Instrumental Music






Upgrading Your Instrument

New String Teacher Information

Useful Links

Upgrading from a Beginner Instrument

Why, When, How, What and How Much
Most beginner instruments are designed, based on their size and shape, to allow young students to produce a sound and create a recognizable tune within the first two to three months of playing - as well as to stand up to the physical abuse during the beginning years. Many of the enhancements in an intermediate or professional instrument are going to be in the tone quality, and in the way the instrument has been manufactured.

The benefits of an intermediate or professional model instrument include a better sound and improved playability. If a student can’t "feel" and/or "hear" a difference, they're probably not ready for a step-up model yet.


Instrument Design information
Instrument models are divided into 3 basic levels based on craftsmanship and performance capabilities.  The three basic instrument levels are Student, Intermediate and Professional.

Student Level:
Student level instruments are for the beginning band and orchestra student. Typically, this is the first instrument a parent will rent or buy for their child.

Intermediate Level:
Intermediate level instruments are a step above the student level. These instruments include extra features not found on student model instruments and may include:

  • Upgrade in Body Materials
    • Brass Instruments:  Brass to Silver Finish, Larger Bore size
    • Woodwind Instruments:  Plastic to Wood for Clarinets, Oboes and Bassoons - Added Silver Content on Flute Models
    • String Instruments: Better quality of wood, stronger and lighter (instrument and bow). Intermediate instruments are similar to professional instruments within a “reasonable” price range.
  • Extended playing ranges
  • Thinner, better-quality materials
  • Different finish choices
  • Additional keys for alternate fingerings
  • Additional engraving on the instrument
  • Instrument case and mouthpiece/bow upgrade. Mouthpiece/bow upgrades are very significant, and can be done separately.

Professional Level:
Professional level instruments are 'top of the line' models.  Enhanced features may include:

  • Body composition is upgraded to highest level of materials
  • Further extended playing ranges
  • Further additional keys for alternate fingerings
  • Additional engraving on the instrument
  • Professional Case and Professional Mouthpiece/Bow (mouthpiece/bow upgrades are very significant)

Typically, students are ready to “move up” after two or three years of playing – which works out to 8th grade for most students.

For some students, the transition will occur earlier – especially if the student size is an issue (this is more likely with string instruments), or if the student progresses at a quick rate on their instrument. For some students, the transition will occur later. While the “average” is 8th grade, there are plenty of exceptions.

The most important consideration regarding when to upgrade is this: can the student “hear” and/or “feel” the difference. While they may not be able to verbalize the change, the difference should be noticeable   even if not immediately dramatic.

Not by coincidence, local music store rental programs are designed to complete their rental agreements at the same time. Parents and students need to be in contact with the music store they rent through, in order to make sure accumulated financial credit is used to its maximum potential.

Most important - talk to Mr. Blostein before you "pay off" the rental and especially before buying anything on your own!

There are a few ways that purchasing a new (or used) instrument can occur:

  • Purchase new or used outright
  • Use rental credit
  • Trade in/Consign
  • Finance
  • Personal Loan

For many, a combination of several of the options may be the best route.

Purchase new or used outright:
If within your means, this is certainly the easiest option. This allows for students/families to hold onto the student model instrument – great for pep band, outdoor performances, or new players.

Use rental credit:
If your family is participating in a rental program, your first step should be to contact the company and have a conversation about how to use your accrued credit. Each rental company’s program is slightly different, and may differ between string and wind instruments.

Trade in/Consign:
Some companies will take the student instrument as a trade toward a purchase, or will consign the instrument for you at a higher rate that is then used toward a purchase. This is a conversation you would need to have with each vendor individually.

Some companies will allow you to finance the purchase of an instrument. Much like other specialized companies, make sure you know the “fine print” of the agreement.

Personal loan:
Most banks and credit unions will give you a personal loan at a reasonable rate, which will allow you to make a purchase and pay it off with monthly payments (like a car loan).

