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Buying Tips from the Owner

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

Need help knowing what to buy? We got you covered!

Acoustic Guitars

Acoustic Guitars come in 3 basic sizes. MockingBird stocks 1/2, 3/4 and two types of full-size acoustics. Choosing the appropriate and comfortable size is very important. Stop by any time and we will help you determine the best size for you or your child. Guitars have either steel strings or nylon strings. The majority of guitars that we hear in rock, folk, country and pop music are steel-string. Nylon or classical guitars have a very distinct mellow tone but are much easier on your fingers, which can make them the best choice for young children. Guitars costing $100 can compare favorably with those costing $300 from 5-10 years ago. We sell many guitars under $200 that we and our teachers recommend to students. Used Guitars can provide even greater value. At MockingBIrd, all of our used guitars are in proper playing condition, will have new strings on them, and are warrantied for 90 days. features will increase the cost of an acoustic guitar. They are detailed below:

1. Solid vs. plywood - Guitar tops (soundboards) are either solid wood which will be more resonant and will age better over time, or they are made with plywood covered in a laminate. Laminate guitars will not improve with age and may be slightly less full sounding. Solid-top guitars cost add about $100 to the price.

2. Tuning Machines (tuners) - Better quality tuners do NOT mean the guitar will stay in tune better but instead will provide a better gear ratio meaning a smoother more even tuning process.

3. Binding (trim) - Binding around the body, soundhole and/or neck will increase the price of the guitar. No sonic advantage - it just looks cool!

4. Electronics - some acoustic guitars have built-in electronics so that they can be amplified without the use of a microphone. A common misconception is that this makes the guitar sound like an electric guitar. This is not the case, it simply makes your acoustic a potentially loud acoustic.

Electric Guitars

Electric guitars come in 3 sizes mini, 3/4 and full-sized. We sell 90% full-sized electrics even to children. Unless you need a 3/4 we do not recommend them due to their inability to consistently stay in tune. Mini guitars are more of a novelty and are not recommended for anyone who actually hopes to learn to play.

There are many good quality electric guitars in the range of $125-$500. Guitars may be available for less but I would not recommend them. They are inconsistent in quality and often need repair. TRUST ME I have been selling and fixing guitars for 20 years and have seen a lot of these sub-standard electrics. DO NOT BUY A GUITAR FROM THE STORE WHERE YOU GET YOUR CLOTHES OR POTATO CHIPS, you're asking for trouble! The quality of an electric guitar can be a difficult thing to determine. Understanding where the guitar was made and the company that made it can help but is not the only factor. Wood type, quality of electronics and tuning machines, fret dressing, and factory set-up for playability all determine the overall quality of the guitar. Used guitars can provide even greater value. At MockingBIrd, all of our used guitars are in proper playing condition, will have new strings on them, and are warrantied for 90 days. Features on electric guitars do not usually determine the price. A guitar with 3 pickups and a whammy bar may cost less than one with 2 pickups and no whammy. Much of choosing an electric guitar is personal preference. Color, shape, fingerboard wood type, inlays, whammy or no whammy, brand recognition all play a part in this choice. We can help you understand the pros and cons of all of these factors. A guitar's weight should be considered. Guitars weigh as much as 11 pounds. This may not be much when you're at the gym but it is too heavy for most kids and many adults. Make sure when choosing a guitar you hold it both sitting and standing up before you make your final choice.

Keyboards & Digital Pianos

Key Requirements A beginner needs a 61-note keyboard. Basically, a 61-note keyboard represents the middle of the 88-key piano. A beginner will not use the lowest or highest octave for many years as a rule so 61 notes are all you need.

1. Touch Sensitive - This is very important and often not obvious. Touch sensitivity means that when a key is struck hard the note will be loud and when it is pressed gently the note will be soft. Keyboards under $150 do not have this feature and it is essential to a student's ability to learn properly. MockingBird carries touch-sensitive keyboards, which start at $159, for this reason. We occasionally may have a used non-touch-sensitive model on hand but would only recommend it to a very young child who would not need the touch-sensitive feature for a long while.

2. Bells & Whistles - Keyboards have many other features which include built-in songs, built-in recording features, automatic rhythms, and even lessons. These features can be fun to use but the most important thing is a quality piano sound. We believe Casio offers the best value with good sounding touch-sensitive keyboards starting at $159. Our price should match any you will find on the internet or another store.


Digital Pianos have 88 weighted keys. The weighted keys simulate an acoustic piano's feel. This weight will vary and be more realistic on more expensive digital pianos. Digital pianos typically come with some type of stand called the cabinet. Cabinets range from basic to very elaborate, again directly related to the price.

1. Sounds - Digital pianos' main function is to simulate a piano. The sound is truly amazing, even on the basic models. More elaborate models offer a larger variety of sounds and better speakers for a louder, fuller tone.

2. Features - Added features can include built-in recording, headphone jacks, variable sensitivity settings, and built-in pedals.

3. Price - MockingBird stocks a Casio model at $499. Other models from Casio and Roland are available up to $2500.

Drum Sets

Junior-sized drum sets are an option for young children under age 8. Full-size drum sets come in a variety of drum sizes and do not necessarily relate to the size of the player. Different drum sizes provide different tones and some smaller sets are designed for portability. Drums are primarily made of wood and the shells are thin plies of wood glued together. For the beginner to intermediate drummer, there is little discernible difference between a 9-ply maple shell and a 6-ply birch shell. Vinyl wraps are the most common for beginner drum sets, where lacquered and stained finishes are more common on intermediate and pro kits. Hardware refers to anything metal including all stands, mounts and drum parts. Hardware varies in quality. If you will be moving the drum set around from place to place you should consider better hardware for durability.

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