Demystifying The Flute Purchase
Purchasing a flute can be a confusing process for students and parents. There are seemingly flutes for purchase everywhere and they all claim to be great.
If it says the instrument is “band director approved”, lists the number of keys, and/or comes with white gloves it is most certainly a poorly made instrument and not approved by any musician I’ve met - teacher or performer.
In reality, a flutist needs a
flute that is quality enough to maintain its adjustment and make a good sound so that the
flutist can continue to improve. A flute with poor sound production (by a professional) or that
is in poor adjustment or goes out of adjustment often is counterproductive for making a student
to want to practice and they will be unable to make the progress they are working for.
Note: ALL flutes need a COA (Clean, Oil, & Adjust) annually or more often, depending on wear and tear. The better the mechanism, the longer it should stay in adjustment with good care.
For buying step-up flutes and beyond, it is important to know that the lip plate and embouchure hole (the parts that touch the chin and you blow into) come in many shapes and cuts as to fit the many shapes of flutists’ faces and their preferences for playing. Buying a flute is like buying an expensive shoe that you will need to wear every day for many years. It should fit just right and allow you to improve without limping along. Choosing a flute that does not fit can hinder a student’s development.
It is recommend to purchase instruments from a reliable instrument store. In the case of purchasing higher level instruments, purchasing (new and used) flutes from a flute specialty shop is highly recommended. If purchasing used, at any level, having a professional flutist play test an instrument before purchase will ensure your student has a properly working instrument and that get what you pay for.
*Flutes with an asterisk are flutes that I have personal experience with as a flutist and teacher.
Older Used Beginner Flutes (a hand-me down student flute) ~$150-600
A new flute is not in everyone’s budget. The flute must have a head joint that has the potential to sound good and a mechanism that works properly. Any problems with these two points are discouraging and the student will sound bad from day 1.
In good playing condition, a used beginner flute may only sometimes be suitable for a beginner for the first 3-6 months, depending on the quality of the flute head joint and mechanism and the progress of the student. Keep in mind that repairs to these instruments could run in the hundreds of dollars to make them playable and that a poorly cut head joint cannot be fixed. The student should upgrade within the first year of playing. These make acceptable marching band instruments, but still may not be ideal. Yamaha is fairly consistent over the years and a used Yamaha can last longer than the others, potentially 2-3 years, depending on the progress of the student and the quality of the instrument.
New Beginner Flutes ~$500-900
These flutes give the beginner the potential to make a very good sound and have a solid, student mechanism that moves fluidly. These make good marching band flutes after the student has moved to a step-up flute.
- Trevor James
Some teachers may also recommend the following:
Step Up Flutes $1300-3500
I recommend that all students move to a step up instrument no later than the beginning of high school and as early as the end of their first year of playing. The step-up flute should allow the younger flutist to mature musically, especially in their sound production. For that reason, most of the cost associated with these good step up flutes is in the headjoint. These are solid silver, hand-cut or hand-finished headjoints. The high quality headjoint is paired with a student body that is still good, will have open holes, a B foot, and will have options such as silver plated or solid silver, split E, and/or C# trill key.
It is important to note that just having open holes or a B foot does not make a flute a "step up" flute.
- *DiZhao 500/600/700
- *North Bridge 500/600/700
- *Haynes Amadeus with the Classic cut headjoint
- *Pearl Quantz/Dolce/Elegante
- *Trevor James (I prefer the Voce headjoint)
- *Azumi by Altus
Some teachers may also recommend the following:
- *Powell Sonare
A Step Above Step-Up Flutes $3900-6200
These are flutes that have a high quality, hand-finished body and higher quality pads and springs for a better mechanism, in addition to the hand-cut headjoint. These could be described as "pre-professional" flutes. These flutes gain their value from the quality of the craftsmanship and longevity and playability. These particular models have a B foot, open holes, and are mostly silver plated bodies. Some also have options such as split E and C# trill key.
- *Altus 907 (multiple headjoint options)
- Haynes Q Series (also solid silver options)
- *Miyazawa 202 (multiple headjoint options)
- *Muramatsu EX
- *Powell Signature (solid silver)
- Sankyo 201 (multiple headjoint options)
Entry Level Professional Flutes $6200+
Students wishing to play at the university level will likely need to consider a professional flute, especially if they are considering scholarship auditions and/or auditioning at competitive schools. There is a vast number of professional flute makers making flutes with a variety of silver, gold, and even platinum alloys and every option you might desire. Here is a partial list of recommended flute makers. At this level, the advice of a qualified private teacher and shopping through a flute shop with many flutes to try side-by-side would help you make the best selection. Never purchase a flute without comparing multiple flutes and the assistance of a professional flutist.