What is a boutique instrument?

When shopping for an instrument – whether brass, woodwind, strings, guitar – you may encounter the word “boutique “and wonder what it means in reference to your search for the perfect musical instrument. It can even refer to instrument accessories like mouthpieces. The term boutique generally means that the musical instrument was created partly or fully by hand. With all or partly handcrafted instruments, you’ll usually find high-quality materials like gold, silver, leather, shells, and flamed woods. You’ll often see hand-engraving on the bells of horns, intricate woodworking on orchestral strings and beautifully molded and curved shapes on guitars, brass horns and woodwinds.

While many manufacturers these days make instruments strictly by machine (which does not make them inferior!), you can still find wonderfully crafted instruments at affordable prices from renowned brands. Here are six of our favorite boutique brands.

Yamaha

While you might not think of Yamaha as a boutique brand, considering the sheer size of the manufacturer, but Yamaha prides itself on its incredible quality. Many instruments come with hand-finished parts, beautiful engraving and superior materials.

Take the Yamaha YAS-82ZII Custom Series Alto Saxophone Un-lacquered – a beautiful alto sax that offers the ultimate combination of expressiveness, response and control while staying true to their free-spirited origins. Its one-piece bell features a fine engraving design that shows off delicate beauty.

For the brass player, check out the Yamaha YTR-8310ZII Bobby Shew Custom Series Bb Trumpet – a beautiful instrument that was borne out of Yamaha’s long and close partnership with legendary trumpet player Bobby Shew. This trumpet is lightweight, has a brilliant sound, and incorporates a step-bore design to maximize efficiency and comfortable resistance for live music.

P. Mauriat

A French company, P. Mauriat offers top-notch woodwind and brass instruments, but they are best known for their saxophones. The craftsmanship that goes into each P. Mauriat saxophone is second to none as each bell is hand hammered, up to 400 times, before it’s considered complete. This hand-hammering gives their saxophones a great resonance, ring and longer durability.

The P. Mauriat System 76 Professional Alto Saxophone is a beautifully engraved instrument that features a Super VI style neck and abalone key touches. This sax allows the player to deliver the highest performance possible because of the System 76's superior craftsmanship.

For the tenor sax player, the P. Mauriat PMST-56GC Intermediate Tenor Saxophone provides a fantastic sound and scale at an affordable price. Made from 70/30 yellow brass, it features premium Pisoni pads for a tight seal and satisfying tactile experience, along with metal resonators for a little extra punch.

Allora

Allora horns are a great option for players looking for high-quality instruments at an affordable price that won’t break your budget. All Allora instruments meet exacting standards for intonation, comfort, and mechanical reliability.

The professional level trumpet from Allora, the ATR-580 Chicago Series, is designed with the jazz player in mind. It features a one-piece yellow-brass bell combined with a rose brass reverse leadpipe to create a free-blowing instrument with excellent projection and response.

Pearl Flutes

Pearl is one of the most well-known brand of flutes and the manufacturer’s handmade craftsmanship has pioneered a tradition of flute making that is totally distinctive. The company prides itself on the fact that it has a team of artisans who have been building flutes for their entire career at Pearl. Their apprentice program allows master builders to pass on their talents to future generations.

Just take a look at the Pearl 795 Elegante Series Flute, one of the company’s best-selling flutes. This beautiful flute features handmade craftsmanship, precise intonation, and a brilliant, projecting sound at an affordable price. 

JodyJazz

JodyJazz combines innovative state of the art design and production, 3D modeling and CNC Multi Axis Machines with detailed hand work to create some of the best mouthpieces on the market. The company has a 7-point inspection test that every mouthpiece must pass before it is approved, including the magnified look test, measure test, pop test, and play test.

If you’re ready to test-drive a JodyJazz for yourself, check out the DV Tenor Sax Mouthpiece. It produces a bigger, fatter sound effortlessly with better intonation and response. The company says about the DV Tenor, “Be prepared to have possibly the most fun you ever have had playing the saxophone!”

Theo Wanne

Theo Wanne, the founder of the company that bears his name, has vast knowledge of vintage mouthpieces and why they sound the way they do. It is all this study of mouthpieces that has allowed Theo to ‘stand on the shoulders’ of the great mouthpiece makers of the past, to truly innovate and improve the art of mouthpiece manufacturing. In the early 2000’s he started manufacturing mouthpieces so he could help more musicians with his innovative designs.

The Theo Wanne NY BROS 2 Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece uses the best design principles from decades of vintage Meyers to create the ultimate alto mouthpiece for students and pros alike, allowing the player to get the 'classic' alto sound and be fully expressive.

Is a boutique instrument or mouthpiece right for me?

The decision to purchase a boutique instrument is simply a matter of your preference. Considering the age and skill of the musician and the budget will help direct you. Beyond that, it comes down to what is often the case when shopping for an instrument: you must try multiple styles and brands and see what is best for you.

If you need help selecting an instrument or accessory, or want to learn more about the great boutique brands Woodwind & Brasswind carries, call our experts at 800.348.5003. They can discuss your skill level, your budget, style and other needs to help you choose the right instrument for you.