Instrument BUYERS GUIDE
- Hiring From Your Band Program
- Buying an Instrument
- Buying second hand
- Buying New - MODELS / BRANDS and what to look for
- Yamaha student instruments
- Intermediate Instruments
Keep reading below for general advice about Hiring vs Buying and to understand my recommendations
1. Hiring From your Band Program
(Highly Recommended for the first year - if available)
If your band program offers hire instruments, I'd highly recommend you take advantage of this for the first year.
Let's face it, young year 3s trying to assembly, handle and look after these expensive instruments is a bit scary, especially for the first few weeks. Most of the damage a student does to their instrument is in the first year of learning. Once they have learned how to protect and maintain their instrument correctly, a good student instrument should last 10 - 20 years.
School band programs usually have a strong relationship with a local repairer who offers a bulk discount for looking after all their instruments. Once your child has mastered the handling and care of their instrument, they will be thrilled to receive a nice shiny new instrument to look after. Chances are good they will have a higher appreciation for their new instrument and look after it with the great care it deserves.
Another great benefit of hiring for the first year, is that is makes switching instruments within the same instrument family much easier. In my band programs, I do a very detailed and thorough assessment process to ensure we are getting each student onto and instrument they will love and thrive on. However, despite our best efforts, occasionally it becomes apparent through the first year, that a student is struggling with a particular aspect of an instrument. I have had great success moving children from Trumpet to Euphonium, Trombone to Trumpet and even Trumpet to Tuba. The student takes off on their new instrument and discovers a whole new level of excitement and commitment to practice.
(Please note, I only recommend moving a student with it's family of instruments. If a student has been taught with good technique, moving from Trumpet to Tuba is very straight forward and the student has usually caught up to the rest of the band within a matter of weeks. Moving from Trumpet to Flute would require a much larger transition and would really require beginning in Training Band again the following year)
Cheaper to Start
The obvious advantage of hiring is that is enables a cheaper option for students for the fist year of band. Once parents see their child is loving the band experience and can see how incredible it is for their child's development, they can justify the investment in a quality instrument.
I would encourage everyone who has hired a Trumpet, Clarinet or Flute for a year and is thriving on it, to go and buy one. Given they are less than $ 700 new and will resell for 400 - 500 second hand in good condition, it's makes financial sense to invest in an instrument and will inspire practice and progress.
Larger, Expensive instruments
Some of the band instruments are much more expensive than others.
Many children absolutely thrive on Tuba, Euphonium, French Horn, Tenor Sax or Bass Clarinet.
However, these instruments can be $2,000 + to buy.
Great band programs will invest in enough of these instruments to allow students to hire them right through all 4 years of Band.
The good high school programs will also have a hire inventory of these expensive instruments.
The large and expensive instruments are the key to a great sounding band, so smart band programs hire them to students at the same rate as the cheaper instruments, to encourage parents to allow their student to play these beautiful and essential instruments.
2. Buying an Instrument
Often parents think, "we'll just start on a cheap instrument and if our child thrives on it and wants to continue, we'll buy a better instrument." While I understand this sentiment, my experience has been that students who begin on poor quality instruments find it significantly harder to progress. Poor quality instruments often encourage bad technique habits to compensate for the shortcomings of the instrument. I would strongly encourage parents to invest a little extra upfront to get into the quality student instruments. These instruments will usually hold excellent resale value, meaning that should your child not continue, the instrument can be resold for 2/3 of new value. The cost of ownership actually comes in much cheaper than buying a cheap and nasty instrument which has no resale value.
If budget is an issue, than seriously considering hiring rather than buying something cheap from Aldi or importing something on eBay from India or China.....your child won't thank you for giving them a wonderful opportunity to play in band, once they realise the instrument is really just a toy made to look like a real instrument.
Keep reading below for general advice about second hand vs new, student model vs intermdiate and to understand my recommendations
3. Buying second hand
Buying second hand can be a great way to get a wonderful, good condition instrument for 2/3 the price of a new one.
However, you need to be very careful.
You could save a nice amount of money, only to turn around and spend double that on repairing the instrument to bring it up to a playable standard. Or even worse, discover the instrument isn't worth fixing and you have wasted your money.
This is especially true of the Wood Wind instrument.
Wood Wind instrument have "pads" which create a seal against the holes when keys are pressed.
