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  • Writer's pictureRMMR

Upgrading an Instrument

As the school year winds down, you might be thinking about getting your student a more advanced instrument for graduation or upgrade their instrument to continue on their musical journey.    It’s a fantastic way to reward their hard work and dedication. Don’t worry if you’re not a musical expert yourself;  Rocky Mountain Music Repair is here to guide you through the process, making it as straightforward, educational and enjoyable as possible.


Understanding the Upgrade

First off, why upgrade? Just like swapping a tricycle for a bike, as skills grow, so does the need for better equipment.    Think of it this way: as your child grows, their needs change. The same goes for their instrument. A higher quality instrument can significantly improve their sound and the ease with which they play, which in turn, can keep them engaged and passionate about their music.   We like to say “Congratulations, your player can play better than the horn!”

  • Sound Quality and Progress:     As the student grows and their skills develop, their current instrument may start to limit their sound quality. It is common to have budget friendly instruments at the beginning of a student’s career, but they are notoriously out of tune and have characteristically weak sound for the instrument.  An upgraded instrument can offer a richer, more vibrant tone, allowing them to express themselves more fully and delve deeper into their musical journey. 

  • Playability and Comfort:     As students become more involved in their music, the playability of their instrument becomes crucial. Upgraded instruments often provide smoother action, better response, and are easier to play. There are many brands and styles of instruments being made with different ergonomic aspects to consider    This not only enhances their playing experience but also helps in preventing strain or discomfort, making practice sessions more enjoyable and productive. Upgraded instruments will typically have additional features to choose from or take into consideration .  Some examples are: a reverse leadpipe on trumpets, an additional key/note on a flute foot joint, or extra tubing on a Euphonium to compensate for out of tune notes.

  • Inspiration and Motivation:     There's something special about getting a new instrument. It's not just about the physical object but the potential it represents. An upgraded instrument can reignite your child's passion for music, encouraging them to explore new genres, techniques, and challenge themselves further. It's an investment in their musical journey and personal growth. 

  • Reliability and Durability:     Look for well-constructed instruments made from quality materials. They don’t just last longer; they generally offer better sound and playability.   A repair store is a vital source of information regarding trusted brands for reliability and durability.   Not all brands offer replacement parts, so check with your repair shop for which brand parts are available.  A great free resource we’ve put together is our Buying Guide, that is downloadable/printable, and is a starting point in your research.

  • Future-Proofing: Choosing an upgraded instrument now can be a wise decision for the future. Higher-quality instruments tend to hold their value and can be a lasting companion for your child's musical journey, potentially even serving them into their advanced studies, professional pursuits, or as casual adult players.


Education and Research

Once you realize the benefits of upgrading an instrument, now is the time to begin researching and educating about the various features and functionalities of different instruments and why they matter.   This is where your local music store can come in very handy.   Stop by Rocky Mountain Music Repair and we can answer any questions, show and tell you differences in upgrades, be able to try out instruments, and even take it home if you fall in love with the perfect instrument. 

  • Understanding Instrument Specifications: Take the time to understand the technical specifications of different instruments, such as bore size, bell material, and key mechanism. Knowing these details will help you choose an instrument that meets your child's specific needs and preferences.

  • Comparing Brands and Models: Research and compare different brands and models of instruments to find one that is known for its quality and reliability. Look for reviews, consult with music teachers, ask us about brands that have part support so you don’t end up with a “disposable instrument” if parts aren’t available, and visit us to test out different options.

  • Exploring Instrument Features and Options: Consider the features and options available on different instruments, such as additional keys or valves, ergonomic design features, and customization options. These features can have a significant impact on your child's playing experience and long-term satisfaction with the instrument.

  • Learning About Instrument Maintenance: Learn about instrument maintenance and care to ensure that the instrument remains in optimal condition over time. This includes regular cleaning and maintenance tasks, as well as knowing how to address common issues that may arise.

  • Seeking Professional Advice: Don't hesitate to seek advice from our knowledgeable staff, instrument teachers, and repair technicians. We're here to provide guidance and recommendations based on our experience and expertise, helping you make the best decision for your child.

  • Considering Long-Term Goals: Think about your child's long-term musical goals and aspirations when selecting an instrument. Whether they're pursuing music as a hobby or considering a career in music, choosing an instrument that will support their growth and development over time is crucial.


Try Before You Buy

Now, here’s the fun part!   Encourage your child to play different instruments and get their hands on as many brands and options as possible.  Think of it like test-driving cars. Each one has its own feel, its own personality. What feels just right in their hands? What makes their eyes light up when they play it? That’s the one.

Each instrument has its own unique personality and sound. From the vintage horns with their darker, warmer tones to the modern ones that are typically brighter, there’s a whole world of possibilities waiting to be explored.    But it’s not just about the sound – it’s about functionality too. Vintage horns may offer a different ergonomic feel compared to modern ones, each with their own quirks and comforts. Plus, there are added features on newer models that might surprise and delight.

