Tips – 5/11 – Musical Gear

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Sell Musical Instruments

It’s not exactly the kazoo. That’s what you told your wife when you finally put the old guitar in the back of the basement or in the garage, planning never to take it up again. After a while, some of your other belongings have piled up, but during day of spring cleaning, you’ve come across it again: it’s a guitar you never do anything with. Do ever you wonder how much it might be worth?

The accurate answer, of course, is that your guitar is worth as much as you’re able to sell it for. If you’ve been in this situation before and need a way to learn the best methods and strategies for selling your musical instruments online, you’ve come to the right place. You might not have any more need for that acoustic guitar, but you may know someone who does – or you may know a place where you can find the people who are looking for the musical instrument(s) you own.

Fix up your instrument first

If you really want your instrument to sell online, you’re going to have to make it look presentable. This means fixing up the instrument as best you can and taking flattering – but not dishonest – pictures of it. Don’t Photoshop your picture in order to manipulate the kinds of bis you’ll be receiving on it, but do make sure to take a flattering picture of the instrument. You want the pictures to look attractive but not so attractive that the real thing simply disappoints your buyer in person. Be sure to include anything else you can find with your instrument, such as a case or any extra pieces that could enhance the value of what you’re selling. For more on learning about putting your best foot forward, be sure to check out eBay’s Musical Instrument Selling Guide.

Sell it in the right place

Once you’ve got your musical instrument ready to go – and have some nice pictures of it you can post online – then you’re ready to find the right place to sell it. The place to start, of course, is eBay. You’ll want to make sure you set a high minimum bid that you’ll accept at eBay – this is the price that you need met before you’ll actually sell it. This is a great way to make sure that someone doesn’t come along and snatch your instrument for just a few dollars. You can also check out Craigslist and advertise your musical instrument for sale in your area.

When you post instruments listings online, it will help if you know approximately how much these types of instruments might cost in the condition yours is in. Check online and see the prices other people are asking for comparable instruments. Be sure to mark up a little bit in order to start the negotiations high. You can also add value to the interaction by throwing in those accessories mentioned earlier.

Know how to negotiate

If you’re not , then you’ll probably have to know how to negotiate fairly effectively. If you’re selling your instrument on Craigslist, then you’ll want to be able to negotiate via e-mail or phone. One very important negotiation tactic is to know your minimum price and stick with it, even if you have to walk away in order to stick with the minimum price you’ve already set in your mind.

If you treat your musical instrument well and take your time in creating an effective ad for it, you may find that your results surprise you! Just make sure that you can actually deliver on what you promise your prospective buyers.

Learning a Musical Instrument

Many of us wish life would come with maps, guides, and instructions. In some cases, it does: when you learn how to drive, you learn about it from instructors and practice it until you’re capable of passing a test. But not everything in life comes with a license – and even a license doesn’t guarantee success. That means you’re left to your own devices.

That’s frequently the case when it comes to the world of musical instruments. Sure, there are piano lessons and cello lessons, but many times those instructors will give you homework assignments, as well. And when you don’t have the money to afford a musical teacher, you’re once again left to your own devices. So how do you start learning a musical instrument in the right way – thoroughly, completely, and in a way that lasts? Hopefully this article will help shed some light on the process. For the sake of instruction, we’ll also pretend you don’t have a music teacher.

1. Choose an instrument.

Choose the instrument you want to end up playing. This is something that many people have already considered, so if you have one in mind already, you might be able to skip to step #2. Still, it’s important to consider that you find a musical instrument that you actually enjoy and that you can see yourself dedicating a lot of time to: chances are, in the range of your experience, that you will be spending a lot of time with it. We recommend choosing a versatile and popular instrument, such as a piano or guitar, in order to give you a wide range of songs and styles to enjoy playing.

2. Start with the basics.

If you can’t read music, learn how to read it. If you don’t know what a “chord” is, look it up. Learn what the notes mean, and work your way up to more advanced basics, such as learning scales, chord progressions, and different harmonic scales. The more solid a foundation you give yourself, the more music will “make sense” to you later on as you learn more advanced topics. Learning the fundamentals isn’t always easy or sexy, but it’s important: and if you master the fundamentals, you can start to tackle the “sexy” skills with better depth of understanding.

3. Find models to emulate.

If you can’t find them anywhere else, Learn to Play an Instrument Online. That link from Lifehacker can be very valuable as you search for ways to learn from instructors. You’ll want to continuously learn from people who are better than you if you ever plan on improving, and by modeling what they do, you’ll learn to reproduce the same sounds at home. Of course, you won’t always be perfect at this: in fact, you may find yourself outright failing sometimes. But if you work incrementally and try to tackle issues that suit your skill level, you might be amazed how quickly you may be playing your first chord.

