Posted By MrWhiddon

It happens every year, in every music program.  Despite the our advice, suggestions, even warnings, students show up with (often) internet "instruments".  I understand these may seem like a good idea.  After all, they cost a fraction of what an instrument costs at the local musical instrument dealer.  How could saving all that money be bad right?  Unfortunately no.  Student model instruments really do cost hundreds of dollars (which is why we usually recommend renting one instead of buying).  If you pay a fraction of that, you likely aren't really getting a quality music instrument.

The problems with these "instruments" are too many to list here.  Bottom line though, they rarely work correctly.  They're often made with inferior materials, cannot be tuned, will not stay in tune, etc.  And to make matters worse, when they break, which they invariably will, no instrument repair shop will touch them, so you're left with a non-working "instrument" and nothing for your child to play.

We all want your children to have a positive experience in Band or Strings class.  If a student's instrument is never functioning correctly, he or she will be constantly frustrated and unable to play at the level they could otherwise.  I understand how you may feel "they're just trying out playing an instrument so I don't want to invest a lot."  The problem is, with an inadequate "instrument" the child is set up to fail and what may have been a promising musician is discouraged and gives up on playing before he ever had the tools to succeed.

You wouldn't buy your 16-year old the cheapest available car just because they're only starting out, regardless of the quality of the vehicle, right?  So please don't take the same approach to playing an instrument.

Here are some things to watch out for...

  • Your violin, viola, or cello comes without the bridge installed on the instrument.  (If it's wrapped in paper inside the violin case, that's a bad sign... it takes a professional luthier to correctly install a violin bridge.)
  • Your instrument is available in colors.  (Clarinets come in one color, black.  All violins are brown... maybe an orange-ish brown.  Brass instruments are gold or silver... and made of metal.  Saxophones are gold.  Etc...)
  • It came from a vendor that also sells clothing, or potato chips, or tires.  (Just like cars come from car dealers and medical supplies come from medical supply companies, musical instruments come from musical instrument dealers.)
  • You can't return it.  (Any decent instrument vendor will stand behind their products.)
  • You have to decide what size to get yourself.  (At an instrument dealer, they will measure your child to ensure they get the right sized instrument.  If you have to guess despite having no training in how to measure a child for a music instrument, that's a problem.)
  • The words "Music Educator Approved" appear all over the website or listing.  (There are really no criteria for saying that.  If you really want to know, send a link to your Band or Strings teacher.  Go with the knowledge of THAT music educator.)

Please save everyone (especially your child) headaches and heartache and start with the right instrument from the beginning.  There are rental plans for every budget and lifestyle.  Remember, if the deal seems too good to be true when you're shopping for a musical instrument for your child, it is... I promise.

Here is a great article from "The Violinist" on how to avoid the pitfalls of the "Violin-Shaped Object."




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