Do I Need to Upgrade?


A good quality student model instrument will often service the needs of a student anywhere from 1-3 years and this depends very much on the level that the student is playing at. As a general rule if the student is looking to study grade 5 AMEB or above, or VCE music it will be time to think about upgrading the instrument.

Deciding to upgrade from a student instrument is a big decision and one that should be discussed in detail with your teacher.

There are a number of reasons why it may be appropriate to upgrade, and here are some suggestions that might make your choice an easier one.

Assuming you have decided that studying music is a medium-to-long-term goal, you should consider what kind of music you would like to play. If you are planning on studying the higher grades of AMEB examinations or VCE/HSC music performance then you should be aware of the repertoire that you will need to play. Your participation in concert band, big band, orchestra etc should also influence your choice of instrument. There are many different brands and models of professional instruments that are on the market and some have been designed to suit a particular style of music better than others. Ask for guidance from your teacher regarding what instrument they recommend to suit your music curriculum.

Intermediate and professional instruments are designed to do 3 things better than student instruments:

1. Produce a superior sound – Excellent quality instruments enable the player to express their musicality with greater ease and a more flexible tone.

2. Maintain improved intonation – making note selection more precise with greater ease.

3. Constructed with more reliable moving parts and a better build finish.


Inferior instruments create obstructions to the player in the form of poor tone, bad intonation and faulty valves/keys. When a student progresses to a certain level it is a logical choice to upgrade equipment in order to improve their chances of success.

There’s no escaping that better instruments cost more. And depending on which instrument you’re playing, there will be different reasons for the extra cost, but as we’ve said, these improvements all work together to ensure you can more easily achieve the music you want to play.

Here’s a brief list of some of what makes instruments that much better:

Flutes – student flutes are made of nickel silver or brass where as advanced flutes either have a sterling silver head and/or body. This produces a much richer tone and tends to make the higher notes less shrill. Open holes are also usually present allowing for extended techniques.

Clarinets – student instruments are made of a synthetic material with the intermediate and advanced models being made of rare African black woods. The wood helps produce a richer and warmer tone.

Brass instruments and Saxophones - Different material alloys such as increased copper content in the brass, bronze or silver tubes all change and increase tonal options. 

Valve instruments - Finer tolerances in the valve alignment improves airflow aiding in better intonation and 'slotting'.

Woodwind instruments - Hand assembled (or completely handmade) as opposed to assembly line mass production ensures more accurate keywork fit and finer tolerances.  This results in more durable keywork and quicker more accurate action. This can help facilitate faster passages and overall fluidity.


Having a good idea of your personal needs is most helpful when approaching a retail shop to consider your options. Sales staff will do their best to match an instrument to your requirements, but being able to provide them with your teacher’s recommendations (style, requirements, etc.) or a concept of sound you are hoping to achieve can make the process much less confusing and ensure a positive outcome.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any specific upgrade questions.