It’s awesome that your student has decided to join the school band or orchestra program! You’ll find that the best students are in the band/orchestra programs and that the skills they learn - such as teamwork, hard work, consistent practice - are all life skills that will help your child have a more successful and enjoyable life. Just imagine your kid learning an awesome new skill that they can use for the rest of their life! I know for me, being involved in the school band program was a key part of my academic success. I wasn’t the greatest student - but spending time with other, more academically-inclined students helped me to do better. Plus, the friendships I developed during my years in the band have stuck with me even today. And better yet - I still play my instrument!
For most new instrumental music parents, the process of getting an instrument for your child can be a bit overwhelming. If you don’t know what you are looking for, you could end up making a very costly mistake. So I have written this guide to help you set up your child for maximum success in music!
1. You’ll need to first decide if you want to rent or purchase an instrument. I generally recommend that parents rent an instrument in the beginning - it gives you more flexibility if you find out that your child would be better suited for a different instrument, if you decide to get a better instrument, or if your student finds that playing in the school music program just isn’t for them (perish the thought!) You will want to make sure when renting that it's Rent to Own, and that all payments apply towards the instrument you are renting.
2. Make sure you can return the instrument at any time and cancel the rental agreement. Not every music store offers this, and it’s very frustrating to be making payments on an instrument that is not being used.
3. Don't fall for one of those low introductory offers, only to find that they have jacked up the price later, or that the contract is chock-full of gotchas. Look for a company that has straightforward, honest pricing. Places that offer trial periods, introductory offers, or other gimmicks often have worked out a rental plan that is designed to make you pay more unless you play their game perfectly. Don’t support that type of business practice with your money.
4. Rent or purchase only a band director approved instrument and that it still looks nice. Having a nice looking, quality instrument stirs the desire to play in your child. Having a ugly, old, or outdated instrument is uninspiring, often difficult to play, and frankly - can be embarrassing for your child.
5. You’ll want to find out if all of your payments will apply to an upgraded instrument. Nearly every parent I’ve met is concerned about whether their student will stick with it. Renting an affordable beginning instrument is a great way to test the waters. Once you feel confident that your kid is hooked, then you can make the investment in a better instrument. Also, check to see if they will also rent the upgraded instrument - this can make that future purchase more affordable.
6. Do get the maintenance plan, and make sure it covers replacement. I’m generally not a fan of any of those extended warranty products, but the maintenance plans offered by the music store is a good deal. Generally they will cover repair (and possible replacement) of your instrument for less than what it costs to get it serviced on an annual basis. Just make sure it covers theft and destruction from anywhere, not just your home. Some companies don't cover theft from the school - which is where most instruments are stolen.
7. Make sure the company has a generous early pay discount that never expires. This gives you the best of both worlds - the ability to rent with a return option in the beginning, and then purchase and save money when you are sure your child will stick with it. This is a great way to save 20-30% of the cost of the instrument, but many companies only offer this within a certain amount of time of the initial rental (like the first 90 days). Find a music company that will give you the discount on your remaining balance throughout the life of the contract.
So those are my 7 best tips for new band & orchestra parents! Since you read this far, I’ll give you two more bonus tips!
8. Find a company with a quick rental process. A good store will make the rental process fast - it should take less than 10 minutes to get your instrument and supplies (depending on how busy they are, of course). Most stores will take 30 minutes or more just to walk you through their overly-complicated rental contract. Also, see if you can fill out all of the paperwork online and then swing by the store to pick it up. This is a big time saver!
9. A word about borrowing an instrument: Borrowing an instrument, either from the school or from a friend, seems like a good way to save some money. While it might do that, there are some real problems with this approach. First, the instrument may not be adequate to learn on. It likely hasn’t had regular maintenance and repair like a quality rental instrument and can make it harder to play. Furthermore, since your child is a beginner, they won’t know that it’s the instrument causing them to struggle, and a fulfilling life in music is cut short. More importantly, there is a direct correlation when making a financial commitment to music and the success of the music student. We value the things that we work for, and by making a financial investment in a quality instrument, we are making an investment in our child’s future.
I hope this guide has helped, and that your student enjoys a lifelong love of music as I have! If you want to save time and just select a music company that does all of the things I mentioned above and more, then please give our company a try!