Words of Advice about Buying Flutes

Flute History and Instrument Purchase

Moderators: Classitar, pied_piper, Phineas

fluttiegurl
Posts: 882
Joined: Fri Dec 10, 2004 11:05 pm

Words of Advice about Buying Flutes

Post by fluttiegurl » Sun Jan 30, 2005 2:38 pm

This ALWAYS gets me in trouble, but I feel it is necessary to share this info.

All of us are blessed with this "discovery" called the internet where we can find just about anything, including flutes. It is a GREAT resource for information, and even buying items. However, use a great deal of caution when buying a flute online (new or used). First, when buying new, it is always good to find a deal, but be sure that you know a little about who you are buying from. ANY honest dealer SHOULD offer some kind of trial period on flutes. Which leads me to point two: NEVER buy a flute without trying it first. What looks like a good deal on a web page is not always worth the money. I would not buy a car without a test drive :shock:

For some ideas about honest online flute dealers, go to www.flute.com. There you will find a list of flute dealers as well as manufacturers that you can trust. I am sure there are others, but I would use a great deal of caution when buying from someone that is unheard of.

When buying used, make sure that the person you are buying from is giving you an accurate discription of the flute. Ask for pictures, date of purchase, serial number and EXACT model number and brand name. Once you have established (by playing several) which model you like the best, it can be beneficial to buy used, if you know the right questions to ask. It is perfectly fine to ask for a trial period when buying from an individual as well. Check out usedflutes.com for MANY used flutes and piccolos. I have used this resource to both buy and sell with no problems.

Most importantly, be sure that you discuss ANY change of flutes with your private instructor, band director, etc. first. He/she should be able to help you decide if you are ready to "step-up" or even help you get a better sound out of your current flute.

User avatar
Phineas
Posts: 953
Joined: Sat Jan 22, 2005 1:08 am

Post by Phineas » Mon Jan 31, 2005 11:53 am

I think the biggest problem with consumers is EXPECTATION. If you buy something for cheap, then that is more than likely what it is. I have purchased cheap instruments here and there(heck I still own a couple) that turned out to be decent for the money. Will I spend $100 dollars to repair a cheap flute? No. One advantage I have is I will work on my own instrument. When a flute/pic is under $200 dollars, it is practicly disposable. That does not mean they are not playable.

The most important thing for a "beginner" is if the instrument is playablity. The only way to insure this to have a trusted experienced person look over the instrument you are planning to buy. I have been to many schools that have decent "BRAND" instruments that are not playable. I recently got my son a Hawk trumpet that turned out to be decent, and very playable. If he lasts more than a year, then I will spring for the better instrument. The dealer I got it from has a 1 year warantee on it, so the worse case is having to send it to them for replacement or repair. So what. I have purchased many instruments for many children I know that did not last past a year.(Their either got into the opposite sex, or went Jock!)

There are places that will gladly return instruments if you are not satisfied with them. I recently purchased a Barrington 996 piccolo from
www.wwbw.com and it turned out to be a nice instrument for any amount of money. I did have to try more than one, but it turned out the be worth it. It is obvious that this is a cheap Chinese piccolo, but the dealer is what makes the sale doable. (Barrington Flutes did not play bad either!!!) Not only that, if it needs an adjustment, repair, or replacement, they will do it! Just like they will on some of the more expensive instruments.

I say, if you want to buy a cheap instrument as a starter, go for it. There are some good ones out there. Just buy them from the right dealer!!!

My rule of thumb.

The less money you pay for an instrument, the harder it will be to find a good one in that price range. This goes for almost any musical instrument.
Over the years It has gotten easier to find low price instruments that play well because of technology, and better quality control.

Phineas

fluttiegurl
Posts: 882
Joined: Fri Dec 10, 2004 11:05 pm

Post by fluttiegurl » Mon Jan 31, 2005 9:51 pm

Some very good points. My biggest concern is when players get to the point of upgrading and buy cheap, expecting the flute to last a lifetime. I think we sometimes get in a hurry and want things NOW, thus causing us to pay for it later on when we have to pay for repairs or even an entirely new flute.

I have also had a case where a student's parents purchased a cheap beginner (no name) flute and it literally fell apart after a few months. The parents were so upset that they blamed it on the student, and nearly made her quit. The truth of the matter was they thought they were getting a good deal that almost ended their daughter's playing days before she ever had a chance to begin. I now have a strict policy about instrument purchases in my studio. If they are dedicated enough to take private lessons, they need to have a decent instrument that should last at least a few years.

