Upgrade Your Sound: Student vs. Professional Instruments

Finding the right instrument is one of the most important tasks in a musician’s life. Not only will the right instrument feel comfortable in your hands and respond accurately to your touch, but it will 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, but eventually the time will come to leave that instrument behind in favor of a professional model. If you’re thinking about purchasing a professional model, here are a few basic differences between student instruments and professional ones.


While student models produce a decent sound, the sound is nowhere near as crisp or clear as the sound you’ll get with a professional model. Once you start mastering the complexities of your instrument and learning more complicated pieces, you’ll need an instrument that produces a better sound. Many advanced musicians agree that it’s a better experience playing a basic level instrument in the beginning before eventually transitioning 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, transitioning to a professional model should be any serious musician’s end goal.


One major difference between student and professional instruments are the materials they’re manufactured from. 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.


As mentioned above, professional instruments are manufactured to last for decades while student models are constructed to provide a good playing experience during a student’s first few years learning the instrument. If you plan 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 can make a decision. While it is possible for student models to 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.


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 and maintained meticulously. If that responsibility isn’t something you think 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 regularly cared for to stay in peak shape. While student and intermediate instruments will still need to be maintained, the process is far less complex than with a professional model.


Professional models are hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars more than student models. If you’re concerned about price, some retailers offer payment plans where you can spread out the total cost of the instrument over months or even years. If you’d like a better 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 instrument? Check out When Should I Upgrade My Instrument?

Music & Arts

Music & Arts is a family owned and operated music resource for parents, students, educators and musicians. With over 140 stores in 23 states and the largest private lesson program in the United States, Music & Arts is an authority on music education and a resource for new and experienced musicians alike.

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