Look for Quality
Beware of shoddy instruments! NHME would not be doing its job unless we shared with you the current state of the band and string instrument market. As you may know, the economic climate over the past 25 years has led many manufacturers, both domestic and foreign, to cut corners on production. Unfortunately, the quality of new instruments from these companies has deteriorated to such a degree that some of these brand-new instruments will never play in tune, because the instruments themselves or their tuning slides are not the proper length. New brass instruments are being made out of such thin metal that the slighest knock causes major damage. Worse, they cannot be repaired without burning holes through the metal, destroying the instrument. Cheaply made woodwind instruments are constructed with keywork made from "pig metal" or white metal that bends out of alignment too easily under just minimal usage. These keys cannot be straightened or adjusted without fracturing. Cost-cutter instruments were purposely designed in such a way as to be disposable and obsolete with no repair parts available and no repair efforts possible.
How do we spot a poorly crafted instrument in today’s market? Unfortunately, we cannot identify a poorly constructed instrument by brand name alone. Many decent American and European manufacturers of yesteryear have gone out of business. Their brand names, product lines, and model names all got scooped up and re-acquired by unscrupulous cheapskates when the trademarks, patents, and copyrights expired. Still, there are a few tell-tale signs that can alert us:
- the brand owner / manufacturer does not advertise repair part availability,
- the instrument does not have a serial number,
- the engraved manufacturing facility on the instrument is located in Southeast Asia or mainland China*,
- the brand under consideration isn’t played by or recognized by anyone in the local community or college ensembles (we can’t list specific manufacturer names without getting NHME in trouble),
- the instrument is advertised as ideal or suitable for beginners / students,
- the instrument is sold en masse on eBay or on Amazon,
- the instrument is sold with lots and lots of accessories and gizmos as part of some school director’s approved student package.
There are good ways of finding both new and used instruments which beat anything on the mass market today. NHME encourages purchasers to let us and our experience help in instrument acquisition. Instruments need not be an expensive purchase, but we urge our families not to waste money on a horn that is not repairable, too thin, or the wrong length.