Buying Guide: Flutes
Not all flutes are created equal.Our staff would like to guide you through all of the available options and configurations to help you choose the right instrument for your needs and your budget.
Plateau (closed-hole) keys or open-hole (French model) keys?
A: Most student flutes feature plateau keys because they're easier to play. Open-hole flutes feature a small hole in the center of each key and are used by the majority of professional players because they make it easier to produce tonal nuances. Some teachers prefer students to start on open-hole flutes since they'll probably want to play open hole eventually anyway.
Body material—nickel silver, silver, or a combination of the two?
Nickel silver is very durable and more resistant to denting than silver, yet it still produces a nice tone. For this reason, student flutes usually feature nickel silver on the head, body, and footjoint.
The headjoint is the heart of a flute's tone production and the logical place to start upgrading a flute. A sterling silver headjoint produces a warmer and richer tone while improving the flute's response. For this reason, many intermediate models feature a silver headjoint with a nickel silver body and footjoint.
Most professional flautists use flutes made entirely of silver because they provide warm, rich tone with clean, crisp response. An all-silver flute requires careful handling and so is usually not the best choice for a young student. Some professionals play all-gold flutes, but their price is prohibitive for the majority of players.
Silver plating or nickel plating?
The most popular plating for flutes is silver. Silver's pale luminescence is more beautiful than nickel, though it does require regular polishing to maintain its beauty. Nickel is a more affordable plating and is very durable, but it can become slippery, especially if the student has sweaty hands. In rare cases, nickel can cause allergic skin reactions.
Gold-plated lip plate?
B: Gold plating is hypo-allergenic and it also provides a bit of "traction" for the bottom lip, helping with fast passages. It adds a touch of elegance to a flute's looks as well.
C footjoint or B footjoint?
C: The C footjoint has a range to low C while the B footjoint's playing range extends a half-step lower to low B. It is rare for flute music to include a low B, but a low B cannot be played at all with a C footjoint. Flutes with B footjoints should include a "gizmo" key (auxiliary high C facilitator), without which it is very difficult to play a high C.
The G key-offset or in-line, what's the difference?
D: The G key is controlled by the ring finger of the left hand. Offsetting this key from the rest makes it much easier to finger, particularly for small hands. Until recently offset G keys have been found almost exclusively on plateau (closed-hole) student model flutes. But today many open-hole flutes are configured with an offset G key in order to make it easier to cover the hole.
A curved headjoint is available on some student flutes. This feature has the effect of placing the lip plate inches closer to the keys so that small students can reach the keys without straining.
The split E mechanism makes playing the high E easier without requiring any relearning of flute fingering. Split E flutes are almost always configured with offset G keys.
Some manufacturers offer the D# roller on select flutes. This enhancement makes it easier to slide the little finger of the right hand from D# to C#, C, and B.
Putting it all together
A student flute will typically feature a silver-plated nickel silver headjoint, body, and footjoint with offset plateau keys and a C footjoint. Occasionally instructors will request an open-hole model and/or a flute with the split E mechanism.
Intermediate, "performance," "step-up," or "conservatory" flutes are usually configured with a silver headjoint. Typically the body and footjoint are either silver or silver-plated nickel. Very often these flutes feature open-hole keys and a B footjoint. Though in-line G keys are more common, more and more players are choosing offset G keys in intermediate flutes.
The sky's the limit when it comes to the features of professional flutes. However, they generally come with open holes and a silver headjoint, body, and footjoint. Many professional flutes are handmade to very tight tolerances for maximum performance.
Whichever flute you select, Our Complete Satisfaction Guarantees ensure that you'll receive a great instrument at a price that won't be beaten by any of our competitors. And you'll have a full 45 days to decide that it's the right instrument for you.