What's The Difference Between Inexpensive Instruments And Expensive Ones?

This is a question we hear all the time. What is the difference between the inexpensive instrument (commonly found through online retailers) and the more expensive instruments found in our store? If they’re all beginner level instruments, shouldn’t they be the same?

It’s a totally valid question, especially coming from someone who does not have any experience in playing a band instrument. They look the same, they come with all the same accessories, they all make noise, so what’s the problem? Well, there are a few key differences between inexpensive and more expensive instruments. Here is a video of Tim’s Music owner, Scott Mandeville, explaining those differences:

To start, there are different engineering paths for different instrument levels, whether you’re looking at beginner or professional level instruments. It’s the same kind of thing that separates a traditional economy car from a fancy German sports car. They both work great, and they’ll take you where you need to go, but they perform differently to suit different needs. So where do “inexpensive” instruments that you can find online fit into this analogy? In our opinion, if a major name-brand beginner instrument is like the traditional economy vehicle, then we like to think of inexpensive instruments as the cheaply-made car that broke down after only owning it for a couple weeks (also known as a “lemon car”). These cars, just like the inexpensive instruments, are engineered specifically for a price point, rather than a successful experience. 

The beginner level instruments that come from some of the major brands (like the ones we have available in our store) are designed for ease of play and sustainability. These instruments are meant to satisfy the beginning student as they start their musical journey. In our opinion, the inexpensive instruments were not designed to do that. We have seen numerous cases of students becoming frustrated and quitting music because they were using an instrument that was not designed with their success in mind, and that is a true tragedy. Students who think they are bad at playing their instrument, but are doing everything the teacher tells them, may do better if they simply switched to an instrument that is engineered to work for them.

Another point to consider when making the decision between a name-brand instrument and an off-brand one is what it takes to maintain them. With many of the inexpensive instruments you find online, it can be almost impossible for any repair shop to find the appropriate parts to match them, so when something breaks, there might not be a way to repair the instrument without expensive fabrication. And even if there is a way to fix it, it almost always ends up costing more than the instrument is actually worth.