4. Give yourself a goal to pursue every week and practice regularly.

If you simply look up a few YouTube videos and try to recreate what they do, you won’t learn much. If, however, you invigorate your practice by giving yourself a goal and working toward it, you’ll find that you really find the holes in your skills and can start learning how to fill them. For example, if you can’t play a full melody yet, give yourself a goal of learning a brief melody from a song and then being able to reproduce it from memory on your instrument.

When in doubt, keep going. You just may surprise yourself as you learn more and more about your instrument, and the farther along you go, the more you’ll be able to handle.

Girl Learning a Musical Instrument

For all of the people you see who have learned a musical instrument, there might be twice as many stories of failure. While that might be an entirely unverifiable fact, it’s not hard to see that it may be true: how many times in your life did you start or even just want to take up a musical instrument? And how many times did you actually succeed at it?

There’s a good chance that, if you’re reading this article, the answer is simple. You might have tried in the past only to be left wondering how the people who stick with it manage to get so good.

If you’re sick of watching other people play their instruments from the crowd, this article is for you. In it, we’ll take a look at five important tips for understanding what it’s like to learn a musical instrument. It can be thrilling, fun, and occasionally downright tedious. But hopefully these tips will get you over the hump and playing your instrument of choice in no time.

Tip #1: Pick an instrument you can stick with and enjoy.

If you listen to a Beatles song, you might be tempted to learn piano, guitar, bass guitar, and drums – all from the same song! That’s because you’re listening to world-class musicians play their instruments with expertise and relative ease. But even the Beatles had to put in their due diligence to master their chosen instruments. Even if you like all kinds of instruments, you’ll do far better if you stick to one “main” instrument and make it your exclusive focus for a period of time. Achieving mastery in an instrument is all about advancing to the next level and putting in your practice even when those advancements aren’t taking place. In other words, you don’t have any time to spread yourself thin.

Tip #2: Take advantage of the Internet.

In 1820, it was probably more difficult to learn a musical instrument today. Why? Because you’d have to secure a teacher – someone who already know how to play the instrument – in order to help you. Today, you have the advantage of finding all sorts of lessons and tips online. Heck, you’re reading a tip right now! Check out Lifehacker’s Learn to Play an Instrument Online to learn more about the best ways to learn your musical instrument with the help of the Internet. You’ll be glad you did.

Tip #3: Go in small increments.

You want to practice above your current skill set – that’s what makes you better – but you don’t want to aim so high that you get frustrated with your lack of results and eventually quit. If you practice in small increments, you take advantage of your natural learning patterns while giving yourself the opportunity to find the small rewards in the “little” things you’re learning.

Tip #4: Give yourself a definable challenge.

Master a short, simple song to start out with, and keep moving up toward more advanced material. Give yourself a definable challenge and you’ll know what you’re working toward. You’ll also know where your current skill levels are at. It’s also nice to have a song you can play for people who ask you how your “guitar learning is going.”

Tip #5: Persist.

Finally, the one tip you’ll want to always remember: just persist. Keep going, even when you’re not sure you’ll ever get better. You will. It’s an inevitability if you keep putting in your time. You may shock yourself as you find out you discover you may have talents you didn’t know you had, or that you start to grow a musical prowess that you never figured possible.

Electronic Drums

If you own a drum set, then there’s a good chance you’re thinking about playing on it right now. After all, it’s right there, it produces great sounds, and it’s just begging to be played right now. The problem? The angry neighbors across the hall who can’t stand hearing your “racket” at 8 p.m. – or whatever odd point of the day you decide to play.

So what’s the solution?

The easiest solution, of course, is an invention that is not appreciated in its own time: the pair of headphones. But since you can’t pick up a pair of headphones and plug them into your “live” drum set, we’re going to have to look at alternative means of producing sound for you – and not for your neighbors. Here’s a quick guide for getting that done.

Go Electronic

If any of the introduction felt like it resonated with you, then you need to learn that electronic instruments are where it’s at. You can just as easily practice on a set of electronic drums as you could a live set – you can even arrange the drums to produce very similar sounds. Since you can’t plug your headphones into your “live” drums, however, it’s time to ditch them.

Sure, they might be a great set of drums. Sure, you might miss it. But if you really want to solve your noise problem, you’re going to have to take some sort of drastic action in order to change how things are going.

If you play another instrument, like guitar or piano, there might also be solutions that can help you wail away without ever feeling like a disturber of the piece. Electronic pianos and keyboards are great, easy-to-find, and cheap. Electric guitars are some of the most popular instruments out there, and it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a way to plug in your headphones to hear the sound you’re producing.

In short, going electronic is the best way to go, especially if you’re practicing. If you’re a high school student still living at home, a nice set of electronic drums is a great way to put in those hours of practicing without disturbing anyone else in the house – or even giving them a clue as to your progress. They might be surprised when you finally decide to unplug the headphones and wail away on the speakers.

