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:
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!
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!