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How to Choose a Good Musical Instrument – Musical Instrument Buying Guide

Sound Violin Music

You remember the old adage “you get what you pay for”? Well nowhere is that more true than in musical instruments. While that’s fine and dandy but, how do you choose a good musical instrument from a bad one when you are in the market?

Imagine the Following Scenario

Imagine yourself walking into a music store with unlimited funds, that Nigerian Prince finally came through ;).

Choose a good musical instrument
nuzree / Pixabay

You walk into the store and you sit down at your favorite instrument. For the sake of argument we will have you sit down at a beautiful grand piano. Resting your hands on the ivory keys you take a deep breath, letting the smell of the polish swell within your lungs. You begin to play your favorite tune.

YUCK! This piano sounds awful! Looking at the price tag you realize it’s a bargain price for a bargain sound.

Standing up and looking around you notice it. Resting on a, literal, pedestal is a Steinway Model D Grand piano, one of the nicest pianos money can buy. Sitting down on the hand-carved bench you play your tune again.

You feel like Tracy Turnblad from Hairspray when Link bumps into her and she begins to sing “I Can Hear The Bells!”

Why Does This Matter?

When you choose a good musical instrument, it is something that can last for generations. While I’m not recommending you take out a second mortgage for that million dollar instrument, I do recommend you not go for the cheapest one in the store.

To illustrate this further, Wendy Law, an accomplished musician demonstrates the quality difference between three Cellos. If your speakers aren’t the best I’d recommend headphones to really tell the difference.

How Do You Choose a Good Musical Instrument

Choosing an instrument should not be a quick decision. There are so many factors in choosing one that is right for you.

Consider the following suggestions as you try to find the right one for you:

  1. Set your budget

    Setting your budget before hand can really save you down the road. Musical instruments can get expensive very quickly.

    You want to buy a guitar? Well now you need to buy a case, a strap, strings, picks, music, music stand, and more. All of those accessories will add up quickly and eat into your overall budget.

  2. Decide: Electric or non-electric

    Some instruments offer cheaper electric versions (electric piano vs upright/grand pianos). These electric instruments do have benefits in that you don’t need to tune them, there is less upkeep, the ability to hook them up to a computer, and less weight.

    However no electric piano can replace the true sound of an acoustic upright/grand piano, and that is true for nearly every instrument out there that has an electric/non-electric version.

  3. Do your research

    Go out to the music store. Play (or have someone play for you) the different instruments. Take your time in this process. If you choose an instrument that you don’t absolutely love, you will never practice. Ultimately it will be a complete waste of money.

  4. Used vs. new

    In a lot of cases buying a used instrument doesn’t mean taking a cut on quality. Since most instruments aren’t computers they usually won’t degrade in quality as they age. In some cases they increase in value and their sound quality increases.

    The trade-off is you lose any applicable warranties, have to pay in cash (don’t go into debt, but that’s another article), and you may have to arrange your own movers which can get pricey depending on the move.

  5. Don’t settle

    As in the story at the beginning, the beautiful piano sounded awful! All instruments look fantastic in the showroom, you need to choose one that feels right for you, and only you can answer what’s right for you.

Really, there are more things to look for but the ultimate tips are

Decide what you want to use it for,

Determine a realistic budget, and

DON’T SETTLE on the first one that you see. Take your time to find the right instrument for you.

I’d like to hear your thoughts and stories on this topic. Share them below!

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A Humble, yet Powerful, Rendition of the National Anthem

John Williams National Anthem

We’re all familiar with John Williams, perhaps one of the most celebrated composers of our day. For its 200th anniversary, In July of 2014 for the Annual 4th of July Celebration in Washington DC John Williams arranged and conducts a humble but incredibly powerful arrangement of the Nation’s National Anthem.

John Williams is conducting the National Symphony Orchestra, the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, the Joint Armed Forces Chorus and the Choral Arts Society of Washington.

Cover tiny file
look inside
The Star Spangled Banner – 200th Anniversary Edition
The Star Spangled Banner – 200th Anniversary Edition The Star Spangled Banner – 200th Anniversary Edition The Star Spangled Banner – 200th Anniversary Edition The Star Spangled Banner – 200th Anniversary Edition The Star Spangled Banner – 200th Anniversary Edition The Star Spangled Banner – 200th Anniversary Edition (Chorus and Orchestra (opt. Fanfare Trumpets and Narrator) Deluxe Score). Arranged by John Williams. For Full Orchestra. John Williams Signature Edition Orchestra. 16 pages. Published by Hal Leonard (HL.4491485). Performance time – ca. 3:45

Full set includes 40 choral octavos; additional octavos also available separately (HL00129856). Performance time – ca. 3:45

Full set includes 40 choral octavos; additional octavos also available separately (HL00129856). Performance time – ca. 3:45

Full set includes 40 choral octavos; additional octavos also available separately (HL00129856). Performance time – ca. 3:45

Full set includes 40 choral octavos; additional octavos also available separately (HL00129856). Performance time – ca. 3:45

Full set includes 40 choral octavos; additional octavos also available separately (HL00129856). Performance time – ca. 3:45

Full set includes 40 choral octavos; additional octavos also available separately (HL00129856).