The Issue: Price

Of course, if everything was so simple, you could easily afford that nice set of electronic drums, right? The problem is that electronic drums can be expensive, and many people still feel that they produce an inferior sound. Well, if you want to change your situation, you probably will have to make some sacrifices, but we wouldn’t end our article without giving you some tips for making it easier on yourself!

Enter sites like, Craigslist, and If you’re a shrewd buyer, you can find a lot of great discounts on items like electronic drums and electronic keyboards. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the first time you enter in a search , the perfect deal is staring you right in the eye. For that reason, it’s important to consider also that you might want to take some time with your search. Start “watching” (without bidding) on items , and set some time each couple of days to browse the musical instruments that are available in your area on Craigslist. You’ll find that the more effort you put into it, the better deals you start to recognize.

If you sell your old acoustic instrument and trade for an electronic version, you may actually find yourself coming out ahead.

Different Types of Musical Instruments

If you know anything about musical instruments, you know that there are a few separate categories that separate many of the instruments by their common characteristics. If you don’t know anything about musical instruments, however, you probably don’t even know about these essential instrument “groups.” If you’re thinking about taking up an instrument, it might help you to take a look at the different kinds of instruments to see which appeal to you: if you enjoy the oboe, for instance, but want to take up something a little more mainstream, you might upgrade to a similar “woodwind” instrument like the clarinet or saxophone.

That’s why, in this article, we’ll take a look at the different categories of musical instruments available and teach you what kind of characteristics they usually share. If you want to learn more, you might considering checking out this article from


Woodwinds get their name from the facts: many of these instruments are made from wood (though not all), and they make music from your wind. No, not that wind – the wind coming out of your mouth! Each instrument will require a different kind of “kiss” in order to generate the best sounds possible. Many of these instruments fall under the “reed” instrument categories: you’ll find yourself using a reed in order to generate the sound. Reed instruments include saxophones, clarinets, and oboes, while “other” woodwinds include flutes and piccolos. The sound produced by woodwinds can range from the jazzy saxophones to the light classical sounds of the clarinet. Many classical composers also frequently employed woodwind instruments like bassoons in their works.


Stringed instruments don’t vary in the quality of their sound like woodwinds do, but they do vary widely in terms of pitch. You have low instruments such as the bass and the cello as well as lighter instruments like the violin and the viola. It’s also worth considering that the piano is actually a stringed instrument: the keyboard moves small mallets within the piano to bang against the strings in order to produce the familiar sound. The harpischord, similar in appearance to the piano, works in the same fashion but plucks the strings instead of pounding them. Guitars are also string instruments, especially the acoustic guitar, which is a pure string instrument. Other less-traditional instruments (at least by Western standards) can include the sitar.


Percussion instruments can be the most exotic of them all, producing sounds that are generally meant to augment the rest of the sounds and produce a steady beat, but can also become features in and of themselves. In works such as The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s Take Five, you’ll hear a section that highly features the drums, making them the focal point of the piece for a brief period. Percussion instruments don’t just include the drum set, though. They also include the timpani (traditionally a classical instrument) and the triangle.


Brass instruments include trumpets, trombones, tubas – a lot of the “gold” colored instruments are brass instruments. An exception, of course, is the saxophone. The big, colorful sound of brass instruments is well-suited for outdoor events like parades and sports: across the United States, high school marching bands make frequent use of brass instruments in order to cut through a lot of the sounds a crowd will be making.


Vocal instruments frequently refer, actually, to you: you take your voicebox with you wherever you go. You can turn your voice into an instrument by singing. Throughout classical music, singers were divided up by the pitch they were best suited to producing: you’ve probably heard of altos, sopranos, baritones, tenors, and basses. Today, voices are used in many different ways, and are even electronically modified in order to produce a desired effect.

Jazz Musical Instruments

Jazz is the quintessential “cool” form of music, a relaxed, almost informal take on musical notes that avoids all of the traditional chords and focuses on rhythm, sound, and the texture of live performance.

But if you’re looking to capture that same jazz soul, you can’t do it by taking up the wrong instrument – you need to take up an instrument that some of the great jazz musicians like Miles Davis or Charlie Parker have actually used.

To give you an idea of where to start, let’s check out five instruments that are frequently associated with the world of jazz, as well as some of the top jazz musicians of all time.

Instrument: Piano

Famous jazz players: Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington

The lowdown:

The piano has been around for centuries, but its sound got an update during the 20th Century with the rise of famous jazz artists like Thelonious Monk. These artists make playing the piano look like they’re magically twiddling their fingers and making music come out.

