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Beware of Instrument Shaped Objects!!!



WHAT ARE ISO’s? ISO’s are imported junk instruments. They look like musical instruments but are made of low-grade materials, are not assembled correctly, and usually do not play well. Often they are made from “pot metal” parts, which, when fail, render the instrument beyond repair. The woodwind pads are rarely seated properly, and the key fit is very poor. Brass valves often have problems and tuning slides easily corrode and get stuck. The unavailability of repair parts makes them impossible to fix. In fact, most qualified repair shops will not work on these types of instruments because they do not want to be liable when the instrument will not play. Repair technicians, music teachers, and professional musicians who have had the opportunity to examine these instruments agree that they are difficult to play, impossible to play in tune, and not able to be repaired.

Most ISO’s are believed to originate in India, China and some eastern European countries. They are being sold over the Internet and by big box retail mass merchants. These vendors do not have the staff knowledgeable about musical instruments nor do they have repair shops to service the instruments.

Beginning students and their parents are the most vulnerable. While they may think they are getting a bargain, in fact, they are not getting a good deal. Shoddy instruments are likely to discourage and frustrate students, frustrate parents, and cause the children to drop out of the band program and prevent them from enjoying the benefits of music participation.

WHAT TO DO? Generally steer clear of these instruments. They are trouble and money wasted. If you have purchased an ISO, take it back to the retailer, tell them it is not playable, cannot be fixed, and demand your money back. A good rule to follow is that if you cannot take an instrument to the place of purchase for repair, it is probably not of good quality.

Look for quality name brands of instruments that have earned good reputations from generations of proven reliability. These include Yamaha, Selmer, Bach, Gemeinhardt, Leblanc, Conn, Holton, Jupiter, Ludwig and Fox. Rent or purchase them from reputable music stores. The best ones will have knowledgeable sales staff and repair shops with qualified technicians that can give you good information. Unless you are well informed and know what you are getting, it is probably better to stay away from the Internet purchases of musical instruments. Parents should speak to their children’s music teacher before purchasing an instrument. They know the student’s abilities and can help direct them to the appropriate instrument and source. Be careful when shopping on eBay or Amazon. There are some good deals, but in some cases Yamaha cleaning kits are very visibly advertised, yet the instrument is not made by Yamaha.