At the beginning of the year many parents are in the position of needing to buy a musical instrument for their child for school. For those parents without much knowledge of music, selecting an instrument can be a daunting task.
Some teachers provide students with a list of recommended brands of instruments, however knowing the difference between brands can be difficult.
If your child has some experience already with an instrument, encourage them to test the instrument before you purchase it. In the case of wood wind or brass instruments you may need to bring a mouthpiece with you to compare the test models of different brands.
We have compiled a guide below of simple things to look out for when purchasing an instrument.
Flutes: When looking for a flute take a note of the following things:
• Check that all the pads are fitting flush with the tone holes.
• Check the intonation and that it is properly regulated (sounds ‘in tune’).
• Test the trial flute to see that the high and low notes are easy to reach.
• Check whether the teacher requires a ‘split E’ and/or ‘off set G’ mechanism.
• Examine the quality of mouthpiece.
• Check the tuning of the clarinet.
• Be sure that the pads neatly cover the tone holes.
• Think about the size of reed you may need – most new clarinets come with reeds, however they are usually size 2.5 which are often too thick for a beginner and you may be required to purchase additional reeds in a smaller size.
• Look for internationally recognised brands (there are some poor quality, cheap saxophones on the market).
• Check that the pads fit flush on the tone holes.
• Make sure that the saxophone has a comfortable fingering configuration (they vary slightly from brand to brand).
• Look for clarity of sound, particularly in the bottom register. Trumpets:
• Check that the valves are smooth and transition well.
• Check/ ask whether the tuning slides are all free and easy to move.
• Check that the mouthpiece is suitable for your child. Note: Most new trumpets come supplied with a mouthpiece, however the size is generally a 7C mouthpiece. Some teachers ask for a different sized mouthpiece which may have to be purchased separately.
• Check that the trumpet has rings on the 1st and 3rd valve slide (some teachers will also request this).
• Check that the main slide is free and easy to use.
• Check that the main slide has an inbuilt ‘slide lock’ (this can prevent the slide slipping out and dropping when handled by an inexperienced player).
• Make sure that the tuning slide is also free and easily manipulated.
• Check that the dealer sells high quality slide lubricants.
Violins/ Violas/ Cellos/ Double Basses: When purchasing a stringed instrument, the way the instrument has been set up is critical to the sound and ease of playing. Look for the following things in these stringed instruments:
• Check that the instrument is fitted with high quality strings (generally European or USA made).
• Check that the bridge is well fitted and is not too high (this makes it harder for beginners to play).
• Look for an instrument that comes with a high quality, protective case for safe transport to and from school.
• Check that the pegs fit well and are sufficiently easy to turn in order to tune the instrument.
• Look for an instrument that comes with a good quality horse hair bow.
• Listen to the instrument being played – the tone should be deep, resonant and have no ‘ringing/ buzzing’ issues.
Whatever instrument you are looking for, be sure to ask the details of the warranties. Look for warranties that are covered by the shop, rather than the manufacturer to avoid lengthy wait times if problems occur. Ensure also that the vendor has a servicing and repair department. Regardless of how careful your child is with his/ her instrument, accidents do occur frequently in schools environments and it is peace of mind to know that any problems can be fixed quickly by an on-site servicing department. Happy Buying!