When is it Time to Step up to a Professional Instrument?

What is a step-up instrument? How do I know when I'm ready for a professional instrument? How will a step-up instrument affect my playing? If you or your student are considering an intermediate or professional model instrument, you probably have a lot of questions.

Stepping up to a professional instrument is an exciting moment. It is also one that should be approached methodically and carefully so that you end up with the right instrument.


This post is part of an ongoing series which will answer all of your questions about stepping up to an intermediate or professional model instrument. In this week’s post, we will be talking about step-up instruments and how to tell if you are ready for one.


trumpet player

What is a step-up instrument?


Professional and intermediate or “step-up” instruments offer players an instrument which is a step up from the model they are currently playing on. Step-up instruments are distinguished from student models by the higher quality of their materials and the high level of care and attention afforded to their design.

Professional instruments also offer extra features to upgrade and facilitate playing. Professional flutes often have a split E mechanism or C# trill key to facilitate these notes and trills. Professional clarinets are typically wooden, as opposed to plastic student models.


Professional trumpets have the option of a reverse leadpipe. Many professional trombones have an F attachment which allows players to more easily reach a low F.




Am I ready for a step-up instrument?


The fact that you clicked on this post means that a step-up instrument is worth considering! There are, however, many factors to consider when upgrading your instrument. Follow these tips to help you make the decision. 




saxophone player Ask a teacher


  • A band director or private teacher spends a lot of time listening to you and will be able to discern whether it is time to make the step up to a professional model. 

  • Try some out!

  • Trying out intermediate or pro models is the best way to tell if a step up is right for you. By figuring out how a professional model looks, feels, and sounds, you will be able to know whether it is the right fit!

Think ahead  

How much time are you spending practicing
and rehearsing? What are your
plans going forward in high school, college, and beyond? Are you taking care of the instrument you already have? What type of music do you like to perform? These questions will all help determine if it makes sense for you to step up and can also help you to decide which model to choose.


Now that you have learned more about step-up model instruments and how to know when to step up, you are well on your way to making the step up! Next week, we’ll discuss how to find the right step-up instrument and how to step up on a budget.




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