Recommend a Specialty Woodwind Shop for Holiday Step-Up Instrument Purchases

Lisa Canning • December 2022Wind Talkers • December 15, 2022

The holidays are a perfect time to recommend a new instrument purchase to a student. As an educator you know the power the gift of music can create to bring new motivation to a student and equally more energy in your rehearsal room. The holidays are a perfect time to suggest to your students and their family to consider making a step-up instrument purchase. 

While your local music store plays a vital role in helping you manage repairs, order supplies you routinely need, and provide your program with excellent rental services, specialty shops that focus exclusively on step-up and professional instruments offer both significantly greater selection and a much higher level of service than the typical local music store. They have the inventory, knowledge, and selection that typically has taken them decades to build up. Because their livelihood depends on just one product category, their expertise is great, and they can help your students grow even faster with the step-up and professional instruments they will recommend and set up for your student to try. 

While it’s often true, to be able to take advantage of this level of expertise will require recommending instruments be mailed to your school or directly to a parent, the benefits of doing so far outweigh suggesting a student go to your local music store that may only carry one or two models or one or two step-up or professional instruments. While you should be loyal to a store that serves your most basic needs to advance your program, you need to understand what they do best and how your program and students can benefit from working with others with greater experience and expertise, when it’s time for a student to step up to a better instrument. 

With that in mind, here are some professional tips to point you in the right direction toward your students’ next step-up or professional woodwind instrument purchase.

Everyone’s budgetary needs are going to be different, so you must consider finances. What price point aligns with you or anyone contributing to purchasing your next instrument? Knowing this piece of information can vastly help you narrow down which instrument is right for you.

When you call a specialty woodwind shop, it’s likely to be one of the first questions they ask you. The purpose is to be able to best understand from their vast offerings what will be the most aligned to your budget and help serve a student most. 

What are your student’s short-term and long-term goals with this instrument? For example, would your student consider becoming a music major? Would they like to be a touring soloist or a band director one day?  Are they a science wiz, but could be a lifelong performer in community groups by continuing to study music and making a step-up purchase? 

By helping your student to answer these questions, it will make it far easier to be able to effectively communicate with a professional woodwind shop to make a purchase. 

Try Before You Buy
It’s also important to trial instruments before you select something to purchase. At the Carolyn Nussbaum Music Company, flutists of all different ages and abilities are highly encouraged to schedule a flute trial. Why? Because by playing on various flutes side-by-side, you can determine if the instrument is the proper fit. When combined with the expertise of the dealer, you are sure to have your student find the perfect instrument for them. 

During the trial, it’s encouraged to bring another set of ears; whether a CNMC flute expert, you, as their teacher, or a trusted professional- their private lesson teacher- can do to support them. 

Questions About A Student’s Abilities
At Lisa’s Clarinet Shop, when you chat with them online, or by phone, they will ask you questions about the student’s abilities to include basic information about how they sound, what mouthpiece they use, and reeds. By preparing parents for these questions, it will help ensure the instrument selected will fit their budget and goals. 

New Versus Used
When it comes to double reed instruments, it can be even more challenging to find expert advice. At Oboe Chicago, you will find a staff of professional oboists with knowledge and inventory to help you decide between a new or used instrument. Not every step-up purchase has to be a new instrument. What matters is that what is recommended for you to try before you buy, fits the needs of the student and their playing goals. 

With that in mind, if you are looking for a saxophone, look for professional shops that offer professional refurbished instruments, like Selmer’s Rewind program. It can be the most affordable way to get an amazingly high-quality instrument and to save a little bit of money. 

While it can feel a bit overwhelming trying to help a student make a step-up purchase, specialty instrument shops will “get it” and be able to quickly set you, your students, and their parents, at ease. While it can feel like you’re trying to choose between ten different red paints at your local hardware store when you look at their websites, encourage students and their parents to get past that fear and simply reach out to discuss their needs. You will find all the shops mentioned in this article to be friendly, approachable, and well stocked with a lot of choices that can fit a parent’s holiday step-up instrument shopping budget just right.

Holiday Woodwind Step-Up Specialists

Carolyn Nussbaum Music Company, Flute Specialists, 972.985.2662,

Lisa’s Clarinet Shop, Clarinet Specialists, 773.756.2163,

Oboe Chicago, Oboe Specialists, 847.815.9644,

Wishing you and your family a wonderful holiday season full of music making. 

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