Update 11/16 I had to split this into 2 messages!
Thanks again for you support!
Introduction to the Fluteland Board FAQ
This is a guide to answer many common questions that appear on this and many other flute
messages. The goal is not to be impersonal when dealing with questions, but to develop
a tool for flute players, parents, and friends of flute players of all levels.
Use this as a reference when buying, or learning how to play the flute. Thanks go out
to the following members for their comments and contributions.
Phineas(Editor)..this is my real first name
Section 1 Flutes/Pics for Beginners
What brand/model of flute should I buy for a beginner?
Here are some of the more popular flutes ones
Armstrong 100 series
Barrington Model 229 and 349
Emerson EF Series
Gemeinhardt 2 Series
Jupiter 500, and 600 Series
Pearl 500 Series
Prelude by Conn-Selmer
Trevor James TJ-10 models
Yamaha YFL-200, 300, and Q series
My instructor recommended a brand to buy. Should I buy it?
You should definitely give it a try. However, do not assume that just because your teacher
suggested a specific flute that it's the one for you. Every player is different, as are
all flutes. To get the best possible match, you'll need to try many brands and models
of flutes. Some teachers have ties to a dealer of the flute that they've suggested and
stand to gain financially or otherwise by endorsing that instrument. Others simply have a
favorite that they suggest to everyone. It may be a good flute, but not necessarily the
right one for you. Some just don't have any idea what type of flute to suggest. Take
anything a teacher tells you with a grain of salt. Go out and playtest potential
purchases. If it turns out that what suits you best is what your teacher suggested, great!
If not, that's fine too. Very few teachers will require their students to play on one
specific make or model of flute. Most will just be happy that you found an instrument
you like, so don't be afraid of disappointing or angering them.
Here is a quote from MeLizzard regarding this subject:
My Band director has asked me to play piccolo in marching band, but I am in need ofI've just been faced with blatant rebuff in this department, as a young high school
student's family totally ignored my recommendations, got online, and bought a bright &
shiny, totally inferior, but CHEAP, new flute. It arrived in completely unplayable
adjustment, not boding well for its future mechanical reliability. Apparently, $800 for an
Armstrong 303B in our shop was waaaaay too much money, but $600 for something not worth
$100 is ok with them.
a piccolo. What kind of piccolo should I get?
First, before you decide what kind of piccolo that you should get, you should determine
what you are going to use it for. Are you only going to march with it? Are you going to
march with it, then eventually also use it in concert environments? Are you going to want
an instrument that requires a lot of maintenance or an instrument that is very durable?
These questions are essential to determining what kind of piccolo you purchase.
Firstly, one must understand that there are three central materials that piccolos are made
of: metal, plastic, and wood.
Metal piccolos: tend to have a lot of power to cut through an ensemble when needed.
THese Piccolos are fine for marcing band, but depending on the material can be sensitive to
Plastic piccolos: have a more mellow timbre and are easier to blend into an ensemble.
These piccolos are also well suited for marching band because they are less sensitive to temperature
Wood piccolos: also have a mellow timbre like the plasic piccolo. However these
piccolos can be damaged if exposed to extreme temperature changes, or moisture. I would not
recommend this type of piccolo for outdoor use.
Hybred piccolos: that are plastic with a metalic headjoint. This type of piccolo
will give you the "cut" you need to get through an ensemble, but are mellow enough to blend
in. These are also one of the easier piccolos to transition to from a flute because they have
lipplates. Because the body is plastic, this makes them also idea for marching band.
How much should I spend on a beginner flute?
Get the flute you can afford. Be prepared to spend from $100 dollars for a used flute up
to $1500+ for a new one. I would not recommend spending more than $2000 on a flute for a
beginner. It is likely that as a beginner becomes more advanced, their instrumental needs
How do I know how much a flute is worth?
Look around on the internet, or go to your local repair technician and ask. The likelihood
that if it is not a flute that is easy to find information about, that it may not be
suited for a beginner.
Where should I look for a beginner flute? What features?
Generally, beginners start out on flutes with Closed Hole, C Foot, and Offset G However, I
have know beginners to start out on open hole flutes with more advanced features. Be
advised that just because a flute has basic features does not mean it is a "Beginner"
flute. Professional flutes can have these basic features also.
Is it safe to buy a used flute?
It is perfectly safe to buy a Used flute from a reputable teacher, dealer, or repair
technician. However, if you buy one from just joe blow on the street, this is a risk.
