Buying a new musical instrument can be a daunting and expensive experience if you have never played one before. Your child comes home from school one day with the dreaded words “I want to learn the saxophone !”
Do you :
- go to a music shop and buy whichever is recommended by the sales person
- go online and buy the cheapest thing you can find
- do some online research to see what a saxophone is – then proceed with one of the above !
- ring the school to complain !
I have seen all of the above.
“Can you not learn the triangle, I know what that is…”
Ok, so first of all have you decided which instrument you or your child would like to play? Be realistic. If your child wants to play the saxophone but is only 7 or 8 years old and is not very big then they are really going to struggle to hold a sax. You could suggest a clarinet which could then lead to a sax when they are a bit older and bigger.
Also if it is a younger child that has lost their front teeth then they are not going to be able to form the correct embouchure (how you hold the mouthpiece in your mouth) until their new teeth grow in.
Buy the best you can afford
My general advice to parents is to set your budget and then buy the best instrument that you can afford. Don’t be afraid to seek advice from your child’s (potential) new tutor (I always make myself available to speak to parents and offer any help I can). Go to your local music shop and ask….though be aware that you are speaking to a salesperson ! The vast majority that I deal with are really nice, honest people that are happy to help…but ultimately they want your money so do bear that in mind.
I was once witness to a salesperson who was advising a couple of parents that they really should be buying a £2,000 clarinet for their child. I could see the joy in his eyes, after he had baffled them with jargon, and they agreed to purchase said clarinet. While he disappeared to the back of the shop to get the instrument I had a quick word with the parents. It turned out their little girl was only 7 years old and had simply expressed an interest in playing the clarinet ! They didn’t know any different and thought all clarinets cost that much. I advised them otherwise…..just as the salesman returned. They decided not to part with £2,000 (sensibly), he lost his sale and I was barred from his music shop !
Ok, so that is an exception, but the question remains…..how much should I spend. Woodwind instruments usually come in 3 categories :
- beginner – up to about £400/£500
- intermediate – £400 to about £1,300
- professional – £1,300 to limitless !!!!
This is a very rough guide and there will be obvious variations between the price of say, a flute and a saxophone but as a general guide hopefully it will give you some idea.
Stick with well known brands
There has recently been an influx of really cheap and lets face it, rubbish instruments onto the market. This has been largely driven by the internet. Please please please do not be tempted to buy one. It may seem that £400 is a lot to spend on what could just be a “passing interest” but it could also prove to be a great investment. One thing is certain, spending £50 on a new flute that does not work properly and drops to bits after a few weeks will certainly not encourage a passing interest. On the other hand a good quality instrument that works well and sounds great may just turn that interest into a passion !
Some good quality beginner brands (this is a generic list covering flute/sax/clarinet) to look for are :
- Trevor James
This is by no means a comprehensive list but will give you a good starting point. All of the above provide good quality instruments that will last for years provided they are looked after….AND PRACTISED EVERY DAY !!
The first sax I bought (all of those years ago) was an Elkhart. It was a terrific sax that really did the job for me as a beginner. I then bought a Trevor James. I really loved this sax and had it for quite a few years. I now use a Yanagisawa which is a really good solid pro model.
My first clarinet was also an Elkhart which again lasted me years and was perfect for a beginner. I now use a yamaha YCL-650.
My one (and only) flute is a Buffet. I have had it over 2o years now and it is still going strong (admittedly with a little TLC from time to time!).
Hope this helps (a little). Please feel free to comment or get in touch if you would like a bit more advice/help. Also it would be great to hear from other players. If you have a preferred brand of instrument please comment below with the reasons why.