On Ukulele Cases

18 Aug 2012

On Ukulele Cases

I have blogged before about ukulele cases but thought it was about time I expanded on that a little (with some pictures!)

For anyone with a ukulele, a case really is an essential item you should think about buying. How much you spend depends on the cost of the instrument you are protecting and what you are planning on doing with it. Certainly there would be little point spending £50 on a hard shell case for a £30 instrument. Equally, there may not be that much point spending that much for an expensive instrument if you never plan to take it out of the house.

Whichever, a case is still a good idea, even as just a place for an instrument to sleep when not being played.

Entry level cases are really just gig bags - soft, slightly padded, usually with a shoulder strap. These are the absolute basics and really only provide a means to comfortably carry a ukulele. They will protect it from the lightest scrapes and knocks, but nothing more than that. They certainly wont protect an instrument from being stepped on or crushed.

Pod cases, or semi hard cases though seem to have become the most popular choices out there. The one below is branded with the Southern Ukulele Store logo, but I have many others each with different logos, but each essentially the same thing.

pod ukulele case

These are popular for many reasons - they are light, they are cheaper than many straight up hard cases, and they are convenient (nice large pocket on the front, shoulder straps etc). They cost about £20-£25 and are basically two pieces of shaped polystyrene foam covered with a fabric outer and held together with a zip. They work very well and offer much more protection than a soft case or gig bag.

pod ukulele case with Islander MST-4
They are not all great news however. Yes they are sturdy and will stand up to drops and more serious knocks, but I am not totally convinced that they will stand up to being trodden on or crushed (or rather, I would not like to test them out!). In addition, they don't, in my experience, stand up to that much wear and tear, and on one of mine the zipper has gone. Also, on all flavours of these I have tried they tend to always be far too big for the ukulele size - meaning the instrument tends to knock about inside them. Some have straps to hold the neck in place, but I still find the instruments wobble. Perhaps nothing to be too concerned about, but it annoys me.

All of that said, I am not trying to be too hard on these - they are probably the best all round option there is and I own several in different sizes. In fact, I would recommend that if you are buying any ukulele in the £100 price bracket upwards I would suggest you seriously think about getting one with this sort of case. Protection worries over!

But what if you want something more serious - something that will stand up to serious drops, being tossed into a tourbus under a load of other gear, being trodden on? You need a full on hard shell case.

Beware though - these also come in the good and the bad.  At the cheapest end you are getting nothing more than plywood and whilst hard enough, i don't figure they offer as much protection as a pod case.

Spend some more serious money however (and I am talking £40-£70 ish) and you can move into ABS moulded cases. These are supremely tough, though at a price (and a weight). They provide the best protection for an instrument but in most examples sacrifice other conveniences like straps and pockets.  Look for one with decent quality catches and hinges (and also check the handle - always the first thing to go on a cheap case).

The one below is by Leader and currently houses my Mainland Concert uke. It's very solid and excellent quality. The lining is plush and deep and the catches and hinges are of a decent quality.
leader hard shell ukulele case

Step it up another notch though and you can get something like this one by TGI. Wow!
TGI hard shell ukulele case

This really is a professional feeling case, with much sturdier clasps than the Leader case, deeper lining and D Rings for a strap - this one feels (and looks) the business, and also holds my Tenor uke really snugly. It's also surprisingly light and small - not bulky at all.
TGI hard shell ukulele case with Kanile'a K1

But it is horses for courses as I say - just think about some form of protection. If you are gigging, busking, travelling with a ukulele and you want to avoid tears and heartache - I would certainly recommend a pod case as a minimum. In fact, as I say, even for storage - a good hard case is the best place to leave a ukulele when not in use.


  1. We purchased cases made by 'Tom and Will' - still not quite as good as a hard case but more heavily padded than most and they seem to be very well made:



  2. I bought a TGI soprano uke case about 18 months ago from Alan Gregory Manchester and both hinges have snapped and the hinge pins fallen out. The hinges are cheaply made, unlike the rest of the case and after very little use, once a month if that, have rendered the case unusable. The distributors can't or wont get spares sent out and arent interested in doing anything about the obvious design fault, although Alan Gregory have kindly offered to try and repair it for me. I have cases that are 40 years old and are still fine so really although the TGI cases look great they arent fit for purpose so beware.

  3. Steven - that sounds like a real shame. Mine has been heavily gigged for over two years now and shows no sign of breaking. Also know a lot of pros who use them. Failures can happen I guess. The ones that break for me all the time (some in a matter of weeks) are the pod cases

  4. I bought a TGI concert case and it is going back as one of the handle hinges is quite loose ( it came that way ). I can imagine it getting looser and eventually snapping in a matter of months.

  5. Shame - my TGI is a couple of years old now and done countless gigs - still going strong!

  6. I live in the US where we apparently have some different terms. It might help to know these if you are searching for a home for your uke buddy in an online store based here. The pod cases are available here but generally called polyfoam, foam or poly. The thinner soft bags are called gig bags. There is a growing trend towards (sometimes much) more protective bags which are then called soft cases. Of course the wood and ABS plastic cases are still available. There are also more protective, and heavier weight fiberglass cases. Calton and a few others have carbon fiber cases which are the most protective and lightest, and much, much more expensive. I think these used to start in the $700 USD range but are probably even more now. At least for the Calton you get a case that is designed to fit your specific instrument, which can improve the protection compared to a poorly fitting case.

    Another point I think is worth making is that a hard case (wood, abs, fiberglass, carbon fiber and even pod/ polyfoam) is good for climate control for your instrument. It can even out rapid changes in temperature and humidity and in fact maintain the proper humidity range for unattended weeks at a time.


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