Have you been looking for a music instrument and found that the material they are made of seems to affect the price a lot, but you don’t even know what are differences between those materials? do they change the sound? (our article here) do they weigh less? Break less often or take more time to become rusty? In this article, we’ll answer all that.
Different instruments use different materials, but the most common are wood, metal, and plastic. For all of them, there are tables of durabilities and prices among other properties.
For wood there is a Timber durability chart here.
You may notice that bamboo isn’t there since it’s not considered timber, the durability of bamboo without treatment is about 1-2 years, and with treatment 5-7 years (any layer above the bamboo to protect it, like resin), this last one being the most common.
Weight & Price
You can expect the price to go up the more durable the material is and since density is the biggest factor strength of timber, the weight increases too.
The best way to make sure your wood instrument lasts more is to make sure insects and fungi stay away from it, which means leaving it in a clean place and washing it every now and then (for woodwinds after every use because of saliva).
For plastic the most common types go in the next order:
- HDPE – Softer
- PC – Harder
As you may know plastic is a polymer making it very resistant and hard to decompose. There are perishable and non-perishable polymers, non-perishable polymers can take around 450 years (some take up to 1000) to decompose and more perishable around 10+ years.
So in this case the question is not how long will it last, it’s how much it will last without breaking and how a metal or wood alternative may be better for the environment.
Weight & Price
Plastic is also lighter and costs less on average than metal and around the same as wood, so it’s a good option for kids and people with disabilities.
The last thing to have in mind is that most sellers would not specify the type of plastic, if you haven’t seen one try asking them directly or expect something like a PVC since it’s one of the most common variants.
As you can see, there is a reason instruments are made using brass, it is the best quality for the price, additionally, when you buy an instrument you may find that they have a lacquer (extra layer) on top of the main material.
In terms of weight, the lowest density metal is stainless steel, then brass, nickel, copper, silver, gold in that order, so if you don’t want to buy a plastic instrument, you can try lowering the weight of your instrument by having no lacquer and stainless steel parts.
So sellers can trick you into believing you’re buying something you’re not, for example, let’s say that you found a cornet and the title says something like “Gold brass Bb Cornet with the hard case” for $500 USD. In the best case, the instrument is made of brass and has a lacquer of gold on top of it, and in the worst case, the instrument is made of brass with a layer of gold color paint.
In terms of durability instruments should last decades especially if you focus on avoiding rust, most of the metals are resistant to rust and can be cleaned in case you get them anyway, so it’s a good investment in the long run.
How do I use this information?
Now that you know what materials are more durable we suggest that when you look for a music instrument you check if the higher cost instrument has the best material, if it doesn’t the price is most likely part of the branding or any extra accessories that may come with it, then you can choose if you want to pay that extra for that brand/extras despite not having a better material (we suggest you don’t).