A member of the woodwind family, the flute is one of the world’s oldest known musical instruments, with early examples dating back over 35,000 years. Each musician’s personal preference and experience level will be a determining factor in selecting a flute with a wide array of choices in terms of brand, metal combination and tone colors.
The best flutes provided on these lists serve as a great starting point for finding a suitable instrument. They’re all produced by reputable brands using craftsman-level manufacturing techniques with each instrument built from high-quality, industry-standard materials to facilitate great sound production and accurate intonation. For more help selecting the best flute to meet your needs, check out our buyers guide listed below.
Best Flute Overall:
Choosing a professional flute presents an overwhelming array of choices in brand, metal combinations and the tone colors they produce. The personal preferences of each musician will be the true determining factor for instrument selection and many times professionals will mix and match head joints for different sound possibilities or look for added accessory keys to facilitate finger agility. While many professional flutes are constructed using solid sterling silver, other metals like gold, silver variations, or platinum can drastically change the tone quality of the instrument.
The flutes provided on this list serve as a great starting point for finding an instrument. All the flutes on this list are available with different options and features for further customization; a solid silver headjoint versus a 14K gold headjoint, an offset G-key, and added trill keys for ease of fingering.
The best flutes overall included here are manufactured by professionally reputable brands, built of industry-standard, high quality materials to facilitate great sound production and accurate intonation, as well as professional-level manufacturing practices.
Unless otherwise noted, each of these instruments have a B-foot joint which extends the range of the flute lower, necessary at high levels of performance. All of these flutes also have open-holed keys for a more open sound and tone color possibilities. Each flute comes with a case and cleaning rod.
Muramatsu began manufacturing flutes in 1923 in Japan, crafting beautiful flutes which professionals eagerly seek out. Known for their responsive key action and outstanding tone quality, the Muramatsu DS is our top pick flute. Read Full Review
Boston-based company Powell was established in 1927 to create customized, handmade flutes for performing artists. Powell flutes have always been embraced by professionals and they continue to be a top choice today. As such, Powell’s Handmade Conservatory flute is a great option for professional flute players and offers many choices for customization. Read Full Review
Haynes is a Boston-based flute company founded in the 1800’s. Since then, it’s grown to be a favorite flute manufacturer among professionals. Haynes’ Handmade Drawn Tone Hole model flute offers a desirable key action and a heavier weighted instrument with a dark sound. Read Full Review
Established in the 1980’s in the United Kingdom, Trevor James is relatively new but reputable flute maker. Professional musicians, educators and expert instrument craftsmen contributed to the creation of the Trevor James’ Recital ST3 Concerti model flute, a great choice for the professional with plenty of customization options. Read Full Review
Focusing on innovation, Pearl has set themselves apart as a reputable flute manufacturer at all levels since 1946. Pearl’s Cantabile 8800 Series flute is a nice handcrafted choice for the professional flautist. Read Full Review
Best Student Flute:
A member of the woodwind family and played by blowing air across a lip plate, the flute is one of the highest pitched wind instruments in bands and orchestras. While there are a few different members of the flute family, the most commonly played flute students will learn on is the standard concert C flute.
While it may seem best to purchase the least-expensive instrument, especially for a beginner, lower quality instruments may present mechanical difficulties which can make learning frustrating for students. In addition, poor quality flutes are prone to requiring major or frequent repairs often costly or near impossible to fix.
All of the flutes on this list are manufactured by reputable, educator-approved brands, use quality materials which facilitate good tone production and intonation (The ability to play in tune), as well as durability for the beginning player.
Unless otherwise noted, all of these instruments have a C-foot joint, which has one less key to make the flute slightly shorter and easier to manage, as well as an offset-G key to make that key easier to reach for smaller hands. These flutes all feature closed hole-style keys so beginner players will be able to cover and close every key without worry. In addition, each of the following picks comes with a sturdy carrying case and cleaning rod.
