Flute FAQ2.1

For Anything and Everything to do with Flute Playing and Music

Moderators: Classitar, pied_piper, Phineas

Post Reply
User avatar
Posts: 962
Joined: Sat Jan 22, 2005 1:08 am

Flute FAQ2.1

Post by Phineas »

Introduction to the Fluteland Board FAQ 2.1
This is a guide to answer many common questions that appear on this and many other flute
messages. The goal is not to be impersonal when dealing with questions, but to develop
a tool for flute players, parents, and friends of flute players of all levels.
Use this as a reference when buying, or learning how to play the flute. Thanks go out
to the following members for their comments and contributions.

Phineas(Editor)..this is my real first name :wink:

Section 1 Flutes/Pics for Beginners

What brand/model of flute should I buy for a beginner?

Here are some of the more popular flutes ones
Armstrong 100 series
Barrington Model 229 and 349
Di Zhao Model DZ200, DZ201, and DZ300
Emerson EF Series
Gemeinhardt 2 Series
Jupiter 500, and 600 Series
Pearl 500 Series
Prelude by Conn-Selmer
Trevor James TJ-10 models
Yamaha YFL-200, 300, and Q series
CE Winds Alpha Series Flute
Antigua Winds ELF220

My instructor recommended a brand to buy. Should I buy it?
You should definitely give it a try. However,just because your teacher suggests a specific
flute does not mean it is the one for you. Every player is different. All flutes are
different as well. To get the best possible match, try many brands and models of flutes.
Some teachers have agreements with flute dealers who may pay them a commision, and may recommend
a brand/model for this reason. Some have indorsements from a manufacturer. Others simply have a
favorite that they suggest to everyone. Any of these flutes may be good, but not necessarily the
right one for you. Some teacher may not have any idea what brand or model of flute to suggest.
Take anything a teacher tells you with a grain of salt. Go out and playtest all potential
purchases. If a flute the teacher recommends suits you best, great! If not, that's fine too.
Very few teachers will require their students to play on one specific make or model of flute.
Most will just be happy that you found an instrument you like, so don't be afraid of
disappointing or angering them.

Here is a quote from MeLizzard regarding this subject:
I've just been faced with blatant rebuff in this department, as a young high school
student's family totally ignored my recommendations, got online, and bought a bright &
shiny, totally inferior, but CHEAP, new flute. It arrived in completely unplayable
adjustment, not boding well for its future mechanical reliability. Apparently, $800 for an
Armstrong 303B in our shop was waaaaay too much money, but $600 for something not worth
$100 is ok with them.
My Band director has asked me to play piccolo in marching band, but I am in need of
a piccolo. What kind of piccolo should I get?

First, before you decide what kind of piccolo that you should get, you should determine
what you are going to use it for. Are you only going to march with it? Are you going to
march with it, then eventually also use it in concert environments? Are you going to want
an instrument that requires a lot of maintenance or an instrument that is very durable?
These questions are essential to determining what kind of piccolo you purchase.
Firstly, one must understand that there are three central materials that piccolos are made
of: metal, plastic, and wood.
Metal piccolos: tend to have a lot of power to cut through an ensemble when needed.
These Piccolos are fine for marching band, but depending on the material can be sensitive to
Plastic piccolos: have a more mellow timbre and are easier to blend into an ensemble.
These piccolos are also well suited for marching band because they are less sensitive to temperature
or moisture.
Wood piccolos: also have a mellow timbre like the plastic piccolo. However these
piccolos can be damaged if exposed to extreme temperature changes, or moisture. I would not
recommend this type of piccolo for outdoor use.
Hybred piccolos: that are plastic with a metallic headjoint. This type of piccolo
will give you the "cut" you need to get through an ensemble, but are mellow enough to blend
in. These are also one of the easier piccolos to transition to from a flute because they have
lipplates. Because the body is plastic, this makes them also idea for marching band.

How much should I spend on a beginner flute?
Get the flute you can afford. Be prepared to spend from $100 dollars for a used flute up
to $1500+ for a new one. I would not recommend spending more than $2000 on a flute for a
beginner. It is likely that as a beginner becomes more advanced, their instrumental needs
will change.

How do I know how much a flute is worth?
Look around on the internet, or go to your local repair technician and ask. The likelihood
that if it is not a flute that is easy to find information about, that it may not be
suited for a beginner.

Where should I look for a beginner flute? What features?
Generally, beginners start out on flutes with Closed Hole, C Foot, and Offset G. However, I
have know beginners to start out on open hole flutes with more advanced features. Be
advised that just because a flute has basic features does not mean it is a "Beginner"
flute. Professional flutes may have these features also.

Is it safe to buy a used flute?
It is perfectly safe to buy a Used flute from a reputable teacher, dealer, or repair
technician. However, if you buy one from just joe blow on the street, this is a risk.
Generally when I buy a flute from other than a dealer, or repair tech, I assume it will
need work. Often you will find a good flute player(flautist) may not know how well
their own instrument is maintained. Keep this in mind also.

Should I buy a flute off of the internet?
Sure. Make sure the dealer you are buying the flute from has a good return policy, and
allows you a reasonable tryout period. Buying from a local dealer is highly recommended
whenever possible.

Where can I buy flutes on the internet?

What do you think about flutes on Ebay?
Unless you know what you are doing, or have counsel from someone who does, I would avoid
buying flutes off of Ebay. See Section 2

What about flutes they sell at Walmart?
The flutes they sell at Walmart are generally not suited to beginners. They are often
poorly built of pot metal, which is very soft. The pot metal construction can result in
damage that would not occur in a model made of a harder alloy. These flutes are also
scaled very poorly, which will make it very difficult for a player (even a more advanced
one) to play in tune. The key work can, on occasion, bind or cease to operate normally.
With repair parts very hard to find,many repair techs will not work on these flutes.
These flutes pose a potential a financial liability. If the flute comes in to have a
pad reseated, a spring might break in the process of repair, or a key bend, and the
tech ends up putting much more work into the instrument than they are going to be paid for.
When fresh from Walmart, these flutes almost always require some pads to be reseated
just to be playable. The quality of these instruments varies widely between flutes, as well.
One may end up lasting a player for a couple of years, and the next off the line might
self-destruct in a couple of months. These flutes are not recommended.

