Before you do anything, determine your needs as a player. Once you've worked out whether you are just starting out or expect to play in the Albert Hall within a year, follow this simple rule:

 'Buy the best you can afford'

It's really as simple as that! You don't need to splash out and spend thousands of pounds on the very latest top-of-the-range instrument – in fact this can sometimes be counter-productive, as many high-end instruments are designed with professionals in mind, and can be harder to play than their beginner or intermediate equivalent.

But you should also remember that buying the cheapest will almost certainly cost you more in the long run, or at the very least cause you major problems if you are a beginner.

Consult, if possible, a teacher or an experienced musician and where possible buy an established brand from a reputable source.

Don't be afraid of buying second-hand, but do be aware of the pitfalls of doing so. Consider using a hire-purchase scheme if you are unsure if interest in the instrument will last.

Above all, remember that instruments are there to be played, so try to play the instrument before you buy it – it's a lot more fun that way, and you can be guaranteed a lot more satisfaction than simply choosing it from a catalogue like you might for a vacuum cleaner!

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