With a noted reputation for producing quality instruments, Yamaha crafts all of their instruments with the same level attention. As such, the YFL-221 is the most reliable, reputable and recommended flute for playing in tune, having a great sound and being durable enough to withstand every band practice. Read Full Review
Established in 1946, Pearl has established themselves as a reputable flute manufacturer at all levels. Pearl’s PF500 flute is constructed to ensure long-lasting service, perfect for the beginning students. Read Full Review
Well-known flute company, Gemeinhardt was started by a German instrument maker who traveled to America. Respected and a long-standing choice among educators, the Gemeinhardt 2SP provides beginners with a solid instrument that will produce a reliable tone. Read Full Review
Bundy brand instruments, including the BFL-300 flute, have a reputation as sturdy, work horse student flutes since the 1960’s. Bundy caters almost exclusively to beginner musicians, and these instruments are designed to last long after students have outgrown them. Read Full Review
The Jupiter 511RBS is a student level flute with upgraded features normally reserved for intermediate-level instruments. While not necessary for a beginner flautist, these extra features make the Jupiter 511RBS the most advanced beginner-level flute on the list. Read Full Review
Flute Buyer's Guide
The flute is a fun and rewarding instrument, but with many flute types and brands to choose from, finding the right one can be difficult. While there are several instruments in the flute family, such as piccolo, alto or bass flute, the focus here is on the standard C-flute, which nearly all flautists will primarily perform on in orchestras, bands, chamber ensembles and solo. Testing out a variety of instruments to find one fitting a player’s personal preferences is essential.
In choosing a flute, especially at the professional level, the final decision often comes down to personal preference in terms of tone and feel to the player. When purchasing, it’s a good idea to consider the above options and play several different flutes from respected companies to find the best fit for the individual musician. However, this buyer’s guide will point you in the right direction towards purchasing the best flute for your needs.
Flutes are manufactured for a variety of abilities, including student, intermediate and professional levels.
These are flutes designed with students in mind focus on affordability, durability, as well as ease of playing and the ability to play in tune. Student flutes will have a C-footjoint, which has one less key, making the flute shorter and more manageable for young players. Student flutes can sometimes be purchased with an optional curved headjoint, which makes the instrument even shorter for especially young players.
A transitional instrument, intermediate flutes typically provide a step up from student horns by adding a few professional level features, such as a B-footjoint to extend the range of the instrument one note lower, while still maintaining a more affordable price range. For those looking for a long term investment, it is best to avoid the intermediate category and invest in a professional flute.
The highest quality instruments, professional flutes will have all the standard features needed for upper level performers. This includes the B-footjoint, extending the range of the instrument a note lower, essential for upper level performance. Additionally, professional flutes will allow for customization of body metals, headjoint metals, and additional keys based on player preference. Professional flutes focus on optimal tone quality, response, intonation, and key action. A well-maintained, reputable, professional flute will last decades.
The flute comes apart in three separate pieces: the headjoint, body and footjoint. All of these parts are necessary to play the instrument, and are customizable based on the level of the player and musician preference.
Headjoints are the top piece of the flute, and musicians blow air across the attached lip plate to create sound. One of the most customizable parts of the instrument and the biggest determiner of the flute’s sound, headjoints can be customized in unlimited combinations.
Many upper level musicians will choose headjoints made of different metals than the body of the flute. Even the lip plate and riser attaching the lip plate to the headjoint, can be personalized with silver, gold or platinum for different tone qualities and response based on player preference.
The middle and longest piece of the flute holds most of the instrument’s delicate keywork. The body and the footjoint of the flute are typically made of the same metal.
This is the bottom piece of the instrument, and normally made of the same metal as the body of the flute. Flutes will either have a C-footjoint or a B-footjoint. The C-footjoint, usually reserved for beginner instruments, shortens the flute slightly for student flautists. To extend the range of the flute one note lower, required for upper levels of performance, a B-footjoint should be considered beyond the beginner level.