Section 2 Cheap Flutes/Pics

Where are these instruments made?
Just about any place you can think of, but mostly China.

What is the level of quality of a Chinese made instrument?
Although over the years things have improved greatly with the quality of Chinese made
instruments, the quality is still not as consistent as it could be. You may find a flute
that is flawless, but the next one could be a night mare. You could wind up with a whole
batch that are bad. Slowly the Chinese are coming up with ways to deal with quality
control. This is their biggest problem. Some of the factories building these instruments
do not even know how to properly make instruments. In the end, it all depends on the

Why is there such a price difference?
Materials and labor. The biggest problem with cheap instruments is not playability, but
durability. Most of these cheaper instruments are made such that if you drop them, they
are no good any more. Pads are another issue. Cheap pads just do not last long. Spring
rods on cheap instruments will usually wear out faster than on a mainstream brand flute.

If there are all of these issues, why bother?
There are many reasons to by a lower price instrument.

1. Just starting out and low money supply.
2. Not a serious player.
3. Like the cool colors!
5. Like to experiment.
6. Marching band!
7. Playing in bars/clubs.

I keep a cheap flute just for playing in less the favorable circumstances. No way would I
take one of my more expensive flutes to a bar, or into the rain! But, you must have a
realistic expectations. No matter how good the advertisements look, you get what you pay
for. Do not expect a Boston Legacy level Piccolo for a Venus price! Also expect the you
may have to return a few of them to get one that you like. Another factor is care. I take
good care of my cheap instruments, so they will last me for a while. But for a person who
is not into doing regular care on their instrument(Like a young child.), this is not a
good route to go.

Can you recommend any cheap flutes/pics that are safe to buy?
Here are some with comments

Barrington -- I highly recommend this brand. Good quality control, and durable.

Woodwind -- Very Good, and very underrated.

Prelude by Selmer -- Solid brand, solid instrument.

Jean Batiste -- Nice playing instrument, fair headjoint.

I have tried others, but these are the ones that have stuck around for a while.

Should I save my money to get a better instrument?
That depends. How serious are you? What are you using it for? For a specific purpose like
looks, or a starter instrument, maybe. However, if you are planning to step up to a better
instrument, then yes I would save up for a better instrument. No matter how many
instruments you will buy, you must always have at least one good one! Even if you have to
buy one used. Remember not to rule out used instruments as an option. You can get a used
Armstrong, Bundy, or Gemeinhardt for under $200.

Here are some additional comments from Mark
First and foremost, I have never bought an instrument off of ebay
that did not require some work.
That's not a problem for me, but for those of you who didn't grow up
in the back of a repair shop it can get to be a hassle.

There are some good buys there, but just be aware of the potential need
for repairs.

Secondly, I would like to reiterate a point made about the cheap/ no-name
I got one for a student whose family was seriously pinched for cash, and
I didn't have an extra hanging around at the time.
There is literally NO makers mark upon it anywhere. It plays well with
a good scaling and rich tone, but it is not really... Solid.. I guess that would
be the word. I have no doubt that I will be adjusting it for her rather
frequently until I can grab an Armstrong or Gemeinhardt for her.
Until then, though, she has a flute that she can play and is coming
along nicely on it. So it can be worth it if you recognize the tradeoffs
that Phineas pointed out.

Section 3 Intermediate/Professional Flutes/Pics

I sound bad on my current flute. Is it me, or is it time to upgrade?
First have your flute examined by a repair technician. Then and discuss your feelings with your
flute teacher. While the flute certainly may be the cause, you can't be sure unless you
know that it's in the best possible condition. A visit to a reputable repair tech will
make sure of this. Your teacher (If you don't have one, consider taking just a few lessons
before deciding to upgrade) may have suggestions on what you can do to improve your tone.
If after making sure your flute is well maintained, and working with a teacher, you
still feel limited by your instrument, then it may be time to upgrade. Some signs that
your instrument might be limiting you:
-It doesn't respond as quickly as you'd like
-The tone you can produce on it is not to your liking, and doesn't seem to improve even
with thorough, regular tone work.
-The flute is difficult to play in tune.
-The registers are uneven in response.
-It is overly difficult to play pp in the upper registers and ff in the lower registers.
-The flute is too easy to play or too difficult (i.e. too little resistance or too much
resistance, respectively) .

If all else fails, practice practice practice.......did I say practice?

When should I consider upgrading?
When you begin to feel limited by your flute in any of the ways mentioned above, or when
your teacher suggests it.

How should I go about shopping for a new flute?
Well, most important of all is to try as many flutes as you can within your price range.
Before beginning this process, decide which models fit your budget, what features you
would like, and what the main weaknesses of your old flute are (what is motivating you to
buy a new instrument?).

Once you have done your research, start play testing. This is best done with side by side
comparisons, so if at all possible, try several flutes at once. The best option is to
visit a flute fair or convention, or a flute dealer. If that is impossible, many
dealers will ship you instruments to try. Take notes on what you do and do not like about
each flute you test so that you can remember everything you'll want to know. It can get
quite confusing separating all the flutes you'll be trying.

While you're testing, you should carry out blind tests. While blindfolded (or if you're
strong of will, just close your eyes), have someone hand you the flutes you're testing in
randomly. Recording yourself works also. You should work in pairs of flutes for the most
efficient elimination process....Out of the two, eliminate one, and then go on to the next
pair. Eventually you'll only have a few instruments left to pick from. It's also very
useful to have some other ears available that you trust. Both flutists and non-flutists
are good for this. Flutists can more easily pick up small nuances, while non-flutists
(who will likely be the bulk of your audience) can give you a good idea of what you sound
best on from the audience's standpoint.

While you're testing, check each instrument for such things as response, overall tone,
color possibilities, dynamic range, scale, balance throughout the registers, feel of the
mechanism, comfort of the lip plate, and the general responsiveness of the instrument to
your musical wishes.

