Each year, thousands of students begin their musical journey by signing up to be in their school’s band or orchestra program. Each child’s first instrument will play a critical role in whether he or she will learn to practice, make the effort to care for the instrument, and ultimately, decide to stick with playing and progressing in the craft. With the beginning instrument so critical to success, many music educators are faced with striking a balance between quality and affordability. The good news is: there are fantastic beginner and step up woodwind, brass and low brass, strings, marching and percussion instruments available that won’t break your budget! The key is knowing what to look for when shopping.
Where to Shop
Before you even begin to look at actual instruments, think about where you want to shop. While online marketplaces and big box stores may offer musical instruments at cheap prices, keep in mind that you won’t get quality advice or assistance to help decide which instrument is best for your program and your students. You want to shop with retailers who know their products inside and out, have been selling to school music programs for years and understand your budget constraints, your invoicing processes and your delivery requirements.
Why High Quality Instruments Make More Sense
It’s easy to get sucked into the thought process that buying cheaper beginner instruments makes sense: young students often treat their instruments poorly; beginners don’t necessarily stick with playing; you can buy greater quantities of instruments at less cost; the list goes on. The problem is, any money you save up front with cheap instruments will likely be spent many times over on increased maintenance, more frequent and more costly repairs, and having to replace instruments much sooner than expected. In addition, cheap instruments often don’t play as well, are harder to keep in tune and may actually dissuade a young student from committing to the instrument.
Instead of inevitably running into these issues with cheap instruments, consider the longer-term approach of buying high-quality, but still affordable, instruments for your program. When instruments sound better and are easier to hold, play, and keep in tune, students are more likely to stick with practicing and playing. Higher quality instruments are also more able to withstand the rigors of student use and are therefore less susceptible to damage and may require fewer repairs. And, as mentioned above, better instruments need to be replaced less frequently, saving your school and your band parents money in the long run.
While it’s tempting to base decisions on brand names, this really isn’t a critical element to worry about. Of course, you can get great instruments from internationally known names like Yamaha, Buffet Crampon, Bach and the like, but you can also find high-quality items from lesser known or small brands as well as house brands from major retailers. So it’s better to find the instrument that offers the qualities you need at the price you need, instead of simply buying an instrument based on its manufacturer.
Should You Look at Manufacture Location?
In the not-too-distant past, it made sense to avoid instruments made in China and some other Asian locations, as the instruments were often mass-produced and tended to be low quality. However, these days you can find instruments manufactured in China that offer incredible quality and affordable pricing. As with the note in the brand name section, take care to find the instruments that offer the qualities you want and don’t necessarily base decisions on manufacture location.
Wondering what high quality but affordable looks like?
Here are some suggestions to get you started in several major categories. These options balance top quality materials, playability and durability with modest pricing (which can go even lower with our educator discounts!).
Saxophone - Bundy BAS-300 Student Alto Saxophone
Clarinet - Buffet Crampon Premium Student Bb Clarinet
Flute - Gemeinhardt 2SP Series Student Flute
Brass & Low Brass
Trumpet - Allora AATR-101 Bb Trumpet
Trombone - Prelude by Conn-Selmer TB711 Series Student Trombone
French Horn - Giardinelli GFH-300 Series Double Horn
Violin - Knilling Perfection I Violin Outfit
Viola - Bellafina Educator Series Viola Outfit
Cello - Engelhardt E55 Series Economy Cello
Concert Drums - Pearl Symphonic Series Concert Tom
Marching Snare Drums - Sound Percussion Labs Marching Snare with Carrier
The Final Word
Ultimately, getting instruments into students’ hands is the most important thing. While you want them to play the best instrument possible, if your budget is really tight, it’s better to provide SOMETHING rather than NOTHING. In this case, reach out to your trusted retailers to discuss your challenges. There are always options! Some retailers offer used instruments that can be more affordable, have plastic instruments that may fill some gaps, have a lease-purchase program or might be able to work out some other payment option that will allow you to put instruments in your students’ hands.
Woodwind & Brasswind is proud to provide educators with our best school pricing and expert guidance. We’d love to help you get high-quality instruments for your band, orchestra or marching program. Call us today at 800.346.4448 or sign up to purchase online (with educator pricing!) with our Educator Website. Let us know how we can help you teach the joy of music.