Flying with a Bass

<p>My son will be auditioning at several schools in the coming months, all too far to drive. Up until now we've managed to avoid the potential nightmare of flying with a bass but the time has come where we're going to have to do this. I've been told that Northwest Airlines is bass-friendly and to avoid US Air like the plague. Can anyone lend me some words of wisdom? We're going to have to get a trunk as well -- any recommendations?</p>

<p>always a challenge. rent a trunk, don't buy one - that's important. don't know anything about what's available in CA, but definitely make sure that you rent a case that you are confident in. basses have been known to be injured en route even in a good trunk.</p>

<p>Flying with a bass really sucks. I've had to do it a bunch of times, beginning with when I auditioned for colleges a few years ago.</p>

<p>First, the best airlines by far to fly a bass on are Southwest and JetBlue. Southwest charges a flat $50 charge for any oversize luggage under 100 pounds. Other airlines are known to charge well over double that, often arbitrarily so. I once paid $250 to get Northwest to accept my bass for a one way flight.</p>

<p>Before you fly, make certain the packed case is under the 100 pound limit. This restriction is set by the baggage handler's union, not the airlines. If you can't get it under 100 pounds, you may be asked to leave the instrument behind. In this case, you will need to find a way to ship your bass separately or forget the whole trip.</p>

<p>As far as cases go, there are three things to consider. Weight, price, and durability. Since the cheapest cases are at least $1900 brand new, the most important thing would be weight. If you're super rich, I'd recommend the new Accord double bass case, which weighs about 25 pounds (it's also $6000). If you're like me and can't afford such a thing, I would recommend any of the following: Gage, Stevenson, Tuff-Lite, and SBS. They each weigh between 60 and 70 pounds and run around $2000 new.</p>

<p>If you don't think you will need the case beyond these auditions, I would try to find a friend with a case that you can borrow or rent.</p>

<p>Thank you for the suggestions on cases and airlines. I hadn't even thought about Southwest. I wish I could afford the Accord case, the Gage case is bad enough at $2900. The suggestion to rent or borrow is a good one, but I know sooner or later we'll have to invest in one.</p>

<p>also you might want to downtune your strings before your flight, as the air pressure can tighten them, causing them to break.</p>

<p>Where is Bassdad? He'll know how to deal with this. I have known bass players who bought a SEAT for their bass. It was cheaper than the cases and the extra shipping. I wonder what "name" they put on the ticket:)</p>

<p>Yo Yo Ma's Strad flies first class and has a frequent flyer account under the name "Cello Ma."</p>

<p>There are several options. Buying a bass trunk is indeed expensive, with the good ones (David Gage, Kolstein) costing $3000 or so. They can be rented from several good bass shops usually on the order of $100 per week. We bought one of these used on Ebay for about $1000. They are not often seen for sale there, but one comes up every now and again. Be careful if you do this. Some older trunks were built so that they required a special tool to open them. In some places, cases that cannot be opened manually will either be refused outright or may be subject to being chisled open at the whim of security personnel.</p>

<p>Going down a step, there are the STS and Tuff-Lite trunks priced around $2100. These do not have the air suspension feature of the Kolstein and Gage cases.</p>

<p>With any of these, you have to be careful not to exceed the 100 pound limit for excess baggage, you have to show up extra early at the airport and you have to know how to beg in just the right way to get it accepted. Expect to pay $80 or so per flight segment in excess baggage fees.</p>

<p>Getting a double bass into an airline seat is nearly impossible these days. It might fit a bulkhead seat in coach or a standard first-class seat if strapped in upside down, depending on the particular plane and how tight the airline has decided to squeeze in the rows, but airlines have not been very accommodating to people flying with large objects in the last several years. </p>

<p>Check out the interview that Gary Karr did on NPR at NPR</a> Music: Karr's Double Bass Finds Biggest Threat at Airport concerning traveling with a double bass.</p>

<p>There is some interesting information at</p>

<p><a href=""&gt;;/a> and at</p>

<p>Traveling</a> by Air with Your Instrument: Some Guidelines -</p>

<p>that may be of interest to anyone who has ever had a problem with getting on a plane with their instrument.</p>

<p>Another note: I just looked at the Accord case mentioned above and saw that the manufacturer does not specifically recommend it as a flight case, rather as a lightweight hard case for everyday use. In fact, they sell a seperate flight cover made of fiberglass that goes over their similar line of carbon fiber cello cases to make them flight worthy. Given this and the fact that the Accord bass case does not have airbags that get inflated after inserting the instrument (as the Gage and Kolstein cases do), I do not think it would be the best choice for air travel.</p>

<p>The non-working link in the previous post should be International</a> Society of Bassists</p>

<p>Thanks for the heads up on the Accord case. I'm beginning to think a several day drive wouldn't be so bad as long as the weather stays clear.</p>

<p>Don't you wish your son played the piccolo?</p>

<p>It could have been worse - it could have been a concert harp. As one who lives with both a piccolo player and a bass player, I can say that one piccolo per house is way more than enough.</p>

<p>I think the break-even point for flying vs. driving with a bass is about 1000 miles, one way. If I have the time, I would rather drive two days out and two days back rather than fuss with all the hassles and risks to the instrument that flying entails.</p>

<p>None of my kids ever settled for a small instrument. #1 started with flute but ended up with bari sax, #2 tuba, and now #3 bass. #2 went to NYC right after 9-11 and had no problem getting the tuba into cargo, but that was with a school trip.</p>

<p>Son is doing regionals for the most part for Oberlin, Boston Conservatory, U Michigan, but Indiana does not do regionals. And I admit I am a spoiled Southern Calif. girl -- never, ever driven in snow, not even when we get a little in the mountains here. I'd rather wait until chain restrictions are lifted. Looks like if we drive straight through we can get to Bloomington in 27 hours.</p>

<p>Thanks for everyone's help.</p>

<p>Good luck to him at all the auditions. My daughter is in her junior year as a double bass performance major at Oberlin. If he needs any questions answered by someone who knows that program well, feel free to PM or email me. Anything I can't handle I will pass on to her.</p>

<p>Makes me glad we only have to deal with a cello ;)</p>

<p>Maybe I'm naive (my musician son is a cellist) but is it possible to check with the school about lending you a bass for the audition? Your son could bring his bow... Or maybe check with a local dealer to see if you can rent one for the weekend. Good luck!</p>

<p>The problem there is that basses differ quite a bit from one to another. The string length, body size and even the note that plays when you finger a string at the point the fingerboard meets the body of the instrument can differ from one bass to the next. If you have spent hours and hours practicing one one bass then suddenly switch to another, you will be at a disadvantage for the audition. Depending on the player and the instrument, it can take hours to weeks to get really comfortable on a new instrument.</p>

<p>At Rice, Paul Ellison lets applicants audition with his bass, made by Daniel Hatchez. If anything, that's an advantage.</p>

<p>I wouldn't try it elsewhere, though.</p>

<p>Agreed. That is one of the nicer basses on the planet being played by some of the most talented students because Rice pre-screens on bass and only lets the best do a live audition. The adjustment period in that case is likely to be on the shorter side and the results pretty darned good.</p>

<p>Using an unfamiliar instrument of unknown quality would be very risky. It might be OK for a sample lesson, but most of the time would not be wise for an important audition.</p>

<p>No, he won't go for using a different bass for an audition, or another bow for that matter. He's had to use rental basses for school festivals and he's never had one that lived up to his own personal bass.</p>