How to choose an instrument Part 1: Before you buy
Today, we’re going to talk about how to choose the right instrument. We know first-hand what a daunting task that can be and while there aren’t any particular rules to follow, here are some tips to help you during your search.
The first and most obvious thing to do is to define your budget. This seems simple enough but in the world of instrument sales, there is a lot of flexibility. You’ll either come across an instrument that you love but is too expensive or you might end up with a dealer who only offers you instruments above your price range. It’s usually wise to determine exactly what your price range is and to stick to it if you can.
This will also help narrow down your search. For instance, instruments made by modern makers are considerably cheaper than their older counterparts. They usually provide excellent value for money, especially for people who are buying for the purpose of playing the instrument rather than for its investment value. There are more advantages, such as the possibility of being able to meet the maker of your instrument and working on its sound quality with her/him. They are also generally more reliable and will be less affected by the weather or will come unglued less often.
It’s important to explore the various types of sound that instruments can produce and how this will help you determine what’s best for you. This obviously depends on your current situation as well as where you see yourself in a few years time. Will you still be studying? Do you want to be a free-lance musician or play full-time in an orchestra? Are you aiming to become a soloist?
These factors all weigh in when buying an instrument. Many orchestral musicians will opt for something that has a very beautiful tone and is easy to blend with. Having an violin that projects heavily all the time will cause you to stand out and might alienate the rest of the section. A chamber musician might look for an instrument that projects but can still easily blend and has a very wide range of colours. This is of course a very personal decision and everyone might not want to conform to any specific sound type but it must be considered when purchasing an instrument.
Before we move on to Part 2: Trialling the instrument, an often overlooked aspect when trying an instrument is ease of playing. It’s important to consider when buying something that will last you for years. Some instruments are very easy to play but may perhaps lack some richness in tone while some others might be difficult to play but, once you’ve discovered the right technique, sound amazing. Of course, some people find instruments that fall into both of those categories but they are the lucky few.