Every once in a while, when G.A.S. hits ya hard, you find that, well, there’s just not as much bread in the bread box as you need to scratch that screaming itch. I teach students music out of my studio and, since many of them are still in school, they often have little (to NO!) cash to put towards a certain piece of gear that suits their fancy. That’s when I suggest to them, and sometimes to myself, that considering discount music gear might just be the ticket.
If you can afford to buy whatever music tool you want full price, then the world is certainly your oyster…heck, it’s an oyster with a kickin’ stereo system, free drinks and stack of new guitar strings! But if not….then you need to consider the other options. The biggest upside? They’re cheaper, of course. Demo units, out-of-box units, slightly damaged goods, last year’s model now reduced….there’re all kinds of reasons why you may find a cheaper price on the product in question. Also, since you won’t have to wait to save more cash, you get what you want sooner, which is always good.
Is there a trade-off? Sometimes. Honestly, I have bought demo units and out-of-box units before that appeared to me brand new; I couldn’t find a scratch on ’em! Then there were other times when there were issues, but they were small, and none of them affected the sound, the navigation or the dependability of the unit. Usually we’re just talking scratches, dents, dings, or in the case of the Yamaha Motif keyboard I got used….some Chinese writing on the top that I really hope isn’t cursing out everyone who actually can read it (See picture above). Most stores won’t sell a unit that doesn’t work, but they’ll be happy to reduce the price for you on one that works fine, but might look a little used.
Finding these types of gear can take some doing tho’; they’re not often put right up on the front page. They’re “marred”, after all, so stores will usually keep ’em in a corner somewhere, just like when you go to supermarket and find the ‘reduced goods’ NOT placed on the end cap where you first walk in the door! No strain, no gain. But if you put the work time in…. I betcha you’ll find somewhere across this fine land of ours the exact piece you want for some dollars off…..sometimes MANY dollars off.
There are several places I find that consistently have provided me with high quality, working options for a lot less money. Sometimes insanely less. First up is EBay. It’s amazing when you want a piece SOOOOO badly but it’s hundreds of dollars more than you have, but you type the make and model into the EBay search and find that some blessed saint of a human being is listing that exact unit for hundreds less than the going price, it’s in great shape, and many times it’s listed as “No Reserve”, which means the seller has not set a minimum price to sell on the unit! Yippee!! Whoo-hooo!! Unbelievable!
Now all you have to do….is win the auction. Ah, yes, here’s where it gets a little tricky. I have been successful more times than not by using this method to do just that: determine the most you are willing (or able!) to spend for this product. Then, wait until the last 10 seconds of the auction is up and THEN submit your bid. It’s called sniping, and it has worked for me maaaaaany times. This means, tho’, that you must know exactly when the auction for this unit is going to end, and you must be there, right in front of your computer, ready to pluck the ripe fruit from the humming music tree.
Also, if others have bid higher than you’re willing to spend, then you’re out of luck. Unless, of course, you decide, “Ya know… I think I can scrounge up another twenty bucks…..” and increase your bid. Besides, what are the rest of your family for, if not to be there for you when you’re sick…with G.A.S.!
Next place that I recommend to my local music students all the time is Music-Go-Round. This is a real brick and mortar store that you can physically drive to visit OR check out their websites to see the latest gear they’ve bought and brought in. They specialize in buying used music gear and reselling it. I have one about ten minutes from my house and the owner and I know each other veeeeery well, thanks to my visiting him often. Maybe too often. Okay, definitely too often. But, lemme tell you, I have picked up some SWEET, SWEET DEALS there.
See this Eddie Van Halen Frankenstrat? Got it there, less than $500. Down on the right you’ll see the Ovation I picked up when one weekend I had to play & sing some alternate tuning guitar songs and wanted a second acoustic all tuned wierd and ready to go. That listed for around $800 but I picked it up for under three! And, by the way, I couldn’t find anything wrong, scratch, ding, whatever, on either of them.
Chris at Music-Go-Round in Troy, MI – he’s MAH MAN!!! In any case, if you see something you like, the price is usually fantastic right on the tag, but it you still don’t have enough, make them an offer. Them saying ‘no’ is the worst that can happen. The best? You could be playing a sweet new instrument and still pay your rent or mortgage tomorrow!
