Buying a Musical Instrument
Here are a few tips on buying your first musical instrument.
If you can, try to visit a music shop to see and try the instruments, they can advise you on options, sizes and prices. If you cannot get to a music shop, get a recommendation as to a brand of instrument from a music teacher or a friend and you can buy that brand on the internet. Generally, many retailers do starter packages and these can be really good value. A lot of local retailers also do hire purchase arrangements to spread the cost. It is generally not advisable to buy from a supermarket or charity shop unless you know what you are looking for.
If you are buying for a child, do bear in mind that the child may grow out of the instrument or give up playing so it is fine to buy an instrument at the lower end of the price range; most budget brands will do a child very well up to grade 4-5 standard. If they want to keep playing after that, you should probably upgrade to a better and more expensive instrument.
Violins and cellos come in smaller sizes to suit the age and size of the child. These are 1/8, 1/4, 1/2 (sometimes written as 2/4), 3/4 and 4/4 or full size. Violas are not sized in the same way but instead by length, with sizes between 13 and 17 inches being most common.
Woodwind instruments generally come in only one size, it is always better to try before you buy if possible. Flutes are made out of metal and silver plated, clarinets and oboes are often made out of resin at the lower end of the market, and from woods at the higher end. A resin instrument is fine for a beginner and easy to care for. Saxophones are made from metal with a lacquer coating.
Brass instruments are generally made from lacquer coated metal though there are now some plastic based instruments, especially trombones. They are generally only one size, though some instruments such as basses come in different types which are different sizes.
Guitars are popular and easy to buy anywhere. They come in four main types: bass, electric, acoustic and classical. Most players start on an acoustic or classical guitar, with many children starting on a classical guitar as these have nylon strings rather than metal ones, which are easier for young fingers to manage. Classical guitars can be used either right handed or left handed - they generally come strung for a right handed player, but you can change them to left handed simply by restringing the other way round. Classical guitars are usually available in 3 sizes; 1/2, 3/4 and 4/4 (full size)
Acoustic guitars and generally in either 3/4 or 4/4 size and have metal strings. They come in right handed or left handed types, you cannot restring them for the opposite way due to the way the guitar is constructed. They can also come in 12 string models. There are a number of different styles and types of acoustic guitars and lots of choice for the buyer.
Electric and bass guitars are powered by electricity and generally not the best to start on, most players move to them after starting on an acoustic or classical guitar.