Questions frequently asked about step-up instruments....
....and some straight answers!
FAQ: My child's teacher says that she's ready for a better quality instrument. What should we be looking for in a step-up instrument?
ANS: Much depends on the player's level of ability and the intended use of the instrument in the future. Is the player looking for a better quality instrument to finish high school with, or planning to continue playing at the college level? Is the player studying privately, entering solo/ensemble competitions, playing advanced solo literature? What type of playing (concert band, jazz ensemble, chamber ensemble, solo work, etc.) is the player involved with? (Depending on these factors, as well as the instrument in question (clarinet, sax, trumpet, etc.) it will be appropriate to look for either a good quality intermediate instrument, or to skip that stage entirely and go to a professional level instrument.
FAQ: What is the difference between an intermediate and a professional level instrument?
ANS: There are many factors that come into play here, including: the quality of materials used, added features to facilitate certain performance problems, degree of highly skilled hand work involved in production, etc. All of these things influence both the quality of the playing characteristics of the instrument, as well as the price.
FAQ: I've seen the same make and model of instrument described by different dealers as being "intermediate" and "professional." They can't both be right...what gives?
ANS: This is a very murky and troublesome subject area for many consumers. Unfortunately, it's really a matter of terminology being applied by salespersons, manufacturers' promotional literature, and other sources in an inconsistent and often indiscriminate manner. It's a question of how one chooses to define "professional" and "intermediate" quality. In the case of a good major brand instrument, only the top of the line instruments from that manufacturer should be considered of professional quality.
FAQ: I've seen many older or "vintage" professional instruments advertised at prices higher than new ones from the same company. Why?
ANS: Some of the most expensive professional instruments today were made many years ago. Some of these "vintage" instruments have playing characteristics that are often highly sought after by today's professional players. In many instances these valued characteristics have not been able to be duplicated by the manufacturer in their modern instruments and so the price of the older instruments actually appreciates --sometimes considerably--over time.
FAQ: I know how important it is to buy only a MAJOR brand instrument, but how important is the choice of the specific brand?
ANS: Much depends again on the level of ability of the player and the type of playing that the player is involved in. Unlike student level instruments, intermediate and especially professional level instruments have significantly different playing characteristics. Some of the questions that I ask players that are looking for advice on brand selection include: What sort of tone quality do you prefer? What type of music are you most interested in? What are your current and future performance responsibilities expected to be? What are your personal playing characteristics (these often need to be matched with a given brand of instrument).
FAQ: This sounds like a more complicated decision than the one I made when purchasing her first instrument. Should we buy used? new? which major brand? I don't feel qualified to make an intelligent choice!
ANS: And you're not alone in this dilemma. What gets people in trouble is not knowing what they don't know. Because this is an important decision and one that has so many facets, your best bet is to get the advice of and deal with an expert--a professional who really knows musical instruments and is in a position to match the player's abilities and characteristics with the right one. Often you can save a lot of money by purchasing a really good quality used instrument when it's appropriate. The most important thing at this stage of the game is to work with a professional that you can trust to help you make the right decision and find the right instrument at a price that you can afford.