The process of finding the right instrument is very different for every client. Some may take weeks to decide on the instrument they purchase while others know as soon as they play the very first few notes. The best due diligence is to make a sincere assessment of your situation before starting to look for an instrument.
The first and most important consideration is budget. You might disagree with me for a moment and tell me that sound is the most important! And yes, sound will be the most important, along with many other factors which I will discuss another day, but they matter the most once you have established your budget.
The rule that you should only look at instruments in your prize range holds true for most buyers. With fine instruments the sky is the limit, and with modern instruments there is a wide range nowadays. There is always going to be another instrument which you will also find appealing at a higher price range. More often that I would like, I see clients that fall in love with instruments well beyond their financial means. They go through a painstaking process of trying to raise sufficient funds from family and friends. Unfortunately, many times fund raising, keeping up with school and life can prove overwhelming, and the instrument is often returned leaving a lot of grief behind. The reason this happens is because they did not make a proper assessment of their financial situation, and at the time of looking at instruments, they could not give me a clear answer to the sometimes uncomfortable question to ask: What is your budget?, and insist on trying instruments thinking only of finding the ideal sound.
Key Advise: If you are going to raise any money, take a loan, sell your car, apartment, old violin, etc, in order to be able to purchase an instrument, do it before you even think of walking into an instrument shop to try instruments. For a loan, at least go and get approved and know realistically how much money you will be borrowing, consider the interest rate, and be honest with yourself about your ability to make payments. My personal formula is to subs tract 20% of the maximum amount you are allowed to borrow, and make that your maximum budget. Making your financial situation a comfortable one will give you piece of mind and help you make better music.
Most modern instruments are not negotiable since the maker depends on maintaining his/her prizes in order to make a living and reputation. Old instruments in great shape and with great provenance are often not negotiable because they are in great demand and owners want to fetch the highest prices. You will want that too if you are the owner of a fine example of an important maker.
There are good instruments in every prize category, and your financial situation should be the first consideration a responsible dealer will take before putting any instrument in your hands as a potential candidate. Do not be afraid to discuss that up front, and be honest about it.
If you feel you are mistreated because your budget is not $100,000 +, then move on!
Previous entries: March 2011
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