Instrument Rental Info – Northern CA

Instruments We Teach:

What does each instrument sound like and how do I assemble it? What supplies does my instrument need?


Flutes usually come with a cleaning rod in the case when renting or purchasing this instrument. Just wrap a soft lightweight cloth around the rod and gently push through flute after each playing session to get rid of moisture. Flute playing position is holding the head joint opening to your lips and holding the flute body to the right side of your body.


Students need to purchase a box of #2 clarinet reeds for Beginners.  Intermediate/Advanced students will need #2.5 or #3. Reeds are numbered by thickness, #2’s being thinner than the #2.5’s and #3’s. More experienced players can use the thicker reeds since it takes more control and air to get a good sound. Reeds will chip and break over time. If students take care of their reeds and rinse with water (instructors will talk about this in class), a reed can last 2-4 weeks. A box of 10 reeds would be good to start with. Keep 2-3 reeds in the instrument case and leave the remainder at home and add more as needed. Rental instruments usually come with just one reed. You can pick up a box from your local music store or we can recommend these 3 sources to order reeds online :  or or

Alto Saxophone           

Students need to purchase a box of #2 alto saxophone reeds for Beginners. Intermediate/Advanced students will need #2.5 or #3. Reeds are numbered by thickness, #2’s being thinner than the #2.5’s and #3’s. More experienced players can use the thicker reeds since it takes more control and air to get a good sound. Reeds will chip and break over time. If students take care of their reeds and rinse with water (instructors will talk about this in class), a reed can last 2-4 weeks. A box of 10 reeds would be good to start with. Keep 2-3 reeds in the instrument case and leave the remainder at home and add more as needed. Rental instruments usually come with just one reed. You can pick up a box from your local music store or we can recommend these 3 sources to order reeds online :   or  or


Trumpets have three valves numbered 1-3 from mouthpiece out towards bell and you will need to learn how to add the valve oil included in your case to keep them working smoothly. Each valve is cut to fit only in its original space. So in other words, #1 doesn’t right into #2 slot and #2 won’t fit correctly into #1 slot. When you add valve oil, lay the trumpet carefully on a flat surface on a towel and carefully  take each valve out, keeping them in order! To replace you’ll need to twist and click valve back into place  with most brands.


Trombones come in a large case which opens out flat, one side holds main body of horn with the bell and the other side holds the slide. You will need to learn how to add the slide oil included in your case, to keep your slide moving easily when playing.


Drum students need to rent a snare drum. In addition, drum students should have a set of tuned bells (mallet instrument that is usually 2 octaves and is similar to a Xylophone). Some stores have kits that have these two items together. The curriculum that M.U.S.E. has developed starts drummers on the bells for the first few months so they can learn how to read notes and melodies. The instruction book then introduces the snare drum, and by the end of the first year, students have the option to play either drums or tuned bells on any given song or exercise. If you cannot find a bell set, please call the M.U.S.E. Office and we will help you. Starland Music in Alameda has bell kits.

Other Supply Suggestions:

Invest in your child’s lessons by making sure they have a fold-up-wire music stand. Stands cost in range of $12-18 and can be purchased at any music store or through M.U.S.E. at one of our instrument rental events. Students need to have a good place to set their music while they practice. Laying music down on the bed or on a table creates bad posture and awkwardness in reading the music. Please consider the purchase of a music stand.

You can pick one up at a local music shop or order online at: or

Why do we recommend renting an instrument first, instead of purchasing?

Before investing in any instrument, you’ll want to make sure your child will make a commitment to his or her lessons. Avoid purchasing instruments online unless you really know what you are doing. There are a lot of cheaply made instruments out there and many repair shops will not work on these when something breaks or it needs maintenance because they cannot get parts that fit correctly. Especially beware of Craig’s List used instruments or garage sales, etc. Sometimes a great instrument is a lucky and inexpensive find but more often than not there is lots of repair that has to be done before the instrument is in proper playing condition, ie: corks and pads replaced, sticky valves and slides, missing pieces, instruments made with plastic parts which are not replaceable, etc.

