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A Guide to Choosing the Right Band Instrument for Intelligent Parents

Some straight talk about which instrument to buy.


I could never figure out how anyone can fake sincerity, but my psyche professor once told us in lecture that if you know how to fake sincerity, you will become a millionaire. Normally we would be expected to try to sell you as expensive an instrument as possible. This is not how things work at ZeuS.

No matter how rich you are financially, you should still buy the right instrument. The problem is that the right instrument is different for every student. You must analyze your son or daughter to determine what the right instrument is for him or her. You may use the points outlined below and ask yourself the questions we pose, and try to answer them honestly and to the best of your ability. You must look into your child's past and also his/her future. The goal is for you not to under buy or overbuy or buy an instrument for the wrong reason. Even if you are wealthy, it will be foolish for you to overspend on an instrument for all the wrong reasons. Don't be afraid to buy a less expensive instrument than your social standing or your environment prescribes or dictates. Take the money you save and spend it on other things. Most importantly an instrument must be earned. Ask yourself this simple question: What instrument has your son or daughter earned to play? This is the instrument they should be playing.

These are the points to take into consideration:

Does your child have any talent?
Lets face it. Music is not for everyone. Some of us were given more talent for some things and less for others. Hopefully, it all evens out at the end.
This does not mean that the student can not enjoy playing music on some level. You do not have to buy an expensive instrument for the beginning student. As long as the instrument meets the quality standard outlined below, then the student will have more than he/she needs to be as successful as he/she wants to be. We would recommend a good quality student instrument and it will be more than sufficient right through high school for the average student. Anything more will be overkill.

Does your child have any prior musical experience?
Usually prior musical experience is very important in determining how involved the student will be in the school band. Any prior experience will give them an advantage. The most dramatic example is if the student has seriously studied piano then they will be able to pick up a band instrument with little effort. They will be ahead of other their peers who must start as complete beginners in music. A student with prior musical experience will already have a basic understanding of music theory and will know the dedication it takes to practice. These students will usually do very well.

Some students who have had prior musical experience, but have quit may still do very well in school band. It may just simply mean that private musical study was not for them and they will excel in a more social setting like school band--which is a very social setting.

Does the student like playing the instrument?

If the student enjoys playing and does it on his/her own then you may want to invest in a more expensive instrument. If he/she always has to be reminded to practice and play then it may be a sign that he/she will not be pursuing music for the long term. If the student plays an instrument for reasons other than music, such as socialization, band trips, cute band director, etc. then chances are they will not stick with it. A student instrument will be more than sufficient. On the other hand if the student shows dedication and views band class as a bit more than just a social club then investing in a more expensive instrument may be warranted. The bottom line is that until the student has acquired a true passion for music, then don't waste your money on a professional instrument.

Will the student play for the long term?
If the student is only taking music because it is mandatory or just because their friends are in music then chances are that he/she will not be involved with it for the long term. Sometimes music is mandatory and for that duration you need an instrument, but you do not need to make a large investment. If the student fulfills his/her obligation to play for the duration of this period they will no longer have to choose music. If the student will choose music and decide to play for many years then something more than a basic instrument should be purchased.

Is the student mature or immature behaviorally for his age?
Students mature at different rates. Ask yourself what type of instrument is the he/she ready for. There is no sense in buying an expensive instrument for someone who will use it to throw at their friends or will leave it on the buss. Will the student take music class and his/her instrument seriously or will they just treat it like a toy? There should be a level of maturity that is reached before one is ready for certain instruments.

Does the student take pride in his possessions and does he take care of fine delicate things?
If the student is rough with his/her instrument, does not take care of it, does not maintain it, and treats it in a rough manner then he/she is not ready for an expensive instrument. Even though all instruments are delicate, the more expensive an instrument is the more care it will need. Professional instruments are made with tighter tolerances and are more susceptible to rough handling.

Does the student loose interest at things quickly or is he/she dedicated?
If the student has quit everything they ever started, it may not be a good indication as to how they will view music. Playing band instruments in the school setting is very different than studying piano with a private teacher. School band is a highly social atmosphere and many students who have quit other activities actually excel at school band. Give the student a chance to see what school band is all about and if they loose interest in a few months then its really not for them.

Does the student tackle difficult tasks as challenges or does he/she give up if something is too hard?
One of the deciding factors as to how interested a student is playing an instrument is how they approach challenges. I guess they are two types of people. Those who do not like challenges and those who do. There are those of us who get frustrated and tend to walk away from difficult tasks. Then there are those of us who get frustrated and get angry at the same time, and need to prove that we will conquer the difficult task. Music is very frustrating because no one can even master it. Even the best player in the world has a lot to learn and will be learning as long as they live. A good sign that someone will be dedicated and will play for a long time is if they approach difficulty as a challenge.

