Where to get the things you need

Getting hold of an instrument

When you have a good idea what instrument(s) your child might like to learn, the next question is how to get hold of an instrument for them to play. They may wish to try several before making a firm decision.
There is no point in buying an instrument until your child has decided exactly which instrument they want to learn and has shown that they want to make a firm commitment to continuing to learn to play it.
Your first port of call should be your school and/or, through them, the County Music Service (Music Hub). They possess a large stock of instruments of all kinds and you may very well be able to borrow one – or hire one at minimum rate.

Failing that, there are a number of music shops in the area, some of which operate reasonably priced hire schemes for school children. Instruments vary widely in price and can be purchased outright, bought on a hire purchase arrangement with a music shop, or leased. There are small sized instruments (mainly strings) for younger players, which cost less than the full sized instruments.
When you do want to buy your own instrument, it makes sense to buy one that will retain its value, so that you can sell it again if need be (if your child gives up – or, better still, needs to get a better instrument when they reach a higher level of playing). For our guide on buying instruments, please scroll down!
Always consult with your child’s teacher before buying any instrument! It is worth getting advice about which size to buy and which model, because cheap or second hand instruments sometimes do not work, and a new player can blame themselves. If you buy second hand, always take the instrument to a decent repairer for a thorough overhaul. (See our guide on instrument repairers in the county)
Prices tend to get higher as instruments within each ‘family’ get bigger (so a starter cello costs more than a starter violin). Starter string instruments are cheaper than brass, which are in turn cheaper than woodwind. ‘Shortage’ instruments can sometimes be leased from County Music Services at very low cost or for nothing if you have a County teacher. Looking at guide prices on eBay is probably a good idea, buying instruments on eBay probably isn’t!
There are some other, ongoing costs for some instruments:-

  • Strings - you will need to buy/make a shoulder rest (violin & viola), a slip-stop or spike holder (Cello & D. Bass) and buy rosin (all bowed instruments). Occasionally strings will require replacing and bows need re-hairing every few years..
  • Woodwind - need wiping out after they have been used, a combination of a brush and/or a pull-through, depending on the instrument.
  • Reed instruments need new reeds regularly. Clarinet and saxophone reeds are relatively cheap, oboe and bassoon reeds cost more.
  • Music will also need to be purchased . Teachers are very aware that this can add up and do try to keep purchases to a minimum. They may be able to arrange for other pupils to donate music they have finished using. (also see our Facebook page!)
  • Exams are a way for your children to show and prove their progress. These have entry fees and will also require an accompanist. (See our guide to “Finding an accompanist”)

Approximate instrument price guidlines

The table below gives a very approximate guide to prices of instruments for beginners, intermediate (grade 5ish), advanced (grade 8ish) and excellent (suitable for life-long enjoyment). Second-hand instruments are often better value than new ones – but more care and advice is needed when purchasing or hiring!

Instrument Starter Intermediate Advanced Excellent Comments
Violin £50 £200 £800 £1500+ Includes bow, case, shoulder rest and rosin. Small sizes are available for children
Viola £100 £250 £1000 £1500+ Includes bow & case – small sizes are available
Cello £180 £250 £1000 £1500+ Includes bow & case – small sizes are available
Double Bass £420 £800 £1500 £2000+ Includes bow & case – small sizes are available
Flute £150 £400 £900+ £1500+
Piccolo - - £500+ £1500+ May be needed later, in addition to a flute
Oboe £1000 £1500 £2000+ £2500+ Reeds are required (~£7 each)
Cor Anglais - - £4000+ £6000+ May be required in addition to Oboe later on. Reeds are required (~£15 each)
Bassoon £1250 £2000 £2500+ £3000+ Reeds are required (£10-15 each)
Contrabassoon - - £4000+ £6000+ Optional extra in addition to Bassoon later on. Reeds are required (£15 each).
Clarinet £150 £400 £1000+ £1500+ Bb Clarinet. Reeds are required (~£1 each)
Clarinet Pair - - £2000+ £2500+ Includes Bb Clarinet and A Clarinet. Required at high levels.
Horn £250 £500 £1000 £1500+
Trumpet £150 £400 £800 £1000+ Similar for Cornet
Trombone £150 £400 £800 £1200+
Tuba £600 £1000 £1500 £2000+
Euphonium £200 £400 £800 £1200+
Percussion £100 £250 £500 £1000+ This relates only to the basics needed to practice. More may be needed at higher levels depending on specialties.
Piano £100 £500 £1000 £2500+ Delivery may be required
Keyboard £100 £500 £1000 £2000
Harp £200 £500 £1500 £2000+ Pedal harps can cost upwards of £10,000
Guitar £30 £100 £200 £500+
Ukelele £15 £25 £100 -
Recorder £5 £15 £20 £60+ Advanced players need a few!

Things to consider before deciding on an instrument

  • It is important that the student has somewhere to practise, where they will not be disturbed by noise (TV) or siblings. It is good if they have access to a music player to listen to recordings and a safe place to store their instrument when it is not in use. They will also need a music stand which, though collapsible, is more convenient if left assembled.
  • Overhearing your child practising really is one of the benefits of them learning an instrument, even when they are a total beginner. However you do need to consider your neighbours, who may not share that proud glow when they achieve their first few notes.
  • All children can learn an instrument but they will progress at different rates according to age and aptitude. As long as they are usually enjoying themselves and making progress they, and you, should be satisfied. However the amount of practice, and in particular the frequency of practice, will make a huge impact on how quickly they learn. Learning an instrument develops both emotional and communicative maturity – but it is also a physical activity. Playing an instrument develops the strength and coordination of specific muscles which need regular ‘workouts’. Some instruments are more demanding in this respect than others: brass and reed instruments need regular practise to build up embouchure stamina (and the ‘lip’ will not last for a full lesson if it has not been used during the week). The same applies to finger muscles and arm muscles.
  • With all instruments there are times where rapid progress is made – and then times when it seems to be a real struggle to get over a hurdle to the next stage. All players go through these stages and need encouragement to persevere, as afterwards they will find playing much more rewarding and enjoyable.

Useful links

Something broken? The RYMN guide to finding an instrument repairer is found here!

Need to find a teacher? Click here to read up on what to look for, or here to browse the Teacher Database

Want to play with others? Click here to read up on why you would want to, or here to browse the groups registered on RYNM!

Ready to start practicing? Click here to read our expert advice on how to make the most of your practice!

Looking to buy? Yell.com has a list of shops in the area, which can be seen here!