3. If you must check your instrument, CHECK YOUR INSTRUMENT AT THE GATE. This is where parents check their child seats (most without the children), and baggage if they have run out of room on the plane. These bags go into a separate cargo area and they are hand carried there. The horn will be brought out to you right when you get off the plane at your destination. Make sure to pick it up. I do not use a gig bag for gate check, only a hard case. I only travel with a hard case when I carry a trombone in case I must gate check. If I am carrying a trumpet like on my most recent trip to TMEA then I carry the smallest gig bag I have and put it under my seat until in the air and everything is settled down. Then I put the gig bag above. I do not put a trumpet into the above bins unless the case has adequate protection as people often push their overstuffed bags into your instrument not realizing that it is made of brass and the market prices are going silly.
  4. If a flight attendant asks you to check your instrument tell them that it is a 30-50K instrument. If they hear that it is such a cost and your livelihood they are more apt to help you out. I once had a flight attendant allow me to strap my bass trombone hard case into an empty seat next to me on a very small puddle jumper plane. It was awkward but the instrument escaped everyone’s hands except my own.
  5. There is no case that can save your instrument from inertia. The case will be fine but the transference of energy from a sudden shock (drop, etc) can transfer into the horn and the weakest link always loses. This is of course the bell in the throat area. It is far enough from the rim wire that there is no support and it will wrinkle from the shock of being dropped from the baggage handler. I have seen some people that put a cone shaped foam insert into the bell and they swear it works to support the bell. I do not do this and so I can not say if it does or does not help. I would think that something is better than nothing, but again choose to always keep the instrument with me at all times. At this point trombone players always ask me “what about an SKB golf case with a trombone gig bag inside it?” I do not like this system as I have had friends still get damage from this system. You will expect baggage handlers to treat your horn like golf clubs if you put it into a golf case. When I have checked my instrument below the plane I have done two things.
    1. Wrap the entire hard case in bubble wrap except for the handle. This with fragile stickers sticks out like a sore thumb to the handlers and usually will get better treatment. I have had luggage people hand carry the instrument to the baggage claim area when I have done this. Even when they don’t it give a little more protection to the case/horn and keeps the case looking fresh longer.
    2. Wrap the case in a large clear bag and put fragile stickers on the bag. This keeps moisture off the case in bad weather and again gets different handling then most cases. You really have to make your instrument stand apart from other suitcases if you want it to receive different treatment from baggage handlers.
  6. The Edwards jazz trombone, tenor trombone cases will fit above in the overhead bins. The Berp cases that we sell for single trumpet cases will fit overhead. The bam double case is slightly too big for overhead bins. Marcus bona makes a great four trumpet case that will fit overhead. We do not sell this, but I have seen this case and think it is a good multiple instrument case.

Make sure that you put your valve oils into clear bags when traveling and take them out of the case before going through the x ray area or you will be searched. Make sure your oils are 3 oz or less.

Travelling does not have to be stressful and if you follow the tips listed above you will ensure your horn survives for your next performance.