Buying instruments, a short guide

Every musical instrument comes in cheap as well as expensive models. You can also buy new or second hand. Which is better?

It is usually false economy to buy a very cheap musical instrument, especially if it is very cheap and brand new. Firstly, if you enjoy learning and go on playing for more than a little while, you will soon realize that you need a better instrument. Secondly, very cheap instruments are likely never to work properly. They will almost always sound bad, will be harder to play, near impossible to tune properly and are likely to discourage you. You’d be better off paying a bit more to start with.

The salesperson at the music store may want you to buy a cheaper model. That could be because they know you’ll be back again before too long to buy another, more expensive one. Better to save time and just buy something reasonable. There are lots of user reviews of instruments online. Do some research before going out shopping. Harmony Central (www.harmonycentral.com) has user reviews of instruments. Also search YouTube for video reviews and demos.

There are many companies and music stores that hire instruments. This can be a good way to really find out if you are going to enjoy it. They may have a hire-purchase deal available too, so you can buy the instrument cheaply after hiring it for a time. This is still more expensive than buying it outright, but the cost is spread out over a long time.

New instruments look great, come with warranty and after sales service from a shop (unless you buy online) and are a reasonably safe bet, provided you don’t buy a very cheap one. However, you do pay a premium for it being new and can be pretty sure that it will likely lose a big part of its value as soon as you take it out of the store.

High end instruments can actually increase in value over time. They certainly retain their resale value much better than cheap ones. A great instrument will always keep its value, especially if it is a well-known brand. After a few years, a budget model will be worthless.

However, if you buy a used instrument, beware of a few things! If you buy online, then you are taking a big chance. It may not work properly, and you are unlikely to get any after sales service. Any used instrument may be stolen, have damage disguised, or be a fake. If you buy a second hand instrument from a reputable store, at least there should be some warranty on it and better service, though expect to pay a bit more.

Many musical instruments are made in China. They are not necessarily bad, but if they are really cheap you know for sure that they are. Japan, USA, Canada, and Korea, among others, are some countries with a solid reputation for building quality instruments of many kinds.

Beware of fakes. If you buy from a store, make it a reputable one. If you buy on Ebay or elsewhere online, you are taking a chance. There are companies in China and elsewhere who build fake copies of big name instruments that look perfect to the untrained eye. This is especially true of guitars and basses. They come with a perfect logo, a serial number, stamped “made in the USA” and a genuine looking warranty booklet. There have even been instances of these instruments turning up for sale in less-reputable shops.

If in doubt, buy from a shop and either take an expert with you to check it out, or take it to someone right away to verify it after you have bought it. If you get it from a decent shop, you will be able to return it without any trouble.

Of course, your teacher should be able to help you with good advice on what to buy. And remember that a really cheap instrument is likely to be really, really bad.

 

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