When you begin your journey as a musician, there’s no one piece of equipment more important than your instrument. Truth is, instruments can be expensive, but a good instrument is an investment in your musicianship.
Often, beginner musicians are tempted to buy a cheaper beginner instrument to try out. They believe that a cheap instrument gives them a chance to see if they like playing before they have to buy something more expensive. And while the thinking behind that logic makes sense, in reality, buying a cheaper instrument to test it out just doesn’t work.
Learning an instrument is a challenge, but cheaper instruments make learning to play even more difficult. These instruments rely on their low cost as a way to attract new musicians, but the instruments themselves are often poorly built. The setup of a cheaper instrument often doesn’t accommodate the fact that new students don’t have good technique or strong fingers. You’ll probably find yourself struggling against the instrument’s design, when the instrument should actually be designed in a way to make your job easier.
Cheaper instruments also don’t sound very good. Even making a sound on a cheap instrument can be more difficult than it would be on a higher quality instrument. These cheaper instruments tend to be less responsive and the materials used in their creation don’t make for a terribly pleasing sound. You may have to work hard to produce a sound on some instruments, like the flute. You deserve to be rewarded with a decent sound for all of your effort.
At Sage Music, we’ve taught well over 2200 adults music students. The number one reason why adults come to take music lessons is that they stopped taking lessons as a child. Often, these adults wish that their parents had made them continue, but sometimes an instrument that was just too hard to play was what got in the way and prompted them to quit.
Cheaper instruments aren’t just difficult to play; they break easily, too. Bent keys, loose head joints, pads that don’t seal, and bodies that dent easily are just some of the issues you may encounter when you’re playing a cheaper instrument. The cost of repairs (and the time that you lose while your instrument is in the shop being fixed) can mean that your more affordable instrument isn’t actually all that affordable in the end.
Some beginner musicians may be tempted to purchase a cheaper used instrument and have it fixed up and repaired. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always work out well, either. If the instrument itself is of a cheaper quality, it may not be worth the cost of an overhaul, which can be hundreds or thousands of dollars, depending on the repairs needed. If you’re considering buying a used instrument, have its quality and functionality evaluated by your music teacher before making the purchase.
Tuning is often an issue with cheaper instruments. It’s difficult to learn to play in tune, and cheaper instruments usually don’t help you at all. A higher quality instrument is often designed carefully so that most of the notes are naturally in tune, minimizing the amount of adjustment that you’ll have to do. But cheaper instruments may have many notes that are significantly out of tune, requiring you to learn to manipulate your embouchure or otherwise tune the instrument constantly as you play. That’s a lot to ask of a beginner musician, and most beginners aren’t capable of that type of tuning.
This means that when you play with a group or with accompaniment, your tuning issues will be very apparent. You and your audience will be able to hear them, and this can take a lot of the joy out of playing your instrument.
If you want to become an instrumentalist, it’s important to commit to that decision and to take your music seriously. The first step in taking your music seriously is to invest in a quality instrument. You don’t need a top of the line professional grade instrument, but you do need a quality beginner instrument that will work with you, not against you, as you learn and practice.
If money is the issue that’s keeping you from buying a quality instrument, talk with your teacher. More affordable quality instruments are out there, and if you decide to buy a used quality instrument, you can get better quality at a lower price than you would pay for something new. The other option would be to rent a musical instrument, or even possibly rent an instrument to own.
Your instrument truly can shape your musical journey, so invest in an instrument that will help you become a great musician.