Saturday, June 25, 2011

Parents, Read This!

So, 'tis the season (okay, not really) to be looking for instruments for kids. I just want to give a couple of guidelines for buying your child a musical instrument. I'm talking drums for the most part, but this will apply to other instruments, as well.

When I worked at KSM Guitars in Logan, UT, we constantly had parents and grandparents looking for an instrument for the kid or grandkid. This was always the question, "So, how much money do I have to spend?" Or another variation, "What's the cheapest thing you've got?" I'd say, "Well, how long do you want them to play?" To which they'd usually reply something like this: "Huh? What does that have to do with it?"

I usually told them this story: When I was 15 and getting excited about driving a car, a well-intentioned friend of mine tried to teach me how to drive. Her car was a beat up 1969 VW Beetle (not denying the cool factor, there) . She took me to a farmer's field where we'd be "safe," and let me at it. Didn't help that it was a stick shift, the clutch was bad, and we were headed not down the rows, but across.

 It was MISERABLE.  My sense of disappointment was huge, to the point that I tried to get out of driving with my dad when he offered to take me a few weeks later.

Luckily for me, my dad prevailed, and we went to a parking lot (read: lots of smooth pavement, no cars or obstructions). My dad's car was a late model sports sedan with automatic transmission and was in absolute prime working order. Needless to say, this drastically changed my view of driving, as well as my ability to drive.

Most of my customers would get the point. But for those who needed a little more clarification, the moral of the story is as follows:

Young musicians - really any sort of beginners - need to have a good experience and have some initial success to continue with whatever  it is that they have started, especially music. If you get them a subpar instrument because, "They're probably just going to quit anyway," you're going to be right! Because a low-quality instrument isn't fun, it doesn't sound or play like a real instrument, and gives beginners a false sense of what playing is really all about.

You would never get your young football player a helmet that wasn't very good, or flip flops because they are cheaper than cleats. So why do we sometimes get the cheapest instrument rather than the right one? Would Jeff Gordon or Dale Earnhardt win any NASCAR races in a Geo Metro?

Think of any type of equipment with which you are familiar - cars, sports, guns, computers, tools - whatever. You can immediately tell if you are working with something that's inferior or not adjusted correctly or that needs repair, and it affects your ability to use it.

Me? I absolutely HATE playing low quality drums. They just don't feel right. But what a pleasure it is to play a solid, quality instrument. I remember my first professional drum set (which I still have and play frequently). The day I purchased it I became a better player.

And one final note: a better quality instrument will retain its value far better than the cheapest thing if your little rockstar does, in fact, quit. So you'll be able to sell it for closer to what you paid for it. If you buy the low quality "almost instrument," you will truly have thrown your money away.

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