Back-to-School Buying Guide

Going back to school can be a stressful prospect for students at any age, but for musicians, there’s a lot more to take care of after all the pens, pencils, paper, and other essentials are purchased. If your child is joining the school band or another music program, or even just returning to lessons after a break, there are a few more things you’ll need to head over to the music store to get. Instead of waiting for the band or music teacher to provide a list, we thought we’d put together a guide to help you get you started.

What Band Essentials Can I Get Before School Starts?

Members of the school band are often required to keep their instruments in proper working order. To ensure that your child’s instrument is band-ready ahead of the start of the school year, you should head over to the music store to buy extra reeds, sticks, neck straps, ligatures, swabs, etc. In other words, whatever is necessary for your child’s instrument to play, they should already have when classes start.

Exactly what you need to buy depends on the instrument that your child plays or will be playing. If you and your child are new to that instrument, you should speak with someone at the music store. Around this time of year, music store employees often know to expect parents with children in band and music classes and are familiar with the local schools’ requirements. If not, however, they should still be familiar enough with the instrument in question to be able to tell you exactly what you’ll need to have.

What Items Does My Child Definitely Need?

Some items are typically recommended for all students to own, regardless of which instrument they play.

Music Stand

Many band programs require every member to have a music stand that is kept at home. It’s incredibly important that a child has a good music stand so that they can practice effectively and improve over the course of the year. When a child has to play while reading music that’s lying flat on their bed, propped up on a nearby table, or held up by some other means, they aren’t able to focus all of their attention on the music that they are trying to play. Ensure that your child has the best possible practice experience by picking up a good quality music stand ahead of the new school year.

Manhasset M48 Symphony Music Stand Standard
The Manhasset M48 Symphony Student Music Stand is an industry standard by which other music stands are judged. The “Magic-Finger” Clutch permits height adjustments from 28″ to 50″. Desk size: 20″W x 12-7/8″H. Learn More


Cleaning Items

Something else that’s recommended (and often required) for every member of the band regardless of which instrument they play is cleaning supplies. As we’ve discussed on this blog before, keeping an instrument clean and properly maintained keeps it sounding its best, so it’s a good idea no matter what. When your child is joining a school band program, keeping the instrument properly maintained is generally required.

Band teachers will check to make sure that your child is taking good care of whatever instrument they play. Some teachers even assume that if a student is neglecting their instrument, they may be neglecting their practice. Help your child show that she or he is serious by making all the tools necessary for cleaning her or his instrument are ready and available on day one. For students playing brass or woodwind instruments, this is usually a swab. There are many different kinds of swabs and even pad-savers that’ll keep their instruments sounding great throughout the school year.

D'Addario Planet Waves Pre-Treated Polishing Cloth Standard
The Planet Waves Pre-Treated Polishing Cloth is made from high-quality double-napped cotton flannel. The cloth picks up dust and dirt more effectively than ordinary polishing cloths. The cleaner is built into the Planet Waves cloth, so there’s no need for extra polish. 15″ x 14-3/4″. Learn More


Tuner and Metronome

While many instruments in a school band do not require a tuner, string players can always benefit from having one. If your child is going to be playing a string instrument in the school band, make sure that they have a tuner and are already familiar with how to use it, if possible, before the start of the school year. Many band programs also require students to have a metronome. Since keeping time is important in a school band, having a metronome at home to practice with is a great idea even if the school doesn’t require it. A metronome is an item you can purchase before your child starts school.

Korg CA-1 Chromatic Tuner Standard
With a size similar to an audiocassette case, the KORG CA-1 chromatic tuner tuner supports a broad range of C1 (32.70 Hz)-C8 (4186.01 Hz), allowing speedy and high-precision tuning of wind, string, keyboard, and other instruments. This orchestral tuner is ideal for tuning even low-register notes containing numerous overtones that are often difficult to tune. Learn More

What Should I Wait to Get?

There are also a couple of items that you’ll need to get, but should probably wait to buy until you know exactly what the band or music teacher requires. A good example of this is a method book. Sometimes, teachers or schools will mail parents ahead of the start of the school year about what’s required for a student in band. If your child’s school does this, you should know before they start which method books the teacher requires.

If your child is returning to band or a music program that they took part in the last school year, they’ll probably advance to the next method book in the same series. For example, if they started with Book 1 last year, it’s probably safe to assume that they’ll need to get Book 2 for their second year. Getting a method book early is good because you’re giving your child a chance to start practicing early. For students who are brand new to an instrument, it’s still a good idea to buy the method book early, though it’s best to wait to use it until they have a teacher to guide them.

When Should I Buy or Rent an Instrument?

You might have noticed that one thing has been missing from this guide so far. The most important thing that you’ll want to get if you have a student starting band for the first time this school year is their instrument. Of course, purchasing an instrument can be expensive, but if your child has an interest in learning to play and joining the school band, you have several options.

You can usually either rent an instrument from a local music store or purchase a starter pack. There are pros and cons to either choice, so it depends on what’s available at your local music store. If the local store has a rent-to-own program which allows you to apply the credit paid towards the rental instrument toward owning it or buying a new one, that’s often a good choice. However, many starter packs provide a good quality instrument with all the necessary accessories for a reasonable price. Sometimes, schools have a list of recommended instruments. If this is the case, the local music store should be familiar with that list and can help you figure out what your child needs.

Many schools recommend that their students shop at Music & Arts because of the range of great band instruments, accessories, method books, and more, all at great prices. So find your local store and head in for your supplies today!


Music & Arts

Music & Arts is a family owned and operated music resource for parents, students, educators and musicians. With over 140 stores in 23 states and the largest private lesson program in the United States, Music & Arts is an authority on music education and a resource for new and experienced musicians alike.

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