The greatest shortfall is in primary percussion instruments, although the priority for most teachers would be portable electronic keyboards. However, most schools can boast at least one recorder surplus to requirements.
The findings come in a MORI survey of almost 1,000 music teachers carried out to launch the charity, Music for All. Its aims are to promote the subject and to distribute instruments and music to the widest possible public.
The proportion of primary pupils learning to play an instrument has risen from 12 to 14 per cent, though it has fallen from 13 to 10 per cent among secondary children since 1993 when MORI carried out a similar survey for the Arts Council.
A quarter of the 936 schools responding to the survey said that the availability of music tuition was poor and thought the quality had worsened over the past few years. Most, however, said it was very good or fairly good.
Teachers were concerned about what they saw as a dearth of instruments: 200,000 percussion sets, mostly for primary schools, and 60,000 electronic keyboards. Their shopping list also included: 43,000 violins, 38,000 acoustic guitars, nearly 30,000 flutes, 28,500 clarinets and 18,000 trumpets. But if all these instruments were purchased, most schools would need an extra teacher to meet demand for tuition.
Parents pay more than schools or education authorities towards tuition costs, with 38 per cent contributing in primaries and almost 40 per cent in secondaries. About a third of costs came out of school budgets and the rest from education authorities - 29 per cent for primaries and 24 per cent for secondary schools.
The survey showed wide regional variations in parental contributions, with parents in the South-west paying two-thirds, in the East Midlands more than half and in Wales 16 per cent, the lowest. Three in five teachers said their local authority gave nothing towards tuition costs. Scotland is the most generous with 76 per cent paid by education authorities and Wales next with just under a half.
John Stephens, head of music at Trinity College, London, and a trustee of Music for All, said it was appalling that music teachers appeared to be denied their basic tools of the trade.
Larry Westland, director of Music for Youth, a charity supported by The TES, can vouch for the demand. He has presided over a massive increase in applications since 1988 from schools to take part in the charity's local concerts and festivals. In 1992, 25,000 young musicians took part. Last year, the number was 50,000 and this year has seen a 10 per cent increase.
Mr Westland puts some of the demand down to competitiveness among schools, with heads and parents placing a higher priority on music and the arts. But he thought that local management meant that music tuition depended more than ever on parents' ability to pay.