The desire to buy a musical instrument can happen at any time. You might have learned to play an instrument at school and not touched it again since you left; you might play occasionally and want something more decent as you improve; or, you could be ready to make the leap to being a fully-fledged professional and want to find a good deal. Mhairi Grant, Strategic Relationship Manager at Take it away, spoke to Young People in the Arts, a social network for arts professionals, about what to consider when buying a musical instrument.
There is so much choice out there that making the decision to buy an instrument can sometimes feel like the easy part. You will also need to consider how much money you can comfortably spend, what model you should choose, and if you should buy online or go to a music shop. Then, depending on the instrument you want to buy, you have also got to think about storage and if you have enough space.
These tips should help you navigate what can often be a confusing minefield of questions and choice!
Try before you buy
Whether you want to buy a bass guitar or a xylophone, a keyboard or a drumkit, you should always try out your instrument of choice before buying it. Even if you eventually end up buying the instrument online, nothing beats visiting a music shop to see what instrument works best for you. It will also give you a clearer idea of the size of the instrument so you can better see how it will fit into your home. If you do decide to buy online, check for the return and exchange policies in case there is any damage, or you find yourself needing to return it.
I know it may be daunting to enter a music shop and show off your musical skills, particularly if the last time you played your instrument was in the school band, but do not worry – music shops have heard everything, and it really is the best way to find the perfect instrument for you. Some music shops may even have a practice room for you to use so you can practice in peace.
Don’t forget the extras
Once you have settled on the instrument you would like to buy, don’t forget to ask if the purchase includes any extras such as stools, cases, mutes, headphones, 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.
Think about after-sales care, insurance and warranties
Other than buying the instrument and the equipment itself, you should also check if the music shop offers free instrument maintenance or repair services in case something goes wrong.
Unfortunately, accidents do happen, so insuring your instrument is crucial. Making Music offers a very affordable and straightforward instrument insurance scheme for leisure-time musicians which covers all music property (instruments, accessories, sheet music, electronic equipment). If you are a professional or aspiring professional musician, the comprehensive instrument insurance scheme offered by Incorporated Society of Musicians may be more suitable to your needs.
Ask about music tuition
Becoming an accomplished musician takes hours of patience and practice, so a good teacher is essential. Many music shops have access to a network of music teachers who offer lessons.
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 your instrument home straight away, or have it delivered.
There are many other organisations that can help you along your journey
Whilst Take it away aims to make owning a music instrument more affordable, you may need a little extra financial support and guidance to help you on your musical journey. The following organisations may be able to assist:
Help Musicians UK – Provides development opportunities and deliver tailored funding directly to individuals and groups.
Incorporated Society of Musicians – Provides thousands of professional musicians with essential advice, insurance, legal help and more.
Making Music – Provides advice, support and resources for leisure-time music groups and musicians across the UK.
Music for All – Provides advice and financial assistance to people who want to make music. They can also offer tips on subjects such as finding a music teacher or buying a suitable musical instrument.
I hope this has left you feeling inspired to start, resume or progress your music-making journey, whether that’s playing your instrument from the comfort of your home, or performing on stage. Whatever happens, don’t feel rushed into buying an instrument. Make sure you are buying something that you feel completely comfortable and happy with.