How to Buy an Instrument for a Beginner
If your child is joining the band this year or taking up a new instrument in private lessons, you’re probably in the market for a good-enough-but-not-too-expensive instrument. Buying an instrument can be intimidating, especially if you’re not a musician yourself. That’s why we’ve put together this step-by-step guide to help you choose the right instrument without breaking the bank.
- Consider instrument quality. Instrument quality can generally be assessed using three categories: student quality, intermediate quality, or professional quality. Your 5th grader doesn’t need a professional quality instrument yet, but should you go the cheap route with a student model or shell out a few more bucks for the intermediate? Ultimately, that depends on your goals for your student. Is this a “try it and see if you like it” endeavor, or have you and your child committed to this instrument for the long haul? Student quality instruments are usually made of cheaper materials and won’t produce as nice a sound, but they are good for students who don’t know if they will stick with it or not. They’re also good starter instruments if money is tight. If your child (and you) have committed to playing this instrument throughout middle and high school, however, go ahead and invest in the better quality option if possible.
- Set a budget. Even within the broad categories, you’ll get a lot of variation on pricing. If you know you can only spend $800 on an instrument, don’t look at the higher priced options—you’ll either overspend or be very disappointed. Higher priced instruments look and sound better, but remember why you chose your budget and encourage your child to choose the best instrument possible within that range.
- Go shopping (but don’t buy yet!). Visit your local music store and talk to the staff members there. They will be able to give you a lot of input on pros and cons of various brands and styles. Remember, however, that their job is to sell you something, so it always pays to do your own research as well. Ask what the top 3 or 4 brands for your child’s chosen instrument are, and look at the high and low ends within your price range for each of those brands.
- Consider a used instrument. Used student instruments can be found easily and cheaply online, but be careful. That $50 trumpet you picked up on Craigslist may need new valves or have other problems that must be corrected before it will play well. If possible, ask your student’s teacher or a musician friend to check out the instrument in question before you buy.
- Check out online dealers. Consider purchasing a good quality instrument from an online dealer, especially if your local music store doesn’t carry the brand or model you want. Make sure the dealer is certified and that he or she has accurately represented the quality of the instrument for sale.
- Make your choice. Once you have done your homework, buy the instrument you believe is the best choice. Don’t worry if it’s not the most expensive or highest quality. If your child is just starting out, he or she probably won’t play this instrument forever. More advanced students will want to upgrade to a better model if they plan to continue studying the instrument long term.
If you need additional help choosing an instrument, talk with your child’s teacher. He or she will be more than willing to give you insight and help you make your decision. Buy the best available instrument that falls within your price range, and then start saving. In five years when your child is playing first clarinet in the marching band, you’ll be ready to buy her that upgrade she’s begging for!
This is a TBMA original article written for our Tampa Bay Music Academy readership by Susan McClure. If you find it to be helpful, we would love for you to re-post it on your blog. Please contact us first for permission. Visit our website home for information on finding a music teacher in Tampa, Odessa, Land O’ Lakes, Citrus Park, Westchase, New Port Richey, Lutz, Trinity, Keystone, or Tarpon Springs Florida who offers private piano lessons, guitar lessons, saxophone lessons, voice lessons, drum lessons, violin lessons, cello lessons, flute lessons, or music lessons in any other instrument proficiency category. TBMA teachers (piano, guitar, voice, flute, cello, violin, woodwinds, brass, strings, drums, percussion) pride themselves in a reputation for an uncompromising commitment to excellence and special care taken for every student. We remain absolutely committed to providing an outstanding enrollment experience beyond any other in the region. Call us today. We look forward to hearing from you!