Your band, orchestra, or private instructor is a fantastic resource for knowing when the right time to step-up will be. The experts at Amro are also happy to answer any questions you may have, regardless of where your final purchase decision may be.
What is a step-up instrument?
A step-up instrument is just what it sounds like: an instrument that is the next step up in musical instruction.
When most students join the band, they start out on beginner-level instruments. These are good quality instruments that are economical; because they are cheaper, or can be rented out, the beginner instruments are a good start for young players who are interested in playing an instrument but aren’t completely committed yet.
Beginner instruments are made from durable, smaller materials, which allow small hands to play the instrument more easily and can often drop instruments without breaking them. Plus, beginner instruments can be easier to play, giving young musicians confidence as they first start out. When the musician has progressed in his or her training and has shown a greater desire to pursue music education, a step-up instrument is recommended.
Step-up instruments are made from higher level materials, which allow the instrument to produce warmer, more resonant tones. These instruments are also handcrafted, making each one unique. This means the musician may have to try out a few step-up instruments to find one that works well and is easily played.
What are the benefits of a step-up instruments?
Beginner instruments are built using materials designed and selected primarily for their durability as students learn to handle them. They are the wisest choice for beginning instruction, but as students advance, these instruments' expressive abilities will be limited.
Band and orchestra students who progress beyond the basics of playing an instrument are usually excited to discover the benefits step-up instruments offer them:
Step-up instruments are typically crafted from more responsive materials, allowing students to play with ease and increased control throughout the entire range of the instrument. Flutes and brass instruments will typically have a higher silver content. Clarinets will be made of special woods instead of plastic.
In addition, some instruments like saxophones and trombones will have extra keys or tubing to extend the range of the instrument and offer alternative fingerings for more control when playing. Step-up string instruments will be made from higher quality woods and step-up bows from high-quality horse hair.
Step-up instruments typically have larger diameter tubing (called the bore), allowing for a fuller, more pleasing tone.
Step-up instruments require finer tolerances and nuance during their manufacturing, as well as during their use. Because of this, instruments of this quality are built using more hand craftsmanship and no two will be exactly alike for the player.
Many upper-level brass instruments will even include a seamless one-piece, hand-hammered bell, allowing the instrument to vibrate freely where the tone is most significantly determined.
When is a musician ready for a step-up instrument?
The band or orchestra director is the best resource for determining when your child is ready to upgrade to a step-up instrument. This experienced guidance is invaluable in selecting a suitable instrument that fits your child's needs, abilities, and musical goals.
Here are some general suggestions to help you recognize when to speak with your child's instructor about step-up instruments:
- Although every child is different, most students are ready to "step-up" when they have been playing somewhere between 6-12 months. At this point, he or she has typically learned how to handle the instrument carefully and produce a characteristic sound for that instrument.
- Your child may be ready to step-up when s/he has shown a commitment to being successful in the band or orchestra. A step-up instrument can represent a serious investment in your child's music education.
- If your child’s director has noted marked improvements and musical talent in your child, it may be time to ask when to expect to transition to a step-up instrument. Getting a general timeframe allows you to budget for a new instrument and to begin coming to Amro to look at step-up instruments with your child.
Why invest in a step-up instrument?
Unlike beginner instruments that are cheaper and can be rented, a step-up instrument is a true investment in furthering your child’s musical education and abilities.
Whether you want your child to develop a lifelong skill, to be engaged in a fulfilling extracurricular activity, or you are hoping he or she can attain scholarship money in the future, the need to move on to a step-up instrument is a major turning point. Dedicating the additional time, effort, and money into a new instrument is an important step; but it is also a necessary one if his or her talents are to increase.
Not only is this an investment in your child’s musical future, but it is also purchasing a high-quality instrument that can live in your family for years to come. We sell the highest quality, handmade instruments at Amro. Each instrument is uniquely made and has its own sound. Purchasing a step-up instrument allows you to keep music alive for generations.