Determine your needs

Probably the most important step in buying an instrument is determining your needs. There is little point in spending thousands of pounds on a top-of-the-range new instrument if you suspect that you or your child may not take to playing it, but equally buying the cheapest instrument available may not be the most economical option in the long run.

Presuming you or your child has a teacher you can trust, consult with them over what sort of thing you are looking for. Before you even think about making a purchase, ask yourself and your teacher the following: 

What standard are you/your child?

If you are a beginner, do you think this will be a long-term commitment, or is it more of a passing fancy?

This can, of course, be very difficult to determine in children, but if the instrument is for you, carefully consider the degree of commitment you think you will be able to give to playing the instrument. If you are unsure, consider hiring an instrument from a reputable retailer – this will allow you to experiment with an instrument of better quality than if you just bought the cheapest available.

 Do you have any space/noise/physical requirements?

Do you live in a small flat? Do you have elderly neighbours or neighbours with small children? Will you be able to transport your instrument if necessary?

Clearly you won't want to buy a grand piano if you live in a small flat, but practical issues are often less obvious than this. The old drummer's joke of packing up after a gig and declaring 'I wish I played the piccolo instead' is worth remembering where possible: do you have any specific space or noise requirements? Will you have to take your double bass on the bus, or your tuba on your scooter to get to rehearsals or lessons?! Nothing puts a beginner musician off more than fighting practical issues like these, so give them consideration well before you buy.

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