Renting or Buying an Instrument for My Child’s Lessons

Wondering about whether you should rent an instrument or buy?

This is a great question, especially for younger students. Unless you are convinced your child is going to stick with an instrument, why go to all the expense of purchasing one, right? Well, according to our guitar teacher, Johnny Walters, it all depends. 


Walters explains that whether it’s for the guitar, the banjo, the violin, the bass, or the ukulele–size makes all the difference.

“When kids starts with the wrong sized instrument, it’s highly likely that they will become extremely frustrated and feel that the problem is with their ability, and not the guitar itself. Therefore, it’s a really good idea to invest in the right sized instrument, 1/2 to 3/4 size for younger students, depending on your child’s height.”

Smaller sized guitars come in a wide range of quality, from the toy guitars found in department store toy aisles to higher quality guitars found in music centers. If there is a question of how long the student is going to stick with the instrument vs. multiple siblings who could use the guitar (or other instrument) for years to come, renting is an option–especially since like your child outgrows shoes, he or she will outgrow smaller instruments, too. But if your child plans on taking lessons and playing for more than several months, it’s a much better investment to purchase a higher quality guitar than to simply rent.


Another source of frustration for students is the quality of the guitar. Although they obviously cost more money than one you can find in the toy department of many stores such as WalMart or Toys R Us, they generally don’t hold their tune for very long. Students can mistakenly think they are not making progress on a cheaper guitar, when in actuality, the problem isn’t with the student; it’s with the instrument. In general, Walters does not recommend that students start with a cheap, affordable “toy” guitar that, while less expensive, can lead to more frustration than it’s worth.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions…

Bottom line: whether you should buy or rent is really a question of duration. If you plan for your child to take lessons for a couple of months, renting is the way to go. If you are looking at semester or more, purchasing a higher quality, size-appropriate guitar is the best way to go. In the long run, it will lead to greater satisfaction and simply last longer. And that is the end goal: to help students achieve proficiency with their instrument that will produce a lifetime of enjoyment.

If you have questions about which guitar is right for your child, feel free to drop Johnny an email via the contact page.


  1. Harper Campbell

    It’s good to know that when it comes to getting our child a guitar that we need to consider renting or buying one that is of higher quality. I like how you mentioned that this will help lessen their stress since it will be able to stay tuned and allow them to know they are improving. This is something that we will have to remember when it comes to choosing which one will be the best for getting our son.

  2. Biplab Poddar

    Thanks for sharing this. I would prefer to buying instrument instead of renting. I’m currently working on the f# minor nocturne! they’re beautiful pieces.Don’t get me wrong, you have to be strong and confident to be successful in just about anything you do – but with music, there’s a deeper emotional component to your failures and successes. If you fail a chemistry test, it’s because you either didn’t study enough, or just aren’t that good at chemistry (the latter of which is totally understandable). But if you fail at music, it can say something about your character. It could be because you didn’t practice enough – but, more terrifyingly, it could be because you aren’t resilient enough. Mastering chemistry requires diligence and smarts, but mastering a piano piece requires diligence and smarts, plus creativity, plus the immense capacity to both overcome emotional hurdles, and, simultaneously, to use that emotional component to bring the music alive.Before I started taking piano, I had always imagined the Conservatory students to have it so good – I mean, for their homework, they get to play guitar, or jam on their saxophone, or sing songs! What fun! Compared to sitting in lab for four hours studying the optical properties of minerals, or discussing Lucretian theories of democracy and politics, I would play piano any day.

    But after almost three years of piano at Orpheus Academy, I understand just how naïve this is. Playing music for credit is not “easy” or “fun” or “magical” or “lucky.” Mostly, it’s really freakin’ hard. It requires you to pick apart your piece, play every little segment over and over, dissect it, tinker with it, cry over it, feel completely lame about it, then get over yourself and start practicing again. You have to be precise and diligent, creative and robotic. And then – after all of this – you have to re-discover the emotional beauty in the piece, and use it in your performance.


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