A well cared for instrument should last 9 years or so before the pads wear to the point of needing replacing.
Occasionally a pad can be damaged and need replacing before then.
To fully "repad" an instrument can cost $900 or more.
If you are going to buy a second hand instrument, it is essential that you have a professional play the instrument and check everything is working correctly. Not all teachers or professional players have the knowledge to inspect an instrument, so be careful to check they have the knowledge to assist in this process. (This is not a criticism of the teacher or player, it's just a different skill. I know some amazing teacher and players who I respect greatly, I just wouldn't take purchasing advice from them)
There are some excellent second hand instrument resellers.
I work with one all the time now and he provides my students and schools with excellent second hand instruments, fully serviced by a top professional, delivered to the school and with a good warranty. If you are at one of my schools, let me know you are looking to buy a quality used instrument and I'll put you in touch with my excellent contact.
4. Buying New
If you are looking to buy new, I cannot urge you enough, please spend the money to get into the good quality student instruments.
MODELS / BRANDS and what to look for
This guide is written specifically for the market here in Australia and is particularly aimed at parents choosing an instrument for their child in Primary School.
While there are other brands and models which are great, my advice is based on the following requirements:
1) Consistency - the build quality of instruments needs to such that every example of a specific model plays exactly the same. Some brands can be very hit and miss, meaning you need to have a progressional try the instrument before you buy it, even though it's brand new. I can't recommend such brands with out a professional checking them out, in which case, you don't need this guide.
2) Durability - some brands use metal that is in my opinion, too soft. For example, I have found that the Jupiter student model trumpets tend to dent and bend much more easily than the Yamaha. After seeing a significant number of my students begin on Jupiter trumpets and witness the how poorly they last compared to students beginning on a Yamaha, I will not recommend Jupiter to my students. Jupiter make a range of Student Trumpets, but the best one is pretty close to the YTR 2330 in price and is still in my experience and inferior product. Yes, Jupiter has a wonderful 5 year Warranty, but in my opinion a student trumpet should last 10-20 years or more, and the good ones often do.
3) Resale Value - when you take resale value into account, few brands of student instrument make any financial sense. Yamaha all very well known and respected, so they continue to bring good second hand prices. Buying a cheaper instrument will cost you more in repairs and maintenance, will bring less when you sell it and thus cost you significantly more overall.
I know I shouldn't need to say it, but seriously, please don't jump on eBay and buy a Trumpet shaped object from India or China. Your child won't thank you for giving them an opportunity to play music, they'll wonder why they find it so difficult to play and then give up, deciding they clearly have no talent for it.....if money is really tight (and I totally understand, it's a reality for many of us) than ask a professional to help you find a quality second hand instrument for $200 - 400.
Many students ask about the Jupiter instruments.
I don't recommend Jupiter to my students. To read why, please click below:
5. Yamaha student instruments
My default answer to anyone looking to buy a new, student Band instrument is Yamaha.
I have yet to find a new Student Yamaha instrument I didn't like.
Yamaha's attention to detail in design and build is legendary.
They create lighter weight models for young students without compromising strength, intonation and tone.
They ensure good quality metal is used, refusing to compromise the durability to save on cost.
The only time I don't recommend Yamaha as the first choice, is for those instruments for which they don't make a student instrument. For example, they make a gorgeous Single Bb Horn in the intermediate range, but don't make a student level version. While their intermediate model is still in many ways the best option, it's just not very affordable.
6. Intermediate Instruments
In some cases, the cost difference between a Student instrument and the Intermediate model is not very big.
There is usually no reason why a student can't begin on an Intermediate model. My experience has been that students who begin on the better model often progress faster and build good technique more consistently.
An intermediate model usually last you right through high school, whereas a student model will often be limiting a hard practicing student as they are getting into their 3rd and 4th years of playing.
The key benefits of an Intermediate instrument are:
1) Better Tone
2) Greater Dynamic range - easier to play both louder and softer
3) Greater Projection - how far and well the sound carries out to an audience
4) Better Intonation and Slotting - each note is easier to hit accurately and well, like having a big sweat-spot on a tennis racket.
In my opinion, the only reasons not to buy an intermediate model straight away are cost and weight.
If you have the budget and feel your student can manage the extra weight, go for it.
(Not all Intermediate instruments are heavier, it very much depends on the brand and model)