I also agree that the key is buying from the "right dealer". I have a list of dealers that I buy from on a regular basis, and that is where I send my students. If they purchase elsewhere, the flute must go to one of those locations for an inspection. I do not have and "deals" with any of these, they have just been tried and true for me and my students in the past. It sounds mean to some, but it keeps parents off of my back later on and it can make a difference in a beginner's playing. If the instrument has problems and the student is too inexperienced to know what is going on, he/she will often feel like he/she just "can't" play, and may even give up. I have seen this happen in the beginner band program in my area. The band director did not even realize that the instrument was a problem and the student ended up in last chair after she had been in second for half of the year. Luckily, she came to me and I realized that the flute was the problem, not her. We took it to my repair man who told us it was not worth fixing. The company would not honor their "warranty". She ended up having to buy two beginner flutes instead of one. Now she is doing very well and loves band again :D .

I think it is important to be careful and, as you said, if you buy cheap, expect cheap.

BTW, I was wondering about the Barrington piccolos, but never actually tried one. I play piccolo about once a year (literally), and that may be a solution to my "borrowing" issue. :)

User avatar
Phineas
Posts: 953
Joined: Sat Jan 22, 2005 1:08 am

Post by Phineas » Tue Feb 01, 2005 6:49 pm

I do not disagree from your point of view one bit! In fact I agree. One problem is that parents are often detached, and did not know anything about instruments. This is a bad situation. I play guitar(also), and I see parents at guitar shops paying too much for junk. With flutes, its even worse! Most of the time, they will buy an instrument because it is the right color, or they think they are getting a deal. Nothing much you can do with a cheap skate parent that is detached from their child's activities.

Another things is rental. Man what a money pit that is. I would rather see a parent buy 2 cheap instruments for back up purposes, than see them rent an instrument. Renting an instrument to me is like renting an apartment. People want your money, but when you need a repair, forget it. Now you have to play on an instrument that you have to pay for, that is not playable until "They" decide to fix it.

The advantage of a person like me buying a cheap instrument is experience. I know what to look for, and if I don't see it, I send it back immediately.(Or adjust it) I have had better than average success with buying cheap instruments. Usually, I will act as a go between when someone wants to buys a cheap instrument, just as a free service. I have had to send many back, but have always been able to find good ones.(Most of the time if the first one is not right, the second one usually is.)

Good on the first one 60%
Good on the second one 95%

Money should never keep a person from playing

As far as the Barrington 996, here is a review I wrote:

I stopped in the show room while passing through, to try out these low priced piccolos. The first one I tried would not play in tune, but the second one played right on the money.
Scale 1 - 10
Action 8 . Very light, very easy to play for the most part. The only issue I had was the trill keys are set kind of low. This is not a big deal for me since I rarely use them except when doing an alternate fingering.

Tone 6. I have heard better, but for 5 times the price. Because of the headjoint, this still has some of the same qualities as a metal piccolo. Just a little warmer.

Playability 9. This is an easy piccolo to play, most of the notes play in tune, and it has a solid lower register. Has a smooth altissimo register also. I could not get it to play up to the 4th octave right off the bat, but that is the case with any new flute I ever bought.

Quality 6(can be a 9 on a good one) Be patient, you may have to play on more than one before you find the one you like. This pic is made in China, and even though it is made well, they may not all play the same. Over all, it you are fortunate enough to get a GOOD one, the manufacturing is virtually flawless!!! The only thing that you will have to make sure you do is grease the cork!!!! Generously!!!!! Other than that, I really could not see any reason this instrument wont last you a long time.

Customer Service 10 My experience at their showroom was absolutely the best I have ever had at a store that sells woodwinds. They will not hesitate to help you out, or get what ever instrument you wish to try out, for as long as it takes. I was very impressed!!!!

Overall 9 I like this pic alot, once I found one that I liked. For the price, and the service from WW&BW, this one is hard to beat. A good anyone who wants to play a pic, with out shelling out big money.

Phineas

fluttiegurl
Posts: 882
Joined: Fri Dec 10, 2004 11:05 pm

Post by fluttiegurl » Tue Feb 01, 2005 9:29 pm

Thank you for the piccolo info :)

I agree that rentals are a COMPLETE waste. I generally tell parents to bite the bullet and buy a flute. If their child does not stick it out, they can usually sell the flute and at least get a portion of their money back. When you rent, you usually pay twice or even three times as much the cost of an instrument :shock:

Burke
Posts: 100
Joined: Mon Dec 20, 2004 6:01 am

Post by Burke » Thu Feb 03, 2005 2:54 pm

I am just at the tail of the honeymoon period (if you will) of a rental agreement on a student flute. If I were to continue renting this instrument, I would be getting soaked. I'm going to buy another flute. This has been a good experiment for me, but I would have blown it if I had not been paying attention to the calendar.

