Thinking about buying a musical instrument? Tips on getting your money’s worth

Used or brand new, here are a few things you should be asking a seller, and looking for in a new or used instrument before you decide to make the purchase.

Whether you’re a parent buying your child’s first musical instrument, a beginner inspired to pick up a new skill, or a seasoned pro looking to add to your collection, there’s one thing you all have in common: you want a musical instrument that’s not only in amazing shape and going to perform well for you, but is going to retain value if or when you decide you want to sell it.

While there are a ton of amazing instruments out there, the more common musical instruments that the general population of buyers is looking for are guitars, pianos or keyboards, violins, and drums. Buyers often think that new is the way to go, but the thing with musical instruments is that if they have been taken care of properly and have had regular maintenance, you’re going to get a lot more value out of buying used.

Used or brand new, here are a few things you should be asking a seller, and looking for in a new or used instrument before you decide to make the purchase.

Consider its Uniqueness

Instruments that are mass-produced, like certain brands of guitars or keyboards are going to lose their value quite quickly. This shouldn’t be too surprising- the more there is of a certain product the less it’s going to sell for later since there’s just so many of them out there. Instruments that you can find in a local department store aren’t going to be able to retain as much value as an instrument you find in specialty stores or from individual collectors and sellers. Similarly, a new instrument is not going to retain the value that you pay. A well maintained used or vintage instrument may keep or even gain value over time if properly cared for.

Comb Over Every Inch

Don’t hesitate to look over every inch of the instrument you’re looking at. You should be checking to see how well this instrument has been kept up. Is there any tarnishing? Are there any dents? (Even small ones?) Is there excessive wear down on keys or valves from natural finger oils? (These will look like fingertip-sized markings where the finger is usually placed on the instrument.) Any of these may be signs that the instrument has been to worn down or might have been used to a degree that it’s not going to hold as much value for you if you try to sell it again in the future.

Ask the Right Questions

Questions you should be asking a seller include where the instrument was made, the quality of materials that were used in making the instrument, how often it’s been sent in for regular maintenance, how long it has been played, and any previous repairs or damages that the instrument incurred. Don’t be shy to ask these questions: they’re incredibly important to help you figure out if this instrument has been taken care of and if it will continue to be a good investment for you.

Ask for Help

If you know of any musicians or musical instrument buffs and experts, ask them for a favour and bring them with you to check out the musical instrument you’re interested in. Chances are, they’re going to be able to ask questions you may not have thought of, or see little signs of the instrument’s value (or maybe even lack of value).

Do Your Research

As with most purchases we make in the 21st century, the internet should be your best friend. Be meticulous in your search for the instrument you’re thinking of purchasing. Look up the top brands, see what you should be looking for, and even scour forums to see reviews and going prices for your particular instrument.

Test It Out

Always, always, always test out the instrument before you make that final purchase. Bang on those drums, strum those strings, and pound on those piano keys! You should be listening for inconsistencies in sound and feeling for any weaknesses in certain parts of the instrument. Don’t be afraid to really play it- you want to be able to push your instrument to its full capacity to make sure it’s truly durable!

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