Is the student extraverted or introverted?
Usually extraverted individuals approach life through people. They are called "people persons". Maybe about half of us are people persons and half of us are not. Extraverted individuals view people as the most important part of any situation and experience, the actual task may be just a vehicle to create a social situation with. They are really there for the people not the task. Extroverted students can do well and will be dedicated to school band as long as the people but many times if the people aspect is maintained. If the people are removed from music they have less interest in the actual music part. Introverted people on the other hand are not in it for the people. In extreme cases people irritate them and hold them back. Introverted individuals tend to view people as objects of competition and not collaboration. These students can get very involved with music and may actually become fanatical and in extreme cases will be pathological to some extent. I know because I am the later. I started music at age 6 and I haven't quit yet. I made music my hobby and my job. If you have a son or daughter like me, buy a top quality instrument--they will need it.


How much do you as a parent want to spend?
This is the bottom line. To reach the quality standard you need for a good instrument you really do not have to spend too much. You can pick up an instrument for a few hundred dollars and it will be good indefinitely. A less expensive instrument that still meets the quality standard will not hold the student back but it may hold them back psychologically. Usually lack of knowledge or maturity will force a particular student to ask for an instrument that is beyond what they need. If this is the case do not spend more than you need to. If you feel the student is dedicated and will play for years in the future then buy a more expensive instrument. The bottom line is what has the student earned to play. What have they proven themselves to deserve to play. You as the parent should be able to accurately answer this question. You must look into the past and also look into the future.

Quality vs Price

One rule that other music stores will not tell you is that quality is not directly proportional to price. You do not really have to spend a lot of money to get a quality instrument. Many times you will be paying for the name and not for extra quality. ZeuS is different from regular music stores. Since we market and sell our own exclusive brand that we purchase direct from the manufacturer, means that you don't have to pay a lot to get first rate quality. Our products make this quality vs price issue obsolete. When other stores talk about their products they may be right in that you have to buy an expensive instrument to get high quality, but with ZeuS you do not. Please remember that ZeuS is not available to them so band directors, music teachers and music store employees are not familiar of the advantages that ZeuS instruments have to offer.

Many of our customers experience "cognitive dissonance" when hearing that you can buy a top of the line professional sax from ZeuS for $1500. This is mainly because you have been led to believe that you must spend a lot to get top quality--a minimum of $3000 in the case of a professional sax. I know its hard to believe but that is the beauty of ZeuS. We are dedicated to bringing consumer empowerment into the business of music--a consumer/dealer revolution of sorts.


The Quality Standard

You are obviously looking for an instrument that functions perfectly, plays easily, sounds good, is dependable, durable and made to last. You are looking for an instrument that will enable your child to excel at music, develop his/her talent and an instrument that will not give you any grief in terms of repairs. Well surprise, surprise, this level of quality can be reached at a very reasonable price. Once this quality level is reached with an instrument, one does not need to spend a penny more to get a good instrument. In short if you do not need a fancy instrument then a good quality student instrument will meet the quality standard outlined above. For example, if you spend as little as $350 on a trumpet from ZeuS you will not get a bad trumpet. It will meet all the criteria outlined above. In fact, you will get a very good trumpet. It may not be as fancy, the valves may not have the lightest action, you may get a plastic case, the hardware on the trumpet will be simpler, but it will be a very good product that one can use right through high school. For example, you do not have to spend $4000 on an Alto Saxophone to achieve the above mentioned criteria. You can spend $1000 and get a very decent so called "student" sax and get a very good instrument that will last a lifetime. It will do anything that the $4000 sax will do. Another example, you can get a very good trumpet for under $600 that will be as good as any overrated and overpriced trumpet for triple the price.

ZeuS instruments carry this concept even further. While you can spend $1000 on a very good student sax from virtually any manufacturer, with ZeuS you will only have to spend $750 and get an even finer instrument for $250 less. This is something that we have made possible and something that other stores can not offer you. Another example is that if you want to get a truly world class trumpet you can do it under $1000 with ZeuS, instead of paying six, seven or eight hundred dollars more. Like we say once the quality standard is reached you are already there and do not need to spend any more. Just about the only thing you will be spending extra money on is prestige. We agree that the $600 trumpet will not give you the level of prestige that the $1800 horn will. But, can you really afford to pay $800 for prestige--better yet, do you want to?

If your son or daughter is already driving a BMW to school and you live in a subdivision with million dollar homes then obviously you will want and need prestige--the step up to the ZeuS Guarnerius or the even more prestigious ZeuS Olympus. If you have an image to uphold in your community, then we can oblige you. But, you should realize that the music scene is not about prestige, it is not about prestige, showing off or keeping up with the Jones's. its about playing music and enjoying it for a lifetime. It is absolutely silly that you will pay hundreds and thousands of dollars more just to fit in. If the player is a mediocre payer, they will actually look silly with an expensive instrument. They will not be able to do justice to that instrument. Remember one thing, you can not buy talent and skill. That must be earned.

