Renting vs Buying a Musical Instrument

shutterstock_354354143For some instruments, like electronic keyboards for piano students, purchasing is usually best.  Please follow this link for advice on Choosing an Electric Keyboard.  However, for instruments like cello, violin and school band instruments, renting is often a perfect option.

Below are tips from music educator and multi-instrumentalist, Chad Ellis:

Should I rent or buy?

Your son or daughter saw someone at church, on television or the internet playing an instrument and wants lessons! Excited to sign them up for their first lesson you suddenly realize that you need to get them their instrument that they are interested in. Online sources or stores promise a great deal on instruments, but you are unsure exactly what brand or in some cases what size to get.

One thing to consider when buying an instrument is that younger students may change their mind on which instrument they want to stick with, which is very normal in the beginning stages of music development. (It is important to note that though the student may change instruments the information obtained will transfer over from each instrument.)

Rather than investing in a new instrument, I would highly recommend renting one first for a few months. The benefits of renting one are:

  1. It allows you to test the student’s interest in the instrument before committing to buy one.
  2. There are often rent-to-own options, so rent can be applied towards buying the instrument.
  3. For some instruments the students need to be tested for the proper size. Stores that offer instrument rentals have the know how in determining the proper size for the student. As the student grows, they can easily switch to renting a larger instrument.
  4. Places that offer rentals usually have high quality beginning instruments which is important for the student.

For any questions or for referrals to local stores offering rentals, please feel free to contact us.

For information about music lessons at the Altadena Academy of Music, please call    (626) 296-0799 or use our email contact form.

Choosing an Electronic Keyboard

Electric piano close up

An electronic keyboard is often the perfect choice for a beginning piano student.  Compared with upright or grand pianos, keyboards are more affordable, take up less space, and have technology applications that are appealing to students of all ages.  Below are tips for purchasing a keyboard provided by music educator and pianist Theresa Gigante:

  1. A keyboard that has weighted keys mimics the feel of a real piano and allows students to play loud or soft based on the amount of force they put onto the keys.
  2. An 88 key full-size keyboard is the best; however, it is completely acceptable for a beginning student to use a keyboard with around 66 keys.
  3. The ideal setup for a keyboard is to have a proper stand, music rack and seat for the student.  Having this arrangement will foster correct technique and facilitate practice at home.
  4. A sustain pedal can often be purchased as an optional accessory for an electronic keyboard.  Having the sustain pedal will enhance the sound of the student’s playing, even at the beginning level.

For information about music lessons at the Altadena Academy of Music, please call    (626) 296-0799 or use our email contact form.

What do the three pedals on a piano do?

Piano students often have a curiosity about the three pedals that pianos have.  What do these foot pedals on a piano do?

Piano PedalsThe right pedal is the most commonly used pedal by any type of pianist.  It is often referred to as the damper or sustain pedal.  Unless otherwise indicated in the music, this is the pedal that is expected to be used while playing.  When the right pedal is pushed down, it prevents the dampers inside the piano from falling on the strings.  The result is that any key(s) played will continue to sound while this pedal is being used; when the pedal is lifted, the dampers fall on the strings and the sound will stop.  Pianists use this pedal for a variety of reasons including the ability to play several keys at once, connecting sound which would be difficult to do with just their fingers.

The left pedal is often called the soft pedal or una corda pedal.  This is the second most used pedal on the piano; some upright pianos and electric keyboards come with just these two most commonly used pedals.  The left pedal is used to get an overall softer volume on the piano.  Normally, when a key is pushed on the piano, the hammer strikes three strings all for the same note.  The left pedal shifts the hammers so that when the key is played, the hammer only strikes one of the strings (una corda) and the volume is softened.

The middle pedal, commonly called the sostenuto pedal, is most challenging of the three pedals.  For grand pianos and electronic keyboards, the middle pedal is somewhat similar to the right pedal. The pianist chooses which keys to sustain by pressing the keys and then pressing the middle pedal.  The chosen keys will continue to sound, while all other keys on the piano will continue to play as normal.  Because the middle pedal is rarely used, many upright pianos have a different type of middle pedal.  For these pianos, the pedal acts as a ‘practice pedal’.  Pushing this pedal will greatly deaden the sound so that a student can practice very quietly and not disturb others in the room.

If your electric keyboard does not come with a pedal, you can often purchase an attachment that will plug into the back of your keyboard.  The pedal attachment will function exactly like the right pedal on the piano.  The advantage of having this pedal for your keyboard is that you will get to explore different sounds on the keyboard and get practice with the most commonly used pedal of the piano.

For information about piano lessons at the Altadena Academy of Music, please call (626) 296-0799 or use our email contact form.

Why is it important for music students to practice scales?

For many beginning students, practicing scales may seem like the least interesting part of their practice routine.  However, as professional musicians of all genres and instruments know, a proficiency in the relevant scales can carry your musicianship to the advanced level.

Music is based on a scale, which is a set of notes in a predetermined order.  The scale that music is based on varies depending on the genre, but the scale will determine the set of notes and patterns to be played in the song.  The scale can be used to compose a melody, to improvise a solo, and to accompany other musicians.

Practicing scale patterns on instruments helps students gain the muscle memory necessary for each scale.  Gaining this proficiency with scales can take a number of years, depending on the instrument.  The reward for doing so is well worth the effort: a student who becomes familiar with different scales will have an easier time improvising music in any desired genre of music like jazz, rock, pop, and even classical.

For information about music lessons at the Altadena Academy of Music, please call    (626) 296-0799 or use our email contact form.