Cut the cost of musical instruments

1. Skill swap

If you have a friend who owns an instrument you're keen to learn – and they don't play much – try borrowing it, or get them to show you the ropes.

For example, you could do a trade whereby you go round once a week and cook dinner, and they help you learn the basics.

If you don't know anyone to swap with, try using a swapping website. is one of the better swapping websites. It’s completely free to join, and allows you to earn points for your your unwanted items. These points can then be used to ‘buy’ items offered by other users. isn’t exactly a swap shop, but it still allows you to get rid of unwanted items and request other people’s unwanted possessions. All you need to do is register for free and list your items.

As a back up, sign up to Freecycle alerts in your area, and cross your fingers that someone will have an unwanted instrument they want to get rid of.

2. Try before you buy

A good way to test your commitment (or your child's) to your new hobby is to rent an instrument.

Websites such as or offer a monthly rate, depending on the instrument and model.

Most offer a minimum rental period, after which you can take the instrument back.

For example, you can hire a flute from as little as £11.99 a month from

3. Ask around

Some schools or local authorities may be able to rent or lend you instruments for free, or offer schemes to buy them tax-free.

If the instrument is for a young protégé, check out the Benslow ILS, which lends instruments to under-25s who show promise but come from lower-income families.

4. Do your research

Before buying an instrument, look at specialist magazines and websites to get an idea of what it will cost.

Also, get advice from a music professional such as a school teacher to make sure you don't pay too much. Finally, try haggling for a better deal - perhaps you can get the seller to include sheet music or practice books.
5. Shop clever

Buying second-hand instruments should be approached with care. Don't just buy one from a friend or music shop because it's cheap. Ask the seller if they have the relevant paperwork to go with the instrument and how long they have had it.

Their instrument should have had maintenance check-ups with a specialist. Also, check carefully for any damage; even the smallest chip or dent can have an impact.