The Most Instrument for the Money

guest post by Lisa

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My husband has been a band director for almost 35 years. I was in band and orchestra in both high school and college and both of our children were involved with band for many years. We are the experts.

One of the biggest reasons children quit instrumental music programs is that they have poor quality, non-functioning instruments. If the horn won't play, even a professional will quickly become frustrated. A child can have all the talent in the world and tell his parents he can't do it. They in turn, being totally ignorant of the problem, will think he's just not got the stuff to play.

When I was in high school, I wanted to learn to play many different instruments. I found that there were good used instruments available at several music stores as well as in the newspapers. The ones I bought from private owners I then took to the music repair store and had adjusted and repadded so they functioned like new. The cost was small compared to buying a new horn. However, without the professional maintenance, I would soon have quit, as they were not always in playing condition.

Many music stores in our area (Central Indiana) have "rent to own" programs. You get an instrument in perfect playing condition with maintenance included (you'd be surprised how easily beginners can foul up a horn). You can trade in a student model for a better one, and all you have paid counts toward the more expensive instrument. They do outgrow beginner level horns as they improve. That is the reason that there are professional and beginning horns. We did this with my son's trumpets. He always had an instrument that was right for his ability. I know that most people think a trumpet is a trumpet, but there is a huge difference once the child gains proficiency. You get what you pay for.

Make sure you get a musical instrument rider on your insurance policy, as homeowners insurance does not normally cover instruments. My son's $1,500 professional trumpet was stolen from the backseat of his car and the insurance company paid to replace it with the exact same make and model. The cost to insure is tiny compared to the cost of replacement.

Also, music is meant to be a lifelong activity. Even after graduation a person can continue to perform and enjoy playing an instrument. Examples of places to perform are: church, community groups, family bands, personal enjoyment, etc. My son has a terrific part-time job playing "Taps" at military funerals. The enjoyment of music continues long after the last marching band show or high school orchestra concert.

Special note for string instrumentalists:

Good quality string instruments continue to not only to hold their value, but appreciate faster than inflation. Think about Stradivarius violins -- they are over 300 years old and cost millions now! Even lesser instruments do very well at resale and you will be hard pressed to purchase an equivalent one when your grandchildren want to play. (I have always sold my instruments for considerably more than I paid for them.) So consider putting it on a shelf in an environmentally safe area (not an attic or unheated garage!!) and look forward to passing on the gift of music to your children and grandchildren. Don't forget that instrumental musicians do better on the SAT's!!

updated: August, 2014

"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money please send it to

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