On a Tight Budget: Buy Used Musical Instruments

Most parents, at one time or another, face the expense of purchasing a musical instrument for their kids. Unlucky moms and dads sometimes go through this a number of times when a single child decides to chuck the flute for a violin or take up the French horn when he or she already has a saxophone or guitar. Smart parents and other adults have learned a cost-saving measure: they buy used musical instruments to keep from cutting their budget to ribbons.

While the focus here is on ways to locate and buy used musical instruments for kids just taking up music, most of the techniques will work just as well for adults who want to learn an instrument without paying too much. Some of the simplest guitars today, unless very cheaply made, can often cost at least $250 and that’s the classic, non-electric, acoustic style guitar. Add electric and the required amplifier, and you can easily pay a minimum of $400 without any effort. If you aren’t fully sure you will want to continue with one particular instrument for sometime to come, it can be hard to justify the expense, especially if you are on a tight budget.

Used instruments can truly vary in condition from ones that are in mint shape and almost new to ones which have been through the mill and back a few times. By the time someone gives up an instrument, that musical device’s best days may be behind it. However, there are enough in very acceptable condition to make it worth your time to seek out and buy used musical instruments where you can find them.

Finding them is the key! But there are some good places to begin your search. These include:

– on ebay
– in local classified ads, especially in newspapers and journals that specialize in buying and selling used merchandise such as trading post publications
– on bulletin boards
– at swap meets and flea markets
– at yard and garage sales

Yet you probably can’t afford to stop there if you fail to locate a decent, affordable used musical instrument. If you looked at all the food store bulletin boards, try one that may be in your local music store. Some shops feature private ads posted by other members of the local musical community that may offer used instruments.

Or, while you’re at the music shop, listen in when someone comes in trying to sell a used item. I once picked up a superb guitar amp at a bargain price because I happened to stand in line behind a musician desperate to sell it quickly.

Also talk to local musicians and music teachers as well as those involved with area orchestras or musical programs. Because they’re already involved with music, they are more likely to hear about someone selling a used musical instrument you can buy.

If you have a local college or university, don’t forget to check with their music department or that department’s student bulletin board. A musician friend has picked up several used instruments at rock bottom prices just because he swings by the area college’s music department every two weeks. He swears by them, insisting he gets better quality since many of these students sell extremely expensive gear gifted by parents on a whim at a cheap price.

If you absolutely cannot find a quality used instrument of the type you or your child wants, consider your other options. Some music stores will sell or lease instruments with a weekly or monthly payment scheme. Smaller shops with a strong desire to move merchandise to stay afloat may be your best bet for an installment plan of payments.

Other music stores as well as some professional music schools will give you access to use musical instruments right there on the premises for a fee. If the instrument you or your child wants is large and expensive, such as a piano, you may want to go this route over buying used. If your child, for example, is willing to make the commitment to go to the shop or school every few days or every week and follows through, this may be a good indication that he or she truly is interested in that instrument and music. In the meantime, you buy some time to save up to purchase one for home study and practice.

It can be extremely costly to refurbish a badly-abused used piano and the cost of a new one can be prohibitive for many families. An electric keyboard is an option, but few sound quite like the old-fashioned electricity-free floor models. A piano can also be tough to fit in some busy homes, especially where non-musicians may pound at the keyboard and take it back out of tune quickly. Nor is every parent or household ready to listen to hours of practice. For this reason, it may be more economical to lease time on someone else’s in-tune piano while you save dollars toward something better.

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