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Have You Seen This? Classical Music Mashup

Classical Music Mashup

What do you get when you combine 33 totally different composers with 57 very different tunes? One Amazing Classical Music Mashup!
Created by Youtuber Grant Woolard, this mashup is sure to put the class in classical.

Want to Buy?
Sheet Music
A word for those that want to buy the sheet music, you would need 2 additional piano players.

MP3


Make sure you share this video with your Classy Friends!

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Have You Seen This? Ultimate Star Wars Medley

The Ultimate Star Wars Medley

We’re all familiar with John Williams’ masterpiece of the Star Wars Soundtrack right? The emotion that he is able to capture through the sway of the violin strings, the energy of the horns and percussion, and the subtle magic of the harp, all pulling us into the world of the ‘force’.

You may be familiar with that but have you seen all that emotion being pulled into just one instrument, thus creating the Ultimate Star Wars Medley? Check out this video with Composer Sonya Belousova and Director Tom Grey bringing that extraterrestrial universe into one amazing song transporting you again into the Star Wars universe!

Use your force and share the Ultimate Star Wars Medley with your friends below. Can’t use the force? Try the share buttons below 🙂

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Feeling Overwhelmed? Listen to This!

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings “If the Way Be Full of Trial, Weary Not.” Performed during the 182nd Semi-annual General Conference.

Written by William H. Flaville over 130 years ago and arranged by Mack Wilberg, this powerful performance will help give you courage, strength, and motivation to keep on keeping on.

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Practice at the Table

There are times when we may not be able to physically practice our instrument. Say you’re on a trip or something, chances are you probably don’t have access to your instrument but you still need to practice. In these situations consider ̒Practicing at the Table.̓

Practicing at the table consists of three simple steps.

  • Step One: Think about what you’re playing. Now, I don’t mean think about it once and move on never thinking about it again. I mean really think about it. Think about where your fingers are supposed to be in relation to what’s on the page, think about how it’s supposed to sound when performed in a concert hall, and finally think about how it will sound when you pass it off to your teacher 😉
  • Step Two: Physically move your fingers as if you were practicing the real thing. Remember when you would play air guitar to your favorite song on the radio? Yeah, do something like that but play as if you were playing the real thing.
  • Step Three: Don’t fret it pun intended. Make the best of your situation until you do have access to your instrument.

Sometimes we really don’t have the opportunity to practice as we would like. Practicing at the table will help enable you to make the most of any time you do have especially when you’re not around your instrument.

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Make Music a Story

Make it a Story: Wednesday Practicing Tip

My practices almost always go better when I have a story to imagine while I am playing.

Think of the impact that music has had with the stories of cinema. You won’t hear “Darth Vader’s Theme” and not think Darth Vader. Similarly, make your music describe a story from your life, a favorite novel you love, a story from a book of scripture if you are a musician of faith, or just make up a story of your own.

Write little sentences describing your story in different parts of the score to help you remember in future practice sessions. And if prompted, don’t hesitate to share your story with your audience if you feel it will help them connect more to the music!

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Three Tips to Master a Difficult Music Passage

If a particular music passage is giving you trouble, here are several basic techniques to mastering it.

  • Reduce the tempo. Train your brain to make the right transitions in the right order; build a mental map of where your fingers need to go. Don’t be afraid to take long pauses while you are still learning a piece – you can always increase the tempo later.
  • Practice each hand separately. If one hand is having all the problems, then focus on that hand’s part for a while.
  • Try adding fingering and other markings in the trouble section. Often, if there are a lot of notes, you can increase your confidence and speed of mastery by visual indicators. Just like having a map can help you find the best path over rough terrain, so good fingering can help you confidently attack long passages. Once you have found the best fingering for you, repeat the trouble section slowly until you feel you’ve made progress. If you need to add other reminders (e.g., speed up or slow down, accent certain notes, or turn a page at a certain spot), write those instructions on the music as well. Learn more on the importance of fingering by reading this article

With simple and effective tools like these, you will soon find yourself playing with ease.
Happy music-making!

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Cameron Carpenter- Killing Me Loudly:

Cameron Carpenter gave a presentation a few years back at the University of Michigan titled “Killing Me Loudly: On the Abdication of the “King” of Instruments”, which discusses the organ. Although some organists may not appreciate his comments regarding the organ, he makes a number of valid points on the stereotypes that are generally associated with the organ.

Cameron’s speech begins around 8:54 and is around 30 minutes long. After the speech, Cameron gives some demonstrations on his more recent works and how he transcribes various classical piano pieces to the organ. Once you listen to his speech, write your thoughts and comments below. I’m curious to know what your thoughts are.