All about musical instruments - menu page
So you want to learn a musical instrument? We advise you what instrument to play, where to buy one, how to get lessons, what it will cost - everything you need to know about instrumental tuition

About Pay the Piper
Why play an instrument?
What instrument
to play

How to buy an instrument
Other costs
Where to get lessons
How much progress
will I make?

Doing your practice
Music exams
Upgrading your instrument
Finding opportunities
to play

Switching instruments
What's copyright?
Links to other sites
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Copyright © David Bramhall 2005
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Pay the Piper


Links to other interesting places


Looking for a teacher?
• As well as being a major instrument retailer, John Hornby Skewes have on their website a large and nationwide listing of guitar teachers. a simple and affordable method for self-taught individuals to learn about music and learn to play the guitar
• A good list of drum teachers, mainly in the East of England, at Sound Attak, a site where you can search for UK teachers of most instruments.
Music Lessons Online claims to be the largest UK database where you can search for an instrumental teacher in your area.
• If you live in or near Harrogate in Yorkshire, you'd like to know about Harrogate Music School which offers tuition and useful musical experiences for local children.


Looking for an instrument?
George Stevens is a luthier in Kent who makes very beautiful (and very expensive!) harps, guitars, citterns, gitterns and clarsachs. Worth a look, especially if you don't know what half of these antique instruments are!
John Hornby Skewes are a well-known and long-established instrument retailer. They specialise in everything related to guitars, but offer orchestral instruments as well.
The Violin Company have a clear, easy-to-use website which they call "Your violin shop on the internet". They offer some excellent advice about playing the violin, and you can buy or rent a violin from them online.
Dolphin Music is an online audio retailer established in 1999 and now one of the largest and fastest-growing audio retailers in the UK. They specialise in guitars, and stock over 2000 different models!
Music Instrument - "the musician's choice" - our second well-organised site advertising musical instruments and accessories second-hand, used, new, rare, wanted and for sale by musicians.
Musical Instrument Sales is a third advertisement site where you can buy, sell and advertise all musical instruments, both secondhand and new. Dealers and shops are also listed. Recommended.
• If you play the cello you really need a hard case to protect your rather fragile investment. offers good quality cases for many other instruments as well.
Reeds Direct offers not instruments, but woodwind reeds of all kinds which can be purchased cheaply over the net.
Venus Harps and Dreamsinger are two American manufacturers of concert and folk harps respectively, both with interesting websites.
Thomann, a German musical instrument supplier who offers some pretty low prices, particularly for double basses. Well worth a look: click on your national flag, then type the kind of instrument you are looking for in the search box and hit "go".
• We don't have a page on Pay the Piper about organs, but we're pleased to recommend Compton Organs who make digital organs suitable for churches, theatres and for use at home. They are based in Stowmarket, Suffolk, as we are ourselves.
Helen Kavanagh Music, based in Stratford-on-Avon, offer second-hand wind and brass instruments, repairs, accessories and tuition. specialise in selling instruments and accessories online, often at substantial discounts. A very professional and effective website.
Dawkes Music, dealers in woodwind and brass instruments. Some of the cheapest prices around, and an excellent rental scheme.
Balaam's Music, a splendid local music shop that deals by post all over the country. Helpful advice from the enthusiastic and knowledgeable owner, John Balaam, himself a musician of note. Rental scheme for woodwind and brass instruments.
Paul Gerrish, luthier. Based near Woodbridge, Suffolk, this is the place to go for really high quality string instruments, repairs, valuations and advice.
Dean Pelling, expert repairer and supplier of woodwind and brass instruments, based in East Sussex.
Bristol Violin Shop. A good string dealer with a short-term rental scheme. Do have a look at the Newsletter on this site - it's beautifully written and more informative than anything we have seen - quite brilliant.
Electric Strings. This dealer specialises in electronic amplification of violins etc., and has a really comprehensive website. If you're interested in amplifying your violin so you can play jazz, folk or pop on it, this is the only place to start!

