Join 3,562 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


"Ask for forgiveness, not permission."
December 27, 2011 10:46 PM   Subscribe

Tricks for getting your violin on a plane, by Lara St. John.
How about an upright bass? A cello? A guitar? (previously) A trombone? A tuba (and other horns)? What about lutes, a djembe, a hurdy-gurdy, or bagpipes?
(Some general tips. More general tips - part 1, part 2.)
posted by flex (36 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
I have had it with these mother fucking stratavari, on this mother fucking plane!
posted by 0bs01337 at 10:51 PM on December 27, 2011 [8 favorites]


Those are all very nice, but what I'd really like to do is take my piano on vacation with me.
posted by koeselitz at 10:55 PM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Reading some of these links, it becomes apparent that not many baggage loaders are sympathetic to the plight of the traveling musician. Must be stressful trusting your precious instrument to their tender mercies.
posted by arcticseal at 11:14 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is something I worry about a lot when traveling by plane, even though it has basically never applied to me. Can't count the number of musicians I know whose instruments have been damaged or disappeared in checked luggage, and they've tightened up their rules on hand luggage lately. So I worry about this when waiting, which, incidentally, is about 99% of all domestic air travel now.

Also, isn't it Stradivarii?
posted by zomg at 11:16 PM on December 27, 2011


Brother, we can attack the heathens by playing on their musical sensibilities! They will not refuse to place the infidel's so-called heirloom instrument on board. A "violin" made of C4 will surely pass their incompetent security procedures. We will destroy them, inshallah!
posted by spacewrench at 11:19 PM on December 27, 2011


it's not just instruments. evidently one is not allowed to carry on a golf club. but a cane? no problem. the lack of logic in the rules is what drives people to question the rule makers, and the rules themselves. like a golf club is dangerous to anyone other than the person trying to play golf, or a driver in proximity to Jack Nicholson.
posted by TMezz at 11:35 PM on December 27, 2011


I took a rather large djembe on a Toronto - Calgary flight some years ago. Filing onto the plane, the pilot was standing chatting with one of the flight attendants, noticed me going by and stopped me.

"Where you going with that?"
"Uh ... to my seat. I didn't want to check it, it's fragile..."
"Well, I'll have to inspect it first!"

Then he proceed to sit down with it and start pounding out some seriously decent beats, with some of the passengers noticing and clapping along. It was pretty awesome. As a bonus, it made a great table for playing cards with my girlfriend.
posted by mannequito at 12:04 AM on December 28, 2011 [23 favorites]


The Chinese equivalent of the TSA seem to have an inordinate fascination with umbrellas. They love to pull them out and inspect them for hidden weapons. They will then give them back to you and happily let you carry them onboard, ignoring that the spokes can easily be dismantled into a dozen usable shivs. Security theatre is not limited to the US.
posted by arcticseal at 12:09 AM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


A guitar?
A guitar?
posted by louche mustachio at 12:28 AM on December 28, 2011


I've brought instruments on Greyhound buses multiple times.

Each time, I would meet a couple of baggage handlers who said they were musicians, too, and that they would be careful with my instruments. I've never had a problem. It's pretty cool actually.

In general, bringing instruments to places seems to make me more approachable. I played guitar with an ex-con in the basement of the Boston Greyhound station, once. There was an Ecuadorean immigrant there, too, who spoke no English and played lots in A minor. Beggars approach me sometimes, make jokes about asking a musician for money, and then stick around and talk for a little bit.

It makes waiting for a bus at 3 a.m. a little more bearable, at least.
posted by wayland at 1:02 AM on December 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Must be stressful trusting your precious instrument to their tender mercies.

It is, it is.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:26 AM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


People smuggling weapons onboard is such a trope that security officials no longer appreciate a good song.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:38 AM on December 28, 2011


I brought multiple djembes back from Mali to the US 3 years ago. I just secured them in a large canvas bag, filled with blankets and other material to cushion the drums. I then checked them in Bamako and didn't see them again until my final destination in the US...with plane transfers along the way, including one in Morocco. And to my surprise, everything arrived safe and sound without any damage to the skins! I was quite impressed.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 2:55 AM on December 28, 2011


