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Step-Up Instruments and Equipment

When should I start looking for a step-instrument?

When a student's technique surpasses the potential of a student model instrument, it is time to look for an upgrade. Usually this happens around late middle school into early high school. A step-up instrument allows faster technical facility on the instrument, quicker response, durability, made from quality materials to provide a more rich tone, and additional triggers and keys to allow for a larger range on the instrument.

This page is designed for families that are exploring a new instrument and should assist by providing direction when buying one. We recommend you read through the FAQ's and discuss your desires with your private instructor or music director before you begin your search. 


PROFESSIONAL VS. INTERMEDIATE? - Our recommendation is for families to spend the couple extra hundred dollars to buy a professional model. The sound and playability will be better, there isn't a large price difference, and the professional model will retain it's value.

NEW VS. USED? - There really isn't an advantage to purchasing a new or used instrument. If a student's family is able to find a used instrument that is reputable, and it passes a play test by a trusted professional, there is nothing wrong with purchasing a used instrument. We recommend that you avoid auction websites or stores that do not deal professionally with musical instruments. If a new instrument is desired and the family has the means necessary to purchase one, have the specific instrument play tested by a trusted professional first.

WHERE TO PURCHASE? - There are several avenues to purchase a new horn. We recommend discussing with your private instructor or music director for where you should purchase before you buy an instrument. Again, we recommend you find a reputable source and avoid auction websites and stores that don't deal professionally with manufacturers.

TEST THE INSTRUMENT?Buying an instrument is similar to purchasing a vehicle. Not all models are the same. It is imperative you allow your private teacher or trusted professional play on the instrument to check it for irregularities in tone, natural tuning tendencies, quick and clean moving valves, keys, triggers and/or slides. 

Finally... BE PATIENT - Changing from a beginner instrument to a professional model is a huge change and it may take more air support, stronger embouchure, and different muscles may need to be built, to make the instrument sound its fullest.


Flute Purchasing Suggestions
Flute Purchasing Flow Chart
Recommended Flute Brands
  • Jupiter
  • DiMedici
  • Azumi
  • Brio
  • Lyric
  • Trevor James
  • Dean Young
  • Avanti
  • Muramatsu
  • Gemeinhardt
  • Armstrong
Ask for:
  • Silver headjoint and plated body or all silver
  • Suggest offset G Key
  • Open Hole
  • B Foot 


Professional Conservatory Level Oboes:
  • Loree
  • Covey
  • Howarth
  • Fox
  • Rigoutat   


Hand-made reeds are preferred to machine-made.  There are some machine "tied" reeds that are hand-finished that work well.  All reeds need to be soaked in water (not mouth) for best results.


Professional Level Clarinets

Beffet R13 - Wood or "Greenline" Model

  • Vandoren B45
  • Vandoren M30
  • Vandoren M13 Lyre
Reeds - Vandoren
Ligatures - Rovner


Repair technician recommended: Jarod Bufe

  • Yamaha 82z or 82zII – Custom Z (Alto/Tenor)
  • Selmer Super Action 80 Series 2 (Alto/Tenor)
  • Yanagisawa A901 or A991 (Alto)

  • Vandoren A minimum of 5 new backup reeds should be in your case. When you realize you only have 5 new reeds then it is time to go out and buy new reeds. Don't wait until your last one.
  • Reed Geek ( - but it is not a cure all for reeds. 
  • Selmer Reed Case 
  • Classical 
    • Selmer C* or Soloist (Alto/Tenor) 
    • Vandoren AL3 (Alto/Tenor)
    • Eugene Rosseau New Classic 4 (Alto/Tenor)
  • Jazz
    • Meyer 5M (Alto)
    • Vandoren V16  (Alto/Tenor)
    • Otto Link Super Tone Master (Tenor)
    • Otto Link New York (Tenor)
  • Vandoren Optimum 
  • Oleg Olegature 
  • Francois Louis ligature 
Neck Strap
  • BG Yoke Neckstrap
  • Oleg Yoke Neckstrap


Medium bore or medium-large bore are recommended, but never a large bore instrument. 
Silver plate is easier to care for (Can be cleaned in hot water) and generally holds value better.

Recommended Professional Trumpet Brands:
  • Bach Stradivarius: ML180s37 (Medium-Large bore, #37 bell - the standard of the industry)
    • Avoid the “Artisan” line of instruments. They should generally be regarded as not worth the money. The standard Bach Strad instruments are well designed and plentiful on the used market.
  • Conn: Vintage One; 60B; 61B
  • Getzen: Severinson Eterna; 900s Eterna
  • Jupiter: 1600i “Roger Ingram” model
  • Kanstul made French Besson “Brevette” models
  • Olds: Super; Mendez; Recording
  • Schilke: B1; B2; B5; B6; S32 (I do not recommend only of the “HD models)
  • Selmer (Paris): K-Modified; K-Modified Lightweight (Medium-Large bore models have “24B” stamped on the underside of the mouthpiece receiver)
  • Yamaha: 8335s; 6335s; 6310z; 8310z  (Trumpet model numbers start with “YTR-xxxx”. “S” in a model number indicates silverplate.)


  • Everyday Playing
    • Bach 3C
    • Schilke
  • Jazz
    • Bobby Shew Jazz
    • Bach 5C
  • Lead Jazz 
    • Bobby Shew Lead
  • Straight Mute
    • Denis Wick
    • Tom Crown
  • Cup Mute
    • Bergs and Hume
    • Denis Wick
  • Harmon Mute
    • Harmon Brand
    • Jo-Ral Bubble Mute

Recommended Professional Brands
  • BACH-model 42B, 42BO, 42BG, 42BGO..avoid lightweight slides or silver bells 
  • CONN-88H, avoid sterling silver and thin-wall bells and the K bell
  • YAMAHA-YSL8820 “Xeno”

Factors to Consider…

  • You want an F trigger
  • Avoid sterling silver

Mutes for trombones are expensive and are rarely used. Hinsdale Central provides mutes for low brass including trombone.