Also, try Craigslist. This is where people who live near you want to sell their stuff privately so they put it on this site, usually with a short explanation of what it is and a picture. I have hanging on my wall no less than nine instruments that I’ve gotten off of this site, and they’re all in great shape and I use them in the studio or live all the time. One caveat: you must be more diligent checking out the gear before you hand over your cash (cards aren’t usually accepted). People selling music gear out of their house might not be as 1) knowledgeable, 2) trustworthy or 3) deliberate about making sure that everything on the instrument or gear actually works. Once you hand over the cash, there’re no returns, so….give those units a thorough going-over before you decide. If it’s electronic, by all means, plug it in, go through menus, test the outputs by bringing headphones with you in the car. And ask questions about the unit: how was it used? For how long? Are you the owner? Was it for live use or only studio? Do you still have the box and accompanying manuals and papers?Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.
Finally, I would suggest going to any online music store and, in their search engine, type in “used“. Guitar Center, for example, has a lot of used gear that goes for substantially reduced rates and is always in working condition, even tho’ it may look beat up a bit. Personally, if something looks like it’s been gigged with, great. Isn’t that the point with music gear – to USE it for performance? Battle scars just make it, and by association, you look more experienced (and suddenly Hendrix melodies are everywhere….).
About 6 years ago, I was producing a song that I really wanted to have strings on. Nothing major, just a cello and a couple violins maybe. Now, I play a lot of instruments, and I thought to myself, “The lines I want aren’t hard. I just don’t have the instruments. Maybe I can find some…..”. With that I opened up Craigslist, did a search under “cello” and scrolled down the list. In case you don’t know, buying a cello is no small feat financially; they are priceeeeeyyyyyy! Almost always over a thousand. Unless you want a plastic one. Which, um…..no. Not for me. Down the list a bit tho’, I saw an interesting post that not only showed a cello but dozens of other instruments: violins, violas, guitars, basses, trumpets….a virtual cornucopia of musical exploration. The text was short and didn’t explain much; it basically just said “Instruments for Sale”.
Well, not being one to pass up a rare, awesome thing, I jumped in my car and drove about a half hour to a small, unassuming, little house and met an older lady, Mary, and her daughter who took me downstairs to where the whole basement was taken up by instruments of all kinds – more than I’d ever seen in one house. When I asked Mary what the deal was with all these, she confided somberly that her husband, Billy, who had wanted to open a music store one day, had recently passed away. She would be moving in two weeks to California to live with her other daughter there and get away from her pain a bit, so all these instruments had to go. I had brought with me $530, thinking if I was lucky I just might bring a cello home. Mary & her daughter, tho’, were in such a need to get rid of her late husband’s inventory that she was pricing them at levels…..well, at levels that you just don’t usually find. So, that day, I drove home with a cello, a violin, a banjo and a glockenspiel. All of those except the banjo I have used on recordings and whenever I do, I think of Billy and his dream and whisper a private “Thank you” to his memory.
The moral of the story? Make music while you can, my friends, and if you need discount music gear, check out the places I’ve listed above. You just never know what serendipitous options you might find there.
One last thing: that cello I got from Tony’s wife? It looked a little beat up so I had it maintenanced by a skilled luthier. I take all my orchestral string instruments to a place in Michigan called Shar Music. Wouldn’t go anywhere else. They are the bomb ‘cuz they know strings like….like Elton John knows altered root chords! They took their little flashlights and cameras and peered inside its cavernous chamber, then told me that there’s no sign of a company label and that, although it’s got a good sound, the inside is not as sandpapered and filed down as they usually see. Thus, in their opinion, I am now the owner of a pioneer-made cello that probably was fashioned well out of pure love of the instrument by some individual somewhere….in the late 1800s. WHOA!! Wow. Now everytime I play the instrument I not only think of Tony, but of the impassioned private citizen who just had to make that cello that year. Probably because he or she didn’t have the money to buy one.
If only they’d had Craigslist.
Until next time….go make sounds!