Generally when I buy a flute from other than a dealer, or repair tech, I assume it will
Should I buy a flute off of the internet?
Sure. Make sure the dealer you are buying the flute from has a good return policy, and
allows you a reasonable tryout period. However, buying from a local dealer is highly
recommended whenever possible.
Where can I buy flutes on the internet?
What do you think about flutes on ebay?
Unless you know what you are doing, or have councel from someone who does, I would avoid
buying flutes off of Ebay. See Section 2
What about flutes they sell at Walmart?
The flutes they sell at Walmart are generally not suited to beginners. They are often
poorly built of pot metal, which is very soft. The pot metal construction can result in
damage that would not occur in a model made of a harder alloy. These flutes are also
scaled very poorly, which will make it very difficult for a player (even a more advanced
one) to play in tune. The key work can, on occasion, bind or cease to operate normally,
with repair parts very hard to find. Many repair techs will not work on these flutes, as
they pose a financial liability. If the flute comes in to have a pad reseated, a spring
might break in the process of repair, or a key bend, and the tech ends up putting much
more work into the instrument than they are going to be paid for. When fresh from Walmart,
these flutes almost always require some pads to be reseated just to be playable. The
quality of these instruments varies widely between flutes, as well. One may end up lasting
a player for a couple of years, and the next off the line might self-destruct in a couple
of months. These flutes are not recommended.
Section 2 Cheap Flutes/Pics
Where are these instruments made?
Just about any place you can think of, but mostly China.
What is the level of quality of a Chinese made instrument?
Although over the years things have improved greatly with the quality of Chinese made
instruments, the quality is still not as consistent as it could be. You may find a flute
that is flawless, but the next one could be a night mare. You could wind up with a whole
batch that are bad. Slowly the Chinese are coming up with ways to deal with quality
control. This is their biggest problem. Some of the factories building these instruments
do not even know how to properly make instruments. In the end, it all depends on the
Why is there such a price difference?
Materials and labor. The biggest problem with cheap instruments is not playability, but
durability. Most of these cheaper instruments are made such that if you drop them, they
are no good any more. Pads are another issue. Cheap pads just do not last long. Spring
rods. On cheap instruments, they will wear out faster than on a mainstream flute, you can
count on it!
If there are all of these issues, why bother?
There are many reasons to by a lower price instrument.
1. Just starting out and low money supply.
2. Not a serious player.
3. Like the cool colors!
5. Like to experiment.
6. Marching band!
7. Playing in bars/clubs.
I keep a cheap flute just for playing in less the favorable circumstances. No way would I
take one of my more expensive flutes to a bar, or into the rain! But, you must have a
realistic expectations. No matter how good the advertisements look, you get what you pay
for. Do not expect a Boston Legacy level Piccolo for a Venus price! Also expect the you
may have to return a few of them to get one that you like. Another factor is care. I take
good care of my cheap instruments, so they will last me for a while. But for a person who
is not into doing regular care on their instrument, this is not a good route to go. This is
especially true for younger children.
Can you recommend any cheap flutes/pics that are safe to buy?
Here are some with comments
Band Now -- Very poor quality control. I played on at lease 6 of these before I found one
that is playable. The only good thing is the dealers that sell them have good return
Barrington -- I highly recommend this brand. Good quality control, and durable.
Cecilio -- Very similar to Venus
Jinyin -- I use to recommend this brand, but recently I have heard of some re-organization
going on, and quality starting to take a turn.
Rhythm/Hawk -- These are another one that keep getting better, but these flutes are
getting harder to find.
Selman -- Very similar to Venus. These instruments are playable, and a little less cheap
feeling than the Venus. The colors seem to last a lot longer on these also.
Venus -- This flute/pic is ok as a novelty, but I would not recommend this instrument for
a mainstream flute. You many go through a few of them before you find one that is
Woodnote -- If you can find one of these, get it! You will not be sorry. These flutes are
great. I played on at least a dozen of them at the NAMM show, and the quality if very
good, and consistent. I also like the cut of the head joint. They do not make pics for
production reasons. They also make good Recorders.
Woodwind -- Very Good, and very underrated.
I have tried others, but these are the ones that have stuck around for a while.
Should I save my money to get a better instrument?