Some parents are very busy just trying to keep up with work and the other details of keeping their families afloat. Also, some families have more stress than others, or do less well with the general stress of life. If those parents do not have a music background, the pursuit of a musical instrument is going to be foreign territory for them. Parents with an inability to pay for an instrument outright will be the ripest for plucking as well. The fine print of a rental agreement can easily be twisted by the alert and savvy sales person to sound like a better deal than it is. Even if the parent realizes that he or she is going to end up paying more for the instrument than is fair, the desire of the child -- who is likely present for the transaction -- coupled with a smooth sales pitch will be an overpowering combination. A less than scrupulous sales pro will know exactly how to commandeer that scenario, and will have no compunction about doing so.

I feel for that kind of family. The parent knows little to nothing about music, and may have next to nothing to spend on a quality instrument or quality instruction, yet still tries to make music available to the child. That parent will inevitably be a target for exploitation.

MeLizzard
Posts: 462
Joined: Tue Dec 10, 2002 10:25 pm
Location: Mid-Ohio Valley

Post by MeLizzard » Thu Feb 03, 2005 5:29 pm

I work for a small-chain (three stores) music retailer that considers itself, foremost, an ambassador for music education. Our school business thrives, largely because trust is successfully maintained and great service is always a priority. We recently calculated our staff's actual, hands-on music ed experience and were pleasantly amazed :D (nine people=322 years). While I believe unscrupulous dealers DO exist (unfortunately, this may now be the norm), I can't agree that renting is ALWAYS a bad experience, or a ripoff. Our rental rates are rather reasonable, can be paid off at any time (less the repair policy fee-this does void the repair insurance, however, but there is a bit of savings),and though the final price may be a couple hundred dollars higher than various mail-order or internet companies, the families can know they are renting reputable student instruments--Conn, Selmer, Armstrong, Yamaha, etc.--and getting valuable advice and sometimes-innumerable repairs covered under their rental agreement, from a company with a real interest (beyond self-preservation) in their child's musical enjoyment and learning. Most students try to be careful with Mom or Dad's investment, but we all know how easily accidents can happen, even to careful players, especially in school environments. If, say, a saxophone is dropped :oops: , dented up, and the mouthpiece is shattered, well, let's see what kind of repair bill a parent can expect if said instrument is NOT covered by some sort of generous repair policy. New mouthpiece---$20, on up to $50, depending on the brand included with the rental (or even more, but it's unlikely a fifth-grader is playing a C* lol). Dent work---$40-$60 per hour, depending on variables. Say the repairman has to remove the bow, roll out a bunch of dents, unbend all the keys, supply a new mouthpiece... That $250 price difference just COMPLETELY, and then some, paid for itself. Let's just say, on occasion, I've seen some masterful (unintentional) demolition at the hands of little people who are simply inexperienced at handling their horns and thought they were doing everything right, or exercising caution. Most players DON'T have such drastic experiences, but even being able to bring in their flutes for a free COA or to smooth a little ding in the headjoint aquired during all that bandroom jostling pleases my students' parents, and those $$ add up quickly sometimes. Also, customers maybe 30% of cases will rent the instrument for the minimum period (three months) and then return it when they're certain their child WILL :!: continue. They then search for a good-quality used instrument, splurge on a few minor repairs, and they're all set, having spent around $60 for three months' rental, plus maybe $300 total for a permanent student flute complete wth repair to playing condition. If $$ is your sole concern, renting may not be for you. If a parent wants to buy an instrument outright, that's ok, too, and we'll try to make them the best deal possible, but if they buy a brand-new one and Little Susie quits flute next month, well, recently-purchased instruments depreciate about like a new car being driven off the lot. So they wait for August to come around again and they sell the flute to another fifth-grader, at a bit of a loss. But, really, all music retailers aren't out to burn you. Really. :wink: I certainly agree with Fluttie about the no-name instruments floating around out there. I've seen so many of these in the past two years I could hurl! Mostly, the construction is poor and the scale is off, and, in most cases, repair parts are simply unavailable. Maybe disposable has its merits (not sure what they would be), but if you like flushing a few hundred $$$ a pop down the toilet, go for it! :D Happy flutin', dudes! I'm off to choir practice and then a concert by the Baltimore Consort (kinda Renaissance)

Burke
Posts: 100
Joined: Mon Dec 20, 2004 6:01 am

Post by Burke » Thu Feb 03, 2005 6:21 pm

I probably implied in my post that I thought all those renting instruments were not on the up and up, and that's not what I meant. Please forgive me if my post reads as though I'm lumping everyone who rents instruments in the same category. I didn't feel taken advantage of when I rented my flute. Nothing in the written agreement was left out of the conversation I had with the staff, and I was invited to take a little time to review the contract before signing. I'd be hard pressed to cry "foul" now. I don't feel that I've been cheated in any way.

