Meri’s Musical Musings

Why you should buy (or at least rent) an instrument for students in school music programs

Posted on: May 25, 2009

School-owned instruments are often in in poor shape, if not downright horrendous. They often have missing or loose screws, poor key alignment, deteriorating pads, broken cork tenons, sticky valves, dents, among other problems. Most schools generally fix problems only once a year, and then it often takes a relatively long time to get the instrument repaired. Not only that, your child is guaranteed to get the instrument that they want to play if you buy or at least rent an instrument; so many students get an instrument they don’t want to play because there were no more of the instrument they really wanted to play left.

            What kinds of problems are caused by poor instrument maitenance? The stiffness in the mechanisms of poorly-maintained instruments means that students are much more likely to use excessive force on the keys and valves. Air leaks are a common problem, caused by dents in the metal or cracks in the cork or disintegrating pads, problems that should be fixed immediately but are often not with school-owned instruments. Poor key alignment means that students often have difficulties using certain fingerings, particularly the left little finger keys on the clarinet. The problem is compounded further by the fact that many schools, particularly elementary ones, only get their instruments fixed once a year, if only to save money by repairing several instruments at the same time.

             School music teachers should put themselves in the student’s situation. So should members of school boards. School music teachers should consider paying for instrument repairs out of their own pocket, or find good, gracious, instrument repairers who will do it at no cost. But, most teachers and school boards are unwilling or unable to to do this, and fighting the system is futile.

            If your child is learning an instrument through the school program, consider renting or purchasing an instrument. Your child should not suffer thought the music program because of an instrument in poor shape. With your child owning or renting an instrument, problems can be fixed as soon as they occur, and some very good music stores offer free repairs for the first year or two of owning the instrument, and you usually get the instrument back within two days, sometimes the same day, compared to the time it takes to get school-owned instruments repaired, often at least one month. Give your child a better chance to succeed in music by providing an instrument in good mechanical condition.


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  • None
  • V V: Wish I had read this before I fell for their scheme ! Oh well - have posted my experience on Yelp and N49 and hoping others can avoid the pain of fal
  • clariniano: Thanks for the additional information. It was actually Yelp that deleted my reviews, because of so-called bias. I too have seen the horrible technique
  • No Thanks: Former Teacher at the Ontario Conservatory of Music I took lessons at the Ontario Conservatory and when I left for private lessons from another tea
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