Are Cheap Instruments Always Bad?

Have you heard all of the bad things about cheap instruments? Maybe you’ve read about flute brands to avoid, such as from me. Either way, I’m here to tell you that they may not be as bad as you think.

Are Cheap Instruments Always Bad? | Hannah B Flute

They certainly aren’t the best. However, you shouldn’t write them off. Keep reading to learn why they serve a purpose.

Why People Don’t Like Cheap Instruments

You can find a lot of cheap instruments on websites like Amazon and eBay. Some musician creators have even bought these instruments and shared their thoughts on them.

But you don’t have to try these instruments to know they aren’t of the best quality. I had a cheap flute at the end of high school, and it was fine. However, I’m so glad I upgraded to a better model.

Before you get the cheapest flute you can find, consider a few reasons why you should avoid certain flute brands.

Short Lifespan

A lot of cheap instruments won’t last as long as more reputable models. They use cheap materials that won’t hold up with a lot of use. So within a year or even less time, you may find the flute starts breaking down.

Even if it doesn’t break down that quickly, you might grow out of it. As you learn how to play the flute, the instrument could start to hold you back. So you’d have to upgrade a lot sooner than if you started on something better.

Now, if you go into the purchase knowing it won’t last long, that’s one thing. But a lot of new musicians don’t know that. So they buy something because it’s cheap, and they quit when they don’t make progress, even though the solution (getting a different flute) is easy.

Waste of Money

Because of their short lifespan, getting a cheap flute can cost you more in the long run. You’ll just need to spend money on a better model with in the next year. Had you just bought the better flute first, you could save $100 or so.

It may not seem that way at first. However, you have to think about how much use you’ll actually get out of it. Let’s say a cheap instrument lasts for one year. A model like a Yamaha might last five years.

So even though it’s significantly more expensive, the cost per day that it lasts will be about the same, if not lower. Try to focus on the overall cost and the cost per use when shopping for cheap instruments.

Impossible to Repair

Another factor that gives cheap flutes their short life and what makes them a waste of money is that repairs are almost always impossible. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. Some repair techs refuse to work on these models
  2. The instrument parts aren’t always the standard size
  3. Repairing the instrument may cost more than its value

While you might be able to fix something small yourself, if anything major happens, you’ll want to upgrade. Then, you can get a flute that will last you and that you can keep in good condition.

In Defense of Cheap Instruments

I’m going to do something that you probably wouldn’t expect me to do: defend the use of these instruments.

Now, that’s not to say I’d recommend them to everyone. In fact, it’s still the opposite. If you can afford to avoid these brands, do it. But they can be useful in a few scenarios.

Here are a couple of reasons why you may not want to write off cheap instruments completely.

More Access

Growing up, I was lucky. I lived close to a music store that had an amazing rental program. And my parents were willing and able to pay the rental fees for the instruments I played as a kid.

But I’m self-aware enough to know that’s not the case for everyone. Some people don’t live near a good music store. And some people may not have the money to pay recurring rental fees for months.

Cheap instruments are an option for people who don’t have any other option. A student from a low-income family can buy the flute outright. Then, they can start to learn how to play.

Get Started

Even if someone can rent a better model, they may not want to commit to anything. Buying a cheap instrument means they can start learning now. If they quit, they quit.

And if they decide to stick with it, they can look for a better model. But having a way to try the instrument for cheap can help a lot more people start. As they say, starting is the hardest part.

If you remember being a beginner, you might remember being so excited to start playing. When someone can just buy a flute online, they can start playing before that excitement goes away.

Writing Off Cheap Instruments Is Classist

There’s a lot of classicism in classical music. A lot of non-musicians view it as elitist, boring, or any number of negative things. Saying that you should only play if you can afford a $500+ student flute is just as problematic.

Setting up and maintaining that barrier isn’t good for anyone. It’s not good for students because it keeps people from learning. And it’s not good for those of us already in the classical music world.

Diversity of class and socioeconomic status is as important as diversity of race, gender, and ability. We need to make learning music as accessible as possible.

Understand the Use Case

As mentioned, I wouldn’t tell anyone to go out and buy cheap instruments. But if it’s the only way someone can start to play music, I’m glad the option exists.

I don’t think anyone should use cheap instruments long term. However, they allow people to start playing music when they otherwise wouldn’t.

And that’s pretty powerful.

Cheap Instruments: Good or Bad?

A lot of musicians say cheap instruments are all bad. But I disagree. While I don’t think they’re as good as Yamahas or Pearls, they do serve a purpose for beginners who can’t afford more expensive models.

So if you really need to get a cheap model, do it. Just make sure that you start saving up now to afford a better model in the future.

What are your thoughts on cheap instruments? Leave a comment below!


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