I want to share a new case situation with you all... as well as a plunge I am taking!
For years I have searched for an optimal tuba case situation -- something similar to what almost every other non-tuba playing instrumentalist enjoys: a case that is usable on a day-to-day basis and is also protective. Constant dings, dents, and damage while-in-the-case is considered to be an expected inevitability for tuba players, especially ones who drag their horns around constantly, such as myself.
As of now, tuba players must rely on soft cases for day-to-day use, and then switch to an industrial bohemoth for more protected transport.
Players of other instruments, even large instruments, don't seem to have this issue, or at least as much of one.
Cello players for instance, enjoy superior portability versus protection while their instruments are exponentially more valuable and fragile. I have also noticed that many of my trumpet, trombone, and sax playing colleagues have form-fitting cases which are lightweight and ergonomic.
Most current tuba hard cases are simply too large for reasonable cartage, much less daily use, and pose major logistic challenges and consequences for the player. The philosophy behind many of them is often one of excess and often downright ballistic in their design.
Protection of the horn is of course a good thing, but protection means little when practically unusable. I need a case that fits to what my personal logistic situation is - I haul the tuba most every single day to different locations, in a wide variety of transportation situations. I average 150 gigs a year, and that's not including rehearsals and giving lessons etc. This means I am dragging my horn with me constantly, and to venues which vary greatly. I often find myself in crowded, bustling situations where a gig bag is simply not enough protection. I require protection and maximum portability at the same time.
To add to this, I am playing more out of town lately, making the need for a better case situation paramount. I need a touring-quality case where I can reasonably go from an airplane to a train to a normal-sized car all within the same logistic sweep. I need a protective case which will easily pass through varying international airlines and airport situations. Before, I would use a standard flight case and take my empty gig bag along in a suitcase, then I'd have to beg people overseas in the city I was flying into to stow the flight case (and pick it up) while I traveled on with the horn in the gig bag via trains and cars.
I play a fairly standard tuba - an old Mirafone (Miraphone) 186 CC that I use for everything. I'm not really an F tuba fan, and a tiny travel tuba is out of the question for use in performance. For most of what I do, the 186 is perfect; not too big, not too small. I can dig deep and sound like a b.a.t., and I can make it sound light when I need to. Plus, I have played on this horn pretty much exclusively for 20 years. It fits me and I fit it. My relationship to this horn sort of akin to Willie Nelson and his guitar named Trigger.
In searching for a better case situation, I contacted some makers of fiberglass form-fitted cases for other wind instruments, and none were interested in making a tuba case.
I then ventured into the world of casemakers of other types of instruments. It seems that string players have the most options (probably due to sheer numbers of players) and have access to higher-tech materials such as carbon and kevlar. I figured something had to work for me. Size-wise a tuba is around the same size as a cello, and as far as tubas go, my tuba is not all that heavy, weighing in at around 18lbs.
I sought out hi-end string case makers, and surprisingly found that one actually listed a new hi-tech tuba case. I had never heard of it, but it seemed like it might fit the bill.
The company is Accord Case from Pula, Croatia, right accross the Adriatic from Venice. They are primarily known for their ultra high-end cello cases (Yo Yo Ma and Rostrapovitch use them. Yo Yo Ma's cello is an $8M Stradavarius!) and guitar cases (Santana, Sting, Eddie Van Halen) and their carbon and Kevlar technology is so revolutionary that Ferrari used them to make seats for their F1 racecar.
I found the representatives at Accord to be incredibly responsive and professional and were more than happy to work with me and help to put together a case that fit my needs. We corresponded constantly for weeks, always with a prompt detailed response and no language barrier. I had to provide them with many detailed measurements, photos, as well as a full-sized concise tracing/blueprint of my horn which I shipped to Croatia in a box. In turn they provided me with photos of my case, as well as photos of their prototypes with horns in them, showing how it would work.
It seems that their design is made for something similar to a 186 and/or any German-style 4/4 CC or F. The case is not too much bigger than the tuba itself, and then the fine-tuning is made with adjustments are then made to the the suspension on the inside, which is designed to suspend the horn with a series of bumpers, pads and straps. (more details on this when I take delivery of the case)
My tuba weights about 18.5 lbs (it's unlaquered and fairly lightweight) and that's about just what the case is supposed to weigh as well. So, what I should have is a flight package that weighs UNDER 40lbs! (my previous setup is 98lbs, having it in a prosound crate case)
Here is a stock photo of someone standing on the demo case, demonstrating the rigidity of their flight model case.
Here are photos of my personal case (while still at the factory) which is has a more rugged matte finish in Ferrari Red (with a design I commissioned from NYC artist Dima Drjuchin http://www.avrodesign.com/dima/ )
This is a whole new era and approach to instrument cases. Here is a Toyota TV commercial with classical guitarist Berta Rojas, with her guitar in an Accord case, which is very similar to the tuba case I had them make for me.