Most importantly, we want your child to get a great start on an instrument that works well consistently so they get the best possible experience. If the instrument is struggling, your child will also be struggling to get a sound and play notes easily. We also don’t want our parents to lose money in a poor investment. Once you know your student is into the instrument and enjoying playing, then we do recommend buying. We can help you find a used instrument or direct you where to find a new well made instrument from local shops we’ve worked with for years. There are lots of options!

What if my child doesn’t know what instrument they want to play?

How do I help them choose?

The best recommendation we can make is to choose the instrument your child is excited about. It’s important to focus on what they feel good about playing because they’re the ones who will have to practice the instrument and they are more likely to do this if it’s the instrument they choose! If your child is not sure what to play, take your child to a local store to browse and have the store personnel help you. We also offer an Instrument Petting Zoo in September to help students find the instrument that fits them best (more info on this below).

A common question asked by students and parents is ” What is the easiest or hardest instrument to play?” The simple answer is practice. Each instrument has it’s challenges but nothing too hard that cannot be overcome with practice.

Where do we rent an instrument if my child already knows which one they want to play?

If your child knows what instrument they want to play, M.U.S.E. has put together our recommended list below for your convenience. These are music stores we have worked with over the last 20-30 years. We acknowledge that there may be other stores in your area which may have similar rental programs in the Bay Area.

Listing of Music Stores (East Bay)

We highly recommend Rockin Robbie’s for our East Bay Parents.  They can deliver your rental instrument to your school or you can come by to our Instrument Petting Zoo Event in September (date & time will be posted on Events calendar in late August) at Our Lady of Grace school in Castro Valley to try an instrument and rent one.  They will also have music stands and other instrument supplies that day for parents’ convenience. If you can’t make this event, contact Rockin Robbie’s.  Here are some links to find more information:


Flyer: (last years flyer will be updated!)

Other Alternatives in your area:

El Cerrito/Berkeley area

Forrest Music –  1849 University Ave., Berkeley                                       (510) 845-7178  (Has a school year lease plan)

Starving Musician –  2474 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley                                   (510) 841-2648

Oakland/Alameda area

A & G Music –  564 14th St. Oakland                                                        (510) 832-0381

Starland Music Center – 1631 Park St., Alameda                                (510) 523-4797

Drum kits (Snare and Bells) also available which we require if kids are going to play drums.

Hayward Area

Allegro Music – 3115 Walnut Avenue, Fremont, CA 94538                      (510) 793-3500

Lafayette/Concord Area

Rockin’ Robbie’s East bay Music – 1835 Colfax St., Concord                    (925) 687-4220 (Highly Recommended)

Lamorinda Music – 81 Lafayette  925-385-0963  (May be a good store for Pinole Parents)

House of Woodwinds – 2205 San Ramon Valley Blvd., San Ramon               (925) 831-8341

C&L Music (has bells) – 2395 “B” Monument Blvd.,Concord                         (925)686-6122

Spitzer Music * – 1931 Market St. Concord                                               (925) 676-3151

Music and More – 1808 “A” Street Antioch                                              (925) 778-6206

San Francisco area

Bronsteins Music –  363 Grand Ave. South S.F                                           (650) 588-2502


Inspire Music – 1241 Taraval St., San Francisco                    (415) 504-7921 (Highly Recommended-very good pricing of rentals)

Union Music – 1475 Bush (corner of Bush and Van Ness)SF  (415) 775-6043 (website:

Cupertino/San Jose area

Starving Musician – 3939 Stevens Creek Blvd., Santa Clara, CA  95051   (408) 554-9041

Crossroads Music – 10564 S. De Anza Blvd., Cupertino, CA 95014             (408) 996-8742

Park Ave Music – 1717 Park Ave. San Jose, CA                                        (408) 279-5100

Exploring Music – 1608 De Anza Blvd., San Jose, CA 95129                     (408) 517- 1177

West Valley Music – 262 Castro St., Mountain View, CA 94041              (650) 961-1566

Music Village – 2971 Union Ave., San Jose, CA                                        (408) 377-2504

What if we already have an instrument in the family? Can we use this for class?

