How to purchase your next flute

For Adult Flutists

Flutists are fortunate.  There are more manufacturers of flutes than any other wind instrument.  While this gives the flutist a lot of choice, it can be confusing, even for the seasoned flutist.  The good news for the flutist is that because there are so many manufacturers, competition is fierce.

How much should I spend?

This depends a lot on how you will be using your flute, and how advanced of a player you are.

Most of the adults that we work with wind up spending around $4000.00 to $8500.00 for models that have drawn and rolled toneholes, and $9000.00 to $14000.00 for models with soldered toneholes.

What features should I look for?

Construction:  In this price range you should definitely look for a handmade mechanism, even better a handmade Brogger System mechanism.  (Read about the Brogger System at this link.)  (Read about machine made flutes vs. handmade flutes at this link.)

Pads:  We strongly recommend the Straubinger Pad for your new flute.  This is a mostly synthetic pad that is perfectly flat and cannot expand and contract (which causes leaks) the way traditional felt pads do.

The almost perfect seal and firmness of the Straubinger Pad allows the column of air inside the flute tube to start vibrating much sooner than felt pads would permit.  (Which produces a quick response.)  The instrument is much more reliable and pad leveling repair bills are cut in half over the life of the pads.

Composition:  At minimum your new handmade flute should have a sterling silver (92.5% silver) or Britannia silver (95.8% silver) head-joint.  The next major improvement would be to purchase the flute with sterling silver or Britannia Silver, body and foot-joint tubes.  The best sound would be achieved by purchasing a flute with sterling silver keys as well.  Of course the more silver, the more expensive the flute.

Head-joint choice:  Many flutists do not take full advantage of this important part of selecting a new flute.  Most of the top flute manufacturers will offer at least 3, sometimes 4 distinct head-joint designs.  Everyones embouchure is different.  These different designs allow the flutist to customize their embouchure to the right head-joint.

At the New England Flute Shop, we always have a detailed conversation with our customers to find out what kind of flute they currently play on, what type of performing they do, and what their expectations are for their new flute.  This allows us to tailor the head-joints that we present to our customers to their specific requests.

More head-joint choices:  Some remarkable improvements in tone color and texture can be achieved just by including a 14 karat gold riser, or a platinum riser (sometimes called the “chimney”).  It a customer has a goal of needing more color and texture in their sound, we might steer them more in the direction of the gold riser.  If they want more power and projection, a platinum riser may be the right choice for them.  ( Read more about gold and platinum risers at this link. )

How to choose the right head-joint.   A great flute specialist can be invaluable in helping a flutist to choose the right head-joint.  We usually present about 6 or 7 head-joint choices to our customers during the initial testing session.

Jeffrey Schmalz, the owner of the New England Flute Shop has assisted hundreds of flutists as they have selected new head-joints. He carefully listens to each head-joint and works with the customer to eliminate the head-joints that work least well for the customer.  At this point the customer decides if they would like to proceed with a 5 day trial.  They would take the head-joints that work best for them, play them in familiar environments, and for their peers before making a decision on whether or not to purchase the flute.

Even after purchasing a new flute, embouchures and playing styles can change.  To help with these changes, The New England Flute Shop will also exchange a head-joint for up to a year if the customer would like to consider a different head-joint in our inventory of the same or greater value.  (Ex. Upgrade to a gold or platinum riser, 9 karat gold lip plate or a tube made from 958 silver.)

How can a more expensive head-joint, result in a less expensive flute?

If a flutist cannot afford a flute with a sterling silver body joint or key mechanism, a good way to increase the richness and beauty of the tone of that instrument is to add more precious metal to the head-joint.  One way to do this is to purchase a head-joint with tubing made from 958 silver (95.8% solid silver).  Another way is to add a gold riser (or chimney) to the head-joint.  Adding more silver content to a head-joint tends to give a richer, darker, sound to the flute. Adding gold to a head-joint increases the colors and textures available to the flutist.  A platinum riser, a more costly option will help give the flutist a darker, more powerful sound.

Pursuing one of these options can cost substantially less than purchasing a flute with body tubing and keys made from silver, yet will still give a wonderful improvement in tone and response.

Mechanical Options:

Inline G or Offset G keys – See the article at this link.  (No cost difference.)

C# Trill Key – See the article at this link

Heavy wall tubing or standard wall tubing.

Split E mechanism or High E facilitator – See the article at this link.

D# and Low C# rollers:  These rollers make sliding the pinkie finger from the D# key over to the low C# and low C key much easier.

Should I buy a flute from a flute specialty shop, or from a national discounter?

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.

Another 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 want to enjoy the benefit of having skilled craftsman in your community, we recommend that you patronize their businesses!