When is the Right Time for an Instrument Upgrade?

Upgrading to an intermediate or professional instrument can be a big investment. When should you or your student upgrade? What should you upgrade to? Where should you start?

man holding a saxophone

When is the Right Time?

This is a common question that most parents have when it comes to their child's musical future. It all depends on the age of the student, years of experience, and willingness to progress. Most students start band or orchestra in late elementary school or middle school, and continue on to high school. The most common time to switch out of a student level instrument is around early high school, but this can vary depending on the circumstance. If your student (or you, for that matter) is progressing well on their instrument, and they have the drive to continue all through high school, then 8th or 9th grade is a good time to start thinking about switching. This gives the student a good couple of years to learn and get a feel for the instrument. A lot of the time, most beginning players will not be able to tell the difference between a student level and a professional level instrument. It's perfectly fine to wait a little while after your student starts playing to start looking at an upgrade.

Don't be Afraid to Give it Some Time

Student level instruments are perfect for beginners, and offer a more cost effective approach to starting, as parents aren't sure if their student will continue. It's okay to be patient and wait until you or your student is sure that they want to continue on through high school before making a purchasing decision. When upgrading, you can either go for an intermediate level instrument, or make the jump to a professional model. If you or your student is growing rapidly in music and on their instrument, you may want to look at skipping the intermediate models. This ensures that your investment is only a one-time purchase, and you won't have to upgrade to a "better" instrument again later.

Musicality and Style

When talking about musicality and style, it's important to know what you or your student is looking for in an instrument. A lot of pro model horns have certain features, key configurations, attachments, or more advanced features, and these could influence which one you go with.

Don't Rush

Just like buying anything that is expensive, finding the right "fit" can take some time. Feel free to take your time to make sure that what you or your student is trying out is the right one. Our best advice is to play, play, play! We like to think of it like buying an expensive pair of shoes. You have to try them on and walk around in them before you get a sense of how they feel. Then after time, you get used to them as they wear in. Instruments don't wear in as much as shoes do, but woodwinds in particular will need regular adjustments as time goes on.

Look for Deals and Promotions

A lot of the time around March through June, instrument manufacturers will offer incentives or rebates for customers to upgrade to intermediate or professional instruments. This could be anything from rebates on a prepaid Visa card, special interest-free financing, or special sale prices on certain items. Currently, Yamaha is running a promotion where you can get a $50 or $100 rebate back when purchasing a qualifying step up or professional instrument. In addition to this, they also include 12 and 18 month interest free financing through Synchrony Bank, a 3rd party financing option. This gives you as the parent flexible buying options and a monthly payment plan instead of a one-time upfront purchase.

The Takeaways

Do some research on what you or your student is looking for in an instrument. Play, play, and play different instruments from different manufacturers to get a sense of what is available to you and how they play. Set a budget, but keep in mind that most instruments that are worthy are not inexpensive. Also, ask your local music store if they can get anything else in for you to try. Sometimes, manufacturers can lend out instruments to music stores for a trial period, and this could be a great way to try out multiple instruments. If you're unsure of what you're looking for, music store staff can help in that decision too.