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When Should You Upgrade Your Instrument?

From beginner to advanced player, there will come a time in every musician’s life when they decide that an instrument upgrade is in order. There are many reasons why this could be true, and we’ll cover a few of them here. But remember that every situation is different, and even if yours doesn’t fit neatly in one of these categories, an upgrade could still be a good idea. There’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get into it.

Reasons Why You May Need to Upgrade Your Instrument

Physical Changes

Whether you play a violin, viola, cello, acoustic bass, guitar, or any other string instrument, if you start as a child or young adult, you will eventually literally outgrow your instrument. When parents pick an appropriate violin for their child, size is a major consideration. Especially if, with the help of an expert, you land on a fractional size, as the student grows physically they will be able to better express themselves musically with a larger instrument. 

If playing becomes difficult due to the instrument’s size, a student could struggle and won’t be able to create a clean, strong tone. Trying to play the wrong size of instrument could make it impossible to play without pain and tension. Frustration could lead to a lack of interest, but that’s a casualty that’s easily avoided with an instrument upgrade. It’s also possible that a recently developed or progressive medical condition could require modification or upgrades to continue comfortable playing.

Besides the player’s physical changes, instruments can also undergo shifts over time. This is why storage and maintenance are vital to keeping a string instrument in good working order. If a string instrument is damaged and not repaired or repeatedly exposed to moisture, humidity, heat, or other elements, it could even be rendered unplayable after a while. In this case, if an upgrade is the desired next step, some education on best storage practices might be warranted as well.

Skill Growth & Dedication to the Craft

It is possible for a musician to outgrow their current instrument in various ways. One of these is in their skill and level of proficiency. If a student is moving from beginner work to more advanced playing, they may not be able to coax the desired tone or depth out of their beginner instrument. 

Admittedly, a person’s first instrument is a test of sorts. Once they have shown their dedication to playing, it could be time for a violin, viola, cello or other string instrument that is made from higher-quality, more resonant woods. So for a player to really get a feel for next-level playing, an instrument upgrade could be in order. Plant assembly, as opposed to an artisan, hand-made instrument, can be less desirable where tuning and tone are concerned, though this can depend on the brand.

Style Development

Whether a student plays a violin or a bass, they can begin to develop their own signature style. Players could prefer a certain make or model of instrument to extract the best, most dynamic tone. Or it could be that they have tried others’ instruments on for size and find that the sound quality or resonance in a specific manufacturer’s models accentuate their playing. Whatever the case, if a player, young or old, decides that their passion leads them in a specific direction, it could be time to upgrade their instrument to better align with their musical goals.

Decline in Playability or Sound Quality

Along with an increase in skill, a more experienced player will be able to notice if the sound quality of their instrument begins to decline over time. A string instrument might require more frequent tuning or be less resonant, and bow hair could wear down to the point that it is hard or frustrating to play. 

As younger or newer players gain experience, the potentially lower quality instruments that they used as starter instruments could be due for an upgrade. This level of instrument generally isn’t made with the fine woods and craftsmanship that players can expect in higher quality models. 

Once a player has decided that music is a passion they want to follow further, it’s time to invest in an instrument that better suits or matches their ability and goals. If they’ve advanced to the point of performing or recording, then a professional level instrument is key to getting the best sound quality and tone possible.

New Opportunities

Experienced players could be looking for employment options or teaching positions that take advantage of their playing skills. They might want to then consider expanding their repertoire of instruments to diversify their abilities and keep their playing sharp. Some players might want this sort of mental stimulation regardless of whether they’re trying to pivot their playing skills into a career. Whatever the case, the desire to expand abilities or musical knowledge is a great reason to invest in a new instrument.


If a player finds themself on a playing plateau that they can’t seem to conquer, the missing factor could be a more dynamic or challenging instrument. If they’ve mastered playing on their current instrument, adding a new one can help to mix up practice and avoid the possibility of dropping into auto-pilot. That shift in perspective could be all that’s missing to get reinspired and renew the love of playing. It can also help to take their playing to new heights. Also not to be ignored is the positive effect that acquiring and playing a new instrument can have on a player’s mood. The excitement of something new can be fun and inspiring and can motivate a musician to keep on progressing.

What to Know When Upgrading Bowed String Instruments

After a few years of playing, a student at any level will have a better grasp on their playing style and ability, and it could very well be time to upgrade instruments. Here are some things to keep in mind in the meantime:

  • Resist pressure and take your time: wait until you’re ready and don’t rush the decision
  • Try out various instruments: don’t commit to an instrument on recommendation only
  • Ask for advice: teachers and other respected experts are an invaluable resource
  • Think about preowned instruments: they are more affordable and already have a history
  • Do your research: have a plan and a budget before seriously shopping
  • Give it time: take at least a year to work with an instrument before switching
  • Consider renting: get a feel for an instrument before you commit to buying

Peter Zaret & Sons Violins Can Help You Upgrade Your String Instrument

When you decide that it’s time for a new instrument, reach out to the pros at Peter Zaret & Sons Violins. We have a wide selection of new and preowned string instruments for you to choose from, along with high-quality strings, bows, bow hair, and other accessories that can help to level up your playing. Maybe you have a great instrument but you’d like to investigate our exclusive tonal enhancement service or are in need of a repair. Whatever the case, the passionate players and knowledgeable staff at Peter Zaret & Sons Violins are here for you. Get in touch today!