The three pieces of the flute (headjoint, body, and footjoint) can all be constructed using a variety of metals which can affect the tone color. This section describes the metals typically used for both the body and footjoint of the instrument, and their effect on the sound and feel of the instrument.
Nickel-silver is common for student level instruments. Easier to care for and more affordable than sterling silver, nickel-silver provides a decent tone and reliability for beginning players.
Silver-plating has the desirable tone quality of silver at a more cost effective price. After years of regular use, the silver plating may wear off, but cleaning the flute with a polishing cloth after each use can help reduce the amount of wear. While professionals may prefer solid silver, an expertly crafted, silver-plated flute can still exceptional sound and functionality.
Solid silver flutes produce the classic flute sound most players are seeking as it offers a clear tone and good projection. Though more costly than silver-plating, solid sterling silver is one of the most common metals used for the body of professional flutes.
Other metals such as gold or platinum are also available from some flute makers. While these custom finishes are costly, flautists seeking something different in their sound can look at these additional options.
Flute keys, which control the ability to change pitches on the instrument by opening and closing holes on the body of the flute, can either be closed-hole, solid, or open-hole, with a small hole cut in the center of the disk-like key.
Typically reserved for student-level flutes, closed-hole instruments have a solid key, making it easy to accurately press down keys with less concern about finger positioning. Eventually, players will want to move to an open-hole flute for a better sound and advanced playing techniques.
Open-hole flute keys have a small, circular hole cut in the center of the primary keys of the instrument, allowing for better response and clear sound. More contemporary playing techniques, such as quarter tones or pitch bends, can be created by covering and uncovering only parts of the key holes.
Learning to play an open-holed flute takes time to get used to, as finger positioning needs to be accurate to ensure the entire hole is covered while pressing down the key. For those transitioning from a closed-hole to open-hole flute, covering the holes with plugs and removing those plugs as the player gets used to the keys helps the transition.
The alignment of the G-key, the key controlled by the left-hand ring finger, can either be straight in line with the keys around it (inline), or slightly out of line (offset). Neither option affects the sound of the instrument, but comes down to what is most comfortable to the flautist. Many upper level instruments have the option of offset or inline keys.
The offset G-key extends further out of line than its neighboring keys and closer to the body of the musician. This makes the G-key easier to reach, especially for smaller hands. Offset keys also help mitigate the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis for all players, as the offset-G key allows the hand to fit more naturally to the instrument, reducing discomfort and stress. Most student level flutes will have an offset G-key.
Inline key construction means all the keys are in a straight line down the flute, the traditional construction for handmade and professional level instruments. This alignment requires larger hands and better finger control, because inline keys don’t allow the hand to sit in a natural position. Because of potential discomfort and hand strain, inline keys are becoming less popular, even on professional instruments.
These are the most common additional/auxiliary keys many flutes will offer as standard or optional, and are good additions to look for when choosing an instrument.
C-sharp Trill Key
One of the most useful additions to the modern flute, the C-sharp trill key facilitates tricky key fingerings by allowing some notes to be played with either the left or the right hand. This is especially useful for very fast moving passages. The C-sharp trill key also serves as a vent, or an additional opening, improving the sound and response of other notes on the flute.
Split E Mechanism/Key
This flute feature serves to make the resistant high-E pitch easier to play. On the downside, the split E-key makes some flute trills, fast alternating note combinations, difficult to accomplish.
The gizmo key is a small key added to the flute’s foot to counteract the additional length the B-footjoint adds to the instrument, allowing notes in the upper register to respond better.
Also an option, the D-sharp roller allows the pinky finger to easily slide between keys in the footjoint’s cumbersome cluster of keys for comfort and speed in playing.
While pricing on instruments varies between flute brand and ability level, in general, instrument quality is reflected in the pricing. Be wary of instruments that are significantly less expensive than their peers, as inexpensive flutes can result in costly and excessive repairs, poor tone quality or intonation, and a horn likely needing to be replaced quickly. Sticking with reputable flute manufacturers or through consultation with knowledgeable music educators and professionals will ensure you acquire a solid instrument.