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Best Flutes

Updated October 2018
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 14 Models Considered
  • 7 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 192 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best flutes

    Last Updated October 2018

    The flute is one of the most agile and mellifluous instruments in the orchestra. It can dance rapidly about, playing bright, joyous melodies, or it can gently float warm tones of hypnotic beauty through the air. A novice can achieve satisfying results rather quickly, yet it can take a lifetime to master all the subtle tonal nuances this nimble instrument can produce.

    If this is your first flute, you'll be looking to purchase a student model because it has specific features that are designed to facilitate learning. If you've been playing for a few years and are ready to step up to an intermediate or professional model, there are many things you'll want to understand and consider before upgrading to a new instrument.

    The following guide is designed with both the beginner and the advanced performer in mind. It will give you a quick rundown of the main parts of this remarkable woodwind instrument as well as outline the various options that are available to you.

    After you've read through this article and determined exactly what you need, jump back up to the top of this page to see our favorite picks.

    The two instruments that take the most breath to play are the tuba and the flute.

    A rather simple instrument

    According to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the flute is the oldest-known musical instrument in the world. In 2012, flutes speculated to be approximately 42,000 years old were found in a German cave. These flutes appear to have been crafted of bird bone and mammoth ivory.

    In its lowest register, a flute is little more than a tube with holes. When all the holes are covered, the instrument plays its lowest note – C or B depending on your particular flute. As you uncover the holes, starting at the far right and moving left, the notes get higher and higher.

    Over the years, many improvements and modifications have been made to the design of this instrument to allow for a greater range of expression.

    Step up to greatness

    If you've been playing your student flute for a few years and are chomping at the bit to step up, Gemeinhardt's got the model for you. The 3SHB features a solid silver headjoint, French open-hole keys, a B footjoint, and an inline G. Show the world you're ready for your solo with this quality crafted instrument.

    The three sections

    Unlike the aforementioned prehistoric flutes, which were constructed in one piece, modern flutes contain three separate sections called joints. They are the headjoint, the body joint, and the footjoint.

    • Headjoint

    This is the part of the flute with the lip plate and the embouchure hole. A player rests his or her lower lip on the lip plate and blows across the embouchure hole to vibrate a column of air within the instrument. These vibrations are what the ear interprets as notes and music.

    • Body joint

    This is the longest section of the flute. It contains most of the keys that a player depresses and releases in various combinations to create notes.

    • Footjoint

    This is the shortest part of the flute. Depending on your model, this piece contains three or four keys that are activated by the little finger of the right hand via touch pieces and rollers.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    The flute is a concert pitch instrument. When you play a C, it sounds like a C. Believe it or not, not all instruments do this!

    Glossary of features

    So far, we've talked about the lip plate and the embouchure hole. Here are a few other terms you might find handy in helping you get through the rest of this guide.

    • French or open-hole flute: The keys of this flute have a venting hole in them that must be covered by the performer’s fingers. These holes allow the flautist to have greater control over intonation.

    • Plateau or closed-hole flute: The keys of this flute are solid, which makes it easier to play.

    • Offset G key: The flute's G key is offset to make it easier and more natural to play. This is an ideal feature for performers with smaller hands.

    • Inline G key: The flute's G key is inline with all the other keys. This option is better suited for performers with longer fingers.

    • Dapped (Y-arm) keys: In this design, the keys are connected to the rod via a Y-shaped arm. It is the standard design in most student and intermediate flutes.

    • Pointed key arms: In this design, the keys are connected to the rod via a stylized pointed arm that extends to the center of the key. This stronger, more durable mechanism is only found on higher-end flutes.

    • Split E mechanism: Usually only found on flutes with an offset G, this mechanism makes it easier to play a high E.

    • C footjoint: This is the standard footjoint that is found on most student flutes. It allows the flute to reach a low C.

    • B footjoint: This footjoint extends the length of the flute to allow it to reach a low B. It also improves the overall pitch in the flute's highest octave.
    CAUTION

    Never pack anything additional (including sheet music) inside your flute case. When you close the lid, the extra pressure could easily damage the fragile key mechanisms.

    Student to artisan

    Flutes are designed with the user's skill level in mind. A beginner may sound fine on a student instrument, but remember, purchasing an intermediate or professional flute won't magically make a performer sound better. That only happens with practice and ever-increasing mastery of the instrument. For the purpose of this guide, we are going to break the different types of instruments into three categories: student, intermediate, and artisan.

