• Ten tips to consider when buying a musical instrument

    With Christmas coming up, many people will be thinking of buying(or upgrading) a new musical instrument, either for a loved one or for themselves.  Buying a new instrument for the first time can be a daunting experience and it can be difficult knowing where to start.  You might be thinking that some instruments all look the same but there are so many makes, models and prices that choosing one can seem impossible!
    Here are ten general tips which are useful to remember when buying an instrument:

     

    1. Think about the person 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?
    If they are already having lessons, a great person to ask for 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 web reviews and roundups.
    If they are disabled, check out our Guide to Buying Adaptive Musical Instruments. It includes details of more than 80 musical instruments and products, from prototypes and bespoke to commercially available and common accessories. Many have been specifically designed to make learning and playing musical instruments of all kinds as accessible as possible for disabled players of all ages.

    2. 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.

    Check out our list of specialist music retailers who are part of the Take it away music scheme:

    Search for your nearest music shop

    3. Make sure that the instrument gets checked over/set up before it leaves the shop.

    You might find you’ll be heading back pretty soon otherwise.  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.

     

    4. Check 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.

     

    5.  Check that spare parts/authorised service centres are readily available for the brand of instrument you choose.

    Also, the shop may have a repairer on site, or should be able to recommend one if something goes wrong.

    …and here’s a few things not to do:

    ❌     Don’t feel pressured into making a purchase. A good shop will make you feel at ease and shouldn’t rush you.

    ❌     Don’t 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.

    ❌     Don’t worry if you’re not as good a player as the next person in the shop. You can be sure that the staff will have seen and heard it all before so just go for it and have some fun!

    ❌     Don’t settle for something unless you are completely happy with it!

    Customer buying a musical instrument

    6.  Make sure you insure the instrument.

    Accidents and losses do happen, and there are companies that specialise in instrument insurance including Allianz and Musicguard. You may be able to add it to a home contents insurance policy, although it’s important to find out coverage details. Some policies have a limit per item which may be lower than the musical instrument costs.

    7. Make sure your receipt includes all the details, guarantees and serial number of the instrument.

    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.

    8. Check whether the cost of delivery is free or included in the price of the instrument, or whether this is an extra cost.

    This is essential for larger instruments such as harps and pianos!

    9.   If you do decide to purchase online, make sure you are familiar with distance selling regulations.

    You’ll need to know what to do if you would like to return or change the instrument if you decide it’s not right for you after all.

    10. And last but not least – remember there are different buying options available!

    Making music can be tough financially – a good instrument does not come cheap.  But you don’t need to pay thousands up front to get the one you want.  At Take it away, we offer interest-free loans to support musicians of every age, enabling you to borrow from as little as £100 up to £25,000 (subject to availability at participating music shops) and then pay the remaining balance back in equal monthly instalments. Take it away can also be used to buy accessories, music tuition and recording equipment. We work with music shops, music organisations, Arts Council England and Arts Council of Northern Ireland to break down the financial barriers and make learning and playing music more accessible and open to everyone.

    Once your loan application has been approved by the music shop, you can take the instrument home straight away, or have it delivered.

    Ultimately, the instrument should last the player a long time, (if not a lifetime!) so it’s worth giving good consideration to your purchase.  The most important thing is to buy something that is right for the needs of the player and is of good enough quality that it’s something they’ll want to play and improve on!

    For more information on the Take it away scheme, our music shop members and more please follow the links below:
  • Making music production more accessible with Jason Dasent

    Making music production more accessible with Jason Dasent

    Accomplished musician, music producer, audio engineer, accessibility consultant… there are many strings to Jason Dasent’s bow.  He uses innovative production techniques, many of which he helped to develop, to create great music – working with music manufacturers and software developers to help ensure their equipment works for people like him that have accessibility needs. And he does it all with a smile and a positive attitude that is infectious. We had a great chat with Jason and got a brilliant insight into how he works.

    For many years, the visually impaired community has been underserved by most music equipment manufacturers, with only a few  (ProTools/ Sibelius), Native Instruments (Komplete Kontrol) and Apple (Logic) introducing accessibility to their products within the last few years. However, things are changing, and Jason Dasent has been at the forefront of those changes.

    We dropped in (virtually) to his fully equipped recording studio, which comes complete with four keyboards and “tons of hardware”. It’s a happy day for Jason, as he’s just received the news that he got a distinction for his MA.  So what led to him studying in the UK?