That depends. How serious are you? What are you using it for? For a specific purpose like
looks, or a starter instrument, maybe. However, if you are planning to step up to a better
instrument, then yes I would save up for a better instrument. No matter how many
instruments you will buy, you must always have at least one good one! Even if you have to
buy one used. Remember not to rule out used instruments as an option. You can get a used
Armstrong, Bundy, or Gemeinhardt for under $200.
Here are some additional comments from Mark
First and foremost, I have never bought an instrument off of ebay
that did not require some work.
That's not a problem for me, but for those of you who didn't grow up
in the back of a repair shop it can get to be a hassle.
There are some good buys there, but just be aware of the potential need
Secondly, I would like to reiterate a point made about the cheap/ no-name
I got one for a student whose family was seriously pinched for cash, and
I didn't have an extra hanging around at the time.
There is literally NO makers mark upon it anywhere. It plays well with
a good scaling and rich tone, but it is not really... Solid.. I guess that would
be the word. I have no doubt that I will be adjusting it for her rather
frequently until I can grab an Armstrong or Gemeinhardt for her.
Until then, though, she has a flute that she can play and is coming
along nicely on it. So it can be worth it if you recognize the tradeoffs
that Phineas pointed out.
Section 3 Intermediate/Professional Flutes/Pics
I sound bad on my current flute. Is it me, or is it time to upgrade?
First have your flute examined by a repair technician, and discuss your feelings with your
flute teacher. While the flute certainly may be the cause, you can't be sure unless you
know that it's in the best possible condition. A visit to a reputable repair tech will
make sure of this. Your teacher (If you don't have one, consider taking just a few lessons
before deciding to upgrade) may have suggestions on what you can do to improve your tone.
If, after making sure your flute is well maintained, and working with a teacher to, you
still feel limited by your instrument, then it may be time to upgrade. Some signs that
your instrument might be limiting you:
-It doesn't respond as quickly as you'd like
-The tone you can produce on it is not to your liking, and doesn't seem to improve even
with thorough, regular tone work
-The flute is difficult to play in tune
-The registers are uneven in response
-It is overly difficult to play pp in the upper registers and ff in the lower registers
-The flute is too easy to play or too difficult (i.e. too little resistance or too much
If all else fails, practice practice practice.......did I say practice?
When should I consider upgrading?
When you begin to feel limited by your flute in any of the ways mentioned above, or when
your teacher suggests it.
How should I go about shopping for a new flute?
Well, most important of all is to try as many flutes as you can within your price range.
Before beginning this process, decide which models fit your budget, what features you
would like, and what the main weaknesses of your old flute are (what is motivating you to
buy a new instrument?).
Once you have done your research, start play testing. This is best done with side by side
comparisons, so if at all possible, try several flutes at once. The best option is to
visit a flute fair or convention, or a flute dealer, but if that is impossible, many
dealers will ship you instruments to try. Take notes on what you do and do not like about
each flute you test so that you can remember everything you'll want to know. It can get
quite confusing separating all the flutes you'll be trying.
While you're testing, you should carry out blind tests. While blindfolded (or if you're
strong of will, just close your eyes), have someone hand you the flutes you're testing in
randomly. Recording yourself works also. You should work in pairs of flutes for the most
efficient elimination process....Out of the two, eliminate one, and then go on to the next
pair. Eventually you'll only have a few instruments left to pick from. It's also very
useful to have some other ears available that you trust. Both flutists and non-flutists
are good for this. Flutists can more easily pick up small nuances, while non-flutists
(who will likely be the bulk of your audience) can give you a good idea of what you sound
best on from the audience's standpoint.
While you're testing, check each instrument for such things as response, overall tone,
color possibilities, dynamic range, scale, balance throughout the registers, feel of the
mechanism, comfort of the lip plate, and the general responsiveness of the instrument to
your musical wishes.
When you've managed to limit yourself to one specific make and model, it's worthwhile to
play test a few instruments within that make and model. Every instrument is slightly
different, even if it has the same model number stamped on it, so trying a few of the
"same" flute will allow you to pick the one that is the best possible fit for you and your
What brand should I buy as a Step up flute?(I am a doubler looking for a flute.)
As with any flute, you must playtest step up flutes before purchase. Expect to spend
anywhere from $1000 for a used instrument to $3500 or $4000. Here is a list of brands
producing good step-up/intermediate models:
Which are the 10 best brands?
