Who buys "SUPER-expensive" flutes?

Flute History and Instrument Purchase

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asoalin
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Who buys "SUPER-expensive" flutes?

Post by asoalin »

I've been reading all I can find lately about flutes (manufacturers, options, materials, prices, etc.) because I'm planning on buying a new one in a few months and want to get the right one.

I'm looking at flutes in the $5,000 range, which is a lot for me, but it will be one that I will use for many years. I still can't believe there are $30,000 and $40,000+ out there! I'm just confused about who would spend this much on a flute and if it is really that much better than one that is $5,000 or $8,000. Also, do people take out loans to pay for these super-expensive flutes? Is it just rich people that spend so much on them? I'm just intrigued to learn about the world of people who own super-expensive flutes ("super-expensive" to me is anything over $20,000 for a flute). Is there a big market for these high-end instruments?

Help me out!
"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music." -Sergei Rachmaninoff

fluteguy18
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Post by fluteguy18 »

What I have seen among those individuals who spend upwards of $20k on a flute, either A: save up their money for a long time, or B: take out a loan through companies like American General. Other individuals are hired by the maker to endorse their company. In these cases, the individual often gets very deep discounts or a completely free flute, depending on the specifics of the contract. And lastly, very wealthy musicians like James Galway and Jeanne Baxtresser can afford very pricey instruments.

One argument I have heard about regarding the quality of these instruments, is that they are supposedly of better quality. They are handmade, but because they are made of very precious metals [high carat count gold, and platinum, with all sorts of combinations and custom features], the craftsman takes extra care to avoid damaging or wasting the materials by messing up. So, they supposedly take more time in crafting them to avoid error, and to put a little extra finesse into the way it plays.

However, I sometimes think this is a complete lie. Yes, it would make sense that the craftsman would take extra care in making it to avoid error, but I have played many instruments that are simply not worth that money. Are there instruments out there that are worth that price [not only in their weight value, but also in playability]... most certainly.

I bought my handmade Miyazawa for roughly 4,500 USD. In my opinion [because afterall, this whole response is my opinion, so it could be worth absolutely nothing afterall...] my flute plays circles around flutes worth many times its value.

The price range you are looking at puts you into the realm of handmade flutes. Each flute is different. Each flute is entirely unique in the way it plays. Even among identical flutes [same maker, same model, same options], they can be completely different. A girl in my studio has a flute identical to mine. When I play her flute, it sounds very lush and warm. In comparison, my flute is more cool and mellow.

You simply have to try them out to decide if they are worth the money. Just keep in mind, that price is directly proportionate to the material [current value per troy ounce], and the amount of hand craftsmanship.

What companies are you looking at right now?

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MrBaz
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Post by MrBaz »

For those whose life/passion is playing the flute, they want to get the most out of their flute. Mostly gold flutes are the expensive kind. The solid gold gives a different tonal characteristics to the flute. I would LOVE to have a Nagahara Full Concert flute, but I can't afford it just now.
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asoalin
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Post by asoalin »

Fluteguy18:

Thanks for the response. I guess I understand that the flutemakers have to charge for the material they're using (i.e. high carat gold, platinum, etc.), and I guess I understand that gold flutes, platinum flutes, etc. are supposed to be richer sounding because the metal is more dense (I hope I'm getting this right), but what I still can't understand is how people can afford to spend that much on a flute! I guess you just have to make sacrifices in other areas - like not buy a new SUV or whatever the situation may be.

So far, I've tried a Pearl and a Muramatsu. I liked the Muramatsu better, but it may have been because the model I tried was a step up from the Pearl model I tried. With the Pearl I was having trouble getting the really low notes to come out smoothly. The Muramatsu was a gem - so smooth and rich sounding. The Muramatsu had more mechanisms than my old student Bundy, so my right just below my index finger kept knocking into things turning my B-naturals into B-flats. I thought maybe the split E mechanism was what was making it bulky although I'm not sure. Other than that I loved it. I'm getting a Miyazawa in the mail on Monday to spend a week with. I'm so excited! I've heard great things about the company. I can't imagine a better sound than the Muramatsu I tried, but we'll see.

Other brands I'm still considering are Haynes, Altus and Sankyo. I'd like to try a Powell also, but they may be just out of my price range.

Glad to hear that you like your Miyazawa, fluteguy18. What model do you have? I'm going to be trying the 202 (adding C# trill and D# roller).
"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music." -Sergei Rachmaninoff

fluteguy18
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Post by fluteguy18 »

I have the Miya 202 with: 14k riser, C# trill, offset g, split E, and D# roller. I have the MZ-8 headjoint, but because my one year headjoint exchange policy isn't up yet, I might switch to the MZ-7. The MZ-8 is almost too responsive, and has a lot of volume. The MZ-7 heads I have tried [for my playing at least], have more resistance, less volume [but more color]. The only drawback I have with the MZ-7 heads that I have tried, is that the articulation isn't as clear, and articulation is one of my weaker areas. But, that being said, this is my playing, and the various headjoints you will try might play differently for you.

I hope you like the Miya. But, that is my own little bias coming out. :wink: Whatever flute you try out and purchase from that list, will be a great instrument.

ick27
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Post by ick27 »

The most expensive sterling silver flutes generally aren't more than $11,000 right now. If you get the same flute in gold or platinum it will be much more expensive (up to maybe $40,000). I'm not entirely sure why they are so much more expensive though--the production time for a gold flute or platinum flute is only slightly more than that of a silver flute (because gold and platinum are harder than silver) and the value of the materials used is *only* around a few thousand dollars.

