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When is it time for a better instrument?

Updated: Jan 15, 2023

At what point should your child step up from their beginner instrument to a higher-quality one? The answer depends on several factors, including the child’s age, level of interest, and commitment to practice. For example, a 6-year-old who shows a passing interest in learning to play the piano probably isn't ready for a grand piano just yet! On the other hand, a 12-year-old who practices regularly and is enrolled in private lessons might be ready to make the switch. Ultimately, it’s up to the parent and teacher to determine when the time is right. However, there are a few general guidelines you can follow.

If your child is enrolled in private or school lessons, their instructor can give you an idea of when it might be time to step up to a better instrument. In general, most instructors will recommend making the switch after one or two years of lessons. This gives the child enough time to learn basic techniques and develop a love for the instrument before investing in a higher-quality one.

(Of course, buying or renting a new instrument can be expensive. If you’re not sure whether your child is ready to make the switch. AAA Band Rentals offers financing options for parents who'd prefer to keep a low monthly payment.)

How long has your student been playing?

Value is an important factor to consider when deciding whether or not to upgrade your child's musical instrument. At AAA Band Rentals, we always recommend investing in quality instruments that will last for many years. With proper care, a good quality instrument can be enjoyed by your child for a lifetime. If your child is dedicated to their music and seems ready to take their playing to the next level, upgrading to a higher quality instrument is definitely worth the investment. However, if your child is just starting out and still exploring their interest in music, it may be best to stick with a beginner instrument for now. If you're unsure about whether or not it's time for an upgrade, talk to your child's music teacher. They will be able to give you guidance based on your child's individual progress and skill level.

The physical size seems fine, what other factors are there? Is this really a thing?

  • Physical Size: As your child progresses on their musical journey, they will outgrow their beginner instrument. Beginner instruments are great for affording new musicians the opportunity to become comfortable with a particular instrument, but they aren’t meant to be a long-term solution. If you observe your child struggling with their instrument or if the instrument seems too small, it may be time for a larger one. In many cases, children will be able to tell you when they’re ready for a larger instrument. Don’t hesitate to ask their music teacher for guidance, as well. They will be able to offer you valuable insight into your child’s progress and whether or not they would benefit from a step-up instrument.


  • The materials used to make a student instrument and the build specifications can be vastly different. Starting with the mouthpiece (mouthpiece and reed on woodwind instruments, ie: saxophone & clarinet). A student mouthpiece beginner reed is designed for ease of play (instant gratification). As your student progresses, their embouchure (The way in which a player applies the mouth to the mouthpiece of a brass or wind instrument.) strengthens, as does their lung, diaphragm, and their overall air capacity! Other important factors that aren't necessarily visible, but highly important are bore size (The inner diameter of the instrument. This is especially significant with brass winds (trumpet and trombone). As the bore size increases, so does the need for larger air capacity. However, once a student is capable of filling this larger bore, their sound will quickly begin to develop with a much better overall quality, volume, and tonality!


  • When it comes to orchestral strings, some of the upgrades are easily visible. Even to the untrained eye, a beautiful finish, or highly figured build materials are typically the first signs that higher quality materials and thus more time and workmanship were involved in the manufacturing of an instrument. Even then there's much more to it than simply good looks! It's what's inside that counts! The time involved in the manufacturing process to graduate a top (the process referred to, to hand carve or machine carve the face of the instrument from the underside to maximize the instrument's sonic properties). While this is something that is not visible from the outside, it becomes very audibly apparent when the instrument is played. Often, cheap instruments purchased online are brought into our shop for setup. The string height is o tall it's nearly impossible for anyone to play it. Once we begin work on the instrument, we often see that the instrument is missing crucial innards. Without substantial time and effort, the instrument will never sound or feel good enough for a young player to learn. An instrument like this can easily turn off a young player and discourage them forever!

So what's this going to cost me?

When you're ready to take the plunge and purchase an instrument for your child, you might wonder how much it will set you back. If you haven't saved enough for a professional-level instrument, a step-up instrument is a great choice. Most step-up instruments are made from quality materials with craftsmanship to match. It is a great option until you've saved enough to surprise your child with a professional instrument. Some parents skip the step-up instrument in favor of moving straight to a professional model, which isn't always the best investment. Think of it this way: you can always sell your step-up instrument and use those funds to purchase a professional model, but finding a buyer for an intermediate instrument can be tough. Budget is crucial when choosing an instrument for your child, but don't forget to factor in the resale value down the road.

Parent-teacher conferences are not only for English and Math!

Music teachers are always touched when a parent takes the time to set up a conference to discuss their child's musical journey. It can be difficult to find the time, but it is worth it. In just a few minutes, you can chat about how your child is doing and if they are ready for a step-up instrument. They'll know more about instruments than you ever will, and they interact with different children all day. They can also determine if your child is being held back by their current model. Please reach out when in doubt; they'll be more than happy to chat with you about your child's progress. Take proactive steps like these to ensure your kid enjoys music for many years! Think about contacting your child's teacher today!

Ready to go shopping? Give us a call!

If you think you're ready to upgrade your musical instrument, you have come to the right place. AAA Band Rentals offers the largest selections of musical instruments in Connecticut, including violins, violas, cello, bass, clarinet, flute, trumpet, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, oboe, bassoon, English horn, French horn, baritone horn, piccolo and more. We are authorized dealers for Jupiter Band Instrument, Yamaha Band and Orchestral instruments, Eastman Strings and band instruments, Bach, Conn-Selmer Band instruments, Canzona String, and more. We are your one-stop local shop with tens of thousands of accessories and niche products available! Whether you are an experienced musician or a beginner just starting, we have everything you need to take your music to the next level. Our knowledgeable team of experts is always here to provide honest guidance and answer any questions you may have. So why wait any longer?

We look forward to hearing from you soon! We are musicians, and we have been helping children learn how to play music and giving back to our local community and programs since 1979. Just ask your child's teacher about our 50/50 program! We know what it takes to be successful in this challenging but rewarding field, so trust us as your guide on this exciting journey. Let's get started; call 203.416.6359 or email us at Our website is

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