How to choose the right flute for your needs? We help you match your music, skill and budget to a suitable flute.
Whether you are just starting out, wanting to upgrade your current instrument or shopping as a new player or student, purchasing a flute can be daunting. We aim to assist your by providing selection criteria for a flute that will meet your need
Flutes Under $200
Selecting a flute for a beginner can be a difficult process. Many elements need to be considered when purchasing a flute for someone wishing to learn how to play the flute. Of prime consideration for many people is the cost of a musical instrument and the likelihood that they will continue to play the flute.
Flutes $200 - $500
This is the range I recommend to parents when looking for a flute for their children. In this price range the quality is much better than the cheaper flutes, and therefore your flute will last much longer. Flutes in this range are normally easier to play as a result of the materials that are used in manufacture.
Flutes over $500
Higher quality flutes do cost more, however they do last longer, have a crisper, cleaner sound and therefore give a more rewarding experience to the flutist. Look for the materials the flute was manufactured with and also read reviews to enable your to have confidence that you are making the right choice.
History of the modern-day flute
The modern flute, as we know it was designed in 1846 by Theobald Boehm. After experimenting with different types of metal, he began making flutes from silver around 1847. The metal flutes were constructed in 3 parts, a tapered head joint, a cylindrical body, and large tone holes covered by keys.
It wasn’t until the early 20th century that the metal flutes began to replace wood or bamboo flutes as the instrument preferred by musicians.
The basic parts of a flute
Modern flutes have three main parts: The headjoint, the body, and the footjoint.
This is the part of the flute that touches the musicians mouth and has no keys. The headjoint, also contains a tuning cork. The tuning cork is designed to seal the end on the flute to ensure that air flows through the instrument to produce sound. This tuning cork may be adjusted to alter the intonation of the flute. When cleaning your flute, the tuning cork must be handled with care.
If the cork becomes damaged it will result in an inconsistent or airy sound. If damaged it will need to be replaced.
The head joint also contains the lip-plate. This is also called the embouchure plate. The musician rests his lower lip on the lip-plate to play the flute.
Tip for beginners, a curved lip-plate is easier to blow than a straight lip-plate.
The headjoint also contains the blow hole, also known as the mouth hole. The blow hole is where the musician blows air into in order to produce sound. It can either be oval shaped or a rounded rectangle. A larger mouth hole favors low notes while a small mouth hole favors high notes.
The headjoint may be upgraded to improve the overall tone and quality of your flute. When selecting your first flute it would be wise to buy one that can easily upgrade the headjoint.
This is the middle section of the flute and also the largest part of the flute. The body connects the headjoint and footjoint. This is also where the main mechanisms, that control the majority of the keys are found.
The keys are pressed by a musician in order to produce a certain pitch. It is important that the key pads and springs are in good condition to produce the proper quality of sound.
Note: The key springs are very finely adjusted and should be handled with great care.
The body also has the tuning slide and tenons, these are used primarily to tune the flute.
This is the shortest part of the flute. It also contains a few keys. The little finger on the right hand plays all of the keys on the footjoint.
The foot joint has a rod, which must be aligned with the center of the keys in the body of the flute.
On an advanced flute there will be additional keys to extend the range. These additional keys enable the player to extend the bottom of the range. There may also be a gizmo key that makes it easier to produce a high C note with clarity.
7 key tips to consider when choosing your flute.
- Research the various brands available
- Avoid choosing a flute that is TOO cheap
- Choose a beginner or student flute for your first flute
- Choose a traditional or standard flute for your first instrument
- Select the correct size – use a curved headjoint for smaller children
- Think ahead – choose a flute you can upgrade
- Remember good brands hold their value
Uses for a flute
Flutes are often used in jazz and pop music, as well as more traditional pieces such as chamber, orchestral and even marching bands.
The flute is a very versatile musical instrument, it can played solo or with other instruments.
It has the highest voice in the woodwind family of instruments. The name might be a little confusing since not all flutes are made of wood, but the flute is designated as a woodwind instrument due to the way it produces sound.
Beginner versus intermediate and professional flutes
Many people when purchasing their first flute will select a beginner’s instrument, and then be tempted to choose the cheapest model. This is understandable as you may not be sure if you will continue to learn and play the flute. This however may not be the smartest choice.
By selecting a cheaper or lower quality beginner’s flute, it is more likely that you will become frustrated and therefore more likely to give up.
Take time to compare brands, prices and also important are customer reviews. Look for a model that balances price with good quality sound and ease of playing.
Higher quality flutes generally are easier to play and have a better quality sound. This results in a much more pleasant experience for the person learning to play the flute.
Beginner and student flutes
Getting started with the flute can be hard for young children and students with small hands. To assist younger and smaller students some beginner models have curved headjoints. This allows the student to play the flute without over reaching. As a result the flute will be easier to play small or young flutists.
A beginner’s flute will usually have plateau or closed holes on the keys. Making the flute easier to play.
The sound of a flute does not come out of the end, as is commonly thought, therefore these closed keys will affect the sound of the flute. As their skills improve many flutists will upgrade to an open-holed flute because of their improved tone and control over the intonation.
Beginner and student flutes will most likely be made out of a nickel and silver alloy which it is far more durable than silver alone.
Some people have allergies to silver or nickel and should opt for the type plating they can safely handle.
Transitioning to a better quality flute.
Upgrading to a better-quality flute with open-hole keys can prove difficult for some.
To ease the transition to a new or upgraded flute, many flutists make use of key plugs that can be inserted into the hole of the flute. Whilst they do make the flute easier to play, they do prohibit the flute from resonating at its full potential.
As your skill level improves these plugs can be removed and do not cause any damage to the instrument.
Inline vs. offset G keys
Flutes come with either an inline or offset G key. Although only one key is shifted slightly to the left, the entire playing position of the hand is altered greatly.
There are professionals that play both models and swear that one allows for quicker trills than the other but it comes down to whichever position is more comfortable for the player.
Upgrading Your Flute
Upgrade the Headjoint or the Lip plate
When it comes time to think about upgrading your current flute, the first place to start is to upgrade or replace the headjoint. This is a relatively inexpensive way to achieve a new level of sound from the original instrument.I strongly recommend that when making your purchase of your first flute that you select one that is easy to upgrade with a new headjoint.
Purchasing an upgraded or better headjoint will dramatically improve the intonation and the responsiveness of the flute.
This option is ideal for players who are not yet ready to advance to a new flute, or advanced players who want to take it to their playing to the next level while keeping their current body.
Another way to alter the tone of your flute is by changing the metal of the lip plate. Altering any metal used on the flute will alter the tone.
Not all flutes are made of the traditional silver or nickel base metals. Many of the professional flutists play on either rose gold or traditional gold flutes which have a different timbre entirely.
Having a gold lip plate is an affordable and wonderful way to achieve that richer, warmer tone of the gold flute
Upgrade the footjoint
Upgrading the footjoint is another way that you can achieve improvements on your current flute.
On some footjoints a third key is added on advanced models allowing the range to be extended down to a low B.