    “I ran a studio in Trinidad for 19 years, and also worked with most of the music studios in Trinidad. Even before accessibility was a word, so I had to find work arounds. As accessibility and screen readers came into play, I became a bit of a ‘tech head’, and was fortunate enough to be able to embrace the technology as it was coming together. I then started developing some of this technology.”

    It’s clear that Jason has a very ‘can-do’ attitude, which manifested itself when he came across a significant technical barrier.  A software program, Maschine (Native Instruments) was not designed in an accessible way by the manufacturer, so Jason immediately set about making it work for him. “I would not accept that it’s not accessible,” he said. He was able to create macros that worked with the interface to make the program accessible, and before he knew it the manufacturer invited him and his wife (who helped him develop the software) to the UK. Word spread, and then other manufacturers started getting in touch. He decided to stay in the UK to study a Masters in Popular Music Practice and Entrepreneurship, and continues to work with music equipment manufacturers to share his expertise.

    Making accessibility the norm

    Part of Jason’s mission is to make accessibility ‘the norm’. He held an online workshop this year, called  “Normalising the Conversation – The Road to Accessible Music Tech”

    The title of the workshop reflects the difficulties that still exist when it comes to accessible music equipment. In a survey conducted in 2018, 63% of music retailers said they are not aware of any specialist products or adapted instruments for disabled people (Make Some Noise research, 2018), and only 25% of music educators felt that high street shops were adequate for their needs when it came to accessible music making.  The same research highlighted a lack of confidence and knowledge amongst music retailers when it comes to serving and catering to the needs of disabled customers. Jason believes that a little conversation and empathy can go a long way.

    “That’s the first thing, to get over that barrier of it being too sensitive a topic. I have made some of my best friends through people not knowing anything about how I am,” he says.

    Once people get over the possibility of saying the wrong thing, it’s ok, Jason says. Because there isn’t really a wrong thing. If you don’t know, that’s perfectly acceptable! You’re not expected to know everything.

    “I think I have a duty, being blind- I think God made me blind for a reason – so we can do exactly what we’re doing now. My duty is to show people that hey, it’s cool! we’re a little different, we do things differently – you use a mouse, I use a keyboard… my motto is ‘inspiration, not obligation’ I want to inspire people and be inspired by them.”

    Being an inspiration

    Talking of being an ‘inspiration’, this is a word that’s divided opinion when used to describe disabled people – some have mentioned that they felt it was a patronising term, while others simply wish to be defined by their achievements alone, and not their disability.  Jason has his own take.

    “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, he says. “But I like to use the term ‘differently abled’ as opposed to ‘disabled’. Because I am not disabled. I’ve had a lot of push back on that statement, but I’m going to use it anyway. Because I do certain things a little differently. ‘Disabled’ [to me] means that I don’t do it, or I can’t. Which is not the case.

    “However you want to refer to it, people just need to be a little cautious. You don’t want to be someone that people walk on eggshells around. It’s ok, I make jokes about being blind, about myself. I might start a presentation by saying something like, ‘Forgive me, I don’t have my glasses today’ or something.

    “For me that breaks down barriers immediately. It makes people smile, and laugh. They let their guard down.”

    Jason Dasent
    “I think I have a duty, being blind- I think God made me blind for a reason – so we can do exactly what we’re doing now. My duty is to show people that hey, it’s cool! we’re a little different, we do things differently – you use a mouse, I use a keyboard… my motto is ‘inspiration, not obligation’ I want to inspire people and be inspired by them.”
    Jason Dasent in Studio
    At the end of the day, I’m just Jay. I’m an open book, that’s the only way we will overcome challenges together. It’s perfectly ok to ask me anything, nothing is off limits.

    VIDEO: Watch as Jason Dasent demonstrates the production techniques that help him navigate his studio equipment

    Accessibility in retail – it’s good to talk

    A strong advocate for overcoming barriers and attitudes to disabled people’s musical experience, Jason is a supporter of the Disability Awareness Training course recently developed by Creative United, the MIA and Attitude is Everything.

    Although he has come across retailers who may not be used to dealing with the visually impaired, his shopping experiences have been very positive overall.

