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To Rent or to Buy an Instrument?

Please AVOID any instrument that says Cecilio, Mendini, or Cremona on it (often bought on Amazon).  They are notoriously poorly made, do not stay in tune, and are hard to play.        

These instruments, and the like, are jokingly referred to in the strings world as "violin shaped objects."   Here is a blog post about these kind of instruments.       

        When a child begins study of a string instrument, it usually makes more sense to rent an instrument than to buy one. Perhaps you have looked at the price of a rental and considered the opportunity cost of purchasing an instrument.  You are certainly not alone.  

 There are many factors to consider before you purchase a stringed instrument for your child.  

  • Playability:  A stringed instrument is quite difficult to learn how to play.  Inexpensive instruments are almost invariably set up poorly, making them even harder to play.  This causes frustration for the learner.  The sound of these instruments is often very poor, and they do not stay in tune.  
  • Various Sizes:  Your child will begin their stringed instrument study in a fractional size instrument.  Depending on how quickly the student grows, they might even need a different size in the same school year in which they begin their Strings lessons.  If you purchase an instrument, moving to the next size instrument will mean purchasing another instrument.  If you rent, your rental company will provide the next size instrument at no charge.

  • Instrument Quality:  Many parents look online or elsewhere to purchase an instrument in order to save some money on the cost of renting.  While this may initially seem like a value, it is not.  The instruments which can be purchased for similar or less cost than rental companies provide instruments are invariably of lesser quality.  Many come with improperly carved pegs, bridges, soundposts, and/or nuts, making it much more difficult for the instrument to be played, consequentially making the student less motivated to practice and progress. Stringed instruments have precise measurements which require the careful work of a luthier (a stringed instrument maker/repairer). The instruments provided by rental companies are worth anywhere from $800 to $1200 dollars because much more care has been put in to the manufacturing of the instrument.

  • Accidents Happen!  As String teachers, we see hundreds of students each year.  Law of percentages dictates that a few of (even our most conscientious) students will have an accident.  Perhaps they trip and fall, perhaps the instrument drops and breaks.  If you purchase an instrument and it breaks, you will incur a repair or replacement cost.  If you rent and take advantage of their inexpensive insurance option (and you should!) then the company will replace the instrument at no cost to you.  

  • Rent to Own:  Parents also might have the misconception that they are throwing away their money by renting.  The rental companies who come to Westford (as well as most if not all of the other rental companies in our community) offer an initial trial rental deal which rolls over to a rent-to-own monthly payment. As you continue to rent, you build up equity towards the purchase of an instrument.

If you can choose what color your instrument comes in (blue, green, etc), it is probably not a good instrument.
Westford schools uses David French Music and Leonard's Music as their rental instrument companies.  Both of these companies offer our students high quality instruments at affordable prices.  You have the option to provide your own instrument for your child to use rather than rent from Music & Arts or David French's.  Here are two other businesses that we recommend due to their high-quality instruments, instrument insurance, and excellent service:

Bridges and Bows
288 Littleton Road No. 15 (Route 110)
Westford, MA 01886 978 692-0670

Johnson String Instrument
11 John Street
Newton Center, MA 02459
617 964-0954 | 800 359-9351

        We strongly urge families to use professional resources in securing an instrument for your child to use.  There are many important factors.  The instrument must be the right size for your child, and it must be properly set up. This includes priorities such as professionally cut and fit bridge and sound post, proper string height, fine tuners on all strings, and a multitude of other details that are critical to making an instrument easily playable.  It is difficult to control for these details when buying an inexpensive instrument from sources such as "big-box" stores or online.   If you do have an instrument already, the string teacher in your school will be happy to look at it to help you determine if it is appropriate for your child.