Upgrade Your Sound
Signs it’s time to Upgrade
With practice and progress, players that have been using a beginner instrument for around two years can benefit from an upgraded instrument. Join us at an Upgrade Your Sound event or schedule a one-on-one consultation to find your child's perfect fit!
How do you know it’s time to upgrade?
Here are some common ways to tell if your student is ready for an upgrade
- With regular practice and progress, most students are ready to step up to an intermediate level instrument around the two year mark.
- Students switching to other instruments within the same family happens frequently. This can happen in marching band or to meet the instrumentation needs of the ensemble (e.g. trombone to euphonium or flute to piccolo). With proper guidance, a solid technical foundation in one related instrument transfers to the next, resulting in wonderful musical versatility!
- As you might guess, beginner instruments are not as responsive as step-up or professional-level instruments. Upgrading makes sense when the student is playing intermediate- to advanced-level solo, small ensemble, band or orchestral repertoire.
- The longer a student studies, and as they gain proficiency in note range, rhythmic accuracy, tone quality (color & clarity), stylistic interpretation, and expression are also factors that determine when it’s time to upgrade to a next-level instrument.
While most students start their musical journeys between 4th and 6th grade, there are always young prodigies. Particularly gifted young students progress at a faster pace and may require an upgrade in middle school if they are:
- studying intermediate to advanced level repertoire with their private lesson teachers; performing at county and state-level solo & ensemble contests;
- playing in non-profit arts enrichment programs (regional youth orchestras and symphonic bands);
- auditioning for scholarships to attend summer music camps;
- auditioning for workshops sponsored through music associations or hosted on college/university campuses
- Upgrading from the intermediate step-up instrument to a professional model is appropriate for students entering a conservatory program or majoring/minoring in music at the undergraduate level.
- When considering a step-up instrument, private teachers and Band and Orchestra directors will evaluate a student’s progress based on their strengths, growth opportunities, stature and individual preferences. They will use that information to recommend the specific features, brands and models that will do the most to enhance that student’s ongoing musical journey.
- If the student is practicing assigned intermediate-to-advanced level music and technical development exercises daily for 30-60 minutes with good habits on a well-maintained instrument, under the supervision by a professional music educator AND is frustrated by the pace of their progress, it is likely time to invest in a step-up instrument.
- Students should test potential step-up instruments to gauge whether or not they can produce the quality of sounds they want to make. Having trained and objective ears listening as the student tries different step-up brands and models—even multiples of the same brand and model instrument—is very helpful! Decision-making can be made more quickly and confidently with the help of the private teacher or director.
- Beginner level instruments of a certain price point are durable and meant to withstand daily wear and tear. Musical instruments are touch-sensitive machines that require consistent care and maintenance. With regular tune-ups, they can easily take a student through the first few years of any musical journey. In most cases, even major damage can be repaired.
- Beginner instruments are designed first and foremost with durability in mind. Everything else is secondary, including responsiveness. And as a student progresses, it will start to feel as though the instrument can’t keep up. And they’re not wrong! Intermediate- and advance-level students who pick up a step-up instrument will immediately notice the difference in sound quality and overall responsiveness.
- Not upgrading in a timely fashion has consequences. Intermediate-to-advanced level students still playing on beginner instruments may develop compensatory habits to accommodate for the lack of instrument responsiveness, such as gripping or clamping down on the keys. Unlearning those habits is frustrating and time-consuming.
- While there is a brief adjustment period to any new instrument, a more responsive instrument will allow students to develop their technical finesse.
Browse Helpful Resources and Tips
Investing in a Step Up Instrument
Student vs. Professional Instruments
Is it Time for an Instrument Upgrade?
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