If you or your children have decided to pick up the flute, you’ve come to the right place. The flute is a wonderful instrument, with a long and storied history — it’s considered to be the very first wind instrument, in use since the Stone Age.
Thankfully, flautists today aren’t playing direct replicas of the instruments played by our Stone Age ancestors. We’ve come a long way from the days when a flute was a stalk of bamboo, with a few finger holes.
Today, there are many different brands, models and types of flutes, all available at a wide range of prices. If you’re new to the flute, take heart. We’re here to help you find the right flute for you.
Parts of the Flute
Before we get into the types of flutes best for beginner flautists, it’s useful to understand the basic parts of the flute. This knowledge will help you as you browse for just the right type to start you in your flute education. Here are the must-know parts of every flute:
This is the top of the flute, where you’ll find the lip plate and the embouchure hole. In the tip of the headjoint, there’s a cork that seals the flute — so the air goes into the instrument, and not out the other end.
The middle section of the flute is called the body, and this is where the keys are located. It’s the largest section of the flute.
The footjoint is the shortest part of the flute, and contains several keys. All the keys on the footjoint are played with the pinky finger of the right hand. A standard foot for students is a C foot; while most intermediate and professional models will have a B foot.
Buying a Beginner’s Flute
Being new to the world of the flute, you may feel a bit overwhelmed by all the options to choose from. That’s why we’ve put together 6 easy steps to guide you in purchasing your very first flute. By the time you’re ready for your second flute, you’ll know just what to look for!
1. Do Your Research
With so many brands available, it’s important to know the good from the bad. Learning about the instruments themselves is just as important as learning how to play. Research flute brands, and read the reviews and critiques for each. Check out online forums, such as the ABRSM Viva Woodwind forum, to get helpful information from experienced flute players. Even better, find a reputable flute teacher who can give you advice and guidance.
2. Don’t Buy a Cheap Flute
There are many low-priced flutes available to purchase from a number of sources. While you may think you’re getting a bargain, it’s usually best to avoid these. They have a low price point for a reason — they’re often more difficult to play (even for an experienced player), and the sound simply isn’t up to par.
It’s worth it to invest a bit more budget, to get a high-quality instrument that’s easier to play, and sounds a lot better than a cheap one. Students who start out with a low-quality flute sometimes get discouraged and give up, thinking that they’ll never be a good player — when in reality, the problem was the quality of their instrument.
3. Buy a Flute Designed for Beginners
You’re just starting out, so don’t immediately reach for the fanciest flute you can find. A flute specifically designed for a beginner will be much more helpful when learning to play. A beginner flute is easy to play, light, and very durable. If you’re purchasing the flute for your child, look for a beginner model made for students with small hands — with curved headjoints that extend the reach of the player, making it easier to play. There are even high-quality plastic models, which are more durable than metal flutes.
A student model flute will most likely have closed holes on the keys, which also makes the flute easier to play. As you become more serious about playing, you’re eventually want to upgrade to an open-holed flute, because they produce better tone and give the player more control over the intonation.
Beginner and student models are usually made from a nickel and silver alloy. Silver plating is more popular because of its shine, though nickel-plated flutes tend to be more affordable. If you have an allergy to silver or nickel, be sure to buy a flute plated with a material you can handle safely.
4. Start With Traditional Specifications
We could overload you with flute jargon, but you’ll pick up plenty of that language as you learn, and it’s not necessary to know all of it when purchasing your first instrument. For now, all you need to know is to look for a silver-plated flute that has:
- Closed holes
- An E mechanism (also known as a Split E)
- A C footjoint
The flutes with these three features are not only easier to play, but they also have a higher resale value when it comes time for you to upgrade to another flute.
5. Get the Right Size Flute
It’s essential that your first flute is sized correctly for your body and hands. For children, and adults with small hands, it’s a good idea to get a curved headjoint for your very first flute; which reduces the need to stretch. While it’s a bit more expensive, it eliminates the development of a bad habit that can take years to correct.
6. Plan for the Future
Some beginner flutes are designed so that you can easily upgrade them to intermediate flutes by simply replacing the headjoint. If you’re planning to stick with the flute for a while, or you see yourself (or your child) as a quick learner, it may be wise for you to select your first flute with the future in mind. Finding the right flute is not just about learning to play correctly, but also setting you up to enjoy your new musical skill.