A few items of importance:

  • Do not purchase until you are ready – follow your own timetable.
  • Try before you buy – do not purchase without taking the instrument for a “test drive”.
  • Students should have an expert on that instrument help with the purchase whenever possible.
  • Price is always negotiable – but especially on used instruments.


What should you purchase?

Many intermediate instruments are very similar to advanced or professional models, differing with minor cosmetic and/or somewhat significant structural differences. If a student thinks they would like to continue music in college (not necessarily as a music major, but continue to perform in some manner), an advanced instrument would be suggested. If a student will likely not continue beyond high school, an intermediate instrument may be a more prudent choice.

Hybrid instruments also exist – sometimes referred to as Intermediate+ instruments.  Intermediate+ instruments have more professional features without the cost associated with professional instruments. Most intermediate and intermediate+ models are good for students who are looking for a good high school instrument.

If a new instrument is not in your budget, perhaps consider purchasing a new mouthpiece or bow.  Many times a new mouthpiece or bow can make a huge change to the sound.

Please feel free to speak to Mr. Blostein before you make a new instrument purchase and he is always willing to inspect any instrument before you purchase it.  Local music stores have some of these instruments in stock.  Shop around for the best prices.  Beginning on the next page, you will find recommended step-up instruments.


Some recommendations:

  • Do an initial search, and let the prices sink in before you react.
  • Used wind instruments may perform better than new instruments. Be sure to have any used instrument professionally cleaned.
  • You are not likely to find a great deal on Ebay or Craigslist (although it does sometimes happen). If looking online, you are better off looking at an instrument-specific website.
  • Most models have numbers. Compare models with similar numbers (621 vs 521 vs 221) – sometimes the differences are minimal, sometimes significant.
  • Purchase peripherals (valve oil, mouthpieces, etc…) separately – this will cost less, and usually what is bundled with an instrument is not what you will want to use.


Woodwind Instruments





An open hole flute with a sterling silver construction is the best for intonation.  A “B” foot joint is also advisable on both levels of instruments.  Intermediate instruments generally have sterling silver headpieces while advanced instruments have sterling silver headpiece and body.  All instruments listed here are open hole in construction.

Jupier 303 Series
Gemeinhardt 4PMH

Gemeinhardt 3SHB
Yamaha YFL-381H

Conn-Selmer Soloist
Performer Series Flute (Intermediate +)

Gemeinhardt 33SB
Emerson Model 88B
Yamaha YFL-574H

Intermediate & Advanced  clarinets are made of Grenadilla wood and produce a  more full and resonant sound than beginning level instruments allowing them to play better in tune.

Portnoy B02 Mouthpiece

   - Rovner 1 R
Clarinet Ligature

Buffet E-12
Yamaha CL-450

Conn-Selmer Soloist
Performer Series Flute (Intermediate +)

Buffet R-13
Yamaha YCL-CSV

Advanced models are made of Grenadilla wood, and have addition keys for easier fingerings.

Fox Renard Artist Model 330

Needs to be a specific purchase

These instruments offer improved construction, keywork and craftmanship for better tone and intonation.  A high “F#” key is usually included.

Selmer S80 C or
Rousseau Mouthpiece

Rovner Ligature for Also Sax

Yamaha YAS-475

Selmer Paris (Model 62 Series III)
Yamaha YAS-82Z
Keilwerth SX90

These instruments offer improved keywork and craftmanship for better tone and intonation.  A high “F#” key is usually included.

Recommended mouthpiece is the Yamaha 5C.

Selmer S80 C or
Rousseau Mouthpiece

Rovner Ligature for Tenor Sax

Yamaha YTS-475

Yamaha YTS-62III



Brass Instruments





A silver plated instrument with a medium-large bore provides a good foundation for tone production.  All of these instruments offer both a third valve slide ring and first valve slide saddle for assistance in tuning.

Dennis Wick Straight and Cup Mutes or
Stonelined Straight and Cup mutes.

