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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