There are no "best" brands. Many brands are well respected among the flute community, but
every player will want and need something different from every other player. Every flute
has something unique to offer, and every company their own idea of tone, what a mechanism
should feel like, etc, so it is impossible to name a "best" brand. They are all different,
but none is necessarily better than any other.
I have never heard of Brand X, is this a good brand?
If you have not heard of it, and feel you are relatively well informed when it comes to
the various makes of flute available, you should be suspicious. Most good quality flutes
have a well established reputation, but some of the brands do not, especially if they are
newer. If you have not heard of a specific brand of flute, try looking it up on the
internet. Almost any well established, quality maker will have a professional looking
website. If you cannot find a listing for Brand X, or only find stores dealing in them,
chances are it's worth passing up. If you have access to one of these flutes, and like it,
but are concerned about quality, take it to a repair tech and ask for their assessment. If
they give you the go ahead on the flute, it should not be a problem that you haven't heard
of the brand. After all, you're after the best possible sound, and the most comfortable
feel, not the name engraved on the barrel. If, on the other hand, they find something
amiss, then it's best to keep looking.
How much should I spend?
How much you should spend depends on a a few factors. First of all, what's your budget?
Intermediate flutes generally range from 1000 to 4000 USD in price, so decide how much you
can spend before you start shopping, and then limit yourself to what fits your budget,
Second of all, what are you going ot use the flute for? Are you an aspiring principal in a
major orchestra, or will the flute be a marching instrument? If the former, you should
consider spending more than if you are only going to be using the flute occasionally.
Third of all, how long do you plan to be playing this flute? If you're a high school
sophomore, and you intend to stop playing after high school, spending less than someone
who intends to play this flute into college, or as an adult amateur makes sense.
Open or closed hole?
This feature is standard on most American intermediate flutes, but by no means are open
holes necessary, nor do they serve as a mark of quality. The open holed flute was
introduced right around the turn of the 20th century at the Paris Conservatoire in order
to allow students there to play the contemporary literature (that often included unusual
extended effects) to be played. As the Conservatoire was (and is) one of the most highly
respected schools of music in the world, the idea caught on, and makers across the globe
began offering open holes. This created a trend that has lasted into the modern day. Most
flutes above the student level in America will have open holes standard. In Europe and
other parts of the world, this is less true, but it is still a very common misconception
that an intermediate/advanced flute must have open holes. These holes serve to allow pitch
shading, extended effects such as glissandos and multiphonics, and some notes into the
fourth octave. Most people will not use these abilities after the initial novelty wears
off, which means for the vast majority of players, the holes in their keys are pointless.
If you have a good interest in contemporary repertoire, or wish to experiment with this
music, open holes are a good idea. A closed hole flute is often times a special order or
imports, so if you need a flute fast, or are just impatient, open hole might be the way to
go. This is especially true in western countries. If you think you may end up selling the
flute, open hole instruments are generally easier to resell then plateau models. If you
playtest flutes, and find that the hand position to cover the holes is awkward, you may
either put plugs in, or purchase a plateau (closed hole) flute. Plugs will not affect
intonation or tone, and are by no means the mark of a poor player. Many professionals have
trouble covering one or more holes, but still like the feel of open holes, and retain
plugs in the keys that they have difficulty covering. This, as with any option on a flute
is one of personal preference.
What features should I look for, and what are they?(Split E, Open G#, etc...)
Split E Mechanism closes the lower G key when you finger high E (E3 from a
flutist's perspective). This reduces venting and creates a more stable E that is less
prone to cracking, and is easier to hit coming from A3. Split E mechanisms generally have
the option of an on/off clutch that will allow you to turn off the split E. This is
because a split E can interfere with certain trills. Split E mechanisms can potentially
bind the mechanism when used in combination with an Inline G (to be explained below), so
are best used on flutes with offset or half offset G's. Split E's generally cost in the
realm of $600-$800, and should be considered permanent. The Split E's counterpart, the
High E Facilitator (also known as a G disk, donut, NEL, cat's eye), is a disk or crescent
of metal set into the duplicate G# tonehole that also reduces venting for the same reason,
but without changing how the mechanism itself operates. Some people report a slight
flattening of A3 as a result of the High E Facilitator. These can be placed and removed
from the flute at any point by a good tech and usually cost in the realm of $100.