When you've managed to limit yourself to one specific make and model, it's worthwhile to
play test a few instruments within that make and model. Every instrument is slightly
different, even if it has the same model number stamped on it, so trying a few of the
"same" flute will allow you to pick the one that is the best possible fit for you and your
playing style.

What brand should I buy as a Step up flute?(I am a doubler looking for a flute.)

As with any flute, you must playtest step up flutes before purchase. Expect to spend
anywhere from $1000 for a used instrument to $3500 or $4000. Here is a list of brands
producing good step-up/intermediate models:

Dean Yang
Di Zhao
Galway Spirit
Tom Green
Trevor James

Which are the 10 best brands?
There are no "best" brands. Many brands are well respected among the flute community, but
every player will want and need something different from every other player. Every flute
has something unique to offer, and every company their own idea of tone, what a mechanism
should feel like, etc, so it is impossible to name a "best" brand. They are all different,
but none is necessarily better than any other.

I have never heard of Brand X, is this a good brand?
If you have not heard of it, and feel you are relatively well informed when it comes to
the various makes of flute available, you should be suspicious. Most good quality flutes
have a well established reputation, but some of the brands do not, especially if they are
newer. If you have not heard of a specific brand of flute, try looking it up on the
internet. Almost any well established, quality maker will have a professional looking
website. If you cannot find a listing for Brand X, or only find stores dealing in them,
chances are it's worth passing up. If you have access to one of these flutes, and like it,
but are concerned about quality, take it to a repair tech and ask for their assessment. If
they give you the go ahead on the flute, it should not be a problem that you haven't heard
of the brand. After all, you're after the best possible sound, and the most comfortable
feel, not the name engraved on the barrel. If, on the other hand, they find something
amiss, then it's best to keep looking.

How much should I spend?
How much you should spend depends on a a few factors. First of all, what's your budget?
Intermediate flutes generally range from 1000 to 4000 USD in price, so decide how much you
can spend before you start shopping, and then limit yourself to what fits your budget,
Second of all, what are you going ot use the flute for? Are you an aspiring principal in a
major orchestra, or will the flute be a marching instrument? If the former, you should
consider spending more than if you are only going to be using the flute occasionally.
Third of all, how long do you plan to be playing this flute? If you're a high school
sophomore, and you intend to stop playing after high school, spending less than someone
who intends to play this flute into college, or as an adult amateur makes sense.

Open or closed hole?
This feature is standard on most American intermediate flutes, but by no means are open
holes necessary, nor do they serve as a mark of quality. The open holed flute was
introduced right around the turn of the 20th century at the Paris Conservatoire in order
to allow students there to play the contemporary literature (that often included unusual
extended effects) to be played. As the Conservatoire was (and is) one of the most highly
respected schools of music in the world, the idea caught on, and makers across the globe
began offering open holes. This created a trend that has lasted into the modern day. Most
flutes above the student level in America will have open holes standard. In Europe and
other parts of the world, this is less true, but it is still a very common misconception
that an intermediate/advanced flute must have open holes. These holes serve to allow pitch
shading, extended effects such as glissandos and multiphonics, and some notes into the
fourth octave. Most people will not use these abilities after the initial novelty wears
off. This means for the vast majority of players, the holes in their keys are pointless.
If you have a good interest in contemporary repertoire, or wish to experiment with this
music, open holes are a good idea. A closed hole flute is often times a special order or
import. If you need a flute fast, or are just impatient, an open hole might be the way to
go. This is especially true in western countries. If you think you may end up selling the
flute, open hole instruments are generally easier to resell then plateau models. If you
playtest flutes, and find that the hand position to cover the holes is awkward, you may
either put plugs in, or purchase a plateau (closed hole) flute. Plugs will not affect
intonation or tone, and are by no means the mark of a poor player. Many professionals have
trouble covering one or more holes, but still like the feel of open holes, and retain
plugs in the keys that they have difficulty covering. This, as with any option on a flute
is one of personal preference.

What features should I look for, and what are they?(Split E, Open G#, etc...)

Split E Mechanism closes the lower G key when you finger high E (E3 from a
flutist's perspective). This reduces venting and creates a more stable E that is less
prone to cracking, and is easier to hit coming from A3. Split E mechanisms generally have
the option of an on/off clutch that will allow you to turn off the split E. This is
because a split E can interfere with certain trills. Split E mechanisms can potentially
bind the mechanism when used in combination with an Inline G (to be explained below), so
are best used on flutes with offset or half offset G's. Split E's generally cost in the
realm of $600-$800, and should be considered permanent. The Split E's counterpart, the
High E Facilitator (also known as a G disk, donut, NEL, cat's eye), is a disk or crescent
of metal set into the duplicate G# tonehole that also reduces venting for the same reason,
but without changing how the mechanism itself operates. Some people report a slight
flattening of A3 as a result of the High E Facilitator. These can be placed and removed
from the flute at any point by a good tech and usually cost in the realm of $100.

Inline G vs. Offset G. Either one is a fine choice, and it comes down to
comfort which is right for you. For most players, offset will be the most ergonomic, but
some players are much more comfortable with an Inline G. Playtest flutes with both, and
choose whichever is most comfortable for you. Some makers also offer the option of a 1/2
offset G key, which is not in line with the rest of the mechanism as an Inline G would be,
but is not placed quite as far out of line as a full Offset is. None of these choices
affects tone or intonation negatively and one does not cost more than the other, and this
choice should be based purely on comfort for the individual player.

