Instruments - Renting, Purchasing, and Repairing

Instrument Quality

Quality Enables Successes

The most important aspect of purchasing or renting an instrument is the quality of that instrument. Students will only be successful if their instruments are capable of producing a good sound and are free from mechanical problems. The instruments sold and rented from most music stores are generally of a high quality. Most rental contracts include free repairs, and therefore it is truly in the store's best interest to rent durable instruments. Most music stores will also repair instruments they sell for free within an initial period of time. When purchasing or renting an instrument make sure that the seller has a reputable repair shop, and that when the instrument needs to be repaired a "loaner" will be provided. If purchasing from a discount store it is best to make sure that you first locate a repair shop that will work on that brand of instrument. There are some brands sold at discount stores that many repair shops will not work on. The metal used on some of these brands is so fragile that repair shops do not want to risk breaking other expensive parts when doing routine repairs. Some brands do not use standard sized parts, and therefore many repair shops do not even have the right sized tools to perform proper repairs.

Purchasing vs. Renting

This is often a question of personal financial situations and philosophies. Remember that the most important consideration is that of quality (see above). In general about one third of students who start an instrument in fourth grade are no longer in band by sixth grade. Most rental contracts are "Rent - To - Own" and it generally takes two to four years of renting in order to own. In the long run it is much cheaper to purchase an instrument than to rent one. Howvever, renting usually includes free maintenance and repairs. Most rental contracts will allow a family to purchase the rented instrument at any time during the contract.

Renting Instruments

Most families rent when their children begin an instrument in fourth grade. Most rental contracts are "Rent - To - Own." In general a percentage of each rental payment goes towards building equity in the instrument being rented. Families will eventually own the instrument if they rent long enough (generally 2 - 4 years). Most music stores will allow that equity to be transfered to a similar instrument if switching instruments, or to a new instrument in the same instrument family if purchasing a "Step-Up-Instrument." There are two music stores which work closely with the band department in District 70. Families may rent from one of these stores, or they may rent from anywhere else they choose. One of the most important decisions when choosing a store is the ease with which instruments can be brought in for repair, and whether or not a "loaner" instrument will be provided while the repairs are done. Delicate instruments in the hands of children often need to be repaired.

Purchasing Instruments

Families who are considering purchasing an instrument generally fall into three groups. The first are those who want to purchase an instrument when their child first joins band in fourth grade. The second are those whose rental contract is about to end and they are considering whether to allow the contract to conclude and thereby own the instrument they have been renting, or transfer the equity to a different, or "Step-up" instrument. The third group are those who want to purchase a new higher-quality instrument for their child. Each group will be addressed below.

Group #1 -- Fourth Grade Beginners

It is perfectly O.K. to purchase an instrument rather than rent one when a child is first starting out. Many families choose to rent due to the high cost of a new, quality instrument and/or the fear that they child will not stay in band long enough to make that a good choice. When purchasing a beginner instrument it is important to consider the quality of that instrument (see "Instrument Quality" on this web page). The instruments being rented by music stores are generally of high quality. Families interested in purchasing often simply purchase the same brand and model that music stores are renting. Most music stores will match any price you can find on-line for the same make and model. If purchasing from a discount store make sure that you know of a music store that will repair the brand you intend to purchase.

Group #2 -- Rental Contract Ending

Families who have been renting to own will eventually own the instrument they have been renting (that's how it works!). At some point they will have to decide to either make the final rental payment and thereby own the instrument they have been renting, or transfer the equity in that instrument over to a different instrument. Many music stores will try to entice families at this time to "Step-up" from the beginner instrument to an intermediate one. We always suggest that students keep their beginner instruments for marching band. Students who participate in band at the high school level will often find themselves playing at football games which place their instruments in a cold and rainy environment. Their beginner instrument is the perfect instrument for these conditions. Students who want a "Step-Up" instrument should purchase that separately. Before families do decide to simply own the instrument they have been renting it is a good idea to have one of the band teachers look it over to make sure that it is free from any obvious mechanical problems.

Group #3 -- New High-Quality Instrument

The best advice for these families is to first make sure that their child is taking private lessons. Private instructors are generally professional performers on their chosen instrument and are knowledgeable in the current high-quality instruments being produced, and how to match the quirks of these instruments with individual student's needs. Many private teachers can be hired to help with the instrument purchasing process by going to the music store with the child to try instruments together. High quality instruments are often hand-made and vary slightly from one to another. The band teachers in District 70 are not as knowledgeable as the private teachers about current instrument offerings.

Used Instruments

Used instruments should be taken to an instrument repair shop and checked for "Play Condition." A repairman will check to make sure that the instrument does not leak air and that all the moving parts work properly. The repairman will also play the instrument himself to make sure that it plays well. Most used instruments sold by music stores on consignment have already had this done, but it is best to check to make sure. When receiving an old instrument from a friend or relative do not be surprised if it needs several hundred dollars in repair in order to be useful to a student.

Repairing Instruments

Many times a student's band teacher can fix an instrument that "won't play." The band teachers are not, however, skilled repair technicians. Band teachers will often need to tell a student that his/her instrument needs to go in for repair. It is the student's responsibility to then tell his/her parents this.

Most music stores that sell instruments also repair instruments. When taking an instrument you own or rent in for repair you should always call ahead and ask for a "loaner" instrument to be waiting for you. When handing your instrument over to the repair shop make sure to take everything out of the case other than the instrument itself. This includes your mouthpiece! Loaner instruments do not come with a mouthpiece. Make sure to leave a note either attached to the case, or clearly displayed inside the case, describing the problem with the instrument. When picking the instrument up always make sure that the proper repair has been done, if it is obvious enough to be able to check visually.

Used Instruments

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