Important Tips for Purchasing a Band Instrument
Like most manufactured products today, there is a very wide range of instruments available to meet your child’s need for a student band instrument. For a first time buyer, the decision can be difficult. If you make the right decision, you can depend on the instrument to provide years of service and give your child a good opportunity to learn music. If you chose poorly, not only will you waste money in the short term, but you could possibly prevent your child from having success. Keep the following points in mind when you begin looking for an instrument.
1. New is not necessarily better
In the last few years, very inexpensive new instruments have been sold by discount stores and internet sites. To the untrained eye these instruments look very nice. However, it is impossible to duplicate the quality of established brand name products at a fraction of the price. There is always a trade-off in quality. A very good used instrument needing some repair may still be a better value than a cheaply made new one. Don’t buy from a store that does not service what they sell. Worse yet, do not buy from an internet site or eBay dealer who cannot service your instrument. Most music stores will not sell or service inferior quality instruments. If you buy an inexpensive instrument from an internet dealer, you are not guaranteed that your local store or repair shop will service it.
2. All instruments require service and repair during their use.
All instruments must be properly maintained and still may require repair from time to time. The price of any instrument should consider any repair or adjustments needed. There are many wear items that are important to the playability of the instrument. A few minor repairs are OK, but a major rebuild could be expensive. If possible, have the instrument checked out by a repairman or instructor.
3. Regardless of the source, have the instrument inspected before buying.
You can’t become an expert overnight so find someone you trust to help you, maybe someone who plays or a reputable repairman. Unless you are an expert, don’t buy an instrument without seeing it in person. Online auctions and catalogs can provide bargains, but can also make items look better than they are.
4. Try to find instruments made by a well-respected manufacturer.
Do some research to learn about different brands of instruments. Most of the major companies have been in business at least 50 years. They have built good instruments for many years and support their products with replacement parts and warranties. That is not the case for all many new brands.
5. All good instruments will have a serial number and at least either a model number or place of manufacture stamped onto the instrument.
Beware of instruments that do not have these features. Some companies do not provide a means for getting repair parts or tracing down the instruments origin later on. Beware of fluff slogans like “German Type”, “French Designed”, Pro Style”. When the ad says “Educator Approved” or “Teacher Approved” you should ask for references because it is usually just an attempt to add credibility to very poor quality instruments.
6. Where to Buy
If you are looking at instruments on the internet being sold at auction or from an internet only store, you really need to do your research before you make a costly mistake. Good instruments have and always will sell for a premium price because they have proven to be worth the price. How does the parent or otherwise uninformed customer know the difference? The internet is loaded with information on all the popular brands of instruments. Most of the new instruments sold on eBay and other auctions are poor quality and have no real dealer support. If you see one of these dealers claiming to be the exclusive source for a particular brand, you should wonder where they will be when you need service in a couple of years, The same is true with some brands sold in big retail stores, They have no in store support for parts and repair, so you will have to find the repair facility they recommend for service if one exists.
7. Which is better, new or used?
New instruments will lose some value immediately, but used instruments depreciate at a slower rate. New instruments may look nicer, but they too will start to show their age with wear. Used instruments sometimes can be restored to look and play like new for less than the cost of a new one. The quality of some older instruments is better than many new ones. Good quality new instruments are expensive but can give many years of service if properly maintained.
8. Other items that you will need
Case – Instruments are fragile and can be knocked out of adjustment or damaged if the case does not provide good protection. Replacement cases are available, so get one if needed, but be sure to consider the price.
Mouth piece - A good instrument should have a good mouthpiece. Do not expect any instrument to sound its best with a poor quality mouthpiece.
Reeds, valve oil, or other supplies are some other supplies you may need, but they can be obtained from many sources.
Our recommendation is to always buy only a major brand name instrument whether it is new or used. Major brands are typically American, English, French, German, or Japanese. There are some exceptions, but you must be knowledgeable to know the difference.
As with many other shops, we will not repair poorly made instruments. When the instrument continues to have problems it may appear that the repairs were not done properly when in fact, it is the quality of the instrument causing the problems.