    Student flutes

    Student flutes are typically constructed using nickel silver that is plated with silver. Nickel silver is a harder, more durable metal that can tolerate a little rougher handling. The headjoint is sterling silver. Student flutes tend to be closed-hole flutes with an offset G key and Y arms. The footjoint in this category of flutes is usually a C footjoint.

    Approximate price range: up to $800.

    Intermediate flutes

    Intermediate flutes are made with a solid silver headjoint and often a solid silver body joint and footjoint as well. These instruments feature an open-hole style and typically have an inline G key along with Y arms. The footjoint on an intermediate flute is a B footjoint.

    • Approximate price range: $800 to $2,400.

    Artisan flutes

    Artisan flutes are precision-made, hand-crafted pieces of functioning art. They can be constructed of any metal and usually have pointed arms.

    Approximate price range: $2,400 to $80,000 and beyond.

    EXPERT TIP

    A beginner can start out with an open-hole flute. All it takes is inserting some key plugs into the holes so the flute will function like a closed-hole flute.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Materials controversy

    When it comes to the metals used in constructing the flute, performers and manufactures both insist that it makes a very big difference in the sound. Nickel silver is thought to produce bright tones; silver is thought to produce tones that are a shade darker. Gold has a reputation for producing rich, warm tones. Science, on the other hand, has proven that although the material does affect the sound, its effect is negligible.

    That said, a flautist may subconsciously (or consciously) perform differently on a gold flute than he or she would on a silver flute. This difference could, in turn, affect tonal color.

    So although your choice in flute materials is an aesthetic one, the instrument's aesthetics just might have an impact on your performance.

    Innovative elegance

    Priced within the threshold of an intermediate flute, this beautiful instrument has features you'd only expect to find in a top-tier artisan model. Combining the performance ease of an offset G and a split E mechanism with French-style open holes, this model is perfect for the aspiring virtuoso. Pearl has even decided to include French pointed arms to be sure you're getting only the very best.

    Maintenance tips

    Compared to many other instruments in the band and orchestra, the flute is easy to take care of. By creating a simple two-step routine that you execute after each practice session or performance, your flute will stay trouble free for years and years.

    • Swab it out: The worst thing for your flute is moisture. Unfortunately, there is moisture in your breath. Every time you play your flute, you need to swab it out. To do this, take your flute apart. Thread the corner of a soft cloth through the cleaning wand that came with your flute. Then, wrap it around the wand so there is no chance of damaging the inside of your instrument. Carefully swab the moisture out of each part of your flute.

    • Wipe it down: The oils and acids in your fingers can tarnish or even corrode your flute. Use a soft, microfiber cloth to wipe your fingerprints off your instrument before putting it back in its case.
       

    To ensure there are no gradually developing problems with your instrument, take it to a repair technician once each year for general maintenance.

    Investing in a better flute won’t make you sound better. Practice, patience, and perseverance are the secrets to sounding great.

    FAQ

    Q. Why do I get dizzy when I play the flute?

    A. Most beginning flute players waste a great deal of air when playing – you can tell by the fuzzy/breathy tone. Whenever you repeatedly and rapidly exhale a great deal of air, you run the risk of hyperventilating. When you blow out too much carbon dioxide, the blood vessels that carry blood to your brain constrict, which leads to lightheadedness, tingling in your fingers, and possibly a loss of consciousness. Learning the correct way to produce a tone will stop the dizziness.

    Q. What is the range of the flute?

    A. The flute can play three octaves, beginning at low C – or B if you have a B footjoint.

    Q. Will being in the marching band make my flute rust?

    A. It's not rust that you need to worry about. If the pads that cover the holes on your flute get wet, the water will damage them. If the pads don't properly seal the holes, your flute will cease to work. The best way to make it through marching band season is to dry off your flute with a soft, microfiber cloth as soon as you have a chance.

    Q. My flute is tarnished! What do I do?

    A. Using a silver polishing cloth, gently rub the tarnished areas on your instrument. Be very careful not to rub the pads. Using liquid or cream polish is not recommended, as it could damage your flute’s key mechanisms.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Allen
      Allen
      Writer
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Kristin
      Kristin
      Writer
    • Linsay
      Linsay
      Editor
    • Melinda
      Melinda
      Web Producer
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor

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