How do you know what the right instrument is for you or the person you a buying for?

How to buy a musical instrument

Buying a new instrument for the first time can be a daunting experience. Regardless of what you are buying you may be finding it difficult to know where to start.  You might be thinking that lots of instruments that all look the same but there are some many makes, models and prices, that choosing one might seem impossible!

Ultimately the instrument should last the person playing it a long time, (if not a lifetime!) so its worth giving your purchase some thought.  The most important thing is to buy something that is right for the needs of the player and is of a good enough quality that it is something that they want to play and get better on.

For a start, have a think the person who will be playing the instrument:

  • How old are they? Will they need a full size instrument or a smaller junior version?
  • What kind of music do they want to play?
  • How much are you/they prepared to spend on the instrument?
  • Do they want lessons, are they already having lessons?

If they are already having lessons a good place to get some advice is their tutor who will have a good idea of a suitable instrument for the stage in their progression. You can also try speaking to fellow pupils or get some information from reviews in magazines or on websites.

If this is the first instrument you are buying, avoid the temptation of buying something online just because it is cheap, and instead go to a shop and try some out before you make any purchase.

Whilst they may seem like daunting places at first, good music shops should welcome players of all abilities, especially new ones! Any good music shop should let you or the person you are buying for try out their instruments. They should also be happy for you go away and come back another time if you wish to make a purchase so don’t feel like you have to make your choice there and then. We have a list of specialist music retailers you can search.

Here are some general tips which are useful to remember when buying an instrument:

DO

  • Check that the instrument gets checked over/set up before it leaves the shop or you might find you’ll be heading back pretty soon otherwise.
  • Check that spare parts/authorised service centres are readily available for the brand of instrument you choose.
  • Ask the shop if they will offer a free check-over after 6 months and if so make sure they include this on the receipt.
  • Make sure that the shop has either a repairer on-site or can recommend one if something goes wrong.
  • Check whether the cost of delivery is free or included in the price of the instrument, or whether this is an extra cost (essential for larger instruments such as Harps and Pianos!)
  • Get the manufacturers or/distributors guarantee card stamped at the point of purchase. If there isn’t one, ask that this can be detailed on your receipt.
  • Make sure that the full details of the instrument, including its serial number, are on the receipt.
  • Insure the instrument. There are companies that specialise in instrument insurance including Allianz and Musicguard.
  • If you do decide to purchase online, check your consumer and make sure you are familiar with distance selling regulations and what happens if you need to return the instrument.

DON’T

  • Feel pressured into making a purchase. A good shop will make you feel at ease and shouldn’t rush you.
  • Be frightened to ask questions. People in the music shops love talking about making music and the instruments they play. This way you’ll be sure to get the advice you need.
  • Worry if you’re not as good a player as the next person in the shop. You can be sure that the staff, like doctors, will have seen and heard it all before so just go for it and have some fun!
  • Forget to ask if the instrument comes with any extras such as stools, reeds, cases, leads etc. For some instruments it may be possible to purchase a pack that comes with everything you need to get started so make sure to ask in the shop if they can offer you this.
  • Settle for something unless you are completely happy with it. Some well-known musicians have played the same instrument for years and so should the one your are buying.