Buying a new instrument is a great investment in the education of an advancing player. Emphasis on the “investment”– flutes are expensive! And there are SO many options on the market nowadays. How do you know which ones are good value for the money? Is it worth it to have gold on your flute? Do I really need open holes? I hope the information on this page helps answer some of these questions for you!
Rent vs. Buy
I always recommend beginners start out renting an instrument. This could end up saving you money if it turns out you or your child doesn’t like playing the flute, or might like to try a few different instruments before deciding which one to study. If you/your child is in school, your band program probably uses an instrument repair and rental shop. I would recommend renting from the shop that your school’s band uses. In the Houston area, I personally recommend Music & Arts. Most music shops offer a rent-to-own option, which is also helpful. Usually when you purchase through a chain shop like Music & Arts, you get good perks like free repairs, discounts on sheet music, or discounts on future upgrade instruments. Whatever you do, DO NOT– I repeat– DO NOT just buy a flute off Amazon because it is cheap and looks shiny, or comes in your favorite color. These are absolutely not worth the money, and you will end up spending more on repairs than the instrument is actually worth. Generally, you get what you pay for!
If you’ve been renting an instrument for a year or so and feel like flute will be in your life for the foreseeable future, then it is time to think about purchasing an instrument!
Specifications for beginner instruments
Instruments get more complicated as the player advances. Beginner instruments are factory-produced, made out of a lightweight nickel, and have simple adjustment screws. Instruments are delicate, and beginner instruments are made to be easily fixed. Generally, any good music shop flute specialist will get you set up well. Some reputable brands for beginner instruments are Yamaha and DiZhao. Stick with those and you’ll be great! Be ready to spend around $1,000 for a good beginner instrument.
- Closed-hole OR open-hole with plugs
- Offset G
- C foot joint
Purchasing a step-up/intermediate instrument
Usually as students continue to improve, they begin to use their air more efficiently. They will even start using more air to create a bigger, more mature sound. However, little beginner nickel flutes can’t take that much air– that’s why they’re for beginners. After 2-3 years of study, it is probably time to purchase a “step-up” flute that will allow the student to continue growing. 8th graders moving on to high school should keep their beginner flute to use as their “backup” for marching band, where the instruments are subjected to the elements on a regular basis. You DO NOT want to be marching with a $3,000 flute!
Step-up instruments are a little more complex than beginner instruments. They can be made with more precious metals, have handmade elements, and additional mechanisms for ease of play.
Yes, the metal an instrument is made out of does affect the sound and response of the flute! The heavier the metal, the darker the tone and the more air you need to use to fill up the instrument. That being said, you do not need to have a gold flute in order to sound good! Not everyone likes the sound and feel of gold– some prefer the light, sparkly sound of silver. An affordable option is to find a head joint with a riser or lip plate made out of the metal you prefer. A hand-cut headjoint will make the articulation more responsive and will make a student-model flute sound awesome. The headjoint is extremely important to your flute sound! All of these fancy add-ons add up, not to mention the gold and silver options. Be ready to spend $1,000-4,000.
- Silver or silver-plated body
- Handcut headjoint
- Gold riser or lip plate
- C# trill is not necessary but very helpful
There are MANY excellent intermediate/step-up instruments on the market today. These are the makers that I personally recommend:
Purchasing a new flute in the Houston area
Investing in a new instrument can be overwhelming. I have barely scratched the surface of the intricacies of flute-making here! We are lucky to have a “flute whisperer” in Houston who can help. Bobbi Prewitt is a Music & Arts flute specialist who can give you hands-on guidance in trying, trialling, and purchasing a new flute. She is the ONLY person I would recommend purchasing a flute from in this area. When you know what your budget is and are ready to move ahead with purchasing a new flute, give her a call. Let her know your budget, and she will bring all the flutes in your price range to your nearest Music & Arts store. Bobbi will listen to you/your student play each flute and will match you/them up to the best instrument for you/them. She will guide you through all the different combinations and brands and help you select the one that will allow you to keep growing as a musician. And if you’re one of my students–let me know when you book an appointment because I want to be there too!