How to Evaluate a Band Instrument
The internet has provided an amazing venue to showcase a product. We can see pictures of a product, we can look at videos of a product, we can listen to sound samples of a product.
The end result can be frustration!
So how do we evaluate a band instrument?
We are often asked why we don’t have videos of instruments being played when we do video reviews or comparisons.
In short, the world of instruments is a world of variables. Reed choices, mouthpiece choices, playing style, embouchure, ambient temperature, temperature of the horn, humidity, and countless other things can all affect the sound and tone of an instrument. If you don’t believe me, simply play an instrument with two drastically different mouthpieces. The sound difference will be astonishing, with each being unrecognizable from the other.
With such dramatic factors it’s virtually impossible to determine how an instrument sounds or plays by watching a video, reading a review, or looking at pictures, and especially listening to sound samples.
I can’t count how many times a prominent pro-player will intentionally or unintentionally endorse/use a product that will drive droves to share the same setup, at the end of the day though the configuration does nothing to improve the performance of that player.
Remember, historically most prominent and famous musicians more often than not spent most of their career playing on cheap student instruments and many started out poor! I think there are certain quality levels that people tend to agree on across the board. Most saxophone players will agree a vintage Selmer Mark VI is a good horn, and many will agree a Yamaha 82Z is a great choice if you are looking for a new horn. The Bach strad trumpets are the standard of pro trumpets, while the Buffet R13 clarinet is the most played professional clarinet in the world. However, it’s important to remember while these may work for a majority, they may not work for everyone.
The bottom line is no review, video, or sound sample should have a dramatic or shaping of your overall opinion of an instrument. Don’t buy into the hype, positive or negative of ANY instrument until you’ve had it in your hands, you’ve played it, and you’ve evaluated it for yourself. I’ve seen way to many instruments go in and out of style by the months, years, and decades. Great music has been made on virtually all brands, makes, and models. Take your time and find what tool will let you make great music!