How to Buy a Musical Instrument

How to Buy a Musical Instrument August 10, 2011

I remember signing up to play the saxophone in band almost 13 years ago.  I could hardly wait to start!  I loved the idea of playing the saxophone so much that I wrote it down for choice #1 and #2 – the director got a kick out of that and said that I’d get one of the coveted sax chairs.

There was only one problem.  I didn’t own a sax, and we couldn’t afford the $1,400 price tag of the saxophones from the local dealer.

My dreams were about to shatter, until I came home to find that my dad had picked up a used saxophone from a pawnshop for $400.  I couldn’t believe how great of a deal it was!

Looking back, I’ll remind myself how fortunate I was that my dad thought outside the box – otherwise I wouldn’t have had the chance to play the instrument that I love.  Hopefully these tips will be helpful if you or someone you know are looking to purchase an instrument for school this year.

Before You Buy, Do a Little Research

You or your child will be playing this instrument for years to come, so do your best to find out about brands, instrument types, and customer reviews before you jump on a deal.  I’m not suggesting that you search out the top of the line saxophone model instrument and try to haggle your way down to $400…that’s not going to happen.  You simply want to be sure that you’re buying a good instrument for the price and not overspending your hard earned money on something that’s not what you expected.

Where to Look for Instruments


Look in the classifieds or local ‘bargain finder’ papers to see if someone is selling their instruments.   Many people don’t want to mess with listing their instrument online.  This is how I found my first professional model saxophone.  An older sax player was selling his horn for $300, so I tested it out and bought it on the spot.  Turns out, the horn was from 1957 and worth about $1,300 allowing me to upgrade to a better model in college for less than I expected!


Today’s version of the classifieds is obviously Craigslist.  I’ll occasionally browse through the listings to see what’s available, and find some great deals every now and then.  Just be sure that the image shown is the actual horn and don’t be afraid to negotiate with the seller.


I’ve purchased a saxophone from eBay once and was happy with it; I’ve even sold saxophones on eBay and had a good experience as well.   However, if you are shopping for a first time player, I don’t recommend using eBay right away.  Unless you’ve done extensive research and feel very comfortable about the instrument model that you’re purchasing, don’t start bidding on eBay.

I do think that eBay is a great place to buy and sell, but you just need to be careful when it comes buying items that you’re not familiar with.  Also, be very cautious about buying no-name brand instruments from eBay.  There’s a reason they’re selling for a fraction of the price of others – you’d be much better off with a used version of a quality instrument than a cheaply made instrument that you purchased for a ‘great price.’

Reputable online dealers

I’ve seen more and more online dealers for musical instruments in the past few years.  Part of the reason for this is that you can essentially create your own line of instruments by contacting a manufacturer overseas to produce cheap instruments.  While I won’t go into great detail about these specific sites, I will suggest that you search for consumer reviews on instrument brands and look for forums that discuss the quality of those instruments.

Don’t forget the accessories

If you’re just starting out with an instrument, you’ll need more than just the instrument itself.  From reeds to neck straps, to mouthpieces, cases and strings, your instrument will require a certain level of upkeep as well as items that need replacing.

After years of buying reeds, I’ve found that buying new boxes of reeds from and eBay have brought the greatest deals.  When compared to our local music shop, I can save an average of 60% with each reed purchase.  To be completely fair, I have purchased items at great discounts from local music shops, so you really just need to ‘shop around’ both online and in the store.

Here’s a list of sites that I’ve used and trust when looking for musical instruments and accessories:

Have you purchased an instrument lately?  What did you do to get a great deal?

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