Build Blog

Where to buy music and instruments

Story added 14th Sep 2017

Traverso flute

Finding and buying sheet music

As a music student you will need to source (legal) copies of your own music. Here are a few essential links to help you find the resources you need for your lessons:

Shops which sell sheet music:

*NB: this is not a complete list. Please email  us if you would like to recommend another shop

[external website] This is the official online shop for the one of the largest music exam boards. Here you can buy piano exam pieces, music theory work books, graded vocal music and a whole host of instrumental music.

[external website] Foyles is one of the iconic Soho/Covent Garden book shops. With a huge premises on Charring Cross Road it is located in easy reach of Build and has a large sheet music section where you can browse before you buy. They offer a student discount so do remember to take proof of your student enrolment with you.

[external website] The Yamaha store has both sheet music, instruments and a wonderful showroom of pianos, including digital pianos. You’ll find it in the heart of Soho.

[external website] located on [external website], London’s famous ‘Tin Pan Alley’. Look out for the blue plaque on number 9 commemorating The Giaconda Café.

[external website] also located on Denmark Street. Specialists in guitar and piano music.

[external website] the official shop for the Schott music publishers. Located in Soho.

[external website] has a shop located in The Royal Academy of Music, close to Baker St tube station. They have other stores in The Barbican and Kensington too.

[external website] is located in Camden. They carry all of the exam pieces you need and can offer advice on choosing instruments and repertoire. They also have an online store.

[external website] offers a huge range of specialist publications and instruments for those interested in early music. They have a London branch on Denmark Street.

[external website] are located close to Leicester Square station. They sell second hand music, books and also some new books and their own publications. You will find a range of music including out-of-print publications.

Libraries that lend sheet music:

[external website]  membership will also give you access to an array of online resources.

[external website]

 

Choosing your instrument

Clarinets:

Here’s some advice from our teacher Ross:

The brands I would go for are Yamaha (YCL255S Bb Student Clarinet), Buffet (Prodige Bb Clarinet) or Jupiter (JCL-700S-Q Bb) in terms of reliability. These generally retail for around £400. There are cheaper models between £100-£200 but they are considerably worse in quality so avoid the cheapest models - aim closer to £200. Furthermore Clarinets under £200 tend not to have satisfactory mouthpieces so factor this in to the price (in which case I recommend a Yamaha 4C).

Therefore you may wish to consider renting/rent-to-buy one of the above brands.

Read [external website]

Don’t forget, you can always look for a better brand second hand.

Inspection:

Always look at the instrument before buying it. Contact the seller and ask to view it first. If this is not possible, check the pictures carefully and allow for returns if it turns out to be damaged/not as described.

If the 2nd hand clarinet doesn't have a branded mouthpiece then you will need to buy a new mouthpiece so factor this in.

If you have a rental clarinet already and are looking to purchase a second hand one later, take your rental clarinet with you when looking at a 2nd hand one. Compare the 2nd hand clarinet to your rental clarinet to see if it is in good condition. Llook out for the for the following problems:

Keys:

1. check that all the long rods and keys are straight, even a slightly bent rod will need to be fixed by a repairer.

2. Check the paddle keys at the bottom of the clarinet that look like this:

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The bottom two should line up flat when you look at them from the side, like this:

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If they don't then that will need fixing also.

Pads:

Push down/lift up the keys and have a look at the under side of the pads. They should be white/ivory coloured and shiny. If too many of them look dirty, discoloured, fluffy, cracked or missing then you will need a complete re-pad. However having one or two pads changed will not be expensive.

Dust and dirt:

Have a look down the inside of the clarinet and at the plastic under the keys, if it's very dusty it will need a clean. Also look inside the holes where your fingers go down. If there is a lot of grime in them it will need a clean. A little bit is manageable and you can clean it yourself lightly with pipe cleaners and a pull-through cloth.

Play it:

Lastly, play it if you can, or ask the seller to play it if they can. If you take a rental with you, compare the two in terms of sound and function. See if it makes a nice sound and feel the key movement to check if any are stiff or stuck. If so, they might be a bit bent or have parts missing.

In summary:

If it looks like it needs a couple of pads changed and or a couple of keys fixed/springs replaced then factor that into the price - my repairer for instance could do a few minor things for around £20-£50. So if you can find nice brand for around £100-£200 and worst case scenario it's +£30 for a mouthpiece and +£50 for repairs,  you could save between £120-£220.

However if it needs a complete clean, service (resetting all the keys) and/or a complete re-pad, these services cost more than £100 each, so I would move on.

Pianos:

Many students ask us advice on buying a piano. Here’s a quick guide:

An acoustic piano is best. We like Yamaha and Kawai pianos but there are also very good deals on all sorts of second hand pianos. Why not visit [external website] [external website] to see what is on offer.

A keyboard or digital piano is also fine for beginners up to about level 4. You can use headphones to play in private and they’re smaller and easy to store:

  • Make sure the model you choose has full-size keys (not  toy piano keys) and it has a full-length keyboard (88 keys long).
  • Yamaha offer a good portable digital piano which is full sized and has weighted keys [external website]
  • There are several local keyboard/digital piano shops with showrooms close by to City lit college. [external website] is on Denmark St where you will also find several other music shops. And [external website] have a showroom close to Soho Square with lots of digital pianos to view. [external website] and [external website] are also near.

Guitars (acoustic) and ukulele:

Recommended starter guitar: Yamaha F310 (c.£125). Remember, you may also need accessories: case, shoulder strap, tuner, capo, footstool, spare strings…

[external website] located in W1.

[external website] located close to Build, just off Tottenham Court Road.

[external website] Mail order service with an excellent range.

Strings: Violins / violas / cellos

Prices start at c. £125 (violins), c.£200 (violas), c.£450 (cellos). Instruments come with a bow in a case. All shops sell accessories. Essential accessories: shoulder rest (violin & viola), rosin, cleaning cloth. Optional accessories: tuner, metronome, spare strings (highest string tends to need replacing most often).

[external website] located close to Build, just off Tottenham Court Road.

[external website] Kits and instruments for starters to advanced players.

[external website] Kits and instruments for starters to advanced players.

[external website] Excellent prices on strings, cases, other accessories.

[external website] Mail order service with an excellent range.

Wind instruments

Accessories: spare reeds (clarinet, saxophone); cleaning cloth with rod, small screwdriver, joint grease (some instruments).

[external website] Flutes, saxes, clarinets, Brass

[external website] Flutes

[external website] Based in Cambs with online shop. All woodwind (incl recorders), Brass

[external website] Recorders, Renaissance / Baroque instruments

Percussion

[external website] located close to Build, just off Tottenham Court Road.

[external website] based in SE London.

Renting an instrument:

It is a great idea to rent your instrument if you are just starting out. If you do decide to buy eventually some of the stores offer a discount if you have previously rented from them. Do ask in music shops if they offer a hire scheme.

 

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