Additions to the mechanism:
C# trill key: This key is an extremely useful addition to the mechanism,
allowing many trills, tremolos, and alternate fingerings that would not otherwise be
possible. A C# trill usually is found only on advanced instruments, but it is beginning to
be offered on intermediates as well. The cost varies, but this is one of the more
expensive options. The C# trill will add additional weight, and may cause problems for
those with arm/shoulder injuries.
G-A trill: This key allows a true trill between G3 and A3. The same effect
is possible with a C# trill, but the G-A trill offers fewer additional uses.
Brossa F#:This key acts similarly to the Split E or High E Facilitator. It
creates a more stable and easily articulated F#3. This option is generally special order,
and not all makers are capable of it's production
C# and D# rollers: These rollers are just like the one used to finger Low C.
They are placed on the D# and Low C# spatulas to allow an easy shift from the D# spatula
to the keys operating the Low C, C# and B keys (If the flute is a B foot). These rollers
are recommended if they fit into the budget, but by no means are they necessary.
B foot: The Low B makes an appearance in only about 80 pieces of music,
primarily modern orchestral and solo/chamber music, and transcriptions of music for other
instruments. If you feel that you may become or are involved in this type of music, a B
foot might be the way to go. B foots are essentially the standard for American
intermediate and professional flutes, but as with open holes, are less prevalent in other
parts of the world. Many professionals in Europe play on plateau, C foot models. The B
foot may add darkness and resistance (this varies largely based on age), but will
definitely add weight, so as with the C# trill, it should be considered carefully by those
with arm problems.

What is the difference in material?(Silver, Gold, Wood, Titanium etc...)
There may or may not be a difference in material. Some claim to hear a distinct
difference, and some hear none at all. Among those that feel there is a difference, the
darkness is generally associated with density (greater density equals greater darkness),
as is the resistance. Several tests have been conducted to discover the differences
between various materials, and all seem to show that the material does not have inherent
sound qualities like those described above. Among those who hold that material does not
matter, the cut of the headjoint is generally blamed for perceived differences in timbre.
A well cut head of a less expensive material may be a better purchase than a poorly cut
one of a more expensive material.

Titanium: titanium is very resistant, which gives it an amazing potential
for projection, but is generally less colorful than other materials.
Platinum:Platinum, being even more dense than gold, is likely to produce an
even darker tone color than gold. Obviously, a solid gold or platinum head will be a
significant financial investment (especially platinum), so it is important to balance your
future goals regarding the flute with the amount of money a solid gold or platinum flute
will cost.
Gold:Because gold has a higher density than silver it usually produces a
darker tone color and may in some cases reduce sound projection because of that.
Silver:Silver is the considered to be a brighter, livelier sound with less
resistance, gold dark and rich, with more resistance. Wood is often described as "hollow"
or "reedy" sounding, and titanium is very resistant, which gives it an amazing potential
for projection, but is generally less colorful than other materials.
Silver Clad/Plated:There is also the option of silver plate, which is
particularly common in older French flutes such as Louis Lots and Bonnevilles. These
flutes are described as the brightest of the bunch, but also as more lively than silver,
and with less resistance.
Nickel: Nickel has similar qualities as Silver Clad/plated. This metal is
often found in lower price beginner instruments. Lots of people are allergic to nickel,
therefore most people buy the silver plated ones.

What is the difference between a thick and a thin wall?
The thickness of the flute tubing is in question here. The thickness varies from area to
area and between material.

What Professional models are the most affordable?
Used professional models are the most affordable. A good, reputable flute dealer will have
instruments in good condition for a fraction of the original retail price.

Should I buy more than one instrument?
In the long run, if you plan to play heavily, and perform regularly, you should probably
have at least 2 flutes. At least one should be the best quality you can afford or you feel
fits your needs. This back up flute will come in handy when your primary instrument
requires maintenance, or when weather conditions are unfavorable, and you don't want to
risk your primary flute. If you play only for your enjoyment, or know can otherwise afford
to go without a flute for a couple of weeks, then there's no need to buy a second flute,
but you might decide that you like the option of having another flute around.

Section 4 Scifi(Myths and rumors)

I hear gold plate will make me sound better. Is this true?
Unfortunately, no. Gold plating normally involves too little gold, in places too unrelated
to tone for it to make any measurable difference in tone. Depending on the thickness of
the plating, and the method used to apply the gold, this will wear through eventually. It
may take only a few months, for a poorly applied, thin plate job, or could possibly last
several years. Gold plate should be regarded only as a cosmetic touch, rather than a tone
enhancer, or even a mark of quality. Many flutes have the option of a gold plated lip or
keys, but not all of these are well built instruments. The headjoint is the heart of the
flute, and responsible for the tone. If you are interested in having gold as part of your
instrument, many players report that a solid gold riser (also known as a chimney), lip
plate, or both can significantly alter tone without the cost of a solid gold tube. Whether
you hear a difference, and whether you like any difference you hear is an individual
thing, so try headjoints with materials in as many combinations as possible (within your
budget) and choose the one that suits you best.

I need a "Professional" instrument to be true professional?
Define - pro∑fes∑sion∑al (pr-fsh-nl)
a. Of, relating to, engaged in, or suitable for a profession: lawyers,
doctors, and other professional people.
b. Conforming to the standards of a profession: professional behavior.

2. Engaging in a given activity as a source of livelihood or as a career:
a professional writer.

3. Performed by persons receiving pay: professional football.
4. Having or showing great skill; expert: a professional repair job.
1. A person following a profession, especially a learned profession.
2. One who earns a living in a given or implied occupation: hired a professional to
decorate the house.
3. A skilled practitioner; an expert.

Nowhere does it say anything about tools, instruments or equipment. You either have to
have the skill for people to consider you a professional, or you get paid. If you get paid
to play "Mary Had A Little Lamb", then you are a professional. If someone considers your
skill to be on a professional level, you could be considered a professional player. In
other words you play, and handle things in a professional manner. This has nothing to do
with your instrument.

You are probably wondering "What is the deal with these Professional flute models?". It is
reasonable to consider that an expert is going to have different needs, demands and tastes
than a beginner. Experts play more often, and often play more difficult music.
Professional experts even more so. These Professional model flutes cater to the these types
of players. Unfortunately, these instruments are very expensive, therefore most
professionals/experts cannot afford them. You will find most professionals play on quality
"intermediate" instruments. Doublers even play on quality "student" model instruments.

Practice goes a lot farther than flute dollars. Always get the best playing instrument you
can afford, and do not sweat the mumbo jumbo. Who knows, you may find an "intermediate"
instrument you like better than a "professional" model that costs twice as much.

