Learning to play an instrument is a great addition to a child’s education.

Investing in an instrument, though, can be a pricey venture. A decent musical instrument can start at a few hundred dollars for an acoustic guitar or a woodwind and quickly rise in price to a few thousand for a good violin or piano.

But with judicious shopping and a bit of knowledge, a reasonably-priced instrument is a viable option for the next generation of musical geniuses.

New vs. Used

New musical instruments are often the most expensive (except a Stradivarius and the like). However, they’re not always the best buy, because some instruments perform better after some breaking in. This is especially true of string instruments, which often increase in price as they age.

A used instrument, then, is often a reasonable deal. For a student or novice, a used instrument might be just the right thing to learn on.

Own vs. Rent

Another money-saving option for musical instruments is rental. Many music stores offer rental programs for student musicians. Typically they’ll reimburse a portion of the rental if the instrument is returned in a specified time period. This can be a great option for children and students uncertain about which instrument they want to play or trying out something new. In most cases, stores allow outright purchase at any point in the rental term.

If full price of an instrument is not in the budget, it can be easier to manage a monthly rental payment rather than a large lump sum.

Some stores that offer instruments for rental and purchase include:

eBay and Craigslist

Online classified sites are great places to get musical instruments. Just proceed with caution. eBay offers a wide variety of new and used instruments, some direct from the manufacturer. The drawback is that you can’t see the instrument, find out how it plays, or check the action and tone. Be sure to read the return policy closely when buying through eBay. Consider budgeting for instrument maintenance.

Craigslist and other local want ads can provide excellent bargains. Look over the instrument and give it a test run before your final purchase.

Before You Shop

Spend some time doing research before buying a musical instrument. Learn what brands are recommended for students and professionals. A student instrument will be less expensive while functional. A professional-quality instrument is likely to cost considerably more. In some cases, a professional-quality instrument will actually be more difficult for a beginner to play. Gathering this kind of information can help you zero in on the best type of instrument for your needs.

Take along someone who is familiar with the instrument and will be able to judge its quality. If the instrument is of poor quality, it will be hard to play and efforts will likely be discouraging.

This has been a guest post by Katriena from Denver, CO
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3 thoughts on “How to Save on School Band Instruments”

  1. Prescott2 says:

    If you live near a military base, search out auctions for used military band instruments- these are often high quality instruments at great prices. Also when your student is ready for a step up instrument and have played and compared instruments,  consider purchasing the same instrument outside of the US. US prices are terribly marked-up by a factor of two or three. 

  2. Teresa says:

    If you are planning to purchase a French Horn or brass instrument be careful of the sites that advertise for cheap $350 brass instruments.  They are usually made in China and are not worth the money.  They have pitch problems and require lots of repairs such as valve issues on the French Horn.  We chose to purchase a new Yamaha French Horn for our daughter and it was expensive.  Names such as Conn, King, Yamaha, and Holton are reputable.  

  3. Erin says:

    As a middle school band teacher, please be very careful buying from a non-music store source. In the last 10 years, there has been a lot of lesser quality instruments hitting the market. These instruments seem to be a good deal, but then when broken and taken to a repair shop can’t be repaired. The only option left is to replace the instrument.

    My advice is to speak to your child’s music teacher. They can guide you to reputable and quality instruments. They can give you brands and price ranges of durable instruments and what to look for. Often times, they even know of local families wanting to sell instruments, which in my experience is one of the better routes to go.

    The other caution– many used instruments will need to be cleaned and adjusted to be in their top playing condition. Again, talk to your child’s music teacher and find a reputable shop in your area that will handle this. These costs can run into hundred’s of dollars. It’s a big investment, but if you find a solid instrument and make good investment in repairs, it can last for decades.