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Musicians' Corner July 2015

Step-Up Instruments: When Is the Right Time to Upgrade?

July 3, 2015

Step-Up Trumpets

As all parents of band students know, a musical instrument is an expensive investment. Many first-time band parents (especially those who have never played an instrument themselves) suffer sticker-shock when they discover how much a good-quality, name brand, student-line instrument costs. And, many parents assume once they have made the initial investment in a student-line instrument, their child is set forever. But, just as a musician's prowess improves with time and practice, instruments need to improve in quality and workmanship as a musician's technical demands increase.

Student-line instruments are designed to be affordable, durable, and easy for a beginning player to use. Trumpets, trombones, and saxophones are made of brass, flutes are constructed of silver-plated brass, and clarinet have plastic bodies. These materials are less expensive to manufacture and are designed to withstand the rigors of student use. In addition, student-line instruments often have a slightly different bore diameter than their professional counterparts, which makes sound production much easier for a budding musician. While a student-line instrument is the perfect choice for a beginner, as a musician's skills increase and their repertoire becomes more challenging, entry-level instruments can actually hinder a student's progress. When a horn can no longer meet the demands of the player, that's the time to invest in a step-up instrument...

But, what exactly is a step-up instrument? Step-up instruments differ on several levels from their student-line counterparts. Step-up trumpets are generally silver-plated and have high-precision valve mechanisms. The silver finish produces a warmer, richer tone, and higher quality pistons, casings, and springs enable a student to play faster, louder, and higher. Step-up trombones are available in silver-plate or brass and often have a trigger attachment that offers a wider range of notes and enables faster technique. Step-up saxophones are available in a variety of finishes and bore diameters (for classical or jazz playing), and have extra keys to facilitate the extreme high register. Step-up clarinets are constructed of wood and have a narrower bore, which creates a warmer, darker tone and a more focused sound, respectively. Finally, step-up flutes are usually made of silver, have an extended range, and are open-holed, which greatly enhances tone quality. In addition to the obvious differences in physical appearance, step-up instruments possess a higher degree of craftsmanship and are designed to perform at an optimum level, according to a player's demands.

So, when should you consider upgrading to a step-up instrument? The answer is two-fold: if your student practices, enjoys playing, is committed to remaining in band, AND finds himself or herself frustrated by the limitations of their current instrument...the time is ripe. While step-up instruments are more expensive than entry-level horns, with proper care they not only retain their value, but will last a lifetime. Pellegrino Music Center carries a broad selection of step-up instruments and offers a variety of payment options. Our step-up specialists can help you find the perfect instrument to enable your student to become the best musician he or she can be!


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