I'm abandoning my rental agreement before the end of the three month period. I'm one of those people you mentioned, but I'm not satisfied with that particular flute either. There is also a very good chance that I'll be buying a new flute from the same place. That isn't a guarantee, but they will have the first opportunity to make the sale. I won't know until I know, but it only seems fair to give them the first opportunity.

MeLizzard
Posts: 462
Joined: Tue Dec 10, 2002 10:25 pm
Location: Mid-Ohio Valley

Post by MeLizzard » Fri Feb 04, 2005 9:06 am

I'm glad you had a good experience, and surely if you approach your dealer with an open mind and a beguiling smile :wink: , they'll be thrilled to sell you anything you like! Do they have a price-matching policy? As long as it's not over our cost, naturally, we try to match any price a customer can supply proof of--Woodwind-Brasswind, etc. Happy shopping!

User avatar
Phineas
Posts: 953
Joined: Sat Jan 22, 2005 1:08 am

Post by Phineas » Fri Feb 04, 2005 5:28 pm

MeLizzard,

Although YOUR shop may be legit, you may be one of the few. I have had nothing but bad experiences with rental instruments. Especially when it comes to keeping them in repair. Often times the rental agencies do not have the staff need to keep the rentals in decent repair. You pay all of the money for insurance and all of this service, then wind up being told there is some sort of 4 weeks back log before they can get to you. You can't take it to another place to get repaired, because that will violate the agreement.

As far as NO NAME instruments are concern, I would much rather have a new chinese made thing that I can exchange, and thats play able, then some patched up name brand instrument that is not in good repair any day of the week. It all comes out the same in the end. If a person is concerned with more than a playable instrument that can be played in tune, and that will last for a while, then a cheap instrument is not for them.

Everyone has to do what they feel is right. Cheap instruments are not for everyone, and are not the end all solution, but should not be ruled out as an alternative.

Phineas

Burke
Posts: 100
Joined: Mon Dec 20, 2004 6:01 am

Post by Burke » Fri Feb 04, 2005 7:35 pm

MeLizzard wrote:I'm glad you had a good experience, and surely if you approach your dealer with an open mind and a beguiling smile :wink: , they'll be thrilled to sell you anything you like! Do they have a price-matching policy? As long as it's not over our cost, naturally, we try to match any price a customer can supply proof of--Woodwind-Brasswind, etc. Happy shopping!
If you're suggesting that I keep an open mind about choice, I'd do well to take your advice. The more research I do, the more I'm confused. Yesterday, I was certain that I'd settled on one flute. Today, I realize that I should not be so sure. Everything I've learned has been through reading and talking with others. Okay, it's a Jupiter diMedici 1011, but I'm hesitant to say that since I'm still new. It looks like an absurd decision on the surface. I have my reasons for thinking about this expensive a flute at this early stage, but I could be going in the wrong direction. I know I'll need a Drelinger upright head joint at some point down the road, and I don't want to buy a more expensive flute at the same time. I won't ever be great, but I still want the best flute that I can have, and I want to be able to play it for as long as possible.

Beguiling smile I can do. :lol:

User avatar
Phineas
Posts: 953
Joined: Sat Jan 22, 2005 1:08 am

Post by Phineas » Fri Feb 04, 2005 9:45 pm

Okay, it's a Jupiter diMedici 1011, but I'm hesitant to say that since I'm still new. It looks like an absurd decision on the surface. I have my reasons for thinking about this expensive a flute at this early stage, but I could be going in the wrong direction. I know I'll need a Drelinger upright head joint at some point down the road, and I don't want to buy a more expensive flute at the same time. I won't ever be great, but I still want the best flute that I can have, and I want to be able to play it for as long as possible.
If you have the money to get it, then get it. If I were you, I would play on it first. If you like the way it plays, and you are comfortable playing on it, then go for it. Feedback is cool, but it's your money in the end, and it will be your instrument!!!!

