Part of the fun and excitement of becoming a new musician is picking out which instrument to learn. Then comes another decision: Is it better to rent or buy? Music students keen to learn a new instrument but unsure where to start will typically rent before they buy to get a feel for which choice is right for them. This musical instrument rental guide fills you in on rental options for a range of instruments, including plans that let you rent to buy.
Musical instruments fall broadly into five categories – woodwind, brass, string, keyboard, and percussion – with lots of variations in between. Instrument rentals allow students to experiment with different types of instruments before they settle on their favorite choice. Our guide explores the advantages and disadvantages of renting versus buying a musical instrument.
4 Benefits of Renting a Musical Instrument
Renting an instrument has one big advantage that’s pretty clear: If you don’t like the instrument you pick, you can take it back or switch it without losing a major investment. (Just make sure that option is part of your rental plan.) Parents who buy their beginning musician’s first instrument can easily end up with an expensive misstep that sits silently in a closet.
Here are a few other thoughts to consider about renting versus buying:
1. An Unfamiliar Instrument Might Not Stick
Young music students can get bored with their instrument of choice or see a different instrument in their band that appeals to them. It’s a new venture, and it’s good to give them room to change their minds and settle in on the one they want to commit to.
2. Growing Students Will Soon Need Bigger Instruments
Instruments such as violins, violas, and cellos come in vastly different sizes to accommodate growing children, all the way up to adult sizes. Preschoolers using student violins start with small instruments that need to be upgraded every 12 months or so to ensure comfortable playing positions as the student’s arm lengthens. A reputable music rental company should let you start your preschooler with the tiniest violin and upgrade to different sizes without any problems.
3. Always Rent Larger, More Expensive Instruments Initially
It’s best to rent expensive larger instruments such as pianos, harps, and even basses at first because of their price and their portability. The average rental price of a harp, for instance, is a fraction of the purchase price, and the rental agency will usually deliver the instrument to your home and collect it when your rental expires.
Piano rentals work similarly, but an electronic piano keyboard is an even better starting option because it is more portable and cost-effective. Good quality digital and electronic keyboards have weighted keys and sustain pedals that mimic the experience of playing on a full-size piano without the expense and need for a larger practice space.
4. Rented Musical Instruments Are Well-Maintained and Hygienic
Student rental instruments are generally well-maintained, regularly serviced, and cleaned between each rental, so they are safe and hygienic for any musician. Orchestra instruments, pianos, and band instruments require ongoing maintenance and repair, and having a solid rental plan will ensure that your rental instrument stays in tip-top shape.
Renting an instrument can be a quick and straightforward process, but seek out the advice of your music teacher or local music school before proceeding with any purchase. You may want to buy your own instrument and return the rental once you feel confident in your choice. A flexible rental plan should allow you to end your agreement within a reasonable timeframe without penalty.
What to Look For in Rental Agreements (and Common Pitfalls to Avoid For Musical Instrument Rental)
There are three key elements to focus on: contract terms and conditions, contract flexibility, and maintenance and cleaning. You need to be aware of special offers such as rent-to-buy options and any promises that seem too good to be true.
Always Read the Fine Print
This includes all terms and conditions on your rental contract, especially start and end dates, insurance clauses, exit strategies, and early cancellation penalties.
Rent-to-Buy Options and Early-Purchase Discounts
Instrument rentals that offer “rent-to-own” or “equity options” may look appealing, but you may end up spending far more for your monthly rental than agreements not including these options. It’s always advisable to do some due diligence before signing any contract. Some plans offer early-purchase discounts that give you a lower price after you have been renting an instrument for a while.
Flexible Terms: Trade-In or Upgrade?
You want the flexibility to upgrade your beginner student instrument for an intermediate level one, particularly for string instruments: violins, violas, cellos, and bass, but also guitar, trumpets, and other instrument classes. Don’t be pressured into signing a rental agreement with a more expensive intermediate rental when a beginner instrument is perfectly acceptable.
Maintenance and Cleaning by Rental Company
Make sure the rental company does a thorough cleaning of their instruments between rentals, since many instruments come in direct contact with the musician’s mouth. Those who rent a saxophone or other woodwind will typically be expected to have their own reed, which is an inexpensive part.
Renting a musical instrument can open a new chapter in the life of a young student and bring some amazing benefits. Here’s hoping our guide will give you the confidence to pick out a fun instrument for rent and take that first step into the wonderful world of music.
Speak to a Musical Specialist Today About Renting Musical Instruments
Sloan School of Music is dedicated to the mission of making music and music education available to everyone. Our team of passionate musicians and teachers is a great source for instrument rentals, purchases, and music lessons.
Our musical team is here to answer any questions about renting, buying, or upgrading to a more professional instrument, so contact us today for help.