This view about professional instruments is based on the editors experience, here is a comment from MeLizzard.......
While I agree with most of this section, there is a population of professional
flutists which plays "professional"--handmade, quite-expensive, high-performance
If you don't possess the skill and training to hear and feel the difference between one
of these and your standard, 'off-the-rack' intermediate flute, then don't buy one of these
"professional" flutes. But you'd be hard-pressed to find Emersons, Yamaha 481s or ANY
Gemeinhardt in a truly "professional" orchestra, wind ensemble, or chamber ensemble.
A handmade flute that isn't solid silver is often a good compromise. Many makers,
such as Muramatsu, Miyazawa, and Altus now offer wonderfully-crafted flutes in the
$2200 to $4000 range. Most players don't play well enough to ever invest more than
this, but a percentage does deserve to make the next leap, into the $6000 to $10,000 market.
Though musicians don't earn much money most of the time, many do take out large loans, or borrow
instruments, in order to play an instrument that suits their skill level and performance needs.
While I can't recommend most students ever buy such a flute, there is a place for these, and there
are players (and conductors) whose skills and ears are astute enough to know the difference. Your
skill and performance don't necessarily depend on an Uber-expensive instrument, but your instrument
should match your talents. Knowing what I CAN do with a fine instrument, I wouldn't want to take an
audition on a Gemeinhardt against 30 people playing Powell!
The more money I spend on a flute, the better I will sound?
There are situations where this maybe true. For example, you have been playing 3 or 4 years and
you are playing intermediate level pieces. However, if you are a beginner, an expensive flute
will not improve your playing. As matter of fact, you may sound worse depending on the headjoint.
In a world where things can be bought, there is no amount of money out there that will replace
practice. I would rather sound great on a cheap flute, then to sound bad on a good one any day
of the week.

What I have for lunch may effect my performance.
This is one thing that is totally ridiculous. As long as what you eat does not make you feel bad,
eat what you want to eat. Just make sure you rinse your mouth out with luke warm water before
you play. Just keep in mind, if you have to sit in a band pit for 2 hours, and you choose to eat
a chilli dog, and drink a Big Gulp, you asked for it!

My teacher says I cannot play popular music because it will effect my playing.
This is completely false. As long as you play what you teacher asks you to play, playing popular
music will not have a negative effect on your playing.

If a piece is too difficult to play, does that mean I should not try to play it?
You can play anything you practice! It may take longer for you to learn an advanced piece, but
this does not make it impossible. There are plenty of relatively simple pieces that some advanced
player cannot play. If there is some piece you wish to learn, go for it! It can only make you
a better player in the long run. Just keep in mind that depending where you are musically, you
may need to acquire some skills to play it. Remember, the only things that are hard are things you
don't know, or practice.

My flute is dirty, does this mean it will not play properly?
A flute does not have to be pretty to play. It just has to be in working order.

Section 5 Headjoints

Basics of headjoints
The headjoint is the heart of the flute, and responsible for the tone.

What are headjoints made of, and how do these materials effect my tone quality?

Silver: Silver, or silver plated headjoint are what most flute players play on.
Higher end flute models include these with the price of the instrument. How these head joints sound
if based on the cut of the lip plate, the thickness and he purity of the silver. There is a large
selection of solid silver headjoints, and you can find them is many different price ranges.

Wood: Wood heajoints give a more rounded-woody-softer sound. They generally are
more pleasing to audiences, and work great in small groups or areas. You can find these headjoint
from 300 dollars and as high as a few thousand. This is a less expensive alternative that buying
a wood flute completely. Higher end wood flutes cost 5k+
Gold:Gold has a higher density than silver it usually produces a darker tone
color and may in some cases reduce sound projection because of that. If you are interested
in having gold as part of your instrument, many players report that a solid gold riser
(also known as a chimney), lip plate, or both can significantly alter tone. Some players
also prefer to have the entire head joint made from gold (10K, 14K, and 18K being the most
common), or even platinum. Right now, a quality gold head joint will cost anywhere between
4K and 6K depending upon the maker and any added features.
Platinum:Platinum, being even more dense than gold, is likely to produce an even
darker tone color than gold. Obviously, a solid gold or platinum head will be a significant
financial investment (especially platinum), so it is important to balance your future goals
regarding the flute with the amount of money a solid gold or platinum head joint (or silver
head with a gold or platinum riser) will cost.

Titanium: Comments?

Composite: Comments?

Head joints can come with many different variations that will affect both quality and price. For example,
a gold head joint could have a platinum riser added to it. Other head joint makers experiment
with different metals on the crowns, or add features to the lip plate that affect the airstream
response. Whether you hear a difference, and whether you like any difference you hear is an
individual thing, so the best thing to do, if at all possible, is to try headjoints with materials
in as many combinations as possible and choose the one that suits you best. You should also bring
someone with you to listen while you try them out because sometimes subtleties are difficult to
detect while you are playing.

What should I consider when choosing a head joint?
It's a really good idea when trying out head joints to try them all on exactly the same music.
That makes for a more even comparison. Choose a few (no more than four is a good stopping point)
short pieces, or even parts of pieces (like, for instance, the openings of either the Mozart G or
D concerti, or some orchestral excerpts), that will allow you to judge tone quality, range of
colors that can be produced, projection, dynamic range, amount of resistance in the air stream,
and articulation. All of these categories should be tested in all registers for each head you try,
so it's best to select music (not necessarily in the same piece) that has you playing in the low,
middle, and high registers of the flute.

It is really important to keep in mind that every head joint will be different
depending on the body to which it will be attached. Only you can decide what combination
works best for your particular needs. Simply because you know somebody with a great
headjoint does not necessarily mean that if you get one from the same maker you will
receive the same positive result on your instrument. Quality headjoints, of the type about
which we are addressing, are all hand-tooled. Consequently, every headjoint made by the
same maker is going to be different from the others; usually, with high quality manufacturers,
that difference is minimal. But it is something to be aware of when head joint shopping.

