Music Buying Guide
Purchasing a Musical Instrument
While options and pricepoints in all musical instruments vary widely, there are a number of practical considerations to bear in mind when buying a musical instrument.
- Do you live in an apartment or a house with shared walls? If so, you may want to consider electrical instruments that allow you to connect a set of headphones.
- How would you rate your commitment to learning? You may want to consider an entry-level instrument when you are just starting out to see if it’s for you. Recorders, harmonicas, kazoos or ukes and beginner guitars are all great launch pads.
- Are you buying an instrument for a child? If you are buying for a younger player you may wish to consider smaller instruments that will be easier to handle.
- When buying a beginner instrument as a gift, it is important to get quality. Sometimes cheap options do not help a student progress.
- How are you planning to use your instrument? If you are planning to play in a school band, for example, you will need to budget sheet music, music stands and accessories.
Guitars & Ukuleles
Guitars and ukuleles are hugely popular among beginners and experts alike as they are a portable party! Before choosing a guitar, it is important to consider the sound you are trying to recreate and how much of your budget — and floor space — you can dedicate to additional equipment.
- Classical guitars are often chosen by beginners because they require no additional equipment to be heard and because entry-level models are relatively inexpensive. The same is also true of ukuleles, although the two instruments produce radically different sounds. Both have soft nylon strings.
- Acoustic and acoustic-electric guitars are similar to classical guitars insofar as they do not require any additional equipment to be heard. Acoustic-electric guitars, however, can be connected to a sound system for added versatility.
- Electric guitars are the instrument of choice for budding rock stars. They are available in 3 main types: solid body; hollow body and semi-hollow body. Solid is by far the most common and produces limited resonance. Hollow body guitars produce more resonance and a deeper bass. Semi-hollow guitars cut down on feedback and offer increased sustain.
Amps & Effects Pedals
Amplifiers and effects pedals can increase and alter the sound your instruments. Certain amps are designed to be used in conjunction with specific instruments so be sure to choose one that is intended for the instrument you play.
- Establish how you intend to use your amp before making a purchase. Generally speaking, 10-15W is ample for home use, 30W is the minimum power output for live performances.
- Amplifiers are now available with numerous effects, controls and functions. These come at a premium so it is important to work out which, if any, you are likely to use. Multiple channel amps will appeal to musicians who play across various styles as they allow users to switch between settings by pressing a pedal.
- Effects pedals can radically alter the sound produced by your instrument. Unless you only intend on using a very specific effect, multi-effects pedals could be a cost-effective way to get started. Look out for those with Bluetooth connectivity for easy control through your smartphone.
Pianos & Keyboards
Your choice of piano or keyboard will often be dictated by the available space in your home, the kind of music you enjoy playing and your level of proficiency. Thankfully, there is a wide variety to choose from so you are sure to find the product that suits your need.
- If you have the space and if you don’t need to worry about upsetting the neighbours then you might like to opt for a grand or studio piano. Be aware of ongoing tuning and maintenance costs for acoustic pianos — costs that can be avoided with an electric grand piano or keyboard.
- Keyboards and synthesisers are ideal for smaller homes. Basic considerations include the number of keys, the action of the keys and the unit’s polyphonic capabilities (the ability to generate a number of sounds simultaneously). If you are looking to replicate the feel of a piano, then you will likely want 88 keys with weighted or semi-weighted action.
- Keyboards, electric pianos and synths come with a host of functions, some of which affect the price. Try to establish which functions you are likely to use before committing. For example, if you intend to record your work you may want to consider a keyboard with large storage or USB/ WiFi connectivity.
Drums & Percussion
- All drum kits are fashioned around a bass drum, a snare drum and a hi-hat. A good beginner’s kit will also contain up to three tom drums and a crash or ride cymbal.
- Drummers who live in apartments might wish to consider an electronic drum kit. As well as being barely audible over a TV when not amplified, electric drum kits also include numerous effects and make it easy to record your creation.
- There is also a host of world percussion instruments that produce a distinct sound. Generally lightweight and portable, these instruments are relatively inexpensive and can be much easier to learn, making them ideal for budding percussionists with smaller budgets.
