Buying an Instrument on a Budget
Rent My Instrument: Renting an instrument through companies like this one can split the cost of expensive equipment into lower, monthly payments.
Brass Instrument Buying Guide: This guide is specifically for brass instruments but its tips for online purchases apply to all instruments. Using PayPal, for instance, can provide you some buyer protections.
Used Gear: Run by Guitar Center, a nationwide retail chain, this website helps you search for discounted, pre-owned guitars, basses, keyboards, drums and other rock instruments.
Music Go Round: Find used instruments here, including guitars, percussion, woodwinds, brass and stringed instruments. You can shop online or check for a local store.
Learning Music for Less
Take Lessons: Quickly compare prices among music teachers in your local area. This gives you a good baseline idea from which you can negotiate.
Groupon: Find good deals on packaged lessons using Groupon. Here is an example of deals in Philadelphia. Just insert your zip code to see deals near you.
Ear Master: Train your ear for intervals by listening to popular songs. This tool is free, but you can also download the full Ear Master program for a relatively low one-time fee.
The Zoen: Here you can find a music teacher who will work with you online through webcam. This allows you to open up your area of search for a better deal.
12 Music Teaching Apps for iPad: These free or low-cost apps use a variety of techniques to help you learn general music theory, guitar, piano and more.
Soundslice: This tool allows you to purchase and download interactive music sheets. Reading the notes while hearing the music can speed up the learning process.
Learning to Sing on a Budget
Singing Success: For those who want to play in a band or accompany an instrument with vocals, here is an online lesson package that is much more budget-friendly than in-person lessons.
Free Online Singing Lessons: This free text- and video-based website gives you the fundamentals you need to sing properly and even increase your range.
Institute for Vocal Advancement: If you really need that personal interaction, you can find and compare prices for qualified vocal instructors near you.
Learn to Sing Online: Save money on private singing lessons by meeting with your instructor over webcam. Pay by the lesson to spread out your short-term costs.
Learning Music for Free
Berklee College of Music: Berklee Shares allows you to sign up for one free online music course from one of the world’s finest music institutes.
Open Yale: Yale offers one free music course online entitled “Listening to Music.” Learn all about Western music and how to fine tune your ear and appreciation for a variety of styles.
Free Read Music Lessons: Being able to read sheet music is an incredibly useful skill that also allows you to quickly learn new pieces and to write down your own composed music.
Music Theory: With these lessons, exercises, tools and mobile apps, you’ll get a free, well-rounded education on the more advanced aspects of learning music.
Free Music Book Downloads: Here are over 100 free-to-download books about music. Some include worksheets and other exercises that are a good alternative to expensive classes.
BBC: Learning Music: If you’re interested in entering the music industry professionally, this free resource has compiled useful information for aspiring singers, musicians and DJs.
How to Read Tabs: If you’re looking to play guitar, bass or drums, you can skip a lot of conventional music theory by learning to read tabs.
Tips for Learning Music on a Budget
Choosing an Affordable Instrument to Learn
This may sound obvious, but if you want to learn music on a budget, your instrument of choice can make a huge difference. A piano, for instance, can be very expensive, but choosing an electronic keyboard can make it more affordable.
Keep your expectations realistic if your budget is limited. A harp can be very expensive, while a used guitar is more affordable. Try to keep an open mind as you begin your music education in order to save more money. After all, many musicians end up learning multiple instruments over the years.
Rent or Rent-to-Own Instruments
If you’re just starting out or if you’re not sure you’ll stick with your new hobby, try renting an instrument. You can also look into rent-to-own programs that allow you to make payments on your instrument with the goal of owning it outright. Ask for student discounts if you’re in high school or college.
Buying Used Instruments
You may be tempted to buy used, but be careful. If your instrument is of poor quality, it may need expensive repairs to play properly. You might plan to just do these repairs later, but if the tone is off or it’s difficult to play, it’s easy to lose interest or, perhaps worse, end up learning everything wrong. In the long run, you may also have to spend more when you choose to upgrade or get repairs.
So buying used still requires you to buy a quality instrument. Try to buy through reputable dealers, like nationwide chains or well-established local stores, which have a solid guarantee. You can also look online on websites like eBay, but be sure to use a money transfer service like PayPal that offers buyer protection in case of fraud or misrepresentation of the item you purchase.
Using an Instructor’s Instrument
In some cases, it’s possible to use the instrument available at your professional music teacher’s location. You’ll be very limited in your ability to practice, but this is a worthwhile and inexpensive option if you’re unsure about your instrument of choice.
Teach Yourself Music
One good money-saving tip is to learn as much as you can on your own before you enlist the help of a professional music teacher. You can easily learn notes, beginner’s sheet music reading and basic rhythm. You can even attempt to learn chords and scales, depending on your instrument. Getting these basics out of the way allows you to get the most value for your dollar when you pay an expert to teach you more advanced music.
The best resources for these beginner’s skills are websites and apps, like the ones listed above.
Watch YouTube Videos
Many musicians love to share their passion for their art through instructional videos. Some cover the general aspects of music, a specific instrument, or even how to play a favorite song. These YouTube videos are free and plentiful, so watch as many as you can. Some even take requests for songs to teach.
Private Music Lessons
Private lessons can be costly, but using websites that allow you to compare local and web instructors can be a good way to find a deal. Many instructors will offer to come to your home, especially for instruments like the piano. Try to find one who will let you come to them, which can save you some money. Just remember to factor in any travel costs when making your comparisons.
Group Music Lessons
An even cheaper way to have in-person lessons is by doing them with a group of students. Your instructor’s time is divided, but it is still a very practical and beneficial approach. These kinds of classes are often held at music stores. Be sure to check out both chain and small music retail stores for these classes.
College and University Music Lessons
Look at your local universities, community colleges and community centers to see if they offer low-cost music classes to the public. These classes typically run the length of an academic quarter or semester and can include summer terms. They can sometimes have small class sizes, so if you see a class you’re interested in try to sign up as soon as you can.
Find a Music Mentor
Were you inspired by a friend who plays? Know a neighbor who used to be in a band? Ask him or her for some mentoring help. Even just showing you a few chords on a guitar or notes on a saxophone can give you the pieces of the puzzle you need to play simple tunes.
You can also post an ad looking for a “band” that meets to learn together.
Tabs (also known as tablature) are a style of music notation used to quickly learn guitar, bass, drums, and other instruments. For example, on a guitar, tab music will show you where to place your fingers on the fret board and when to strum or pick the strings. You eventually learn repeated configurations as different chords, but you can also learn different picking styles, like Travis picking. This makes it quick and easy to learn favorite songs without having to know every note you play.
As a bonus, there are millions of free tabs available online for nearly every song imaginable. The music is notated by other fans, often giving you many variations of songs to try – some easier, some harder.