Considerations 4 and 5
BY MEGHAN VANCE • JULY 10, 2023
If you want to learn a musical instrument, but don’t know what instrument to choose, there are seven things you’ll need to consider. Last week we looked at numbers 1-3: personality, space, and transportation. This week we’ll add two more considerations: availability and budget.
NUMBER 4: AVAILABILITY
When talking about availability, there are three important factors to consider. First is the availability of the instrument itself. While cheap instruments can often be found at garage sales, pawn shops, or websites, it’s usually best to purchase your instrument from a reputable dealer. Lash of Violins warns students against purchasing from individuals who may be trying to sell inferior instruments or who may be over-charging customers, and says, “An individual who is unwilling to allow you to play the instrument or get a second opinion on the item for sale…may have something to hide.”
Second is the availability of instrument repair shops. Many instruments require regular maintenance – string instruments need new bow hair, woodwinds need cork replaced – and having a master craftsman in your area is often crucial, especially if an instrument emergency arises. Repair shops for folk instruments can be especially difficult to find, as the lack of inclusion in school and community ensembles makes it hard for shops to get enough customers to stay in business. Do some research to find dealers and repair shops close to you, and ask your teacher or local professional performers about shops’ reputations.
Third is availability of music. This often depends on the popularity of your instrument. Music publishers can only make a profit on music that sells. If you want to play piano, you can expect to find lots of current music available, and a wide variety of genres as well. If you play bassoon, viola, or banjo, your choices will likely be much more limited.
The availability of music can also depend on the type of music you want to play. If you want to play rock and roll, music published for flute may be scarce. If you want to play Hawaiian music, consider playing a traditional Hawaiian instrument, such as ukulele. Community Center Of Boston states, “To find the right instrument for you, it may be helpful to start with your favorite kind of music.”
NUMBER 5: BUDGET
Hopefully you’ve already thought about how much your instrument costs to initially purchase. If you’re interested in playing an orchestral or marching band instrument, you may even find that your local dealer or school offers rental beginner instruments. Lash of Violins recommends rental instruments as “a wonderful option for the beginner who may be afraid to initially make a purchase or for those who may find an outright purchase financially difficult to swing.” Keep in mind that students may need to upgrade to a more expensive larger size or better quality instrument as they grow and advance. As mentioned above, you may also want to consider the cost of maintenance.
What many students do not consider is the cost of equipment. Instrument prices often do not include the cost of an instrument case, which is necessary for all instruments other than pianos. Most students will need a tuner and a metronome. Electric instruments often need cords, pedals, and amplifiers. Wind and brass instruments usually require some basic cleaning supplies and lubricants, and may need reeds. String instruments need rosin for bows, and either shoulder pads or rock stops. Most of these equipment costs are reasonable, but the equipment may need to be replenished regularly.
Music, too, costs money. Students who practice regularly will likely purchase several music books per year. Vocalists in particular tend to have more expensive music books, as their books often have accompanying audio tracks included. When performing as a soloist at festivals and concerts, vocalists and those who perform on orchestral and marching band instruments will need to hire an accompanist.
Stay tuned: in part three next week, we’ll discuss the final two considerations when choosing your instrument.