Why Are Brass Instruments So Expensive? (Explained)

Whether you want to play the trumpet, tuba, or something in between, prepare to spend some cash.

While some brass instruments are affordable, others aren’t exactly budget-friendly.

Luckily, you don’t have to spend a lot to get a good brass instrument.

Here’s why Brass Instruments are So Expensive:

Brass instruments are expensive because they require many metal materials, skill, and testing to ensure that they are of high quality. The quality of the brand name will increase the price of a brass instrument, extending it upwards of $1,500. For cheaper options, buy plastic trumpets.

Are Brass Instruments More Expensive Than Other Classical Instruments?

Some brass instruments are more expensive than other classical instruments, while others aren’t as expensive:

1. Trumpet

The trumpet is one of the more affordable brass instruments, partly because of its size.

Trumpets don’t require as much material as French horns, trombones, or tubas. The size might also be why trumpets aren’t as expensive as saxophones.

Student trumpets start at around $200 to $400, depending on the brand. However, similar alto saxophones cost $1,400 or more.

Clarinets are also more expensive than trumpets at this level, with reputable models starting at $700 for a new Bb clarinet.

You can find a student violin for about the same cost as a student trumpet. But professional violins can cost much more than pro horns, which start at $1,600.

2. French Horn

Student French horns are more comparable in price to student saxophones.

The tubing on a French horn is 12 or 13 feet long, which requires a lot of materials.

Professional horns can easily cost $18,000, which is more than a similar saxophone or clarinet. But it still pales in comparison to some professional violins that sell for millions.

3. Trombone

You can find a student trombone for as little as $400 to $600.

They cost more than trumpets, but they aren’t as expensive as some instruments.

At the professional level, trombones cost around $5,000 to $6,000. That’s more than some pro saxophones and clarinets.

4. Euphonium

The cheapest, student euphoniums cost close to $2,000.

They’re bigger than a lot of instruments and so require more materials and a precise manufacturing process.

A professional euphonium can cost between $8,000 and $10,000.

5. Tuba

You can expect to pay $3,000 or so to get a quality student-level tuba, and many professional models are more than $20,000.

That makes the tuba more expensive than many other classical instruments, if not all.

What Is the Most Expensive Type of Brass Instrument?

Even though there are plenty of tubas worth over $20,000, Yamaha makes a solid platinum trumpet selling for $125,000.

Platinum is much rarer than even gold, and people mine more than 10 times the amount of gold as platinum. It takes a long time to mine for platinum, and producing one ounce of it costs about $1,80o.

Another expensive trumpet used to belong to Dizzy Gillespie. It sold for $55,000 at an auction in the 1990s.

Gillespie played a silver-plated trumpet with a bell bent on accident, making it rare and more valuable.

Of course, the fact that one of the jazz greats played it also adds to the price.

What Is the Cheapest Brass Instrument?

You can buy a bugle or a hunting horn for around $50 online.

However, you can’t play those instruments in jazz bands or symphony orchestras.

Still, they can be fun to mess around on and learn how to make a brass embouchure. If you want an easy way to practice blowing into a brass instrument, a bugle or hunting horn is amazing.

For anyone who wants something more practical, plastic trumpets are available for as little as $60, and you can buy a pocket trumpet for around $90.

A plastic trumpet is fantastic for playing in different temperatures. You won’t have to worry about the metal being too hot or cold against your lips.

And a pocket trumpet is fantastic for musicians who travel often. It can fit in a carry-on, so you don’t need to check it for a flight.

How Do Musicians Afford Expensive Instruments?

Whether it’s a rare trumpet or any tuba, affording expensive instruments isn’t always easy.

Professionals and advanced amateurs have options when they need good equipment:

1. Saving

The most straightforward way for musicians to afford instruments is to save up for them.

This is more realistic for people with higher incomes. Trumpet players may also be able to make this work.

Saving money for an expensive instrument can take time.

You have to consider if buying a new instrument is more important than other expenses, such as eating out or traveling.

