Never buy a string instrument online. You will receive the instrument in pieces, sometimes missing essential parts, and always made with bad wood. Even otherwise reputable companies will sell you an instrument this way. Chinese instruments crack very easily because of the different climate, and the glue holding the sides together comes undone very quickly. You will most likely have to pay up to 300 dollars to make it playable if you buy a string instrument online, and constantly be in and out of the shop getting it reglued. I highly suggest paying slightly more to go to any local store (Benning Violins, Metzler Violins, Loskutov Violins, LA Bass Works) and buying an instrument that you can try out and know will work. If you have any questions about an instrument you have on trial – please bring it to Reed so that I can take a look and help you with your purchase. Any bow under 50 dollars is not worth being rehaired, simply buy a new bow.
While generally ok to buy from an online vendor, I highly recommend trying the horn before you buy it. I also suggest buying a new horn from a brand like Yamaha, Selmer, Conn, or Jupiter because the parts will definitely be available should anything bad happen. Though old horns can still sound good – sometimes they can have intonation issues or part malfunctions that can’t be fixed because parts are out of production. New horns come with working pads and usually won’t require too much extra investment to get them to work. There are many brands that of course can produce a low costing good instrument, but should anything bad happen – there may not be parts available for repair. Most parts are not retro-fit. Many used horns can be out of alignment and have leaks that you may not realize until you’ve already spent the money. Saxophones: Please do not buy a metal mouthpiece for jazz.
Electric instruments (Guitar and Bass):
Reverb.com is a good place to get a used instrument. There is no advantage to buying a new instrument except that it will be shiny and not have any dings *yet*. Guitarists and bassists constantly sell their instruments to acquire new ones, and they sell them at reasonable prices. Usually they come with some cosmetic damage that lowers the price sometimes up to half and plays better than brand new since it is set up to be played by a professional. Their goal is to sell as fast as possible and acquire new gear as fast as possible. You may even get aftermarket pickups already installed, which saves you money for better tone. As an example, some electric instruments can be 2,000 brand new and made by a great maker, but since it has after market pickups that sound better, and maybe it has a ding on the headstock or something – the price is 500-650 (shipped). If you play bass, I recommend a Fender Jazz Bass or Precision Bass or the MTD Kingston Heir series. If you play guitar, I recommend Gretsch or another semi-hollow body guitar that has two humbucker pickups.
For ALL instruments:
Keep in mind that if you are buying an instrument from a professional musician – they can make ANYTHING sound good. A trained musician has an almost magical ability to make a bad instrument sound better and more expensive than it is. Keep in mind that students need to learn on good working student instruments that are designed to work and produce a decent sound. It is extremely hard to learn on a bad instrument, but that’s not to say that it’s impossible to make a bad instrument sound good.
While this option is great for many, it is also not for everybody. If your student plays the violin, viola, or cello, you may want to rent because you can turn in a smaller violin for a larger one when the student grows. If you are doing a rent to buy option, you may want to reconsider. By the time you’re done paying off the saxophone (example), your student may be ready to own and start learning on a higher quality instrument. Sometimes using a school instrument is a good option to learn on while saving up to buy a good student instrument. You’ll find that in the long run, you may have no use for the low quality student instrument you rented to buy, and it will be hard to sell (we accept donations if you don’t want it to sit around collecting dust).
Please feel free to contact me by email if you have any questions.