How should I purchase a step-up flute?

For Jr. High and High School flutists

Flutists are lucky.  There are more manufacturers of flutes than any other wind instrument.  While this gives the flutist a lot of choice, it can also be confusing, especially for a younger student and their parents.  The good news is that since there are so many manufacturers, prices are competitive.

How much should I spend?

It would be difficult to make a significant step up without spending around $1500.00  You may be able to get away with spending less if you find a very good deal on a used flute for around $1000.00  We also sell quite a few step-up flutes in the $2000.00 to $6500.00 range.  Of course, many families cannot afford these semi-handmade and handmade step-up flutes, which is why we offer a full range of options to choose from.

What features should I look for?

We would suggest at the very least to purchase a flute that has the entire head-joint made from sterling silver.  The next step up from that would be to purchase a flute with a handmade mechanism.  We would also suggest that the student stay with an offset G key, (standard on virtually all beginner flutes) since it is a stronger and more ergonomic construction.

Most step-up flutes include the French style keys (sometimes called “open hole” flutes) which offer a small improvement in sound, but that feature alone is no reason to buy a new flute.  In other words, it does not make much sense to purchase a step-up flute with French style keys unless it also has at least, a sterling silver head-joint.  It is the addition of sterling silver that will make the biggest improvement in the sound of the flute.

If the student is looking at some of the handmade step-up flutes they may also consider the C# trill key, (See the article about the C# trill here.) a 14 karat gold riser,  (See the article about the gold riser here.) or body and foot-joint tubing made entirely of sterling silver.

Should I buy a flute from my local music store, a flute specialty shop, or a national discounter?

Some local music stores carry good brands.  Before making a purchase, ask to take the flute home on approval for a few days so that the flutist can test it in a familiar environment and take it to a flute lesson so that the teacher can also test the instrument.  If the music store carries more than one brand of step-up flute, ask to take 2 flutes, one of each brand and of comparable quality and cost to test for a few days before making a decision.  If you don’t like either of them, look at some other alternatives.

There are a handful of flute specialty shops around the United States which offer very high quality products and have excellent customer service.  The New England Flute Shop is one of these.  The owner of the New England Flute Shop, Jeffrey Schmalz has tested thousands of flutes over the last 35 years and has carefully selected the flute and piccolo lines we carry as having the best combination of craftsmanship, musical response and value.

Every instrument sold at flute specialty shops is carefully set up and tested by a professional flutist before it is sent to a customer.  These shops also provide top flight service technicians who will make repairs in a timely manner.  In the case of our shop, we will almost always take care of repairs in less than a week and emergency repairs can usually be done in one day, many times while you wait.

The third choice that is available for those in the market for a new flute is to purchase an instrument from an internet discounter such as Woodwind-Brasswind or Flute World.  While these internet shops may be able to sell you a flute at rock bottom prices, they do not service the instrument, and rarely is the instrument set up and tested properly.  The difference in the cost between the internet discounter and your local music store, or a flute specialty shop will quickly be made up in trips to the flute repairman!

If you have a regular flute teacher, they may have an opinion about what kind of flute they would like you to have, and where they would like you to purchase it.  Take advantage of their knowledge and experience.

If you have any questions don’t hesitate to write us at: