In a perfect world we would all have a steady stream of income so that we would be able to buy anything we want without much thought. But in reality most of us follow a set budget; important purchases such as a instruments necessitates a lot of research and planning. This is why I often emphasize that before you go and buy an instrument you must first determine your budget, the quality of the instrument and your needs as a musician. Remember, the quality of an instrument may either make or break a musician, especially if you’re just starting out. Here are some guidelines:
New or Second Hand
If you have money, there is no doubt your first option would be to buy a new instrument. Another great option is to ask music stores if they have a rental program. For those of us who are on a tight budget, buying a second hand music instrument is another option. I am a big fan of garage sales and flea markets. There are times when I discovered items that are of good quality but priced really low. Of course, practice caution when going this route. When it comes to music instruments, buying a second hand instrument that is of good quality is better than buying a new instrument of poor quality.
Yes, it all boils down to how much you can actually spend. Can you splurge or do you have to stick to your budget? Remember, buying an instrument is just the beginning, you still have to think of your tuition, maintenance costs and upgrades.
Models and Manufacturers
With the vast assortment of music instruments, buying one can be overwhelming. Your best bet is to research everything you can about your instrument of choice. The internet is a wonderful resource; you can read consumer product reviews and post questions on message boards of online music communities. If possible, ask the opinion of real musicians, music teachers and instructors. There are also music magazines you can peruse that have product reviews and recommendations.
Where to Go
When I buy something, especially if it's an item I'm going to use for a long time, I try to canvass first before I buy. Go to music retail stores available in your area and compare the prices and quality of the instrument. You can also surf the net, make sure though that the online shop has a high customer satisfaction rating. Also, get insurance just in case something happens to your instrument while being transported. Consulting your local newspapers for postings is also a good bet.
Student models of string instruments, such as the violin and viola, are mostly affordable. These instruments are fairly easy to learn but initially progress can be slow. One advantage of string instruments is that it's very popular so you'll have no trouble finding a teacher or joining a group. Also, some string instruments are easier to transport and though it is prone to damage, it is cheaper to repair compared to other instruments. Non-electric string instruments are suitable for beginners.
One common advantage of wind instruments is that it is easier to carry than other instruments. Prices will vary from the affordable (ex. trumpet) to the very expensive (ex. trombone). It is fairly easy to learn and mostly inexpensive to repair. When buying a trumpet or cornet, opt for those with an unpainted finish.
Keyboard Instruments (Piano)
The piano remains one of the most popular and versatile instruments today. Obvious drawbacks of pianos are its size, which makes it hard to transport. It is also very expensive but very durable, although if damaged, repairs can be costly. The piano may be harder to learn than other instruments because it requires reading music pieces in double-stave. However, when you master it, it's well worth it.