Looking for more advice?
Violin Student is a lovely American website all about violins (obviously!). Although aimed at young people, it's intelligently written, informative and full of interest. We particularly liked the beautiful pictures of early string instruments - click here.
1st Clarinet Music has a great deal of interesting advice on all aspects of clarinet playing, and lots of sheet music you can download - no need to go to the music shop!
BeginBand is designed to assist beginning band or orchestra students in choosing an instrument and getting started in the wonderful world of instrumental music.
Amadeus Piano Co., Inc. offer a complete line of piano services for the greater New York, New Jersey, & Connecticut Tri-State Areas including: tuning, repair, rebuilding, refinishing, buying, selling, renting, & moving all types of acoustic pianos. Their Links section is enormous - hours of interesting browsing there - and the section on tuning is particularly informative.
• Learn to play the Guitar on the PC - Gitarrero-Beginner. Software guitar school for beginners with videos, midis, audios, songs, rhythms, accompaniments. For download of a free demo go to (it's pretty cheap, too!)
The Virtual Orchestra is a really cool site where you can look at good, large pictures of most orchestral instruments and hear them being played, too. Some pages are a little slow to load and the "play" button is the last thing to appear, so be patient. What's really nice is that this is all done by the Northumberland County Music Service, and it's some of their teachers who are playing the instruments. Well done, them. Where we live in Suffolk the local music service is a rather half-baked affair that doesn't even have a website, let alone one that plays music at you!
FLUTES.TK is an excellent "portal" for those who play the flute or are interested in learning. It lists a multitude of websites about the flute, divided sensibly into categories like Discussion Groups, Books, Sheet Music, Education & Training, Shops, History and so on. Very useful indeed.
Guitarnoise is an absolute must for everyone who plays the guitar or wants to. It carries a host of articles on every aspect of the instrument, including online lessons for beginners, advice on buying a guitar, chords, tablature, musical theory, different styles of guitar music - the lot! Excellent!
• The International Clarinet Association offers this excellent site with many useful links for clarinettists or would-be clarinettists.....
• .... and the rather similar is good too.
• Many string teachers don't like the idea, but it's perfectly possible to play the violin left-handed, and Ryan Thomson has an excellent website on the subject. While you're there, check out his "articles" page - very interesting.
• A few musicians manage to get by without the need to read printed music, but for most of us it's essential. The Rough Guide to Reading Music might help.
Britchops Drum Tuition. This online course provides all the information you need to begin learning today's popular drumming styles such as Pop, Rock and Britpop/Indie in the comfort of your own home. Drum charts by top UK and US bands.
TAXI: the leading independent A&R company helping unsigned bands, artists and songwriters get record deals, publishing deals and placement in films and TV shows. Have a look at the "education" page of their links section - we think it's an interesting resource.
Marycliff Productions offer a piano and keyboard tuition course for adult beginners on DVD or video with music book and a free helpline. Clifford Evans comes from the same part of the world as Pay the Piper, and we know him to be vastly experienced with a considerable reputation. offers advice, online tuition and a list of US trombone teachers.
"The Mozart Effect" - the beneficial effect on children's intelligence and general education arising from musical training and experience - is something all musicians should know about if only so they can win arguments with ignorant critics! is a wonderful site for those who play the French Horn or are interested in doing so. Advertisements for secondhand horns, a database of horn teachers, an interesting links page and loads of other good things.
The Trombone Shrine is for all those who "worship" the trombone - or would like to. Some useful links. is a portal to many sources of interest and instruction for flautists.
The Harp Haven. A good way in to all sorts of useful stuff about this rare and fascinating instrument.
Hot Frets offers you FREE guitar lessons online!
Mark Shepard's Flute Page has lots of links to places which will interest flautists, especially those who are teaching themselves to play.
Bob Gollihur's Double Bass Links Page lists a cool 700 websites of interest to double-bass fans.

Links sites and directories
Amadeus Piano Co., Inc. offer a complete line of piano services for the greater New York, New Jersey, & Connecticut Tri-State Areas including: tuning, repair, rebuilding, refinishing, buying, selling, renting, & moving all types of acoustic pianos. We have included them here because their Links section is enormous and very useful to anyone interested in pianos and the art of piano-playing.
Cadenza - a major resource for all classical and contemporary musicians., the world's favourite online classical music subscription offering listening, custom CDs, downloads, and a huge resource of entertaining information to expand your classical music knowledge., a way in to a ring of American sites about music for young people.
Classical USA, a large and useful links site from America.
The Suffolk Sinfonia website has some interesting links and a directory of concerts, orchestras and choirs in Suffolk.

Sites that help you with your homework
Music Theory Net explains the theory of music clearly and in simple stages. Beware some American terminology - "quarter-note" for "crotchet", for instance.
The Essentials of Music - now this is a real homework resource!
Classical Composers has stuff about every classical composer you can think of, and heaps of good classical music sites on its links page, too.
Note that we have recently removed a link to the well-known website "Music at School" because we feel that the standard of sense and literacy in some of its material (specifically its A-level worksheets) is disappointing.

Other interesting places
• If you're interested in jazz, Randy Hunter's Jazz website offers promotional downloads in both .mp3 and .pdf format, and on the "Free Stuff" page there are links to improvisation and style lessons, transcriptions, manuscript paper, a saxophone embouchure article with exercises, jazz demonstrations etc. - all free of charge.
Starplay is music education software that lets you practise by performing with professional musicians, bands and renowned orchestras. StarPlay listens to your performance and helps you perfect the piece with instant feedback as you play. An interesting and ambitious project - it could be very useful if you or your parents are computer-literate.
• Espie Estrella's Music Education site is a bit like Pay the Piper, really, but a lot less detailed. It's a good browse, though. Loads of links and articles in all directions!
Musi-Trac, the amazing electronic device that uniquely identifies your instrument. Great protection for your pride and joy.
Karacha have all the sheet music and accessories you need.
Schubertline is the internet's largest transposable library of opera arias, German lieder, French mélodies, English songs, duets etc. by a host of great composers.
The Full Pitcher, an interesting and novel site offering music for young musicians to play - both ensemble pieces for classroom use, and simple solos for budding concert artistes. They can be purchased by mail order, or printed out online at home which is jolly convenient. is a likeable and effective site aimed at those who like to listen to, and collect recordings of, mainly classical music. Listening suggestions, musical excerpts in Shockwave format, quizzes and a discussion forum. Very nice.
• Also mainly (though not entirely) for teachers, Staffordshire's music site is useful, fast and beautifully designed, and has a very well-organised Links section.
"Gigfix". Need an accompanist? Or a conductor? Looking for instrumentalists for your next concert? This excellent East Anglian site has them all.
Earmaster is a programme for Windows that lets you practise your aural skills.