Upgrade Tips for Woodwind Players
There's a point in most people’s musical journey when you reach a level of playing that requires a better instrument. For woodwind players this usually means looking for an instrument that will match your advancing abilities. The instrument upgrade will also help you to work on your sound and technique at a higher level. Everyone’s choice of instrument make/model is a personal one, and is ultimately based on what feels right and natural to you when you play it. However, the large array of models can be quite daunting at times. A few pointers can help narrow down the selection to a few saxes/clarinets/flutes you would like to try!

What to look for….

There are a few questions you need to think about before narrowing down your upgrade options to a few instruments. Firstly, what is your budget? Do you need an intermediate or professional instrument? And finally how long are you planning on keeping the instrument for? (e.g. is this going to be your only upgrade or are you planning on changing your instrument again in the future.) We also recommend, if you can, to bring some music you enjoy playing and your mouthpiece/reeds if you plan to try before you buy. This way you'll feel comfortable when test-playing the instruments.


The biggest transition when upgrading your student clarinet will be the step from a plastic instrument to a wooden one. The majority of intermediate and advanced clarinets are made from Grenadilla wood. This wood is specially selected by clarinet makers for its rich, resonant sound. The majority of our upgrade clarinets also have silver-plated keys, which are hard wearing and tactile under the fingers. A higher level wooden clarinet will likely provide you with a better tone to work with than you were used to on your previous plastic instrument, but there are also other factors to consider when purchasing. Always go for a sound that you like; do you prefer a sweet and light clarinet sound, or a dark rich one? It is important for you to like the sound the instrument produces, otherwise you will probably not enjoy playing it! Also how often, and what, will you be using your clarinet for? If you are planning on working up to grade 8 and then playing as a hobby a good intermediate clarinet will be a good option for you. If you're thinking of studying music at a higher level and possibly pursue a career in music, a professional clarinet would be good to select. For a guide to the various upgrade clarinets stocked at Normans, please click here. Most advanced clarinets come with all the usual accessories you would expect; a case, cork grease, basic cleaning accessories etc. However, it is important to check if the clarinet you decide to purchase comes with a mouthpiece. Most do, but some of the “top-end” Buffets we stock do not come with a mouthpiece. It is best to double check the product details on our website. Any extra accessories you may want, can be found here, and our selection of mouthpieces by clicking here.


Saxophone upgrades are a little less obvious to the untrained eye than clarinet upgrades. The majority are made from lacquered brass, regardless of whether they are a student or advanced model. You should however notice a difference when you come try out the higher level models; they are generally (but not always!) heavier than the student saxes, due to the higher quality brass alloy used in the instrument, which should give the instrument a more resonant sound than your old saxophone. You can also purchase silver-plated versions of the advanced saxophones we stock, and this finish is usually a choice based on personal preference. Make sure you like the sound, and feel of the saxophone you settle on so that you can get the most enjoyment out of it! Consider how often you will be using the saxophone for. Are you planning on working up to grade 8? and then playing as a hobby? or are you thinking of studying music at a higher level? and possibly pursuing a career in music?. For a guide to the high level saxophones stocked at Normans, please click here. As standard, most saxophones will come with a case, mouthpiece and ligature, basic neck strap, cork grease and a polishing cloth. Quite often manufacturers do not include cleaning accessories for the inside of your saxophone, but you can view our full selection of accessories here.


Like saxophones, it is less obvious to see what is different with a lot of intermediate and professional flutes if you are not already a musician (as a lot are silver!). The main differences when changing you flute however will probably be changing from a closed key to an open key flute, and changing from a silver plated to a solid silver instrument. You should be able to tell the difference between a flute that is silver plated, a solid silver head joint or is entirely solid silver. The latter is generally heavier due to the density of the metal used. We primarily stock Yamaha flutes at Normans, which you can read more about here. We are also able to obtain many Pearl and Trevor James intermediate/advanced flutes as special request orders for our customers. When trying out flutes make sure the instrument is comfortable for you to hold and support, and that you feel confident in producing a sound from the instrument. Remember, you are the person playing the flute, don’t just buy one because it’s the brand or model that everyone else plays. A flute that one person loves might not be right for another person. Flutes are generally supplied with their case, cleaning rod and a basic cleaning cloth, but if you wanted to purchase more accessories to use with your instrument you can view our full selection here. If you would like any further information or advice about upgrading you woodwind instrument then please contact our sales team who will be happy to help. By phone: 01283 535333 (option 1), or by email: sales@normans.co.uk