For different types of French horns and for use in different situations, French horn cases come in a variety of shapes and sizes. In general, cases are made for either a fixed horn that does not disassemble or a screw bell horn with a detachable bell that makes transporting the horn easier. Hard cases, which are molded to fit the shape of the horn, and soft cases, also known as gig bags, are the two types of French horn cases. The purpose of all French horn cases, regardless of type, is to protect the instrument from damage during transport and storage.
Whether a fixed bell case or a screw bell case is required depends on the type of horn. A fixed bell case is oddly shaped, with one end narrow and square and the other flared and round, following the shape of the instrument. Because of its larger size and unusual shape, it’s difficult to stack on a trailer, and it won’t fit in most overhead luggage compartments. Screw bell cases are rectangular and easier to transport due to their smaller size and uniform shape.
A fixed bell or detachable bell French horn can be accommodated in a hard or rigid French horn case. A rigid outer shell, usually made of hard plastic, fiberglass, or wood, is sandwiched between a padded lining and the horn to keep it from banging around inside the case. They’re bulkier and heavier than soft cases, but they protect the instrument better. Soft cases, also known as gig bags, are made of padded leather or nylon and have zipper closures. They can be used with either a fixed bell or a screw bell horn, and they have the added benefit of being lightweight and portable.
Mouthpieces and other accessories such as repair kits, mutes, sheet music, and folding music stands are almost always stored in compartments in French horn cases. Some cases have built-in accessory compartments, while others have detachable accessory cases. This enables the horn player to tailor the case to his or her specific requirements. To make carrying the horn easier, many cases include an optional shoulder strap or backpack attachment.
The hornist, the horn, and the mode of transportation all play a role in determining which type of French horn case to use. Because the horn will most likely be transported on a trailer or in the bus’s underneath luggage compartment, a high school or college horn player may prefer a more durable hard-sided case. Professional players, on the other hand, may travel plane frequently and prefer the smaller, lighter soft-sided case. This enables the horn to be carried on, reducing the risk of damage, theft, or loss due to airport baggage handling.