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Woodwinds

Best Flute

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.

Muramatsu DS Flute

Muramatsu DS Flute

The Muramatsu DS features a complete solid silver construction with a handmade headjoint which has been carefully researched, designed and tested to allow players to produce a wide range of great tone colors. The drawn tone holes and the raised area the keys cover are shaped using the material of the flute body itself. This makes the flute lighter in weight and provides less resistance when blowing for an open, easy responding sound.

Keys are attached to the instrument via the French pointed arm system where the rods pass through the center of the keys for maximum facility and provide reliable sealing of the pads to avoid leaks. The DS model comes standard with a D-sharp roller key to make tricky key combinations easier to navigate. The white gold springs are flexible, enabling quick and responsive key action. The Muramatsu DS is available with an inline or offset G-key, with or without a split E mechanism or a C-sharp trill key, depending on the personal sound and preferences of the player.

Powell Handmade Conservatory Silver Flute

Powell Handmade Conservatory Silver Flute

From head to foot, Powell’s Sterling Silver Handmade Conservatory series flute is constructed out of solid silver. Its design is made for a resonant, vibrant sound with great projection. Pin-less construction eliminates very small needles connecting keys to the instruments mechanics thereby reducing risk of damage and corrosion to the delicate key system. The key mechanics have been adjusted to provide a smooth, easy to manipulate action.

Powell offers three choices of handmade head joints with this flute: The Philharmonic for more resistance when blowing, the Soloist with a more curved lip plate for better dynamic or volume control, and the Venti to produce sound with a lot of depth and resonance in the highest notes. In terms of the key system, the Handmade Conservatory model is available with an inline or offset-G key and with or without a split E-key and C-sharp trill key for player’s personal preference.

Haynes Handmade Drawn Tone Hole Model Professional Flute

Haynes Handmade Drawn Tone Hole Model Professional Flute

The Haynes Handmade Drawn Tone Hole model flute is constructed out of solid silver including the body, foot and headjoint. Drawn tone holes are shaped using the material of the flute body itself instead of soldering on additional metal thus providing less resistance when blowing making it a more responsive flute. Sturdy Y-arms attach the keys to the instrument while pin-less construction eliminates needles connecting the keys to the mechanics thus reducing the risk of damage and corrosion to the delicate key system. A gizmo key is included to counteract the additional B-foot key allowing notes in the upper register to respond better. The Haynes Handmade Drawn Tone Hole model flute is ideal for the flautist looking for a rich, deep tone.

Yamaha YFL-221 Student Flute

Made out of nickel silver with silver plating, the YFL-221 is built for durability and tone quality. This flute features stronger posts attached to the instruments power-forged keys which prevent bending and breakage. A notable and easy to find mark on the foot joint helps young players line the pieces of the instrument up correctly during assembly every time. Long-lasting double bladder pads ensure the keys cover their tone holes accurately to avoid leaks. The keys are attached by expert technicians for the best positioning and designed for comfortable hand placement, especially for new flautists. The quality manufacturing of the Yamaha YFL-221 provides a solid flute for beginners who require reliable intonation and a good tone.

Pearl PF500 500 Series Student Flute with Case

Geared specifically towards beginner musicians, the PF500 series flute is a straightforward instrument for student players as they master the art of blowing correctly across the lip plate. This flute features Pearl’s renowned pin-less construction, eliminating very small needles connecting keys to various parts of the instrument thereby reducing the risk of damage to these delicate parts. Small needles are prone to getting caught on the player or corroding faster than the rest of the instrument from contact with skin. Screws securing the key system are installed from the underside of the key work to further isolate the delicate screws from dirt, dust and sweat. For a sturdier key system, the bridge mechanisms have been reinforced. Designed for mechanical reliability and with student players in mind, the Pearl PF500 is great for beginner flautists.

Gemeinhardt 2SP Series Student Flute

The Gemeinhardt 2SP is designed with a focus on durability and reliability in tone production and intonation. This flute is entirely silver-plated which is easier to clean with the keys connected using Y-arms to make them sturdier. If students have the choice, they may want to test a couple different versions of this model flute as sometimes there are inconsistencies from flute to flute. The Gemeinhardt 2SP is also one of the most affordable options on this list, providing beginners with a dependable first instrument.

Buyer's Guide

 

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.

Flute Types

Flutes are manufactured for a variety of abilities, including student, intermediate and professional levels.

Student/Beginner
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.

Intermediate
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.

Professional
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.

Parts

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.

Headjoint
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.

Body
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.

Footjoint
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.

Body Metals

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
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
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
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.

Exotic Metals
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.

Construction

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.

Closed-Hole
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
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.

G-Key Alignment
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.

Offset
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
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.

Optional Keys

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.

Gizmo Key
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.

D-sharp Roller
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.

Price/Value

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.

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