Many, if not all, high end headjoint makers offer trial policies where they will send
you a couple of their heads to try out for a few days. Normally there is a nominal fee
for this to cover shipping and insurance costs (somewhere in the range of 20-25 USD).
However, an alternative -- and perhaps better way to do it depending upon where you
live -- is to hook up with a reputable music instrument dealer. One who is willing and able
to gather several headjoints from different makers for you to try. Then, you will be
able to test them all without going through the trial process one at a time. Again,
that depends largely upon where you live and what type of relationship the headjoint
maker has with the shop you are dealing with. Not every music store is going to have
that type of clout. This makes for the most convenient way to choose a headjoint
that is right for you and your specific needs. You will save money on the nominal
fees, plus you will be able to do side by side comparisons. It may be difficult to remember
how you played the same music on X headjoint that you tried for a few days a month earlier.

When should I consider buying a headjoint instead of buying a new flute?
Generally, the best time to consider buying a new headjoint, as opposed to a whole
new flute, is when you are satisfied overall with the instrument you have, i.e. it
suits most all of your basic needs, but want to change the tone quality of the instrument,
add different options for tone color for different playing situations (e.g., using
one headwhen more projection is necessary, like in an orchestra, and another when
performing a solo recital, or are looking for a different or better response (i.e.,
easier articulation, etc.) from your instrument. Buying a new flute altogether is
usually the result of being held back by your present instrument, requiring a step
up in the quality of manufacturing.

Here is further commentary from Sidekicker this subject:
Two very important things should be seriously considered before making such a choice.
First, what are your goals with regard to the flute? Do you intend to take a professional
route or just play in band/orchestra possibly through college, then turn flute playing
into a hobby afterward? Second, how much are you willing to spend based on your answer
to the first question? Some headjoints can cost as much as a new flute.

If you intend to be a professional player, then by all means look into both options.
Mostly, that decision will be based on what you are playing on presently. At some point,
however, a professional flutist is going to need an instrument that is reliable,
durable, well made, and suits the purpose(s) for which s/he needs it (e.g., orchestral
playing, smaller ensembles, solo performances, etc.). Many flute makers carry lines
of flutes labeled as "professional" flutes; although many professional flutists perform
on what some manufacturers might label as "intermediate". The choice of flute really
depends on your own personal likes and dislikes more than it does whether a particular
maker classifies their flute model as "professional" or not. It also depends on whether
you feel you are being held back by the instrument you presently have. If you already
have an instrument that satisfies your needs, both present and future, then looking
into adding a different headjoint is available option for someone seeking to add more
variety to their sound.

Where should I buy one?
Please refer to section 1 under Where can I buy flutes on the internet?

Section 6 Flute Care Maintenance

Is there any certain way that I should assemble my flute?
Yes there is. The order of which parts you assemble first doesn't matter, however, the places
in which you grasp your flute during assembly are important. When inserting the headjoint
into the barrel of the body joint, you must hold the body joint by the barrel [ tube where
the headjoint inserts ** maker's name is often stamped here**]. You must hold the headjoint
BELOW the lip plate. Insert the headjoint with a gentle twisting motion. Do NOT hold the flute
by the keys: holding the flute by the keys could cause damage to the keys, and thus require
work by a technician. Do NOT hold the flute by the lip plate. Doing so could cause the lip plate
to come off entirely, and would require extensive repair. When attaching the footjoint,
once again hold the body by the barrel, and hold the foot joint below the keys. Insert with
a gentle twisting motion. Again, do NOT hold by the keys! You do not want to damage your instrument!

Disassemble in the same fashion!

What do I use to clean my flute Cloths and Swabs?
Polishing/ Cleaning Cloths:It is preferable to use a non treated, lint free
cleaning/ polishing cloth when cleaning the exterior of your flute. One should avoid purchasing
cleaning cloths that are infused with a metal polish of any kind. This is because the polish
contains abrasive material, and cleans the metal's surface by removing a thin layer of
the metal. Seeing as how plating on a flute is thin [ if it is a plated flute], in time, you
will wear through the metal, and uncover the other material beneath. Thus, destroying one's
finish. It is best to use a lint free, and untreated cleaning cloth that will do nothing more
than remove skin oils from the flute's surface. Another sort of cleaning cloth that is highly
effective for cleaning one's flute is a microfiber cleaning cloth. These are easily purchased
from many manufacturers [Murmatsu, Pearl, etc.] and are highly effective. They easily remove
skin oils and other residues, without having any adverse affect to the metal of one's instrument.
These are very popular with solid gold, or gold plated instruments.
Swabs: There are many kinds of swabs in the world of a flutist. You can buy from
basic squares of cloth to weighted 'pull through' sort of swabs, to snakes, and flute flags.
It is not necessary to have a particularly fancy swab cloth to clean out the interior of your flute.
All that you need is a lint-free cloth to insert through the eyelet in your cleaning rod, for
cleaning the interior of your flute after playing.
Cleaning One's Pads [sticky pads]: First and foremost, NEVER use a dollar bill or
any kind of paper currency. The surface of this paper is abrasive, and could cause damage to
the skin of your pads/ leave ink residue. For cleaning your pads, it is best to use actual pad
cleaning paper, or ungummed cigarette paper.
Proper procedure for cleaning your pads: insert the cleaning paper under the pad.
Press down the key, applying light pressure. Release the key, and remove the paper. If the key
still sticks, repeat as needed. If necessary, you may pull slightly on the paper while pressure
is still applied, but not pulling the paper all of the way out. However, do with caution. Pulling
the paper eventually wears through the skin of the pad. So, only do if ABSOLUTELY necessary.
Avoid doing so if possible.
Pad Savers. These look like large pipe cleaners. These are not to be used as
swabs to clean out your flute. You should insert these [if you have them which is not necessary]
after you have swabbed your flute out with another swab of some previously stated sort. These
are intended and designed to be put in the flute after it has been cleaned out to pull even more
moisture away from the pads while the flute is stored in it's case.

