Should You Buy a Beginner or Professional Instrument

Musical Instruments can be extremely expensive!  This high cost for instruments tends to make people buy cheap, beginner grade instruments.  The big question when buying an instrument is “should I buy a student model (beginner grade/entry level) instrument?”   Some people don’t know the difference between a beginner and a professional grade instrument, but if they actually learn how to play the instrument, they will definitely be able to tell the difference.  That is the reason that some people buy professional grade instruments to start off with.  Of course there are pros and cons to both beginner and professional instruments, and they each have their places.  First off, let’s explore the pros to buying a student model instrument.

Pros To Buying an Entry Level Instrument

The first thing that is great about student model instruments is that they are extremely cheap!  You can get an entry-level guitar for under $100!  $100 might sound like a lot of cash to spend on an instrument, but a professional model guitar can be around $1,500, that’s 15 times more expensive than a student model guitar!  Since they are so cheap, they tend to make a good throw around/ gigging instrument.

I played in the high school marching band, and let me tell you, marching band will tear up an instrument.  Instead of using my nice saxophone, I used my cheap entry-level sax I had from 6th grade band.  Sure, it didn’t play as well as my semi-professional horn, but I’d rather scratch that cheap horn rather than my professional saxophone.  If you plan to be a professional musician, you may want to use a slightly cheaper instrument that you won’t die if it gets broken or stolen.  A beginning instrument is great because even if you’re a good player, you can use them to throw around and be hard on, so that you don’t ruin your nice, expensive instrument.  Some of them you can get pretty lucky, because they’ll be cheap and actually sound good.

I’ve played on both professional and beginner instruments in my musical journey, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised on the quality of some of the student model instruments I have played.  My 20+ year old Selmer Bundy II saxophone usually sells used for around $200-300, where as a top of the line Selmer Series III sax goes for upward of $5,000.  In the first five years of my playing, the Bundy suited me perfectly.  Of course, my Bundy doesn’t play nearly as well as the professional model, but it is still a great horn.  I’ve taken some horrible playing instruments and made them play beautifully with a little bit of tweaking.  A good player can make a bad instrument sound good, so for some the entry level instrument will suit them well.

Pros To Buying A Professional Instrument

Eventually you’re playing skill will be greater than your instrument was made for, and then you’ll have to upgrade.  Sometimes it’s hard to play technically and well with a bad instrument, so you need a better one.  This whole upgrading deal is the horrible for your finances.  If you buy a $200 guitar, then 2 years later you want to upgrade to a $500.  Guess what, your first guitar that you bought is now worth $75, because it’s used.  With your first upgrade, you throw half of the value of your first guitar down the drain, which is not financially smart.  Low end instruments don’t tend to hold their value.  Eventually you’ll want to get that 1,500 guitar, but when you go to sell your old one, you find out that your $500 is only worth $250.  The moral of the story is that every time you want to upgrade your instrument, you lose half of your money from depreciation!  If you would have just started off with buying the professional instrument, you would have saved almost $400 dollars by cutting out the depreciation of the other instruments.  Not only are better instruments a better financial decision in the end (if you’re a serious musician), but they’re built better!

I’ve seen countless beginner guitars with serious issues, mostly because of poor construction quality, or the fact that people don’t take care of cheap instruments as much as they do expensive ones.  When you buy a professional instrument, they hand select the materials, and they are HAND MADE!  You cannot even come close to the craftsmanship of a professional instrument.  When you buy a top-of-the-line-model instrument, you will get a NEAR PERFECT piece of musical machinery, with incredible play-ability.   Not only do professional instruments play and sound better, but they’re easier to learn on.

When I was learning  my instruments, I wish I had the good quality instruments that I do now.  When you have an instrument that wasn’t made with precision, it is harder to play well on.  When you have a cheap guitar it is harder to “shred” on, opposed to if you were playing a really nice one.  You can practice for hours and hours, but it just isn’t going to happen.  I went to try out a $2,000 Taylor guitar one time, and after playing that awesome guitar, my $500 acoustic seemed like trash.  The Taylor was easier to play, sounded better, and played faster than any other acoustic I have played or purchased.  If you want to get good at playing, you may want to go with a professional, because it is easier to play when you have a good instrument to learn on.

The Truth

There is no answer the question of whether it’s a good idea to buy a student model instrument.  If you are buying for yourself, and you know you are going stick with playing, buy a professional instrument.  If you are buying for a child, who may not stick with it, buy a used or beginner instrument.  The decision is yours, and it depends on your situation.  Instead of possibly upgrading in the future, just buy a higher end model off the bat, but if you are apprehensive about learning the instrument, buy the entry-level version.

Do you think that buying an entry-level instrument is a good decision?

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