After a student has been playing a while and seems content and happy during practice sessions, you may want to consider investing in a higher-grade instrument for their future. As students become more sophisticated in their playing style, they may notice beginner-lever instruments don't produce the tone they want. Inexpensive entry-level instruments are designed to endure and can often be a great choice as a secondary option or used in activities like a marching band.
However as students advance to middle or high school and decides they want to further their musical education, it may be time to consider investing in a higher quality instrument. Many students find tone quality better in these instruments and are pleased to see musical passages are easier and more fun to play, thus encouraging them to continue.
It is highly recommended to get some advice from your child's musical instructor before investing in a new instrument. Each type of instrument, whether wind, brass or otherwise, have specific features and styles that need to be addressed along with your child's individual level of proficiency.
Flutes have unique features that should be researched before purchase. They come in a variety of configurations including in-line and offset-G along with open or closed-hole models. Take into account your child's hand size and their instructor's preference before choosing. If your child is considering a professional career, an open-hole, in-line option would be recommended as they are very common in 'the real world'. Once your child is done school, they would likely adapt more seamlessly with the proper finger technique they learned from this type of flute. Another consideration is the flute body and headjoint materials; better materials can assist in better response, tone and flexibility.
Clarinets are another popular option. Beginner clarinets are often made of plastic or granadilla wood; however step-up and professional ones are almost always crafted from wood. Wood tends to increase tone, response and resonance and as a result, overall performance. Just keep in mind wood clarinets need a bit more care as they are more sensitive to fluctuations in heat and humidity. As well, beginner options normally have nickel-plated keys while higher quality ones have silver-plated keys and rings, which provide better response and texture.
Saxophones are another versatile selection with plenty of possibilities. Although they come in many different kinds of finishes and lacquers, this is primarily an aesthetic difference that does not affect performance. Step-up saxophones may have lacquered keys in place of nickel-plated and there could be an extension to a high F# for better range. As well, body materials are likely to be better quality in step-up and professional models for superior sound.
Step-up trumpets often use better alloys along with more durable plating. As well, these trumpets normally have more advanced valve construction and bore selection for better tone colors and playing range.
Higher-level trombones come in either lacquered or plated and could possibly include an F-attachment (open and closed wrap). They usually come with bigger bore sizes for better flexibility, resonance and dexterity while playing.
If your child chooses a French horn, keep in mind they come in single and double-horn structures. Normally step-up horns have far superior alloys, finishes and valve construction. You may want to check and see if your child's school band or orchestra has French horns on hand as they tend to be professional grade. This is a perfect way for the student to try out a high-quality horn before obtaining their own.
Advanced tubas and euphoniums often have four valves instead of three to boost the intonation of the valve combinations. Professional tubas tend to come in varying finishes along with the choice of rotary or piston valve systems. Most school bands have these instruments on hand so the student has the option of trying one before acquisition.
With so many options available for step-up instruments, it is important for the parent and student to get feedback from instructors and retail professionals to narrow down the choices. Once you acquire the perfect instrument, your child is on the path to a life-long relationship with music.