Renting vs. Buying an instrument
Buying a good quality beginning level music instrument is expensive. We recommend renting an instrument for at least the first year to see if your child really does like to play the instrument they’ve chosen. Like automobiles, musical instruments depreciate quickly, and it will be difficult to sell a purchased instrument and recoup your initial investment if your child opts to discontinue lessons.
Planning to Purchase a New Instrument? Buyer Beware!!!
While it has never before been the practice of our music department to advise parents on the purchase of instruments for their children, we would like at this time to offer some buying tips. With the advent of E-bay and other internet sources many times parents are purchasing instruments sight unseen. Newspaper ads and yard sales also offer great deals on instruments but sometimes the instruments may have problems which are not immediately noticeable to the untrained eye. Some instruments being offered are not standard in their range or key for a regular school band setting. Department stores and wholesale clubs have begun to sell musical instruments that are either generic (no make or model engraved on the instrument) or machine made (rather than handmade) from China. While they may be inexpensive, we have found that the construction of these instruments is generally unsatisfactory and that students usually struggle to produce a good sound on them. Often the metal that the generic instrument is made of is quite soft and trips to the repair shop become frequent once it finds itself in the hands of a student. It has been our collective experience that a child can only do so much with what they have to work with. However, there are some specific makes and models of instruments that are specially designed for young or less experienced students to use that are built to last and provide the students with ease of sound production.
While our music staff is always available to answer any questions that you may have about purchasing an instrument we offer these tips so that you will be an informed consumer. We suggest the following brands of instruments to you on the basis of our instrumental music department’s more than 100 years of combined teaching experience.
Flutes and piccolos are instruments built in the key of C. An older model of piccolo was made in the key of D flat and you may find a great deal on it, but it is unusable in a school ensemble. Our band students do not play piccolo until they reach high school. Gemeinhardt, Yamaha, and Armstrong are the three recommended brands of flutes and piccolos due to their solid construction and design features which make them most accessible for good sound production.
Clarinets come in a variety of keys and sizes, but for our purposes in the public schools all students play on a B flat soprano clarinet. Reliable brands for these instruments include Vito, Selmer, Yamaha, and Bundy. Clarinet cases should be large enough to accommodate the storage of reeds, a cleaning swab, cork grease and other maintenance supplies.
Saxophones also come in a variety of keys and sizes. All of our band students use an E flat Alto saxophone when they start out. Should the student desire to switch to a larger saxophone in middle or high school, we provide those instruments. When purchasing a saxophone the recommended brands are Selmer, Yamaha, Conn, and Vito.
Trumpets used by students in school bands are built in the key of B flat. Mouthpieces for student musicians are usually engraved with a 7C on the rim. Bach is a reliable manufacturer of mouthpieces. Reliable brands of trumpets include Holton, Bach, Yamaha, Olds, and Bundy.
Tenor slide trombones are used by our band students. A keyed (like a trumpet) trombone was invented some years ago but has largely fallen into antiquity and is not helpful to young trombone students. Holton, Yamaha, King, Bach, and Conn are suggested brands of tenor slide trombones.
Drumsets are often high on the wish lists of aspiring percussionists. Reliable brands of drums include Ludwig, Pearl, Yamaha, and Tama. A typical drumset includes a bass drum with pedal, a snare drum, a set of toms attached to the bass drum, and perhaps a floor tom. Cymbals are usually packaged seperately and both Zildjian and Paiste are both reliable brands. A beginner drumset should include a pair of hi-hat cymbals and a ride cymbal. Many other choices of cymbals can be added later. The purchase of hardware must also be anticipated when purchasing a drum set. Hardware includes the stand for the snare drum as well as the different cymbal stands and sometimes the pedal for the bass drum. Additionally, the seat for the drummer, which is called a throne, must be included in the initial purchase of a drumset.