Perhaps you have an instrument in the family, one an older child played or handed down from a parent or grandparent and it just happens to be the one your child wants to play. No need to rent  then, as long as the one you have is in good working order. You need to take it into a reputable music shop to have it checked out and updated on maintenance. It is important that the instrument is in good playing condition so your child can be successful and doesn’t get frustrated if it isn’t working correctly. Many older instruments passed down through families are wonderful gems and well worth any maintenance or refurbishing.

Instrumental Petting Zoos

What is a petting zoo event?  (link to calendar)

Each fall in early to mid-September, we offer a couple of weekend days where students can actually hold and make a sound with any or all of the instruments we teach. We usually do one event in the Hayward area and Rocking Robbie’s brings instruments for this event for students to try and also for rent. This opportunity helps kids choose the instrument that best fits them. Even if your child knows what they think they want to play, this chance to hold and get a feel for the instrument helps them be sure about their choice. Sometimes they change their mind and choose a completely different instrument they are more comfortable with. Some students want to try and then think about it. We have found this tool is a great way to help kids feel confident about their instrument from the beginning. As we get closer to September, our Event Calendar will be updated as we confirm the space & time. This event is usually very popular and well attended by our beginner students and parents.

A few other details you’ll need to know:

What is the time commitment for practicing? What events are required?

Beginning band students should plan to practice 15-20 minutes a day, 3-5 days a week. We like to set a 3 day-a-week minimum. Small amounts of focused practice time and consistency are the most important factors that will guarantee your child’s success. The best thing you can do, whether you yourself have musical experience or not, is help your child set up a practice routine and a designated spot to do their practicing. You may even want to come up with some reward incentives for them. M.U.S.E. instructors do this with “Band Bucks” which are coupons that students can earn for practicing and doing well in class. Students redeem these coupons for special rewards.

It is absolutely crucial for students to practice at home. Start structuring their practice sessions immediately. Learning an instrument really starts at home and is reinforced with weekly lessons. A child will not learn an instrument if they only play once a week in class.  We also suggest making a commitment for the school year (see our MUSE billing policies under “Sign up for MUSE”). It takes time to learn an instrument. It is also important to make a commitment to the team, your school band. These are life long lessons that help build a strong foundation in your child’s overall education. Discipline, teamwork, and commitment are benefits your child carries over into their school work form learning music. If your child’s interest starts to waiver or they reach a point where they are having a hard time, please contact your MUSE instructor and he/she will be able to give you some helpful suggestions. We also are available to help if need be. Just send us an email.

What is the procedure if the instrument I rented needs maintenance or repair?

You’ll need to email or call the shop you rented your instrument from and check on their policy. In most cases, they will probably want you to bring it to them for any maintenance or repair.

If you notice or the teacher lets you know your child’s instrument needs maintenance or repair, try to get it in as soon as possible! Many repair shops have a line up for repair and the beginning of the school year and the end of year are very busy times for repair – fall because all music programs are getting started, including middle school and high school bands, and spring because many schools are  performing musicals, end of year concerts, etc. So remember, you may not be able to get the instrument repaired quickly if you wait until you are in a time crunch. Plus, your student may miss valuable time practicing and playing in class.

Do we keep renting the instrument over the summer or do we have to return it?

Most of our continuing students keep their instruments over the summer and we hope they get to practice a bit, maybe play music with friends, take some private lessons, play their music for grandparents or relatives, possibly participate in a band camp. We have added special Fun Music on our new website for kids to download and play this summer so we hope you can encourage them to keep playing!

However, some parents want to return the rented instrument and then rent again in the coming fall.

Please do not leave your rented instrument at the school office or with your MUSE teacher. MUSE has nothing to do with the instrument contract you signed with any music shops.

Our MUSE Office will be CLOSED for Summer Break from June 26th – August 12th.