2. Financing

Financing an instrument is another option, and you can do this in a few ways:

  • Music store financing programs/partnerships
  • Personal loan
  • Student loans (during college)

If you don’t have the money to pay for an instrument in full but can’t wait either, financing is a good option. Music school students can adjust their cost of attendance to receive more funding for an instrument.

Anyone can take out a personal loan from a bank or finance directly through a music store.

Some financing programs have low or no interest for the first year, so you don’t need to pay more for an instrument.

3. Borrow

Many well-known musicians borrow instruments from the manufacturer or another owner.

By loaning an expensive instrument to a musician many people know, the company can gain exposure and potentially sell more instruments.

It’s a great option for the musician as well. They can play on an instrument they wouldn’t otherwise buy, and they don’t have to commit to playing it long-term.

4. Prioritizing

Some musicians put off making other major purchases to get the best instrument they can afford.

This could mean not buying a new or newer car. It might also mean renting for a few extra years before buying a house.

Decking whether or not to make certain sacrifices is personal, but it’s something to consider.

Is It a Good Idea to Buy a Second-Hand Brass Instrument?

Buying a second-hand brass instrument can be a good idea, but it isn’t risk-free.

Consider everything from the instrument’s condition to the brand:

1. Instrument Condition

One of the most significant factors that determine if you should buy a second-hand instrument is if it’s playable.

The prior owner should have taken care of the instrument by using valve oil and emptying the spit valve regularly. They should also have kept the mouthpiece clean, especially right before selling it.

Some visual changes, such as lacquer coming off, aren’t always a problem. However, it would be best if you made sure there aren’t any dents or corrosion.

Ideally, a used brass instrument wouldn’t require repairs. But if one does, you can bargain the price down to make up for repair costs.

2. Brand

The brand of a used brass instrument is just as crucial as a new instrument. Make sure to avoid cheap knockoff brands that make low-quality instruments.

Brands you can trust include:

  • Yamaha
  • Bach
  • Jupiter
  • Eastman
  • King

While these brands won’t always have used instruments available, look around for them.

That way, you can make sure the instrument has a good design.

3. Price

Shopping for a second-hand brass instrument means that you can save money.

However, you should carefully consider an instrument’s price before buying.

Sometimes, a seller prices an instrument low because they want to sell it quickly. But other sellers might have a low asking price because the instrument isn’t great.

They may have bought the instrument from a cheap brand or could not have taken good care of it. In those cases, ask for a background on the instrument and when it received maintenance or repairs.

4. Pictures

Another bad sign when buying a second-hand brass instrument is the lack of pictures and the seller refusing to provide them.

If you can’t see the instrument in person or through images, you shouldn’t buy it.

When possible, meet up with the seller in a public place to inspect the instrument. If you can’t do that, ask for as many pictures as possible and ask them for a video to hear it.

5. Trial

Buying a used instrument online can be particularly risky, so don’t be afraid to ask about a trial or return period.

Then, you can make sure the seller isn’t lying about the instrument’s condition.

And you can ensure that you like how it feels and sounds when you play.

Do Used Brass Instruments Hold Their Value?

Some used brass instruments hold their value much better than others.

Consider how good the instrument looks and how clean you can keep it. Not only will it be easier to sell a clean trumpet or trombone, but you can sell it for a higher price.

If you let the brass instrument corrode or the lacquer wears off, it won’t have as high of a resale value.

Used intermediate and professional horns can also hold their value much more easily. Student horns go through a lot, from beginners throwing them around to being in the elements during marching band and other outdoor performances.

How Expensive Will You Go?

Some brass instruments can be expensive, from the tuba to even some trumpets.

They can cost more than woodwinds and strings, but you can afford them with savings or financing.

Buying a second-hand brass instrument is also a good option.

As long as it’s in good condition, you can save some money and get a good instrument.

Sources:

Ventured: The 15 Most Expensive Trumpets in the World