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Buying a musical instrument is a commitment. That’s because a high-quality instrument can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Is it necessary to spend that much? For instance, if you have a young child who’s interested in the saxophone, is it required that you buy a top-of-the-line model? What happens if your child decides that the saxophone isn’t for him after a couple of months? Will you be able to return or exchange that instrument?

Clearly, buying an instrument isn’t as straightforward as it might at first appear. You may know that your child wants to play the flute, but how much should you pay for it? With so many brands out there, how do you know which one is right for your daughter?

Read on to discover valuable tips for buying a musical instrument. Thanks to these pointers, you’ll find a solid, reliable instrument at a reasonable price, and you’ll probably save plenty of headaches.

1. Ask Your Child’s Music Teacher

Whether your child is joining the band class at school or taking private lessons, it makes sense to consult with their instructor regarding which instrument to buy. With their years of experience, they can provide sound advice regarding which brands generally are considered the best and most reliable. They can probably even point you toward certain stores and websites where they know you’ll get good customer service.

Even better, some teachers are willing to meet parents and students at the store so that they can help with the buying process. This ensures that you’re getting a good instrument that’s just right for your child and that you’re paying the right price.

2. Take a Closer Look at Instrument Quality

Whether your child wants to play the clarinet or the piano, the models available typically break down into three categories. The first of these is the student quality instrument.

Student instruments generally are mass-produced rather than handmade. The materials used are lower quality and may not last as long. Experts will be able to tell the difference in the sound quality between a student instrument and one that is made for more experienced musicians.

You may consider a student instrument in these situations:

  • A young child who is just beginning lessons
  • A middle school or high school student who doesn’t plan to continue their study after graduation
  • Anyone who has taken a break from playing the instrument and is considering taking it up again
  • Amateurs who only play occasionally for fun
  • Adults who are picking up the instrument for the first time

In each of these situations, a student quality instrument represents the perfect intersection of price and value.

However, when a student is really committed to their instrument, then it may make sense to upgrade to an intermediate or step-up quality instrument.

Situations in which this quality level is appropriate include:

  • Students who want to make a long-term commitment to their instrument
  • Musicians who are likely to be dedicated to providing proper maintenance to the instrument
  • Middle school and high school students who want to study music in college
  • Young students who show a particular aptitude for the instrument

Professional quality instruments are more expensive than both student and intermediate quality instruments. They are made using much better materials, and it is likely that these instruments are wholly or partially handmade. This also is a level at which it is worth considering the purchase of an antique, heirloom-quality instrument that easily could cost thousands of dollars. Because such instruments were built to last for several lifetimes, these purchases are investments.

It makes sense to invest in professional quality instruments when the musician frequently performs in public. Students who are auditioning for music ensembles or studying in college also may need to upgrade to a professional quality instrument.


Since you’re here, you may be considering instruments to use with our music lessons. We cover an array of instruments you can consider using with Prodigies below:


3. Set a Budget, and Stick to It

The cost of an individual music instrument may vary widely depending upon numerous factors. These factors may include the quality of the instrument, its history and the manufacturer. Browsing in stores or online should give you a comprehensive idea of the range of prices that are available for the particular instrument in which you’re interested.

Once you are familiar with the range of prices, decide the maximum amount that you’re willing to pay for the instrument. Let your child know what this limit is. If you’re on the same page, then you may be able to avoid the disappointment that comes from trying a more expensive instrument that sounds fantastic but is outside of your range.

4. Consider Renting

If you or your child is new to music lessons, then you may find it helpful to consider renting an instrument rather than buying one. Renting costs less than purchasing, and if you decide that the instrument isn’t right for you, then you haven’t made a long-term commitment. Moreover, renting may give you an opportunity to try out a certain brand for a few weeks or months to determine if it’s really the right model for you.

Renting an instrument can give you the ultimate in value and flexibility.

5. Take a Look at Secondhand Options

Used musical instruments are found in pawn shops, music stores, auctions and websites. They represent an opportunity for you to acquire a higher quality instrument at an attractively low price. Of course, it’s critical that you proceed with caution when purchasing a secondhand instrument.

If the instrument is of sufficient quality, made from good materials and was taken care of by the previous owner, then there’s no reason not to take the plunge. You may get a far superior instrument at about the same price that you would pay for a new student quality instrument.

However, it’s possible that any secondhand instrument will have scratches or dents or that it won’t function as well as a brand new instrument. That’s why it’s crucial that you ask plenty of questions before you buy the instrument. Ask the seller for the piece’s history and how many people have owned it before. Closely examine any scratches, dents or anything else that appears irregular.

If you’re buying online, ask the seller to provide additional pictures and to explain anything that doesn’t seem right. When you’re buying in a store or at an auction, take the time to play the instrument to check for anything that’s not working.

When shopping secondhand, it may take you more time to find the right instrument, but the effort can definitely be worthwhile.

6. Consider the Fit

Many people who are new to the study of music don’t realize that most instruments are made in a variety of sizes. Some are scaled down to accommodate the smaller hands and fingers of children. A smaller instrument also may be appropriate for diminutive adults.

Before buying any instrument, be certain that the musician plays it first to check that the keys are appropriately placed for their fingers and that the instrument is of an appropriate size for their body.

7. If the Instrument Breaks, Can It Be Fixed?

Some musical instruments are so cheaply made that the manufacturer doesn’t even make suitable replacement parts. This can be a huge problem if your child needs their instrument to last for a year or more. What happens if it breaks in the middle of the year? Is it even possible to fix it?

Before getting out the credit card, ask the seller, your child’s music teacher or another knowledgeable party about the likelihood of being able to obtain replacement parts and repair for the particular instrument. If it isn’t possible, or will at least be incredibly inconvenient, to fix it, then you’re probably better off paying a bit more initially. That nicer instrument may not break as easily, and it’s likely that it can be repaired with little difficulty or expense.

8. Know the Return Policy

Each retail store and website has its own distinct return policy. Before buying any instrument, new or used, make certain that you know:

-Whether or not any returns are accepted
-How long you have to return the instrument
-Whether or not you need a receipt and other paperwork for the return
-If a defective or damaged instrument may be returned
-Whether refunds are available or store credit will be issued

9. Weigh Insurance Options

Your homeowner’s or renters insurance may cover a stolen instrument or one that gets damaged in a natural disaster. These policies also may cover any accessories or the case for the instrument. If you’re buying a student quality instrument, then this coverage may be sufficient.

However, if you or your child has professional aspirations or if you have a high-value instrument, then extra insurance may be necessary. Companies that specialize in insuring such instruments have policies that are designed to protect musicians no matter what goes wrong.

If you’re buying a new instrument for your child, then you may want to consider any insurance that’s offered by the store. It’s especially wise to do so if you’re worried that your child might lose or damage the instrument.

Buying a musical instrument can be a big commitment, and it does require a lot of research to make sure that you’re getting the right model at the right price. However, few things can compare to being able to hold and play an instrument that’s just right for you or your child. In fact, having the right instrument can make the difference between giving up and really getting the most out of music education. Take a little time to get the best possible instrument for the musician whether it’s you or your child.

1 thought on “Here’s What to Know Before Buying an Instrument”

  1. Pingback: Learning an Instrument: The Importance of Having a Practice Routine - Prodigies Music Curriculum

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