by Drew Holmes
Sitting behind the trumpet players, I feel at home. It has been decades since I was in high school and sitting where these students are, listening to their director and adjusting their playing. But I am not there today to rehearse alongside them.
I am attending rehearsal to help students try out a sampling of step-up instruments we will have on offer at our upcoming event. This allows them to audition new gear in a familiar context and see what is possible to upgrade their sound.
Time and time again students and their parents ask questions like “which brand instrument is the best?” or “what’s appropriate for a sophomore?”. While trying to formulate an answer I remembered having similar thoughts organizing baby clothes just before Timothy was born.
Jamie and I were fortunate to have friends and family give us baby clothes before Timothy arrived. We sorted them by size: Newborn, 3-month, 6-month, and so on. Never having been a parent before, I had not realized the sizing conventions for infant clothing was based on age and not the size of the child.
This makes sense because that clothing is not intended to serve many functions beyond keeping the kid protected from the elements. It just needs to get them through to the next size up.
This “size by age” system continues well into the toddler years and just beyond. Sam, our youngest, is five and his clothing finally has measurements and not age ranges. Before, ages were sufficient since one shirt or pair of pants was just as good as another. Now he has favorite characters (Winnie the Pooh!), styles, and colors, and his clothing reflect those preferences.
Which comes full circle to the question of “What instrument is right for me?”
When first starting out making music, any good quality beginner instrument will do. These tend to be built with durability in mind first, musicality a close second. As the student learns to generate a good sound and take care of their instrument, the limitations of this equipment become evident.
A progressing musician will begin to have a signature sound, or at least an opinion of what they want to sound like. Their existing equipment can become an obstacle, which causes a situation known as “outplaying your instrument.” This is not the fault of the player or their instrument, it just means, like baby clothes, they have outgrown it.
Auditioning a new instrument is crucial at this stage for two reasons. First, as a progressing player, you may not know what gear is available and how it could improve your sound. And second, you can gauge whether a new instrument is the right choice or if an upgraded accessory (bow, mouthpiece, etc.) would be more appropriate.
There is no one size fits all solution to creating your ideal sound. What works for you may be wholly inappropriate for the person sitting next to you. Trying out as much gear as possible and getting as much feedback as possible from as many people as possible is the best way to arrive at an educated decision.
Will new equipment solve every problem? Of course not. But if now or sometime soon is the right time for an upgraded instrument please come by our Step-Up Day on November 18th, 2023, from 10–4 at Boomer Music. We will have a wide variety of instruments to audition, representatives from manufacturers to answer all questions, and several financing options so that you get the right instrument right now.
We can’t wait to help you and see where your musical journey will lead.