Section 7 Practice Questions and Tips

How long should I practice?:
This depends entirely upon your musical goals and current level. The general answer is that you
should practice long enough to go through everything that needs work. Many top professionals
practice in the area of 4-6 hours per day, and in some cases more. Of course, not all of us
can do this (or even have the desire to), so set goals for yourself, and practice long enough
to accomplish them. Generally, you'll want to include both technical and tonal exercises in your
daily regimen, along with some repertoire. From a technical standpoint, scales and arpeggios in
all of their different forms are very important exercises, so be sure to include them in your
daily practice. You don't have to play every scale in every permutation, but pick at least
3 or 4 (rotating through the various keys), and do Major, minor (natural, melodic, and harmonic)
scales, and major and minor triads. For more advanced players, whole tone scales, pentatonics,
and others may also be useful. Play the scales throughout your full range so that you become
comfortable both with the top and bottom octaves. For example, a Bb Major scale should be
played all the way to C4 (D4 if you are able), and then all the way back down to C1, and back
up to Bb1. Along with scales, etudes can help you overcome technical problems, so set aside
time for an etude or two as well. There are many collections of such exercises currently in
use, but some of the more popular include those by Berbiguier, Boehm, Andersen, Karg-Elert
and others. Technicality is only one part of playing, however, so tone work is also very important.
The exercises found in the Moyse books (most notably De La Sonorite), as well as those in
Trevor Wye's practice book on tone, and even simple longtones are great for improving your sound.
However, it's very easy for the mind to wander when performing such technically simple exercises,
so change up articulations, or combine two different exercises into one to prevent boredom.
Once you have gone through your daily exercises, start working on your repertoire pieces/band
music/whatever else you're trying to prepare. However long it takes you to complete all of
this is how long you should be practicing. Keep in mind that quality in practice is far more
important than quantity. You may be able to finish in 1/2 an hour what it would take another
player an hour to do, or vice versa.

Where should I practice?
You'll need a nice quiet, low traffic area to practice. Find a room in your home where you
won't be disturbed, and set up your music stand in there. Preferably this room will be
acoustically dead. Live atmospheres (such as bathrooms, where there are lots of hard, flat
surfaces for sound to bounce off of) may sound nice, but they won't give you an accurate
impression of your playing, especially in comparison to what you'll hear in a performance
situation. A concert hall, once filled with an audience is often remarkably dead, and it's
best to become accustomed to that effect while practicing, rather than when you walk out on
the stage. Every once in a while, it may be beneficial to practice in a live environment,
but it should not become the norm. Aside from dead spaces giving a clearer idea of how you
sound, they can encourage you to project more (which many flutists struggle with) in order
to hear yourself. If you have no such space, area rugs, wall hangings or tapestries, furniture
and other objects can help to absorb sound waves, deadening your practice space. It may also
be useful to have a mirror hung at about face height so you can observe your embouchure and
hands, and make any necessary adjustments.

What should I have with me when I practice?
Aside from your flute, music, and music stand, you should always carry a tuner and metronome.
Both of these tools are invaluable during practice. A pencil is also necessary to make any
marks in the music. Also highly suggested, particularly for younger players (though more
advanced flutists can benefit from this as well), is a practice journal, in which you can
note your goals for the day, and any difficulties you encounter. This makes discussion with
teachers much easier, and progress easier to monitor.

What if I can't practice several hours per day?
As noted earlier in this section, quality is far more important than quantity when it comes
to practice. In an ideal world, you would be able to do your whole practice routine every day,
but in the real world, that is not always the case. Even 20 minutes to half an hour can be enough
time to work through some of your daily exercises. If you have only a few minutes, work on tone
exercises and perhaps an etude. If you have additional time left, work on some repertoire, but
stick primarily to difficult spots rather than playing through the entire piece.

How can I get good fast?
Practice is the key! Efficient practice is very important for the busy musician. Aside from
daily exercises, work out difficult spots in your repertoire rather than simply playing through
as much music as possible. It's best to address these difficulties starting at a slow tempo, and
gradually speeding up (which may take several days) to the written tempo. You might also consider
changing rhythms and articulations (try swinging a 16th note run, or playing it in triplets, or
slurring three notes and tongue one) to help get your fingers around the notes. It is very unlikely
that simply playing through a troublesome section will help you improve or learn the music, so get
creative! Don't be afraid to write your own exercises that deal with issues you're having with
your playing.

I have a flute for school and a flute for practice and performances. Is this okay?
It's OK, but certainly is not the best way to go about things, particularly if one flute is of
significantly higher quality than the other. Part of learning to play really well is becoming
comfortable with the instrument you're playing on, and constant switching between two or more
flutes makes it nearly impossible for you to learn to play as well as you could potentially.
It's important to know all the pitch tendencies, as well as how your flute responds to what you
ask for musically, and any minute corrections that might be necessary to give your best possible
performance, and as every flute is different (even among flutes with the same maker and model
stamped on them), this switching only confuses things. Of course there are instances (mostly
emergencies when something unexpected happens to your primary instrument just before a performance)
where using a back-up or borrowed flute is necessary, but this should be avoided if at all possible.

Flute Health

When playing any instrument, the player is at risk of possible physical harm. Musical instruments
rarely are held in a fashion that is completely normal to the human body. The Flute is no exception.
When playing over the span of months or years, a player can develop many injuries due to poor
hand positioning and posture while playing over a period of time. Studies show that of all wind
instruments, flutists develop injuries the most frequently [ coming closely to the same figures
of violinists and pianists]. These injuries are typically called Repetitive Stress Injuries.

These injuries vary from Tendonitis [a wearing away of the tendons in oneís limbs], to arthritis,
all the way to Carpal Tunnel [the pinching of the nerves in oneís limbs]. Symptoms of injury can
be anything from swelling and tenderness of your limbs, to stiffness in the neck/arms/hands,
to numbness and tingling, to audible popping and cracking of your joints.

How do I know if I have an injury?
If you are feeling any discomfort while, or shortly after you play, you need to take into account
that you may have developed an injury. If this is so, then you need to make an appointment with
your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

What sort of treatments are there?
There are many ways to solve/alleviate the discomfort associated with repetitive strain injuries.
Non evasive ways to solve problems deal with using various approaches of body alignment.
The Alexander Method and Body Mapping are common methods to lessen pain and discomfort by
individuals, and are particularly useful. These methods in the most basic sense instruct an
individual how to align their body properly so they are not using excess strain/ causing
themselves injury.