JoRal Bubble Mute

Bach:  TR200S
Yamaha:  YTR-4335GS
King Silver Flair

Bach: TR180 Stradivarius with a 37 or 43 bell
Yamaha Xeno
Cannonball Stone Series

A double horn is necessary for good range, intonation and tone control. Some bells screw onto the body, some are in one unit.

Farkas MDC

Yamaha YHR-567
Conn 6D
Holton H379

Conn 8D
Yamaha YHR-667
Holton H181

Should include an “F” trigger attachment which is extremely helpful in navigating the faster moving HS music.

Mouthpiece purchases depend on your instrument, as they can be Tenor and Large Shank model of mouthpiece.

Schilke 51C4 Mouthpiece

Dennis Wick Straight and Cup Mutes or
Stonelined Straight and Cup mutes.

Yamaha:  YSL-448G
Blessing 88 O

Bach Soloist
Performance Series (Intermediate +)

Bach 42B Stradivarius
Conn 88H
Yamaha YSL-882o
King 3B or 2B

A four-valve compensating instrument is required for improved intonation and low range. A purchase is required to perform after high school.

Schilke 51C4 Mouthpiece

Yamaha:  YEP-321
King 2280
Jupiter 570

Wilson 2950S
Meinl Weston 751
Yamaha YEP-842S

A four-valve instrument is required for improved intonation and low range. A purchase is required to perform after high school.

Conn Helleberg “Standard” mouthpiece

Jupiter 582
Yamaha YBB-641

CC (5-valve) or BBb (4 or 5 valve) recommended!
King 2341
Miraphone 186
Meinl Weston 25



String Instruments

It should be noted that, especially for string instruments, shopping by brand is not typical. Instead, price point is usually the best indicator of quality. This is true of both instruments and bows.

Also – regarding bows – Carbon Fiber bows can often offer a higher level of control and sound at a reduced price. Fiberglass and Brazilwood Bows are considered beginner level.

For a String Instrument purchase, students should visit a local shop. I NEVER recommend purchasing a string instrument online.

Please remember to try before you buy!!!






Pernambucco Bow
Carbon-Fiber Bow
Kun-style shoulder rest
High-quality case

The price range is usually $1000-$2700 for a violin and viola, just for the instrument itself. 

Violins and violas $2700 on up






Pernambucco Bow
Carbon-Fiber Bow
Kun-style shoulder rest
High-quality case

The price range is usually $1000-$2700 for a violin and viola, just for the instrument itself. 

Violins and violas $2700 on up






Pernambucco Bow *
Carbon-Fiber Bow *
Endpin strap
High-quality case

a cello $1200-$3500

cellos $3500 on up





Double Bass

Pernambucco Bow **
Carbon-Fiber Bow **
High-quality case
Endpin wheel

for a bass $1500-$4000 just for the instrument itself

basses $4000 on up

* For Cello and Bass – a bow case is a good purchase with a high-quality bow.
** Make sure you know whether you use a French or German Bow!



Percussion Instruments

Students are expected to own a bell kit and practice pad/snare drum as basic level instruments.

Additionally, early level students should own a variety of sticks and mallets. At a minimum, a pair of good concert snare sticks and medium mallets.


As students progress, they should obtain additional sticks and mallets, to allow for a variety of sounds. A list of suggested mallets and sticks can be found at

Since much of the percussion equipment is school-owned (due to both size and cost), mallets and sticks should be brought to and from school daily.


If student plans on continuing after high school, a good quality snare drum should be owned. Additionally, a purchase of a Marimba is recommended for any student planning on pursuing further studies.

Snare Drums


Good quality drum made of Maple, improved hardware, high-quality snares.

Recommended brands include Yamaha, Ludwig and Pearl.

4.3 (or more) octaves for range, bars are typically made of one of three materials: Rosewood (most expensive, warmest sound); Padouk (high-quality African hardwood, warm sound, not quite as durable as Rosewood and a bit brighter); Synthetic/Kelon (temperature not an issue, bars should outlast performer, brighter sound than wood)

Recommended brands include Yamaha, Adams, Musser.

In addition, if majoring in music you will need:
Good quality triangle with a variety of beaters, Tambourine