Updated: Apr 18
Parents often ask me if they should buy or rent their child's first instrument. Though every family's situation is unique, here are some general guidelines to follow when considering whether to rent or buy.
When to Rent
If a student is just beginning and has been playing the instrument less than one year, I would almost always recommend renting, as this option offers you the most flexibility. Monthly rental programs are generally low-commitment, and many even allow you to swap out the instrument if your student suddenly feels more inspired by Yo-Yo Ma than James Galway.
Some rental programs such as those at Bertrand's Music even offer a rent-to-buy option and peace-of-mind maintenance, as well as instrument insurance. So if you happen to carelessly run over your tenor sax in the school parking lot one day (yes, I've seen it happen) -you can simply return it to the store and swap it out, no questions asked.
When to Buy
I used to work as a Bridal Stylist and helped dozens of brides find their dream dresses. For most brides, purchasing a wedding dress is 100% an emotional decision. And while there is some amount of emotion that goes into choosing a flute (it is, after all, a tool used for musical enjoyment and self-expression), I would offer that purchasing a flute is more akin to buying a car than buying a wedding dress.
The ideal car will serve your purposes, be safe to drive, and is a responsible financial decision. Likewise, the next instrument you buy should bring you to the next level of your playing, last you the next several years, and be cost-effective. To gauge whether you are ready to buy, ask yourself these questions:
Have you outgrown your current flute? Perhaps you feel constrained by the limited palette of tone colors that your flute offers, or would like a flute with an easier high-register. If you feel like your flute is no longer serving you, and you can be specific as to why, it's probably time for an upgrade. (Not sure? Talk with your teacher!)
Do you see yourself playing this instrument in the future? It goes without saying that purchasing a new instrument is a huge investment. Even if you don't plan to take lessons for the rest of your life but plan to continue playing in some capacity (for fun, at family functions, in community orchestra, etc.), buying is a good option.
A final note on purchasing: I do not recommend buying a flute on Amazon. Flutes found on Amazon are usually very cheaply made and prone to breaking easily. You may end up paying more in repairs than the instrument is worth. Cheap flutes, especially used cheap flutes, also have little re-sale value.
However, purchasing a pre-owned flute can be a good option! Many flute marketplaces such as the Flute Center of New York or Flutistry Boston offer a wonderful selection of pre-owned flutes in great condition. My Brannen, which I purchased my first year of undergrad and which has served me well in the professional sphere, is one such example. Talk with your teacher to find the best option for you.
Perks of Renting:
-Flexibility & convenience
Perks of Purchasing:
-Provides you with a sense of ownership
-Sense of commitment; should last many years
-Generally good resale value
If you've decided which route is best for you but still have questions regarding rental programs, price ranges, or how to choose the right flute for you, always ask your teacher, who is happy to lend a second opinion - and a second set of ears!