    “I guess this is because I always try to engage the sales staff by striking up conversation about the equipment I am interested in, going deep into the features etc. This lets them know that I am confident and very comfortable in this environment dealing with such equipment. I also talk to them about their own experiences in the music industry. This engagement puts everyone at ease and creates a relaxed atmosphere leading to the sales staff becoming very interested in what I do and they are willing to spend time with me exploring the equipment.”

    Jason has actually made lasting friendships with sales staff who he met at music stores.

    “At the end of the day, I’m just Jay. I’m an open book, that’s the only way we will overcome challenges together. It’s perfectly ok to ask me anything, nothing is off limits. That’s the way I’ve always lived my life and that’s what made me successful in what I do! So yeah, ask me anything! Because I’ll ask you anything!”

    More about Jason
    www.jasondasentinstudio.com

  • Music funding opportunities for November

    November Funding Opportunities

    For any music creator, knowing where and how to look for financial support for your projects is invaluable.
    For any music creator, knowing where and how to look for financial support for your projects is invaluable. We update this page monthly with the latest opportunities and deadlines for creative grants that will help you on your musical journey.
    Here’s what caught our eye in November.

    Get funding application guidance from Help Musicians 

    Support is always available from Help Musicians and you don’t need to worry about deadlines, or funding rounds. They run ‘Get Set’ online sessions will guide you through the types of activities for which you can receive support, the application process, common mistakes and top tips, equipping you to write the best possible application. 

    The next one is on December 9th.

    🔗 Book your place here

    Help Musicians logo

    Mobo Help Musicians’ Fund

    The MOBO Help Musicians Fund can provide financial support to musicians making Hip Hop, Grime, R&B, Soul, music of African origin, Reggae, Jazz and Gospel, helping them create music, develop business skills and take their career to the next level.

    Music creators can apply for financial support of up to £3,000 towards recording and releasing music.

    As well as the above, supported artists will also receive a health consultation from a BAPAM specialist to talk through and address any issues. 

    🔗 Learn more and apply…

    MOBO Help Musicians' Fund

    Grand Plan is a fund run by creatives, for creatives. The founders have either observed or experienced the sustained and structural barriers which contribute to an under-representation of artists and creative people of colour in British arts & culture.  They offer three £1000 grants per month to creative people of colour based in the UK who want to make a new cultural project happen.

     

    🔗 Find out more and apply here…

     

    The Arts Council England

    The Arts Council England has announced that its Developing your Creative Practice programme is open for applications. Grants of up to £10,000 are available to support the development of independent creative practioners working in dance, theatre, music, visual arts, literature, combined arts or museums practice.

    The application deadline is midnight on  7 December 2021.

    🔗 Find out more and apply…

    PPL Momentum Music Fund

    The PPL Momentum Music Fund offers grants of £5k-£15k for UK based artists/bands to break through to the next level of their careers. Activities eligible for support include recording, touring and marketing.

     

    🔗 Learn more and apply…

    Awards for Young Musicians 

    The biggest obstacle for many talented young musicians is a simple lack of money. They have the talent, they have the drive, but developing their musical potential can be an expensive endeavour. AYM offers up to £100,000 in grants each year to exceptional young musicians whose families are on a lower income. Their key criteria are musical talent and financial need, meaning whatever genre the musician plays, they can prove their eligibility without having to have taken formal exams.

    Musicians can apply anytime after their 5th birthday and before their 18th birthday.

     

    🔗 Find out more and apply

    Win a Scholarship from Yamaha Music Europe Foundation

    As one of the world’s largest manufacturers of musical instruments, Yamaha believes passionately in musical education. Since 1990, the Yamaha Foundation has granted scholarships to over 1000 young musicians across 33 European countries. The scholarships are granted annually and are aimed at students who are preparing for a professional musical career at a recognized educational institution within Europe. You must be 25 years of age or younger at the time the annual grant is awarded (usually February/March).

    The scholarship takes the form of a one-time payment of between €1000.00 and €2000.00. Applications must have been received by the deadline of November 30, 2021.

     

    🔗 Find out more and apply…

    Yamaha logo

    The British Council

    The British Council’s Music team works with over 100 countries to connect British musicians, educators and industry people with their counterparts and audiences around the world, providing opportunities to share knowledge and experience different cultures.

    Here you’ll find the latest UK music opportunities and UK music funding resources from the British Council and beyond.

    🔗 Click here for various funding opportunities

    British Council logo

    Tell us what you think: @Takeitawaymusic