1) If you have a flute teacher already, get some advice.
Your teacher can tell you which brands of flute would best suit your style of playing and also how quickly they expect you to progress. Remember though, your teacher wants the best for you and may be inclined to be idealistic – this often means suggesting flutes which are outside of the price bracket you are ready to commit to if you haven’t been playing long.
2) Try before you buy.
Even if you don’t play at all yet, you can gain something from just holding different flutes and taking into account the different weight and balance. If you already play, the tone quality and the action of the keys will be more pleasing on particular instruments. This is not a very exact science so you need to be prepared to listen to your heart as well as your head to get the right flute for you.
3) Does silver content really matter?
YES! The silver content isn’t there to make it look pretty, it drastically improves the tone of the flute. Any silver is a bonus but look out particularly for a silver-plated head joint in cheaper instruments or a solid silver one in more expensive flutes. The John Packer JP011 student flute is the only one on the market to offer full silver-plating at a beginner price.
4) Consider the pros and cons of second hand flutes.
You may be able to get a better quality flute by buying second hand. However, even if you buy from a shop, pre-owned instruments don’t always come with a warranty. The set-up on a flute is very delicate and the keywork or pads can become worn. Don’t buy second hand in a private sale unless you can take someone with you to try the flute who already plays well and would be able to spot any issues.
5) The technical stuff.
The standard requirements for a beginner flute would normally be:
– Closed hole (solid keys instead of rings with holes in the middle called ‘open hole’).
– Split E Mechanism (or ‘mech’). This just refers to the way of playing some of the notes and is by far the most common set-up on beginner instruments.
– Offset G key. The G key sticks out and is therefore considered easier for beginners to handle. Inline G is not a complete no-no – just make sure it’s comfortable and easy to find.
– C foot joint (rather than a ‘B’ foot).
6) Look out for Rental Schemes.
Many music shops offer instrument rental so you can learn for a while before you commit to buying your own flute. If you rent your flute from enjoymuzic, we deduct the amount you have already paid if you decide to buy at the end of your rental. Ask your local store if they offer any similar incentives.
7) Don’t feel pressured to spend more than you can afford.
Everyone with an interest in music will have an opinion on the flute you choose but as long as you and your teacher are happy with it, all that matters is that it suits your CURRENT needs. A well regarded budget brand flute will take you to around Grade 5 (approx 4-6 years) and will last longer if you don’t plan to take exams.
8) What age can my child start playing the flute?
This depends, in part, on the height of the child and the length of their arms. Around 8 is the minimum age that many flute teachers will consider. However, if your child is petite for their age or you are planning to start younger then you can go for a curved head flute. This will bring the keys closer to them and is normally sold with a straight head to move onto as they grow.
9) Don’t get bogged down by ‘what-ifs’
What if I don’t take to it? What if my child progresses past the quality of the flute I buy? What if…. A well kept flute will always fetch a good second hand price. Whether you sell because you stop playing or to contribute to an upgrade, you will often find your teacher or school know someone who is in the exact position you’re in right now and will be glad to buy from you.
10) Don’t skimp on the accessories.
A flute is a big purchase and it’s understandable not to want to spend loads extra. However, keeping your flute properly on the inside and outside will have plenty of long term benefits. Ideally a flute mop or pull-through to clean the inside after playing and a silver polishing cloth for the outside will get you started. Also, if you don’t already have one at home, a music stand is essential to help achieve the correct posture while playing. On the flip side, don’t let anyone sell you any ‘extras’ you aren’t sure about unless you know exactly what it’s for and can see how you will benefit from using it.
If you’re not sure, ask.
In a good music shop, you should feel able to keep asking questions until you feel confident about your choice. If you aren’t sure or you don’t feel your questions are being answered, walk away and try another store or sleep on it to give yourself time to digest all the info.