Reality check:
Most modern basic-student instruments meet or exceed this quality standard. A student instrument will not hinder the progress of most grade school or high school students.
In many areas a student instrument is used all the way through high school by many students. Any benefits that a more expensive instrument can offer are lost if the player is not accomplished at a high level of playing ability. Nuances in quality will not be noticed by the majority of players or listeners and if it is, it would be highly subjective anyway.



The biggest problem that we face every day is overbuying by our customers. We sell instruments all over the USA and Canada and this is very apparent in the wealthier areas of the country and where there are band directors with visions of splendor and delusions of grandeur. Parents many times are given erroneous information and consequently they believe they need the wrong instrument. In the majority of cased they are told to over-buy. The point id that buying an instrument that is more then someone needs is pure overkill and stupid.


Don't be a snob! Buying an instrument that is beyond the needs and capabilities of a player is silly overkill and a waste of money.

A common misconception among parents is that a better instrument will make a student play better. This is not so. There are many issues to consider such as the level of interest of the student and his or her natural ability. No matter how much money you spend on an instrument, if there is lack of interest or lack of talent, its not going to matter a whole lot. The present level of proficiency of the player should determine the level of instrument they play. For example, a soccer mom driving a Ferrari will not become a better driver. She will not even notice or care about the qualities of a high performance sports car. In fact it may actually frustrate her and she won't care to maintain it and worry about it getting scratched by the kids. The same way a soccer mom does not need a sports car, a student with average ability in a rough school environment does not need expensive professional instruments. The same way that a soccer mom would look foolish driving a Ferrari, a mediocre player will look foolish playing a professional instrument. The favorable impact on others will always be greater if one's musical ability exceeds the value of their instrument.

Here are some points to consider in determining the RIGHT instrument.

All instruments are made for a specific player in mind. This is why every manufacturer makes three main categories of instruments STUDENT, INERMEDIATE and PROFESSIONAL.

1. Consider the level of playing ability of the student. At what level does the student truly play at? I know most parents like to think their kids are gifted by God, but you must be realistic here. If he or she can barely play the major scale then please don't buy them a professional instrument, or even an intermediate instrument. A STUDENT instrument will be absolutely fine for many years, maybe forever.

2. Consider the behavioral maturity of the player. Is the student mature enough to appreciate and respect the instrument? Will he or she be able to care for it properly? Obviously an 8 year old will not have the maturity to properly assemble a fine flute without bending the keys. Someone who has a history of being rough with his things and using their instrument as a weapon should not be handling a $4000 saxophone or even a $2000 saxophone. That's an expensive doorstop for sure, no matter how much money Dad makes.

3. Consider the level of commitment and interest in music.

4. Consider how long the student may pursue music in the future.

5. Consider the environment the instrument will be used in.

Some really wrong reasons to buy a particular instrument.

1. Keeping up with the Jones's. An instrument should never be used as a status symbol. I know that there are high school students driving BMW's and Mercedes to school. Driving around San Francisco I routinely see teenage girls driving Porsches. I am sure they have worked very hard and saved their babysitting money for that car!

Don't be under pressure from others at your school to buy an expensive instrument just to fit in. Just because others have the most expensive and the most prestigious brand name instruments it does not mean that you must do the same. If you do then you allowing them to control you. We want you to take control back, this is what we mean by empowered consumer. Be an individual and an original. Remember there is one thing they can not buy and that's ability. It is definitely a very wrong reason to buy a particular instrument as a status symbol.

2. Because the Band Director told us to buy it. First of all, your band director must be one arrogant SOB to tell you what to buy and where to buy it. What business does he have telling you how to spend your money. He is not supposed to be an instrument salesman nor should he dictate what instrument you should buy. His only concern is to expect you to buy an instrument that works well, that's all. On the other had if he offers to contribute to your purchase then yes he has the right to tell you what to buy. Just ask him to pay for half of your instrument cost and see what he says.You never know he might go for it.
Remember that band directors who tell you to buy an expensive instrument because they have visions of grandeur are too selfish and care nothing for your money.

3. Buying a Name.

Finally, the level of playing ability and also the maturity of the player to care for a instrument should be carefully considered. Buying an instrument that is below the requirements of a player is a frustration for the player. Buying an instrument that is beyond the needs and capabilities of a player is silly overkill and a waste of money.



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Colorado Brass and Woodwinds
Ron McComb
Colorado Springs, CO
(719) 277-0228


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