Buying a musical instrument is like buying a car: you can buy a clunker or a luxury sports car, and both will get you to work on time. With so many price points and types, how do you find a good deal? Choosing the right musical instrument for your child is tough, but with the few points we’ve addressed below, we hope to aid your search and options.

Before you spend:

You can afford an instrument!

Don’t let price deter you from buying an instrument: there are more options than ever before! Many public schools have instruments as a result of programs such as OrchKids, which supplies instruments to students. Before you worry about cost, talk to your child’s school and find out what’s available.

Consider the instrument.

The budget-conscious parent would choose a kitten over a pony. Is there an instrument you should choose that’s relatively cheaper than others? If you’re on a budget, most of the schools will have a bassoon or double bass on hand, which they will loan you for a very low cost. Even some of the most popular instruments such as the flute, clarinet, trumpet and trombone can be cost-effective because your child won’t outgrow it.

Size matters.

If your child is in elementary or middle school, they’re going to grow. Make sure you’re buying or renting the correct size instrument. Remember: children outgrow violins, not trumpets.

Don’t splurge too soon.

You don’t need to buy your child a baby grand while she’s learning “Chopsticks”. But years later, when she’s playing Liszt, a keyboard won’t cut it. Start with a cheaper keyboard or instrument, but know you’ll have to upgrade as your child progresses.

Ways to rent or buy

Renting

In the same vein, we recommend renting instruments until your child decides whether he wants to commit to it. Your child may not like his or her first instrument. They may change their instrument two or three times, so you don’t want to make a big purchase until they’re sure.

Buying online

Once you’ve decided to buy, it’s important to remember that unlike cars, used instruments retain their value. It’s best to avoid an internet retailer based in China, because it’s almost impossible to determine the quality of the instrument. If you do find “a deal” online, it pays to pay an expert to come with you and assess the instrument before a purchase: you could have a lemon. Because of the nature of Washington, D.C. and it’s transient population, you’re bound to find a deal on Craigslist if you know what you’re looking for.

Buying local

We recommend going to a local music shop with a good reputation, if you’re trying to buy local. Local stores tend to have a better selection of used instruments, than perhaps a chain store might have. A few of Harmonia’s favorite local shops are listed below:

– Baltimore Brass Co.  http://www.baltimorebrass.net/

– Potter Violin Co. http://www.pottersviolins.com/- PianoCraft

– Dale’s Music Co. http://dalemusic.com/

– Foxes Music http://www.foxesmusic.com

– Steinway & Sons Piano http://www.steinwaypianodc.com