ISO'S (Instrument Shaped Objects)

ISOs (Instrument Shaped Objects)
Can be the Downfall of A Student's Band Career
author unknown

There are literally dozens of new "brands" of musical instruments coming to our shores every year.  Many of these are referred to as ISOs or Instrument Shaped Objects and are inferior to the brands that music educators have relied on for decades.
Unfortunately, price over quality is a consideration with some parents.  Despite encouraging parents to "purchase an instrument that has been manufactured by a company with a respected name"  several have obtained instruments that are considered ISOs.
Well, if it looks like a dog, and it smells like a dog, then it must be....   Well, not so fast.  Many of these ISOs are shiny and new.  They come in what appear to be nice cases.  The brass instruments (trumpets, trombones & saxophones) have reflective lacquer finishes.  The flutes appear to be as silver as most other new flutes and the clarinets are constructed out of a black plastic material and have silver finished keys.  HOWEVER, most parents aren't aware that most of these instruments are constructed using alloys of metal that are much heaver (this equals less resonance and more strain on the student) and softer (in the hands of a sometimes uncoordinated middle school student this equals more wear and tear damage).  These instruments are usually of poor construction.  There have been times when a new ISO has been just taken out of the case and the parts of the instrument are the wrong size and don't even fit together.  Most every ISO has intonation issues, meaning that the instrument doesn't play in tune with itself.  Most reputable repair shops do not stock replacement parts for ISOs and often will refuse to attempt to repair them out of fear for doing more damage to the instrument due to the inferior materials and methods of construction.  If it is difficult for a band director or a professional musician to produce a good quality tone and play the instrument in all ranges (high, medium & low) and have it play in tune with itself then it will be very difficult and most likely impossible for a beginner.  THERE IS LITTLE THAT IS AS UPSETTING AS WATCHING A STUDENT WORK AS HARD AS THEY CAN, PRACTICING DAILY AND PUTTING FORTH EVERY EFFORT IN CLASS, AND YET BE UNABLE TO PROGRESS AND BE SUCCESSFUL BECAUSE THEIR INSTRUMENT WONT ALLOW THEM TO DO SO.
What if you were in the market for a new car and you went to a dealership only to find cars that you had heard were of good quality but more expensive than you wanted to pay, what would you do?  Would you try to purchase a used vehicle that was manufactured by a manufacturer whose name you recognized as one that constructed good quality vehicles?  Or, Would you visit an on-line auction house Website or on-line retailer Website and purchase the cheapest car that you found there?  I doubt that many would choose the latter and yet this is exactly the decision some parents make every year when it comes time to secure an instrument for their child.  Please don't confuse this statement as saying that all on-line purchases of musical instruments are bad because this is not the intended message.  Certainly, it is possible to find good quality musical instruments on-line.  However, you get what you pay for.  In most cases, the manufacturers of ISOs use the cheapest means to manufacture their product.  It sure would be upsetting to have purchased a VSO (vehicle shaped object) and have the wheels fall off and the engine drop out while traveling seventy miles an hour down interstate forty.  As you can imagine, the bitterness of a poor purchase long outlasts the sweetness of a low purchase price.
The following is an incomplete list of brands of band instruments that are manufactured by companies that are recognized, trusted and relied upon by most band directors:  Selmer, Conn, Bach, Buffet, Yamaha, Holton, Leblanc, Ludwig, Pearl, Armstong, King Emerson, Musser, Besson, Getzen, Cannonball, Jupiter, Gemeinhart, Avanti...
The following is an incomplete list of brands of band instruments that are manufactured by companies that are not widely recognized as trusted and relied upon brands: Etude, Iotone, Monique, Belton, Jean Baptiste, Simba, Heimer, Weimer, Laurel, TriStar, Morelli, Gruskin, Helmke, Wemburg, Deura, Feile, Rossetti, Bandfolio, Kersting, Glory, Maxan, Mendini, Merano, Mirage, Hsinghai, Victory Band, Dolnet, Avalon, Coudet, Jazz Studio, Golden Cup, Sonatina, Oxford, Laval, Unison, Maxtone, Bestler, Millbrook, Belcrest, Remstein, Concert, Delphi, Jinyin, Palatino, Stellar, Venus, Yamato, Shiny Clarinet, Lacquer Saxophone...
Customers should beware of advertisements and quotes such as: "Approved/recommended by band directors", "Loved by students", "Not a cheap imitation, but a real _____________", "Has a serial number!"  The last quote sparks another the instrument doesn't have a serial number OR the manufacturer doesn't have a Website OR their is no contact information for the manufacturer, then you should reconsider your purchase.

Please help your child be successful in band by making sure that they have an instrument that will allow them to be as successful as their work ethic.  If you would like advice from the band director regarding the purchase of a musical instrument, you need only to ask.