As for the craftsmanship theory, you can be sure that flute companies will always do their best possible work on their high end instruments, whether made out of silver, gold, or whatever else.

Perhaps the cost of the materials is way more than I thought, since prices do seem roughly the same for flutes in the same metals by different makers. The truth is, these super expensive flutes are made because flutists want to buy them. Making a flute body or mechanism out of gold instead of silver has almost no effect on the way the instrument plays, but it's what people want. If people desperately desired flutes made out of palladium, rhodium, recycled cans, or moonbeams, you can be sure flute makers would make them and sell them. It's mostly the level of the craftsmanship that determines how well a flute plays.

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MrBaz
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Post by MrBaz »

According to todays market quotes:
Ounces used for measuring precious metals are troy ounces (1.09711oz)

Silver: $16.18/oz (99.9% pure silver - Fine Silver)
Gold: $892.80/oz (this is for 24K)
Platinum: $1554.00/oz

Yes, there really is that big of a difference.


9K gold is 37.5% 24K gold
14K gold is 58.5% 24K gold
20K gold is 83% 24K gold

My Yamaha is sterling silver, which is 92.5% silver. You can see why other flutes made of 95.8% silver or higher are more expensive.
Last edited by MrBaz on Thu Jan 10, 2008 10:36 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Yamaha 561
Current Member of Pikes Peak Flute Choir of Colorado.
Previous member of 'Flutes Furioso' in FL.
Previous guest member in the Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra.

asoalin
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Post by asoalin »

Wow!! That's crazy...

I just watched a really cool show this morning on how gold is mined chemically. It was on Discovery. If you can catch it replaying it was really interesting to see the process if you've never seen it before.

After seeing the show I can kind of understand why gold is so expensive!
"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music." -Sergei Rachmaninoff

fluteguy18
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Post by fluteguy18 »

On top of those prices, you also have to take into account that you are also paying for the wasted [and unusable excess] materials. When a key is made, it is usually cast [meaning heated into a liquid, then poured into a mold] [example: Pearl, Brannen... etc. etc.]. Then, the craftsman will go in with a file and perfect the key. So, there is excess material taken off of the flute. With other companies, they will forge their keys by stamping them out of sheets of metal like a coin [example: Miyazawa]. With this system, there is usually much more excess that is not used. Even though the key comes out almost completely perfect, there is the remaining bit of the sheet metal that is not used.

True, the metal could be melted down and used if it is a sizable enough piece, but this does affect pricing.

Claiken
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Post by Claiken »

i say someone who can afford $40,000 for a flute needs to buy us all $8,000 flutes! lol.

even if i saved for 10 years id never have that much!
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fluttiegurl
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Post by fluttiegurl »

I have a friend who bought a $20k flute last year. It is her livelihood, and she not only deserves this incredible instrument, it has made playing easier for her in many aspects. She typically plays 8+ hours a day and in on the road six months of the year. If this flute makes it easier than her $10k flute, then it is worth it. I guess I should also point out that she can afford it and did wait until it was within her budget to do so.

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Phineas
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Post by Phineas »

My .02USD

In the end, an instrument is a tool. What you pay for an instrument really comes down to a cost justification. Here is what I mean

If a flute player makes $50000 a year, this would be a take home of $2600 a month after taxes. If the flute player buys a $20000 dollar flute, and the flute lasts 5 years before a major over haul, plus $1000 a year to maintain it. This will be an average investment of $416 dollars a month over 5 years. Is it worth it in this case? Yes. You are spending $416 a month on a tool the will gross $4000, and net $2600 with a remaining usable income in $2200 a month. Depending on where you live, you can live pretty decent on what is left after paying for the flute.

Now, broke college student, house wife, part time musician? Heck no!!!!!!!! If you figure in a $4000 flute over a 5 year period, plus $200 a year in maintenance, you are talking $83 dollars a month on a 5 year budget. This means if you use the same income/flute cost ratio, you would have to gross $800 and net $600 dollars a month to justify the expense. This would leave you with $517 a month usable income.

Remember, I am talking about music making money, not your day job or financial aid. Anything less than an investment is nothing more than a toy financially speaking.

I am in the red right now on my Miyazawa because I have not made much music money lately. However, on the average 1/4 of my income is music related, so I am expecting my returns to catch up in the long run.
My other flutes(Pearl, Buffet, Armtrong Piccolo) have already paid for themselves.

This is only an example, everyone does their budget differently. I just hope you got the point.

Phineas

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vandoren
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Post by vandoren »

fluteguy18 wrote:On top of those prices, you also have to take into account that you are also paying for the wasted [and unusable excess] materials. When a key is made, it is usually cast [meaning heated into a liquid, then poured into a mold] [example: Pearl, Brannen... etc. etc.]. Then, the craftsman will go in with a file and perfect the key. So, there is excess material taken off of the flute. With other companies, they will forge their keys by stamping them out of sheets of metal like a coin [example: Miyazawa]. With this system, there is usually much more excess that is not used. Even though the key comes out almost completely perfect, there is the remaining bit of the sheet metal that is not used.

True, the metal could be melted down and used if it is a sizable enough piece, but this does affect pricing.
Working of precious metals in jewellery or instrument making is always carried out with saving of filings, cuttings and sprues from stampings. These savings are either melted down by the craftsman for reuse or returned to the metal merchant for credit. Nothing is allowed to be wasted - far too precious a resource.
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lhampton
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Post by lhampton »


fluttiegurl
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Post by fluttiegurl »

Very interesting.

However, keeping with the original post of why buy an expensive flute, comparing say a Gemeinhardt M2 to a Burkart is most likely going to wield very different results. Keep in mind that the flutes that she plays here are all very expensive in the first place.

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