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Buying A Flute! What Should I Be Looking For?

Buying a flute is a very big investment and it is very important that you make the best decision when you buy your flute. Many first time buyers are not aware of what some of the extra features are that a dealer may describe and thus making them decide on the wrong flute.

Doing your research can be the best thing you could do while deciding on what flute to buy. In fact, you were probably doing research which led you to this page. In this article I will be doing my best to describe to you all of the hidden things that a dealer may have on a flute.

Here is an example of how a dealer might point out what is going on with the flute in question. If you are not familiar with what the terms are, don’t worry, many people don’t.

Here is the overview:

Level: This pretty much just says what level of player you would expect to be using this flute. This isn’t to say that a beginner couldn’t start with an intermediate flute though.

Key: This is telling you what note on the piano would be identical to the fingered note C on the instrument. In most instances, a concert flute will be in the key of C. (An alto flute on the other hand would be in the key of G.)

Body Style: This is usually relevant to the manufacturer and most often flutes will be the same body type unless it is a custom flute.

Body Material: This is what your flute is made out of. This can range from sterling silver, like above, or it could go to gold, or even platinum. In most beginner flutes, you will see that it will be nickel silver which is standard.

Headjoint: This again will depend on the manufacturer because usually along with the flute that it makes, it will also make seperate headjoints. Usually the headjoint included is relevant to the level of the flute.

Key Material: This is the metal that the keys are made out of. Most often it will be nickel silver as the material of the keys does not affect the overall tone greatly.

Footjoint: The two types of footjoints that you will see are “C” and “B.” There isn’t a huge difference and isn’t important to a lot of amateur players, but can come in handy. The “C” is standard and lets you go down to a low C, one line below the staff. The “B” footjoint allows you to go down to a low B below the staff. Often, with the “B” footjoint you will find that it also includes a gizmo key, which is used in aiding the highest C on the flute. How often you will play either the low B or highest C is debatable, but in my opinion, if it isn’t included it isn’t worth the extra cost.

Plating: This is the material that covers the outside of your flute. You will normally see nickel silver, or silver, or sometimes gold. This is usually for purely cosmetic reasons as the sound never touches the outside of the flute.

Tone Holes: There are two different types of how the tone holes are made. They can either be drawn or soldered. Drawn tone holes are very thin and are rolled up on the end to prevent damage to the pads. This is the standard for most flutes. Soldered tone holes on the other hand soldered tone holes have short rings soldered to the tone hole making a heavier wall mass. Drawn tone holes give a quicker response, while soldered tone holes give a deeper tone. Soldered tone holes also add a price to the flute, since it requires much more work to do.

Key Types: This is how the keys will appear on the flute. The three most common types of keys are plateau, ring, and pointed. Plateau are more standard for beginner, ring for intermediate, and pointed for advanced. Although this is common, you can also see, for example, pointed arms on a beginning flute. This can also refer to whether or not a flute is open-hole or closed-hole.

Key System: Either will be an inline G, or an offset G. Not a big difference, but simply made to aid those with small hands to help reach the G key in the ring finger in the left hand.

Key Mechanism: Usually present on more advanced flutes, it is called a Split E. Any flutist will tell you that the most unstable note on a flute is the high E, and this was made to help aid the note to be more stable and responsive.

Spring Type: This is what the springs are made out of. The springs are what make keys, other than the one you pressed, move. If a spring becomes lose or broken, it can prevent you from playing the instrument successfully.

Screw Type: This is what holds the flute together, material isn’t a big deal to most flute players, as long as it stays.

Bumper Type: This is what is put on the back of keys that aren’t directly on a tone hole. To prevent bending, scratching, and excess noise, they are placed. Most common type is cork, and usually it isn’t a problem.

Options: Here is where the manufacturer will list many different add-ons that you can buy for your flute. A gold lip plate in the example is an addon that can add anywhere between $25 to $200 to your flute price, and many people don’t find it affective anyways because all that matters is if you have a gold riser, because no air actually hits the surface of the lip plate that is actually going to be a part of the sound. Some other options may include, engraving, jewels, pointed arms.

Additional Notes

Never underestimate what the resale value might be on your flute. Some brands (usually more expensive) may actually go up in value. Now, for someone who is in their high school/college days, the resale value of a flute that’s less than five years old may not be much different than what you paid for it yourself, but consider taking care of your flute (getting a C.O.A. every year or so) so that when you do decide to sell it, it will be in great playing condition.

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