Phineas

MeLizzard
Posts: 462
Joined: Tue Dec 10, 2002 10:25 pm
Location: Mid-Ohio Valley

Post by MeLizzard » Sat Feb 05, 2005 6:02 pm

Hey, if you're an adult in this for recreation, buy whatever you like, can afford, and can justify spending for. There's an 80-something guy in town, a retired engineer (worked on the DuPont team in the 1950s that invented Teflon!?!), who has great musicianship but isn't that great a flutist. He can afford ANYthing (platinum Powell, anyone?), enjoys his hobby, and will leave his granddaughter some amazing flutes and piccolos. I'm sure the quality of the instruments boosts his playing a little, but he's certainly not getting optimal capacity out of any of them. Buy the best instrument for your purposes that you can truly afford, even if it's a little more than you need right now), and have a blast! :wink:

Burke
Posts: 100
Joined: Mon Dec 20, 2004 6:01 am

Post by Burke » Sun Feb 06, 2005 8:49 am

In the end, I fell to financial practicality. To make a long story short, I went back to the store and tried several flutes. They all played better than my Gemeinhardt student model, as expected, but were not quite what I had hoped for. Since I still had a few weeks left on the rental, I kept it, and later visited another store. I was honest with the people in the first store about the fact that I intended to shop around. They knew that anyway. A couple of grand or more is a lot of money for a new flutist. I want to be certain that I'm doing the right thing.

Knowing that I was ready to drop twice as much for a flute, the owner of the second store steered me toward an Armstrong 80B for $895. He said they'd had it for two years and never sold it. I tell you, when I played that instrument, I was immediately gratified. The keys were responsive, and moreso -- I felt -- than the diMedici 911 I played in the first store (neither store had the 1011 to show). Actually, the man from the first store mentioned Armstrong as well, but the second store gave me an option of a six month payment plan with no interest, and a thirty day return policy. The return policy clinched it, but something about the feel of my conversations with the people at the second store made all the difference.

The gold lip plate on the Armstrong was not an attraction to me, for some reason. I don't know if it's something I read about Armstrongs in general during my course of recent research, but it doesn't matter. I still bought the Armstrong. It sounded fine to me, and felt very good. I will have head joint options down the road. I can't remember why I've come to believe that the gold lip plate is not the attraction it might appear to be. It's a pretty lip plate, but that kind of thing doesn't sway me.

My entire pursuit would have been a minor education, I think, for the uninitiated parent looking for a flute for his or her budding flutist. The conversations I had with the two stores were very telling. The people in the second store were very different from those in the first, and the flavor of our transaction had the better air of professionalism. I've also heard from varying sources that the second store is where the professional musicians in the DC area tend to go.

I am a timely payment person. They will never see a late payment, unless a meteor hits my house and I happen to be in it at the time. The employee in the second store had no way of knowing that, however. At the end of the transaction he said, "If you ever need to be late with a payment, just give us a call. We're understanding people here."

How 'bout them apples? :wink:

User avatar
Phineas
Posts: 953
Joined: Sat Jan 22, 2005 1:08 am

Post by Phineas » Sun Feb 06, 2005 12:59 pm

Knowing that I was ready to drop twice as much for a flute, the owner of the second store steered me toward an Armstrong 80B for $895. He said they'd had it for two years and never sold it. I tell you, when I played that instrument, I was immediately gratified. The keys were responsive, and moreso -- I felt -- than the diMedici 911 I played in the first store (neither store had the 1011 to show). Actually, the man from the first store mentioned Armstrong as well, but the second store gave me an option of a six month payment plan with no interest, and a thirty day return policy. The return policy clinched it, but something about the feel of my conversations with the people at the second store made all the difference.
The Armstrong 80B is a good instrument. The headjoint is very forgiving, and you cannot get a more durable instrument than any Armstrong and still have a good sound. If you find one setup right, the action is very "secure" feeling.

IMHO, the Armstrong 80B is the best silver open hole flute you can get for under $1000 dollars(NEW), and I know a lot of pro players that have them. However, over $1000, all bets are off for the Armstrong. Not because of durability, but because of the sound that most people seem to look for.

You did the right thing. You figured out what you wanted to spend, you went out and played on the ones in that range that were available in your area, and you found one you liked. Too bad many more players will not follow you example. Congratulations.

Make sure you put that instrument through it's paces before that 30 days is up! Also keep in mind that if you need a little more out of it, you can always change the headjoint.

Phineas

Post Reply