What makes a Step-Up Instrument?
This month, we will be discussing the basic differences between a student and step-up level instrument within certain instrument groups. When stepping up, not only do you change the materials used and the manufacturing process, but many instruments gain new features when you upgrade, especially in the woodwind family.
The three woodwinds that we will be discussing today are flute, clarinet, and alto saxophone. These instruments are common rental instruments, and upgrading these can make a drastic difference in your student’s playing ability. For flutes, the addition of either a B or C foot grants the player a few advantages. Specifically for the B foot, this change in structure allows the instrument to reach lower notes in their individual register. Simply put, this addition increases the range of notes available to play.
Clarinets have two varieties of step ups, depending on what instrument you began on. Those with composite instruments can transition into a basic wooden student level instrument and notice a change within that small jump. For those that started on a wooden clarinet, step-up instruments change a few aspects. This includes the plating for the keys (Nickel, Silver of Gold), the variety of wood used, and the bore sizes amongst the barrel and body.
Alto saxophones branch into two varieties as well, albeit slightly different. These two categories are Jazz and Concert. Many players will have started to develop a preference for one style over the other, and certain brands and models fit those preferences better. This is not to say that any given saxophone is strictly for one or the other, in fact all saxophones can be used for both play styles. In general, players that prefer playing jazz will want an instrument with a heavier, darker tone. This means a nickel instrument over brass, with a metal mouthpiece over a carbon or ebonite variety to produce a dark, almost growl like tone. For concert, most players prefer brass instruments with standard mouthpieces, which produce brighter sounds that are very pure.
Next article we will discuss the differences for Brass instruments.