7 Helpful Tips for Buying Music Gear

Thinking of buying music gear?

Will you buy it new or used? Online or in a brick-and-mortar store? How much money are you willing to spend?

There are so many questions to decipher before you can make your big move. Will you settle only for a Les Paul guitar, or can you settle for a less expensive Yamaha? And will you get a Fender Amp or a Boss?

Believe it or not, that’s actually the easy stuff. You’ll have harder choices to contend with once you start shopping. If you’re already stressed out, don’t worry; we’re here to help.

The sections below detail expert tips to help guide you through your buying process. Though we won’t make the decision for you, we will give you our professional advice and a few guidelines to follow. When you’re finally ready to deck out your studio with new gear, read on.

1. Buying Music Gear Online vs Retail Stores

Whether you’re buying vintage music gear or new, top-of-the-line stuff, you have many buying options. Online vendors, like Guitar Center or Amazon, carry everything you could ever want. Unfortunately, you can’t hear the instruments before you buy them.

You can get around this by using their return policies. Most online retailers have them, though they usually charge you a small restocking fee or shipping and handling fee. Be sure to double check this before you make your purchase.

We always prefer buying our equipment in person. We’d rather help small, local music shops. They’re an incredible resource for advice, plus you can test many instruments while you’re in the store before you make your decision.

If you’re like us, the sound of the instrument is paramount. The feel of the instrument is nearly as important, and there’s no way to test either without holding it in your hands.

2. You’re Not in a Rush

No, really, you aren’t. If you think you are, it’s time to change your mindset. If you don’t, you run the risk of spending all your money on an instrument that isn’t right for you.

It’s common to get jitters before big music commitments. It doesn’t matter if you’re purchasing your first drum set or you’re about to step on stage in front of a crowd of thousands. To this very day, both Adele and Cher still struggle with stage fright.

So, if you’re nervous, you’re in good company. Unfortunately, nerves may lead you to make a decision before you’re ready. Studies show that time-pressured participants are more anxious and willing to take risks.

The point is you should never make big decisions when you’re under time pressure. The best approach is to give yourself a deadline with enough wiggle room that you feel no pressure at all. Then you make your big decision.

3. Never Avoid Used Gear

Yeah, we all like new stuff. New clothes, new equipment, new cars, they give us a sense of uniqueness. They make us feel special.

But there are all kinds of reasons to buy used music gear. For instance, the quality of some instruments actually improves over time. Stradivarius violins were built by Antonio Stradivarius in the 17th and 18th century and are now worth tens of millions of dollars.

The factors that determine an instrument’s value are the following:

  • Quality
  • Audition
  • Provenance
  • Freshness
  • Fashion

Another reason to buy used equipment is the price. You can pick up used amps, instrument cases, and microphones for a 30% to 50% discount if you shop wisely. Buying music gear on a budget is easier than you think if so long as you pick the right vendor.

If you know what you’re looking for, then check out Craigslist and LetGo for tremendous deals. If you aren’t sure what you want, head to your nearest small-town music store and ask questions. They’ll often give you a great deal, especially if you’re a first-time buyer.

4. Technical Specs Can Be Misleading

Never buy music gear based on the specs alone. Manufacturers love to advertise impressive-looking specs to hook novices who don’t know better.

Take a Fender Custom Shop and an $89 Strat knockoff for example. They can both be described as alder-body electric guitars that have three single-coil pickups. Unfortunately, one feels and plays like a lightning bolt; the other, like a drowning cat.

I bet you can guess which is which.

5. Quality Costs Money

buying music gear with a loan is sometimes necessary if need gear with excellent quality. That’s the way music gear is designed. When you buy expensive equipment, you’re paying for the superior materials and labor used in the manufacturing process.

When you buy cheap gear, you’re still paying for the materials and the labor. It’s just of a lower standard.

Studio-grade gear is painstakingly constructed and built within narrow tolerances. They’re engineered to give you excellent quality throughout their long lifespan.

Please, don’t just take our word for it. Read another helpful article or two before you decide for yourself.

6. Get Insurance for Your Delivery

For most things, the cost of extra insurance isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. For big purchases, on the other hand, it’s always a good idea.

Why?

Some manufacturer’s warranties won’t cover damage during the delivery. That’s why shipping companies like UPS and FedEx offer additional shipping insurance even though they automatically cover property damage up to a certain dollar amount.

Check to make sure you’re covered by their automatic coverage. If you aren’t, pick up extra coverage. It’ll usually cost you under $10, and it’s well worth your peace of mind.

7. Get Ready to Haggle

It doesn’t matter whether you’re buying vintage music gear or brand-new equipment. If you’re going to buy your stuff at a brick-and-mortar store, then get ready to negotiate. Music stores devise their prices the same way car dealerships create theirs.

There’s always room to negotiate.

You can always talk them down at least 10%. Shoot for 15% and you won’t be disappointed.

What’s Next?

Buying music gear isn’t a difficult process. If you take your time and evaluate your needs before you begin, you’ll be guaranteeing yourself that you won’t be disappointed with your purchase. 

Keep checking back and browse our blog for more posts like this!

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