Choosing a instrument
Category : Guitar Lessons
Choosing an instrument
When shopping for a new instrument there are so many different options from which to choose. Brand names are often a good starting point when looking for a new instrument. This can give you information on an manufacturer and/or models reputation and reliability. There are many different manufacturers that produce instruments that are often recommended as student line instruments. The old adage “You get what you pay for.” is applicable in this instance. Obviously, budgets are a concern for almost everyone, so finding the biggest bang for you buck is important. The importance of buying an instrument that has reputable brand recognition can be confusing for some. Instruments have moving parts, hinges, pads, wiring, metal, wood, screws, and other very small custom made parts. When something happens and you need your instrument repaired you will need a qualified repair person, typically, to get things moving back into the right direction.
Wood or Plastic? – With students returning to school or embarking on their first musical journey, this is a common question. While typically students will be renting an instrument during their first year or two of band, buying one is also an excellent option. Instruments are very easy to resell either via Craigslist, Ebay, or Classified ads and typically don’t depreciate all that much (depending on the brand). Finding a used instrument is similar to buying a used car. You want to see and typically play it first to determine if it is an appropriate fit for you or your student. Also, having a qualified repair tech check the instrument for things like loose or broken springs, bad pads, and other common age induced issues that are common on a used instrument. That being said, finding an used instrument will dramatically reduce your initial investment (as long as there are not a boatload of repairs to be made, hence see a tech).
Back to the original question. Wood or Plastic? Typically I recommend beginning students get a plastic clarinet, although the actual material may be called something different like resin or a composite material. These are not prone to cracking and do not require as much attention to upkeep as a wooden instrument. Also, a student can also use this plastic clarinet for marching band, as you do not want to march with a wooden clarinet. Stick to brands that your band director recommends. These will usually include: Yamaha, Buffet, Selmer, Leblanc, Bundy, Vito, and possibly a few others. Stay away from the “great” deals you might find on ebay that are often Chinese made junk. These cheap off brands often come with a history of problems and are hard to find replacement parts, if you can find them at all. Students that are really making progress with their instrument and are starting to take their progress seriously may want to invest in a wooden instrument in order to achieve better tone, intonation, and overall playability. This again would be fine, but only after a student has developed a good basic understanding on the instrument and embouchure required.
Acoustic or Electric? – This is one of the biggest questions I get asked. This is usually coming from a parent of a younger student in regards to hand strength or complains about the strings “being too hard” to push down. Personally, I like to start students out on an acoustic guitar. This makes transitioning to the electric guitar much easier later. Of course, students may receive some difficulty at first since the string tension on the acoustic guitar makes for a slightly tougher time for the left hand, this is much like learning to drive a standard transmission car. If you can drive a standard transmission car, you will have absolutely no trouble driving an automatic. Now, if you are an adult student and have an issue with hand pressure due to an injury or other condition, starting on an electric guitar should be perfectly fine. In the end, its all preference.
What size guitar should I buy? – This is where heading into a guitar shop will make the best sense. Typically I like to have my students purchase a standard size acoustic guitar as long as they are able to sit, play, and handle the guitar without any issues. Students under 9 (depending on size) usually will go for something in the 3/4″ size range. Students under 7 might need something as small as a 1/2″ size, but traditionally I only teach as young as 7 years of age. If your student can handle a full size guitar, then by all means buy it. Being able to reach and fret all the way from the 1st fret to the 12th (at a minimum) will ensure that the size is in the ballpark. Arm length is another consideration. Make sure that they can get their right arm around the thickness and width of the body. If this feels very uncomfortable it might be a sign that a smaller size is needed. Again, the best technique to sizing is to go into a store with lots of different sizes and models and see what feels right.