I frequently travel with a viola da gamba, a roughly cello-sized baroque instrument, but much more fragile than its modern cousins. I carry copies of all relevant regulations (the TSA states they have exceptions for musical instruments, but try and find a gate worker or supervisor who will follow them) and of course, my travel paperwork.
Did you know an ALL WOODEN and gut instrument is... a deadly weapon? (Only for people with perfect pitch when I'm tuning it) That attempting to pry the top off with a screwdriver is acceptable handling - after I recommended they safely x-ray it? That a puck of cracked rosin that would fit in a .5oz Carmex cylinder is a prohibited explosive? (I now secrete it in my toiletries, near the single shots of booze) That the ALL WOOD and HORSEHAIR, 8oz bow is a... weapon? That my silver-wound gut strings are... electronic explosive device components? That my reanissance music manuscript copies are Arabic secret code (actually, Elizabethan English; I couldn't make this shit up). That I have to deal with all this AFTER my wooden cane is on the belt through the x-ray machine, they've required me to remove my leg brace, and I can barely stand. and walk only with difficulty?
But my (both flammable and explosive) spare laptop batteries are just dandy.
I feel so much safer now.
posted by Dreidl at 2:59 AM on December 28, 2011 [32 favorites]


I'm a very good player of the Jew's Harp and I carry it with me wherever I go. When I land in Arab countries, and I go through customs, I always declare that it's an "Ozark Harp". Because there's nothing more threatening to Arab cultures than stupid hillbillies from the Ozarks.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:22 AM on December 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


The trouble with building one's own electronic instruments is that they all pretty much look like HIT THE DECK! to those with more authority than awareness. At least more conventional instruments appear to be something that couldn't be detonated by a well-placed cellphone call.
posted by sonascope at 5:11 AM on December 28, 2011


sonascope: "At least more conventional instruments appear to be something that couldn't be detonated by a well-placed cellphone call."

You haven't seen my tuba.
posted by charred husk at 5:38 AM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm a very good player of the Jew's Harp

Howsabout posting something to Mefi Music, then? That's one of our favorite axes over there!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:50 AM on December 28, 2011


Those Horns of Jericho make for pretty formidable weapons when properly deployed. That's why I declare mine as a Horn of the Ozark Mountain Region.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:57 AM on December 28, 2011


That the ALL WOOD and HORSEHAIR, 8oz bow is a... weapon?

That's what Genghis Khan used to kill 11% of the world population, which makes it the most dangerous weapon ever.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:03 AM on December 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


I recently flew home from the Midwest carrying my grandmother's violin. I had to connect twice and the last leg home was really crowded. People were trying to jam their bags into the bin around the battered case, and I was getting a little tense. Fortunately, my husband found a way to get things in and keep it safe. I later had it examined and it needs some refurbishing (due to age) but it's worth about $1,000. It's very sentimental to me and if it had gotten thrown around by baggage handlers I would have been devastated.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:17 AM on December 28, 2011


I have checked my viola, without damage. However, standing by the glass, watching the baggage handlers at DTW throwing instruments, hard (it was a charter flight for an orchestra, so we were instruments all the way down) from the plane, seeing how far from the plane they could chuck them, makes me homicidal 30 years later.

The core issue is the insane security policies that encourage carry ons, along with airlines charging more for checked baggage, thus encouraging people to carry huge bags in the cabin. I'd prefer a weight limit rather than a size limit (a low one), ruthlessly enforced except for pre-arranged exceptions such as musical instruments, medical gear and pieces of art.
posted by QIbHom at 7:22 AM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Based on this FPP, the clear answer is to buy a violin in every city you visit and leave it when you depart. When you return, you will not have to bring a violin with you. Problem solved!
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:33 AM on December 28, 2011


That's what Genghis Khan used to kill 11% of the world population, which makes it the most dangerous weapon ever.

Technically, he also used some metal, as well as various other equine parts to achieve his goal.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:34 AM on December 28, 2011


I follow a fair number of Celtic and early musicians on various social media networks and the number of stories I've heard about instruments being lost and damaged because of rough handling/not allowing instruments in the cabin is ridiculously high.