Another method is taking a break for a period of time. However, these periods of time can be as
short as a few weeks to as long as several years, or complete retirement from playing your
musical instrument.

One can also adapt their flute. Flutes are built in a fairly standard design. People however
come in all shapes and sizes. Thus, different individuals will need different adaptations
to their flute. These adaptations can be as cheap as 2 USD, or as expensive as a new handmade
flute built to fit your hands. However, most modifications are not that pricey.

If you have large hands and your hands are cramping, you can purchase additions that will make
the barrel of the flute feel larger in your hand. The most popular are the Bopep [a plastic
piece that snaps onto the body of the flute to make it feel larger], the Thumbelina [a piece
of cork glued to the back of the flute to act as a shelf for your thumb] and the Thumbport
[a removable rubber item similar to the Thumbelina].

If you have small hands and you are straining to reach keys, you can purchase key extensions.
The Brannen Brothers Flute Company sell sterling silver key extensions that fit
most flutes.

If purchasing items to modify your flute is outside your budget, there are several ideas at the following website:


If you have tried these methods, discomfort still persists, and your doctor recommends medical
treatment, do not fret. There are many non-inversive methods of healing for many problems.
Most would include taking specific vitamins, wearing arm/wrist braces, and using a therapy
regimen of stretches and applying heat/cold to the affected area. Some procedures actually
use injections of various medications, or even adult stem cells [not fetal] to help repair any damage.

Unfortunately, these may not be able to solve everything. Sometimes surgery is needed to solve
the problem. It used to be believed that surgery was a death sentence to the practicing
musician, but with modern medicines and technology, this is no longer so. However, surgery
must be treated as a last resort.

I have to have surgery. How do I choose a surgeon?

If you are very serious about your flute career [amateur or pro], then take as much caution
as you can in this area. Meet several surgeons, and look at their resumes. If possible,
find a competent surgeon who specializes in ailments of the upper limbs. Try to go to the
best in your area. If there is a medical center for the performing arts in your state,
try to make an appointment with them to get their suggestions.

If you are in a situation where you have the money to travel, and you play flute/piccolo
for a living, then try taking a look at world class hand care centers. Currently,
Kleinert Kutz and Associates located in Louisville Kentucky [with small branches in
Indiana as well] are considered to be the worldís best hand care physicians. They were
the first to perform successful FUNCTIONING hand transplants, and have held many other
world firsts in hand/wrist surgery. However, unless you absolutely want the best, there are
no problems with going to the many competent surgeons in your state/country.

For more information, many articles related to Flute Health can be found at:


User avatar
Posts: 580
Joined: Mon Jul 24, 2006 5:28 pm

Post by Zevang »

Wow, as usual another excellent job from you. I'm sure it will be very useful.
Thanks a lot

Posts: 2311
Joined: Sun Jul 16, 2006 3:11 pm

Post by fluteguy18 »

YAY! I was wondering when it would be back up. We worked so hard on that, and it has helped so many people!

Posts: 8
Joined: Mon May 30, 2011 7:32 pm

Re: Flute FAQ2.1

Post by JazzGirl301 »

Thanks for putting this up! :)
.`•.¸.•´ JazzGirl301
¸.•´¸..•´¨) ¸.•*¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´ .•´ ¸¸.•¨¯`•.:*

Posts: 1
Joined: Sat Nov 19, 2011 2:29 pm

Re: Flute FAQ2.1

Post by upphetsade »

User avatar
Posts: 554
Joined: Mon Apr 02, 2012 2:51 am
Location: Southern Hemisphere, Earth

Re: Flute FAQ2.1

Post by flutego12 »

WHOA! What have I been missing. What a wealth of a knowledgebase! Thank you Thank you!
I've been playing since Aug'11 (minus 6wks away) and loving every minute of it more and more.

Bought two of my flutes online 2nd hand which atm seem to outplay my honest & hefty retail purchase. Wish I'd registered here earlier.
Love the beautiful tone colours of the flute and can't get enough discussion and samplings on different material construct and different headjoint brands, make and sound signatures. In experimentation mode here.

Thank God for yOu Tube & discussion forums.

User avatar
Posts: 29
Joined: Mon Apr 18, 2011 5:55 am
Location: Cape Town, South Africa

Re: Flute FAQ2.1

Post by Morne »

Thanks for the awesome post guys. So much information.

braille transcriber
Posts: 1
Joined: Wed Jul 24, 2013 8:45 am

Re: Flute FAQ2.1

Post by braille transcriber »

This information is really useful for flute purchasing. I'm new to this site/forum but will certainly return. Thanks :D

Posts: 1
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2014 9:02 am

Re: Flute FAQ2.1

Post by marykat1204 »

I'm 45 years old and have been playing since 4th grade. I have NEVER seen such a wealth of flute knowledge in one place. I can't believe the things I never knew. Thank you so much for this resource!! :D

Posts: 2
Joined: Tue May 20, 2014 7:41 am
Location: Clarksville, OH

Re: Flute FAQ2.1

Post by Jeffzx9 »

Thank you, Phineas, et.al., for the great advice.

Posts: 1
Joined: Mon Nov 17, 2014 5:59 pm

Re: Flute FAQ2.1

Post by jaredluvsmusic »

Thanks, I'm new here and this helps a lot. Looking forward to all the great flute info to come!

Posts: 5
Joined: Tue Mar 10, 2015 3:23 pm

Re: Flute FAQ2.1

Post by flutist321 »

This was very informative and helpful! Thanks so much! :D

User avatar
Posts: 109
Joined: Tue Mar 04, 2014 5:28 pm
Location: Seattle

Re: Flute FAQ2.1

Post by Gandalfe »

This should be required reading for any flute player and their parents who purchase instruments for their kids. Nicely done.
Microsoft Jumpin' Jive Orchestra ~ Quinn the Eskimo Vintage Horns
I played the wrong, wrong notes. ~ Thelonious Monk

Post Reply