For anyone not progressing fast enough learning on a poor quality flute, it can be difficult to pinpoint whether it’s the instrument or your skill set that’s not up to scratch.
And there is no greater tragedy than giving up on your dream believing you lack the skills required to play flute when it is your cheap quality instrument that’s to blame.
Your flute shouldn’t make you doubt your skills. Starting out, you need to get your hands on the best flute for beginners.
But what really is that?
This article will answer that question and also point you towards 5 options you ought to consider.
To fully appreciate the flute, however, it may be prudent to first explore the history of the instrument.
A flute is a wind instrument that is identified by a narrow metal pipe with several keys running along its length.
Side held and played through a lip plate that sits on the side of the instrument and towards the top of the head joint, the flute is one of the first instruments ever played by man.
According to instruments maker, Yamaha, the first flutes were more like recorders.
The prototype of the modern flute is the work of German wind instrument maker, Theobald Boehm. In 1847, Boehm unveiled a metal flute with several keys.
Before then, the instrument had been made out of wood, bamboo, animal or human bones, with a few holes to control the instrument’s pitch and sound.
A lot like another German, Johann Christoph Denner with the clarinet, Boehm’s improvements changed the quality and character of the flute’s sound in a big, transformative way.
The flute, the Western concert version at least, is now almost exclusively made out of metal.
There were other improvements in the next 50 years after Boehm’s new design, but none were as significant as the German music instrument inventor and flutist’s.
There is no question about it, whatever instrument you are learning, the instrument you choose to learn with will dictate your progress.
And, like every other musical instrument, there is the good, the average, and the plain bad. As there are going to be concepts you will struggle to master, the last thing you need is a faulty flute that limits you even more.
To get the most out of your flute, you must have a good knowledge of the instrument, including its basic anatomy, the material choices it comes in, and how it produces its sound.
A more informed appreciation of the instrument will help you decide what features are important and which ones can be skimped on. Learning how to assemble and disassemble the instrument also becomes easier when you know where each part should be.
At its most basic form, the flute has the head joint, body, and the foot joint. These parts can be taken apart and reassembled as you do with the clarinet. Cork too is used to seal the parts together to prevent air leakages.
The flute is an aerophone, which means, unlike other woodwind instruments, it does not use reeds with its mouthpiece.
In fact, there is no mouthpiece to talk about. What you have is essentially an embouchure hole on the middle of a lip plate that sits on the side and towards the top of the head joint. For that distinction, the western concert flute is known as a transverse flute.
The instrument is thus held and played sideways, across the body. This marks the instrument from flutes from other parts of the world, which are end-blown.
Standard flutes may be too long for small, young beginners to reach all the instrument’s keys and still play comfortably.
For this reason, the head joint on some beginner flute models is bent slightly to give smaller players greater reach.
Yamaha goes even better and offers some of its beginner flutes with a headjoint that is bent completely backwards to extend the reach for smaller players even further. If you are buying for a child, those will be perfect.
Another important distinction between student and pro flutes is on the holes.
While open hole (French style) flutes give the flutist greater control over the instrument’s intonation, they aren’t the easiest to handle for learners. If the player is a young child with smaller fingers, they will even struggle with covering the holes fully to stop any air leaks.
Until they have refined their technique, beginners are better off learning with closed hole (German style) flutes. Also known as plateau holes, closed holes will make the instrument much easier to play for beginners.
As you improve though, you will certainly want to upgrade to an open holed flute, which, as we have said, will give you more control over the instrument’s tone.
There is, of course, the option of open holed flutes with removable plugs that seal the holes. These flutes are a viable option if you want a flute you will not need to upgrade before long. But the plugs tend to affect the instrument body’s resonance, which is important for a fluent flute sound.
Flutes should ideally spot metal bodies. But it isn’t uncommon to find beginner models made of plastic.
As you would expect, plastic flutes will not give you the best sound quality. But for young learners these may be the more practical choice. Metal flutes maybe be too delicate for young hands to care for.
Note, however, that even though the resonance and timbre a flute produces depends largely on the material used in its construction, the thickness of the instrument’s walls is also a factor.
Still, flutes made made from chrome/nickel, wood, silver, wood, or plastic will sound distinctly different.
Needless to say, plastic and nickel beginner flutes also come with prices that won’t punch holes in your pocket.
At the high end are flutes made of silver, occasionally gold, and less commonly platinum.
Sterling silver, considered the choicest material and a favorite of Boehm’s, is also preferred for its sweet tone and smart, industrial finish. Faithful with their tone and resonance, these flutes are a dream to play for skilled players.
For beginners however, silver may not be the most prudent of choices, largely because of a typically forbidding price.
Most student flutes have bodies made out of a silver and nickel alloy. This makes them tougher than nickel and plastic flutes, and less expensive than silver flutes. Some are made from other alloys and given a silver plating.
Granadilla wood flutes on the other hand produce a warm, charming and fabulously satisfying tone. But they aren’t the easiest to maintain.
Clearly, gold, platinum, and wooden flutes are not viable options for beginners.
If the keys on your flute won’t cover the holes fully, without letting out any air, playing your instrument is going to be a frustrating experience.
This is especially critical on a flute than other woodwind instruments because the flute is side blown, which means even blowing more forcefully into the instrument isn’t going to help you overcome issues associated with air leaks.
Other than the airtight seal, the keys also need to be made of strong, pliable material. Cast metal keys may feel strong, but they are brittle and more likely to break when the instrument is put in the hands of an unskilled player.
Forged metal keys, though more expensive, are stronger and can bend without breaking, which is important for beginner flutes. You will want to choose those for an instrument that will last that much longer.
Least but not last:
First, the two are all flute foot joints. The difference between them is that the C-foot is the shorter one, which you will find on most student models.
What it simply means is, because there are only two keys, the lowest note you can play on the C-foot joint is the C note.
On the other, the B-foot is longer and has three keys, with the effect that you can go one note lower, which is the B note. However, even if you are a pro level flutist, you will only rarely ever use the B note.
So whilst many buyers of student flutes will always ask if a flute has a B-foot, in real terms they may not ever need to use it.
It’s safe to say then, a beginner flute does not need to have a B-foot. That C-foot is more than adequate.
While we naturally associate a high price tag with fancier features and better quality, in reality it is not always that simple. Some higher priced instruments aren’t necessarily as better as the price difference may suggest.
For example, a $1,500 flute will likely have better quality over $300 one. But often it won’t be $1,200 better.
For flutes and other woodwind instruments, it is even harder for beginners to notice the differences between a cheaper instrument and a pricey one.
You need a trained ear to recognize the subtle differences between the sounds, which only comes with playing experience.
So, even if you can afford a more expensive pro flute, as a beginner the benefit of using that instrument over a cheaper one won’t be as apparent. You are better off settling on a functional beginner flute for now.
With that out of the way, let’s now consider your options:
Even if you are going out to specifically look for an inexpensive beginner flute, the plan is likely there to upgrade to a better instrument at some point.
Some may already have a good instrument but require a cheaper one to practice with on their travels. This FL-220 Student Flute by Jean Paul USA is great for both scenarios.
The fact Jean Paul trains much of its expertise on beginner and intermediate level instruments probably explains how it manages to make good quality instruments at such low prices.
At its low price point, the FL-220’s intonation is surprisingly quite good. The power forged metal keys, while durable, also ensure even response and consistent playability.
Other Features and Benefits