I worry about the availability of live Celtic music in the US sometimes because of the problems musicians have getting here with their instruments. For musicians coming across the Atlantic, it's not like there's any choice other than trusting yourself and your gear to the tender mercies of the baggage handlers and/or TSA. At least if you're already in the US you have the option of packing it all in a van and going on the highway. It may be more risky overall but at least you control how your instrument is packed.
posted by immlass at 7:36 AM on December 28, 2011


It used to be trivial to carry a guitar (in a case) aboard a flight and just put in in the suit rack at the front of the plane. Do they even have suit racks any more? Now you just use an ATA approved case and store it in the belly of the plane, after signing a waiver that the airline isn't liable. (So you no longer travel with your best axe.)

CSB: Once while traveling with a banjo, I'd taped the case shut so it'd be more rigid if I couldn't carry it aboard. Going through security, they ran it back and forth through the machine a bunch of times.
"What have you got in there?"
Uh, duh. It's a banjo.
"Can you open it?"
I guess so, but the case is all taped shut. It's a banjo. Like a round guitar.
"Go on through."
--
Wasn't until I got home and opened it a few days later that I remembered the 8" throwing knife I'd tossed in the case earlier that year. Oops. My bad.
posted by lothar at 8:25 AM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


The problem is the Warsaw Convention. It limits airline liability. It's also hopelessly out dated.
posted by Goofyy at 8:39 AM on December 28, 2011


I know some guys in a string quartet who tour a lot and they always just buy a seat for the cello.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:17 AM on December 28, 2011


When my friend travels internationally, she buys a ticket for her lap harp. I think it prefers the window seat. (Less chance of having a drink or a drunk dropped on it.)
posted by theplotchickens at 11:02 AM on December 28, 2011


That's what Genghis Khan used to kill 11% of the world population...

Technically, he also used some metal....
posted by GenjiandProust


I wonder if Dreidl's 'cello bow also has a metal part to tighten the horsehair. BTW, Genghis Khan failed to conquer the Indian subcontinent because the high humidity screwed with his wooden bows.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:10 AM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you want it to be taken care of aren't you supposed to pack a gun in with it and declare it? Then it gets treated well.
posted by MrBobaFett at 12:21 PM on December 28, 2011


Here's a trick I discovered two weeks ago when traveling with my husband and his guitar. The woman at the gate stated that if his case took up the space of two carry-on bags in the overhead (which it does), he'd have to gate check it. I piped up and offered to gate check my carry-on instead so that he could use my space too. Two people, two spaces in the overhead - as long as the math worked, she was happy.

Note - This doesn't work if you're planning to put anything else in the overhead or if you're in a small commuter plane where it literally won't fit in the overhead bin at all. But if you're traveling in a pair with a normal sized jet, give it a shot!
posted by platinum at 12:30 PM on December 28, 2011


If you want it to be taken care of aren't you supposed to pack a gun in with it and declare it? Then it gets treated well.

The idea of packing a firearm with your photo equipment was floating around a lot a couple of years ago. I'm not sure it would help protect against damage (most photographers who travel a lot have well-padded cases and cameras really aren't too fragile). It just allows you to lock the case so that baggage handlers or TSA agents can't easily swipe tens of thousands of dollars worth of cameras and lenses.
posted by Drab_Parts at 2:02 PM on December 28, 2011


Funny, every time I've traveled somewhere recently has been with a guitar in a fairly bulky case and a backpack (my personal item.) I very rarely have to gate check it and, in fact, if the ticket agents don't make me tag it, the flight attendants usually place it in the suit rack area and I just pick it up on my way out.

That said I have gate checked it before, but I've never had any problems and usually had it brought to me by a baggage handler rather than sent up with the rest of the luggage.
posted by lizarrd at 2:19 PM on December 28, 2011


That the ALL WOOD and HORSEHAIR, 8oz bow is a... weapon? ... That's what Genghis Khan used to kill 11% of the world population, which makes it the most dangerous weapon ever.

Wikipedia: "Violin":
Turkic and Mongolian horsemen from Inner Asia were probably the world’s earliest fiddlers...

Bowed musical instruments probably evolved from hunting weapons. It was probably around a campfire, and there might have been a tussle involving a plundered pipa (or something like that). We don't really know exactly how bowed instruments evolved, because we all had quite a bit of kumis to drink that night...




Bach, Siciliano, Lara St. John, violin solo
posted by ovvl at 2:44 PM on December 28, 2011


had had
posted by ovvl at 2:46 PM on December 28, 2011


« Older How Christmas lights are recycled...  |  So I heard that you guys like ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments