How to Select Band Instruments

Band directors need to know which instruments to purchase for a new band program. It can be a painful and complicated process to select the most important instruments and to fit them all within a program's budget. It is important to start with the essential instruments, and then each year gradually add additional instruments. The most important instruments, in the beginning, are the instruments that students typically can't afford to purchase by themselves.


Step 1 Percussion instruments are the top priority. Purchase several percussion instruments. Students do not typically buy these instruments due to their expense and music stores will not rent them. Timpani, bass drum, snare drum, xylophone, glockenspiel, vibraphone, wind chimes, and various small percussion items such as castanets and woodblocks are required.

Step 2 Low brass are expensive instruments that need to be purchased. Purchase some of the low brass instruments that are more expensive. Instruments like the tuba, euphonium, and baritone saxophone are generally too expensive for most families to rent or purchase. The school typically provides these instruments.

Step 3 Woodwind instruments sometimes need to be purchased by the school. Purchase the more expensive woodwind instruments. These instruments include the bass clarinet and the bassoon. Parents seem less inclined to rent or buy these instruments on their own.

Step 4 Pianos are extremely useful for rehearsing an ensemble. Purchase a piano for the school's use. While this isn't typically used in a marching band, it can be useful for sectional rehearsals and will be needed when the time comes for the concert wind ensemble season.

Step 5 Purchase some of the less expensive, more commonly used instruments with any money left over. Flutes, oboes, clarinets, trumpets, and trombones are useful instruments to have on hand. Purchasing these instruments will ensure that there is a well-stocked inventory for students to borrow from. Many parents will buy or rent these instruments, so it is not necessary to stock many of these.

Watch your budget, and make sure there is money left for music. Carefully select a proportional number of instruments so that there isn't an imbalanced ensemble. It is better to rent-to-own high-quality instruments than purchase instruments of low quality. Low-quality instruments will cause intonation problems, break down easier, and cost more in maintenance and replacement over time.


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