Inline G vs. Offset G. Either one is a fine choice, and it comes down to
comfort which is right for you. For most players, offset will be the most ergonomic, but
some players are much more comfortable with an Inline G. Playtest flutes with both, and
choose whichever is most comfortable for you. Some makers also offer the option of a 1/2
offset G key, which is not in line with the rest of the mechanism as an Inline G would be,
but is not placed quite as far out of line as a full Offset is. None of these choices
affects tone or intonation negatively and one does not cost more than the other, and this
choice should be based purely on comfort for the individual player.
Additions to the mechanism:
C# trill key: This key is an extremely useful addition to the mechanism,
allowing many trills, tremolos, and alternate fingerings that would not otherwise be
possible. A C# trill usually is found only on advanced instruments, but it is beginning to
be offered on intermediates as well. The cost varies, but this is one of the more
expensive options. The C# trill will add additional weight, and may cause problems for
those with arm/shoulder injuries.
G-A trill: This key allows a true trill between G3 and A3. The same effect
is possible with a C# trill, but the G-A trill offers fewer additional uses.
Brossa F#:This key acts similarly to the Split E or High E Facilitator. It
creates a more stable and easily articulated F#3. This option is generally special order,
and not all makers are capable of it's production
C# and D# rollers: These rollers are just like the one used to finger Low C.
They are placed on the D# and Low C# spatulas to allow an easy shift from the D# spatula
to the keys operating the Low C, C# and B keys (If the flute is a B foot). These rollers
are recommended if they fit into the budget, but by no means are they necessary.
B foot: The Low B makes an appearance in only about 80 pieces of music,
primarily modern orchestral and solo/chamber music, and transcriptions of music for other
instruments. If you feel that you may become or are involved in this type of music, a B
foot might be the way to go. B foots are essentially the standard for American
intermediate and professional flutes, but as with open holes, are less prevalent in other
parts of the world. Many professionals in Europe play on plateau, C foot models. The B
foot may add darkness and resistance (this varies largely based on age), but will
definitely add weight, so as with the C# trill, it should be considered carefully by those
with arm problems.
What is the difference in material?(Silver, Gold, Wood, Titanium etc...)
There may or may not be a difference in material. Some claim to hear a distinct
difference, and some hear none at all. Among those that feel there is a difference, the
darkness is generally associated with density (greater density equals greater darkness),
as is the resistance. Several tests have been conducted to discover the differences
between various materials, and all seem to show that the material does not have inherent
sound qualities like those described above. Among those who hold that material does not
matter, the cut of the headjoint is generally blamed for perceived differences in timbre.
A well cut head of a less expensive material may be a better purchase than a poorly cut
one of a more expensive material.
Titanium: titanium is very resistant, which gives it an amazing potential
for projection, but is generally less colorful than other materials.
Platinum:Platinum, being even more dense than gold, is likely to produce an
even darker tone color than gold. Obviously, a solid gold or platinum head will be a
significant financial investment (especially platinum), so it is important to balance your
future goals regarding the flute with the amount of money a solid gold or platinum flute
Gold:Because gold has a higher density than silver it usually produces a
darker tone color and may in some cases reduce sound projection because of that.
Silver:Silver is the considered to be a brighter, livelier sound with less
resistance, gold dark and rich, with more resistance. Wood is often described as "hollow"
or "reedy" sounding, and titanium is very resistant, which gives it an amazing potential
for projection, but is generally less colorful than other materials.
Silver Clad/Plated:There is also the option of silver plate, which is
particularly common in older French flutes such as Louis Lots and Bonnevilles. These
flutes are described as the brightest of the bunch, but also as more lively than silver,
and with less resistance.
Nickel: Nickel has similar qualities as Silver Clad/plated. This metal is
often found in lower price beginner instruments. Lots of people are alergic to nickel,
therefore most people buy the silver plated ones.
What is the difference between a thick and a thin wall?
The thickness of the flute tubing is in question here. The thickness varies from area to
area and between material.
What Professional models are the most affordable?
Used professional models are the most affordable. A good, reputable flute dealer will have
instruments in good condition for a fraction of the original retail price.
Should I buy more than one instrument?
In the long run, if you plan to play heavily, and perform regularly, you should probably
have at least 2 flutes. At least one should be the best quality you can afford or you feel
fits your needs. This back up flute will come in handy when your primary instrument
requires maintenance, or when weather conditions are unfavorable, and you don't want to
risk your primary flute. If you play only for your enjoyment, or know can otherwise afford
to go without a flute for a couple of weeks, then there's no need to buy a second flute,
but you might decide that you like the option of having another flute around.