Mark's advice when shopping for an instrument:

ACOUSTIC GUITARS

SIZES - 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

STRING TYPE - Acoustic 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.

VALUE - Acoustic 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 - used guitars can provide an even greater value. At MockingBIrd, all of our Used guitars are in proper playing condition, will have 
      new strings on them, and are warenteed for 90 days.

FEATURES - Different features will increase the cost of an acoustic guitar. I have detailed them 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.
                Sold-Top guitars cost add about $100 to the price.
            2. Tuning Machines (tuners) - Better quality tuners does 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, sound hole and/or neck will increase the price of the guitar. No sonic advantage - 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
                mis-conception 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
 
SIZES - 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.

VALUE - There are many good quality electric guitars in the range of $125-$500. Guitars may be available for less but I would stay away from 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 - used guitars can provide an even greater value. At MockingBIrd, all of our Used guitars are in proper playing condition, will have 
    new strings on them, and are warenteed for 90 days.

FEATURES - Features on electric guitars do not usually determine 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 pro's and cons of all of this stuff.

    Weight should be considered - Not yours - the guitar's. Guitars weigh as much as 11 pounds. This may not be much when you're at the gym 
    but believe me 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 AND DIGITAL PIANOS

Beginner Keyboards
THE KEY REQUIREMENTS - 
    A beginner needs a 61-note keyboard -  not more or less. 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 is all you need. 

    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 $125 do not have this feature and it is essential to a student's ability to learn 
    properly. MockingBird carries Touch Sensitive Keyboards for this reason starting at $129. 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.
    
    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 ay $129. Our price should match any you will find on the internet or another store.

Digital Pianos
    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.

   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.

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

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

DRUM SETS

Sizes - Jr. 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.

Wood - 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. 

Finishes - Vinyl wraps are the most common for beginner drum sets where lacquered and stained finishes are more common on 
    intermediate and pro kits.

Hardware - 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. 

Cymbals - Cymbals vary greatly in quality, sonic properties and price. Some individual cymbals can cost over $500 while some decent cymbal packs 
    including four cymbals may only be $200. "Disposable" cymbals come standard on many beginner sets to keep the price down and are 
    perfectly fine to start with. They will eventually need to be replaced and you can then choose from a variety of sizes, styles, materials and 
    prices.

Used - We sell many used drum sets. I personally spend time making sure our used sets have all the parts they need, that the heads are replaced if 
    necessary, that the drums are tuned, and that everything is working properly. There are a lot of parts on a drum set that if not tested can 
   cause problems.