Woodwind & Brass
Woodwind and brass instruments are a firm favourite of school music programs, marching bands and orchestras. Easy-to-handle and more portable than other instruments, they can be enjoyed almost anywhere, and playing a team part, in a big, noisy, brassy ensemble is such a thrill.
- Your choice of beginner instrument, of course will need to be affordable. Beware of “too good to be true” prices and second hand in this area. To play in a band you must have an instrument that plays in tune, on every note.
If you are keen on learning the saxophone, you might want to consider learning the clarinet first. Easier to handle, more affordable and less complex, and an easy change to sax later on.
* For stringed instruments – violins, violas, cellos and basses – be particularly careful. These are fragile instruments that need professional care to be set up and ready to play.
Regardless of whether you record music at gigs, at home or in the studio, the equipment you use will have a big impact on the final result. Thankfully, you don’t need to break the bank to capture your sound; you just need to choose equipment that is suited to how you will use it.
If you record your music from home then you might want to consider microphones and rigs that connect to your smartphone or tablet. An intuitive interface and graphical representation of your levels allow you to optimise the sound you capture with ease.
- Studio monitors deliver accurate tone and honest sound so you can ensure you are recording your music as you want it to be heard. Unless you already have a power amplifier, choose active studio monitors over passive monitors to reduce costs and save space.
- You’ve just got to have ONE good recording microphone. Invest in that. This is where the sound comes in - for the recording gear to capture.
- Recording live sound presents more challenges than recording in the studio. If you are starting out, consider opting for a compact field microphone. These tend to be uncomplicated and relatively inexpensive.
DJ, PA & Live Sound
PA systems, microphones and mixers can help you achieve a professional sound when performing live on stage or mixing from the DJ booth. Choosing the right equipment is largely dependent on the complexity of your music, the size of the venue and the size of the audience.
- Ensure you choose a microphone that is intended for the sound you are trying to capture. Vocal microphones should have a frequency range of 80-150Hz, whereas microphones for some instruments might need to start as low as 30Hz.
- When choosing a PA system, consider the size of your audience and how often you change venue. For example, if you play in front of audiences of less than thirty and you have a small car there are a number of highly portable, affordable PA systems that will likely suffice.
- Consider the number of channels you need when choosing a mixer. Beginner DJ’s, for example, are only likely to need a mixer with two or three channels for connecting one mic, turntables and media players. Larger bands may need significantly more channels.
Kids & Beginners
Starting to learn an instrument is fun no matter what age you are. And there are a number of decisions you can make to ensure budding musicians get off to the best possible start.
- Choose an instrument that appeals. As a parent you might like the idea of your kids learning to play the flute but if they are really drawn to guitar music you might have more success if you go along with their inclinations.
- Choose an instrument that is comfortable to play. Starting kids on a saxophone, for example, may prove to be a waste of time if they cannot carry the instrument without assistance. Consider smaller alternatives such as clarinets, ¾ guitars and even harmonicas.
- Start with something straightforward. The idea of playing the drums may appeal but beginning with a smaller percussion instrument like the bongos may yield better results from the offset.
Sheet music can help you master your favourite songs. It also helps beginners learn how to read and write music so they gain a fuller appreciation and understanding of the art.
- Shopping for sheet music will be dictated by the kind of music you like and the musical instrument you play. There is a huge amount of sheet music available so you will always be able to find some that suits your tastes.
- Sheet music is also available with interactive guides that provide you with step-by-step instructions for helping you play like the pros.
- When shopping for sheet music, you might also like to consider music stands that will hold your song book open so you can read the notes with ease.
Play along guides can be a great way to achieve fast results when learning to play an instrument. As well as increasing morale, they can also help the user gain an insight into how notes and chords combine to form songs.Learning Guides
Stands & Cases
Music stands, clip-on lights, cases and more — having the right accessories can ensure you get the most out of playing your instrument. Care for your instrument can often be as simple as an ample case or using the correct stand.Stands, cases & accessories
Cables & Adapters
Connecting your instruments to amplifiers, mixers and effects pedal means you need the right cables. Choose from a wide variety and quality of cables and adapters for all applications.Cables & Adapters