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Instrument Buying / Rental Advice

Be VERY CAREFUL not to pay too much for an instrument. Some stores make large profits by selling instruments at the list price, also known as retail price. You should not pay the retail price for any musical instrument.  In general, you should shoot for a price that is at least 25% off retail.  Some places will go to 40% off, which is very good, and 50% is fantastic.  Local stores probably can’t go that high because they don’t work in volume, but you are buying local which is a good thing for our city!  How do you know if you are paying retail or not?  ASK!

 Rules of thumb:

1)      Instruments that have a cute gimmick attached to them (pretty color, size differences) are usually of inferior quality.  The pretty color usually starts flaking off after a few months.  Those instruments also usually require a great deal of care to keep them working, but because they are so inferior, some repair shops won’t touch them.

2)      If you find a new instrument for $300 or less, it’s probably inferior quality.  Please don’t skimp here.  It’s better to rent a decent instrument from Shivela or a store than to start on something of inferior quality.  Cheap instruments are harder to play, which frustrates students, which makes them want to quit. 

3)      Whenever you are shopping at a music store, ask to speak with the person who knows the most about the instrument you want to buy.  They don’t always have one, but it’s good to ask.

4)      Take an experienced player with you who can test the instruments before buying them.

5)      Always ask if repairs or returns for warranty issues are offered.

6)      If you see an inexpensive instrument on an internet auction, and no one is bidding on it, take it as a hint that it should be avoided.

7)      Most instruments in online auctions sell for the fair market value.  It’s hard to find good deals there any more.  If the instrument is cheaper than others, it’s cheaper in quality.

8)      On internet sales, you might not get what you think you are paying for and it may not be returnable. Make sure you are dealing with a reputable instrument dealer and not purchasing from a private party.

9)      Talk to as many band directors and music teachers as you can before purchasing an instrument!

 Finding good value while renting instruments can be tricky. Here are a couple of options.

1)      You can rent an instrument first and start building up credit that you can use toward a new instrument at the end of your rental agreement (be sure to ask the store’s policy on this).

2)      You can buy an instrument without renting it. Stores should give you a considerable discount off of retail when making an outright purchase, so you may end up paying about $500-600 for the same clarinet. In the long run, you have saved money. The problem is, if your student loses interest, you still have a clarinet. The re-sale value of student-level instruments drops very quickly, so you can probably sell it for half or more of what you paid if it is in excellent condition and you would have to find a buyer. This way is more work, but then, the potentially cheaper way always is, isn't it?

 Always shop over the phone. Find out what type of instrument you want to buy and then find the best price or rental deal. You may have to travel a ways. Saving hundreds of dollars is worth the trip, but here are advantages to buying local. First of all, you're patronizing a local business, which keeps sales tax dollars in the area. Secondly, in the event that something goes wrong with your new instrument, the store that will honor your warranty is nearby and you won't have to ship the instrument or drive a long distance.

 If you have questions about what to get or where to get it, I don't know everything, but I'll help you as much as I can. Call Mr. Davidson at (951) 696-1406 or e-mail

Would you buy a pair of slip-ons for your student to play soccer because they are cheaper than cleats?

Would you buy your student the cheapest bike at Toys ‘r Us for BMX racing?

Would you buy your student a whiffle ball bat for baseball/softball?

Please do not buy the cheapest instrument you can find.  It’s not worth the frustration it will cause!

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