Jazz piano is very unique from classical piano in that it emphasizes a different scale (think the blues scale) and is much more heavily syncopated than in the works of Mozart and Beethoven. To see what can happen on the piano, check out Weekly Piano and view their different improvisations.

Instrument: Trumpet

Famous jazz player: Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong

The lowdown:

The sound of “cool jazz” is the sound of Miles Davis and his trumpet, a laid-back rhythm that sounds like the blueprint for all good jazz. The trumpet has a brassy and cutting sound that makes it an easy star of any jazz quartet, but it can also function as part of a brass section in a larger group. Many people are amazed to see what kind of sounds come out of a three-keyed instrument like the trumpet, and it’s almost as if you’re playing an advanced kazoo with a smoother, cooler sound.

Instrument: Saxophone

Famous jazz player: Charlie Parker

The lowdown:

The saxophone is an instrument that gained popularity in the 20th Century, just like jazz, and as such is frequently associated with the genre. Charlie Parker stretched the boundaries of saxophone sounds earlier in the century, and the saxophone has since gained a vaunted status in just about any large band orchestration, including high school bands.

Instrument: Drums

Famous jazz players: Buddy Rich

The lowdown:

No band is complete without drums these days, and jazz is no exception. Jazz drums are interesting, however, in that they can both help guide the rhythm and define a rhythm of their own in the form of a solo. Solid jazz drummers are able to go off on their own tangents while keeping a steady track of time in their head – not always an easy feat.

In some cases, a competent jazz player can at least keep a solid beat going through a song, giving the other players ample opportunity to break away from the standard rhythms and syncopate to the beat and tempo established.

Instrument: Double bass

Famous jazz player: Jimmy Blanton

The lowdown:

Though not as popular as bass guitars are today, the double bass or upright bass can have a familiar, bold sound that is strongly associated with jazz. Having a deep, strong bass can be essential for drawing contrast with the rest of the instruments while it can complement the rhythm of the drum set.

You may not want to take up the double bass as a jazz musician, but you can tackle an instrument like piano or drums for the versatility in styles they offer – including the ability to play in jazz style.

Instruments For Kids

When the great Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was still a toddler, he was touring Europe as a musician prodigy. This, annoyingly, makes late bloomers of us all – but it does reveal something very interesting about music and our youth: they don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

It doesn’t take a genius like Mozart to figure out that music education can help your child develop skills that can last a lifetime. Music is like the mathematics of art – complicated, often predictable, and definitely character-building. But if you’re already sold on the idea of “music as education,” then maybe you simply need less convincing and more information.

As a parent, you’re probably constantly wondering about appropriateness: at what age is it appropriate to X, at what age is it appropriate to Y? As Mozart shows, you’re never really too young to start learning music, even if that just means banging away at the piano.

For the Beginning Parent: What Not To Do

Mozart’s father, Leopold, was a strict musical instructor, which means that he hit a musical lottery – he got in his lumps while struggling at the piano in his pre-teen years. You don’t want to be Leopold, because chances are that your son is not Mozart.


But there’s a line to straddle. If your child is interested in music education and displays a clear inclination for understanding music, you’ll want to do them a favor and really get your hands dirty, helping them to develop the talent at an early age. This means not allowing your child to quit a commitment once it’s been made unless some special circumstances have taken place – and, in many cases, they don’t.

It’s one thing to avoid being a pushy father or mother, forcing your child to play piano when he or she clearly hates it worse than broccoli. It’s another thing entirely to become a pushover, not pushing your child to fully explore their talents and put in the pain and discipline required to achieve success.

Remember this rule of thumb: if you teach your child that they always have to practice, you may be sending a message that they’re not good enough. But if you allow your child to squander their inclinations and talents, you may also be sending a message that they’re not good enough. Tough love is sometimes necessary.

The Instruments: Which Really Work Best?

Okay, okay, enough prattling on. Let’s get to the nitty gritty: what are the best musical instruments to focus on for children?

  • The piano. The piano is like the computer keyboard of instruments because it’s precisely that – a keyboard. Nothing quite teaches ambidexterity and musical skill like the piano, an instrument that can require ten fingers at once. A child that knows how to read music and play it on the piano will have a basic musical competence for life. The extremely young can have trouble with it, of course, so work to be reasonable.
  • The guitar. Okay, so maybe it’s a bit of a stretch to imagine a toddler holding a guitar, but young people in general can pick up guitars and learn to play them well – and the cool factor of knowing how to play the guitar can help spur on the desire to improve through those teen years. Just make sure they enjoy the music more than the attention.

  • Toys. For the very young, you might just want to focus on musical toys like the ones available here in order to gauge your child’s interest in music. See what kinds of toys they gravitate to and you might just be receiving a hint as to their potential. Oftentimes, it’s best to observe what the children have to say and take their guidance.
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