Upgrade Your Sound: Student vs. Professional Instruments

Finding the right instrument is one of the most important tasks in a musician’s life. The right instrument feels comfortable in your hands and responds accurately to your touch.  The right instrument will also help you produce the best possible sound for your skill level. New students typically rent or purchase a pre-owned or student instrument from their school or a local retail store. Eventually the time will come to leave that instrument behind in favor of a professional model. If you think your ready to upgrade your sound and purchase a professional model, here are a few differences between student and professional instruments.

Upgraded Sound Quality

While student models produce a decent sound, the sound is nowhere near as crisp or clear as a professional instrument. You’ll want an instrument that produces a better sound once you’ve mastered the complexities of your instrument and are learning more complicated pieces. Many advanced musicians agree, it’s a better experience playing a basic level instrument in the beginning. Eventually you should upgrade to a nicer instrument when you reach a major goal. Whether it’s finally getting the nod of approval from your professional band or orchestra teacher or saving up enough cash, upgrading to a professional model should be any serious musician’s end goal.

The Instrument’s Materials

The materials used to manufacture professional instruments is one major difference they have with student instruments. To keep prices low, manufacturers rely on more cost-effective materials for student instruments and “splurge” on high-grade materials for professional models. For example, student violins typically use boxwood or other cheaper hardwoods in place of ebony. While this won’t affect your playing as much as you think, lower quality hardwoods may fade and produce a slight buzzing sound over time. Higher quality materials, on the other hand, can last for decades with the appropriate care and maintenance. Whether your instrument requires monthly cleanings or an annual trip to your local repair technician, you should take proper care of your instrument, regardless of the model.

Longevity

As mentioned above, professional instruments are manufactured to last for decades. Student models are constructed to provide a good playing experience while a student is learning the instrument. Planning on playing your instrument for the rest of your life? You can’t go wrong with investing in a professional instrument. If you aren’t sure about your future with your instrument, it’s best to stick with a student or intermediate level instrument until you make a decision. While student models can last for many years, professional models tend to have a longer lifespan. If you’re concerned about the high price of a professional instrument, think of it as a long-term investment.

Maintenance

A professional level instrument is a work of art. Whether you purchase a professional violin or a professional trumpet, it will need to be handled with great care. Purchasing a professional model means your instrument will need to be maintained meticulously. If that responsibility isn’t something you (or whoever you’re purchasing the instrument for) can handle, it’s best to stick with a student or intermediate instrument. Since professional instruments are manufactured from top-quality, delicate materials they’ll need to be tuned-up regularly to stay in peak shape. While student and intermediate instruments will still need to be maintained, it’s far less complex than with a professional model.

Price

Professional models are hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars more than student models. If you’re concerned about price, some retailers offer payment plans to spread out the total cost of the instrument. If you’d like to upgrade your sound without having to invest too much cash, opt for an intermediate instrument until you can save up enough for a professional model. With that in mind, it’s important to understand that you won’t be sacrificing anything in terms of the learning experience by choosing an intermediate instrument over a professional one. This is a big investment, and you should only purchase a professional model when your finances are in order. If the time isn’t right, save up until you’re financially ready to make the investment.

Curious about whether or not the time is right to upgrade your sound? Check out Is It Time for an Instrument Upgrade?

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