Tips for Trying Instruments.  

  • Mouthpiece & Reeds:     Consider bringing your personal mouthpiece, accompanied by your preferred reeds if applicable, to ensure optimal comfort and familiarity during your instrument trials. If you lack these accessories, numerous music establishments offer the option to borrow mouthpieces for testing purposes. This approach guarantees a seamless transition and allows for a more accurate evaluation of each instrument's performance characteristics

  • Music Selection:     Identify a selection of music that not only resonates with you but also exhibits the diverse range of an instrument's capabilities and bring it with you when trying out an instrument. Seek compositions featuring passages of varying tempos, dynamics, and registers, encompassing both high and low frequencies. By meticulously evaluating how an instrument responds to each musical nuance, you ensure a comprehensive assessment across various performance scenarios. Additionally, employing this method fosters consistency and facilitates comparative analysis when testing multiple instruments.

  • The Blind Test:     Engage in a blind test when you've narrowed your selection to two instruments. By closing your eyes and having a companion randomly present you with each horn, you heighten your auditory perception, allowing for an evaluation based purely on sound rather than visual aesthetics. This method facilitates a more nuanced decision-making process, ensuring the chosen instrument resonates harmoniously with your musical preferences.


What to Look For

Even if you don’t have a musical background, there are a few key things you can keep an eye out for when trying out instruments:

  • Sound Quality: A better instrument will produce a clearer, more resonant sound. Even without a musical ear, you'll notice the difference.

  • Ease of Play: Your child should feel comfortable with the instrument. It should be easy for them to handle and play.

  • Build Quality: Higher quality materials and construction not only last longer but also contribute to better sound and playability.

  • Expert Opinions: Don’t hesitate to ask for recommendations from music teachers, other parents, and us. We have the experience to point you in the right direction.


We’re Here to Help

At Rocky Mountain Music Repair, we’re not just about fixing and selling instruments; we’re about fostering the next generation of musicians. From finding the perfect instrument to offering tips on care and maintenance, we’re here every step of the way. Swing by with your young musician. Let’s find that perfect graduation upgrade together.

  • Expertise You Can Trust:     Our team consists of passionate musicians and highly-trained technicians who understand the intricacies of each instrument. From selecting the perfect starter instrument for your budding musician to providing expert repairs and maintenance, we're here to support you every step of the way. When you buy from us, you're not just purchasing an instrument – you're investing in the expertise and personalized service that ensures your child's musical journey is off to the best start possible.

  • Quality and Reliability:      At Rocky Mountain Music Repair, we take pride in offering a curated selection of new and used instruments from top brands like Cannonball, Jupiter, XO, and more. Each instrument in our inventory undergoes rigorous inspection and repair by our skilled technicians, ensuring that it meets our high standards of quality and reliability. Plus, our used instruments come with warranties, providing you with peace of mind knowing that your investment is protected. Whether you're looking for a beginner-friendly rental or a top-of-the-line professional instrument, you can trust us to deliver excellence every time.

  • Community and Support:      When you support our locally owned music store, you're not just making a purchase – you're becoming part of a vibrant musical community. We're committed to enriching the lives of musicians of all ages and skill levels, whether through our involvement with local charities or by providing resources and support for beginning students. From instructional videos on instrument care to reference sheets for local ensembles, we're dedicated to helping your child succeed and thrive in their musical journey. When you choose Rocky Mountain Music Repair, you're not just buying an instrument – you're joining a community that values passion, dedication, and the transformative power of music.

  • Financing Options:      Rocky Mountain Music Repair has partnered with Synchrony Financial to provide financing options ranging from 6 to 18 months depending on purchase price.  If your student has settled on an upgraded instrument that they’re excited to play, but it is slightly out of your planned budget, consider financing it instead.  Investing in their musical future is invaluable, and we offer a range of new and refurbished options to fit various budgets. Additionally, from May, Synchrony is helping to get your student into an upgraded instrument of their dreams.   “From May 10-31, 2024 customers who open a new Synchrony Music & Sound credit card can earn $100 statement credit when you make a qualifying single-receipt purchase of  $2,199 or more or a $150 statement when you make a qualifying single-receipt purchase of  $3,199 or more.”

  • Specials & Discounts:      As we approach the end of the school year, it's a tradition for stores to offer special deals, and here at Rocky Mountain Music Repair, we're joining in on the celebration. Throughout May 2024, we're excited to offer a 20% discount on select NEW instruments from top brands like Jupiter, Azumi, Cannonball, Mio, and John Packer.  And for those who appreciate the charm of vintage or refurbished instruments, we've got something special for you too. Our refurbished instruments are expertly restored to top-notch condition, offering the same quality as new instruments but at a fraction of the price.


Let’s celebrate this milestone in their musical journey together. We look forward to helping you and your student find the perfect instrument!



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