Student vs Step-Up: What Instrument Model Makes Sense for You?

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Ellis Music sells both student (entry-level) instruments and intermediate / professional model ("step-up") instruments.

Ellis Music carries only brands from respected manufacturers who have proven, over time, to build quality instruments. Our student model rental instruments play well and serve the needs of beginners. At some point, however, many musicians "outgrow" these instruments, and their improvement can actually be restricted by certain limitations of the instrument.

What are the differences between student models and intermediate/professional models? They vary by instrument, but they are significant. Intermediate and professional instruments are made of higher quality materials, which improves the basic sound of the instrument. These instruments may also include extra keys that increase the range of notes playable on the instrument or mechanisms that improve the intonation of specific notes. Whereas student models are typically mass-produced, intermediate and professional instruments receive more personalized attention from master instrument makers. The difference may not be seen but can be felt and heard when the instrument is played.

Below are a few tips to help in deciding what to buy. A person's music teacher can be a good resource for advice, and the staff at Ellis Music is always available to answer questions.

Purchasing a STUDENT model instrument makes sense for…

  • Individuals who have stopped playing the instrument but may wish to play again in the future.
  • Students who have no plans to study music after high school.
  • Amateur musicians who play only occasionally and informally.
  • Adults who are new to playing an instrument.

Purchasing an INTERMEDIATE or PROFESSIONAL instrument makes sense for…

  • Individuals who enjoy playing and wish to continue improving.
  • Students who plan to study music (perhaps as a major or minor) at a college or university.
  • Amateur or professional musicians who play frequently and perform in public.
  • Students who plan to audition for competitive music ensembles (for example, district or All State festivals).

Ellis Music's rental program is designed to give musicians of any age access to a student model instrument and the ability to build equity toward ownership of whichever level instrument is appropriate for their unique situation. More details about the rental plan are available here.

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