How to Buy a Musical Instrument
It is often a good idea to get in touch with your child’s prospective teacher before you get an instrument. The teacher may have definite ideas about what is an acceptable student instrument, will probably know the best sources of reasonable-quality/reasonable-price instruments, may have brand recommendations, and in any case should be able to help you decide whether to purchase a particular instrument. This includes band and orchestra directors and other ensemble instructors. If money is an issue, don’t hesitate to let the instructor know. The school may be able to let you borrow or rent an instrument at a low cost, or the instructor may be able to help you locate a low-price used instrument.
If your teacher does not recommend a particular place to look for an instrument, good sources of instruments include your local music shops, local want-ads, and national music companies and other reputable sellers who are willing both to ship instruments to you and to take back instruments that are not acceptable. Both local and national music stores will generally try very hard to sell you an instrument that you will be happy with, so that you will return to them for music stands, mutes, repairs, and other extras. Let the salesperson know you need a student-quality instrument, and of course let them know if a small-size instrument is needed.
NOTE: Student-quality instruments are usually reasonably priced (although some instruments are simply more expensive to make than others), and this is really all a beginner needs. Even if your child does end up having great interest and ability, it will probably be a few years before she needs a higher-quality instrument. By then, she will probably also have very definite ideas about what instrument she wants.
Mention any other requirements your teacher has. Check warranties and return policies carefully. Ask if there is any way for you to take the instrument to be okayed by your child’s teacher before final purchase, particularly if you are buying a used instrument through a want ad. If they can, ask the salesperson or previous owner to play it for you. Consider whether renting an instrument for a few months would make sense. This can be a good way to put off purchasing the instrument until you are certain of your child’s interest, and your child will be able to test-play instruments before you purchase one.
NOTE: Buying low-cost instruments at stores that do not specialize in music can be an expensive mistake. Some of these instruments are of such poor materials and workmanship that it is very difficult to keep them in working order; your repair bills may end up costing more than a decent instrument would have cost.
Once you have purchased the instrument, make sure you follow the care instructions that come with it, or find out from the teacher how to care properly for it. A musical instrument, like a car, will be a source of constant frustration and repair bills if it is not kept in good condition.
Schmidt-Jones, Catherine. A Parents’ Guide to Music Lessons. Connexions. 4 Mar. 2008 .