Buying a Flute for a Beginner

I’ll never forget the look of dismay on my student’s face when she realized the finish on her new flute was coming off on her fingers, leaving the flute with blackened keys. Her grandmother had bought her the flute for a great price at Costco only weeks before. My student continued to play the flute for another month before one of the rods came apart. Our local instrument repair shop said parts for that brand were not available and the flute could not be fixed.

If only her grandmother had asked for advice before purchasing the gift!

When buying a flute for a beginner, look for four things:

  1. A flute that produces a good sound with good intonation

  2. A reliable flute made of quality parts that can easily be repaired

  3. An affordable instrument

  4. A flute of a reputable brand that be resold when it comes time to upgrade to an intermediate instrument.

What Brand to Buy:

The flute I most often recommend for beginners or for someone who has played in a school band for a year or two is a closed hole student Yamaha flute in the 200 series. Like a Honda Civic, it has all of the above qualities! A new Yamaha will set you back about $800 CAD and can be purchased at Twigg’s music store in Montreal or at Long & McQuade’s. In my next blog entry, I will discuss buying a used Yamaha which can usually be found for $280 to $400 CAD.

If you are nervous about buying a used instrument and want something less expensive, my second choice would be a new Jupiter (700 series) which retails at $625 CAD. If you or your child continues to play the flute, this instrument will have to be upgraded to a better instrument sooner than a Yamaha flute. I find students sometimes have difficulties making the switch to a better flute as they have gotten used to playing the Jupiter which has a different lip plate that requires less air speed to produce a sound.

One other option for a new beginner flute is a Di Zhao flute, which retails at $595 CAD. This is a brand that is not as well known in Canada as the Yamaha but the instrument has a good sound and good reviews. These are available at Twigg’s Music in Montreal.

If you have a little more to spend, a Yamaha in the 300 or 400 series or the Azumi 2000 series are very nice options. With solid silver headjoints and open holes (a beginner will want to use plugs at first), these flutes can be played for years without needing an upgrade. One of these two options is what I would recommend to an adult student or for a teen who is serious about playing the flute. The Azumi 2000 retails for about $2100 has a nice full sound, easily produces notes in the high register, has many tone colours possibilities, is lightweight and has very responsive keys. The Azumi flutes have the advantage over other flutes at the same price level in terms of being easy to play. In Canada, this one is only available at the moment from Long & McQuade.

Buying a flute for young children under the age of 9 or 10 will require one that comes with a curved headjoint. I’ll be posting a future blog about options for a child of that age.

And finally, here are some brands to avoid:

  • Flutes sold by large department stores (Costco, Walmart). These flutes cannot be repaired and often have defects in the metal, soft and bendable mechanism and leaky pads.

  • Gemeinhardt, Emerson, Buffet, Artley, Armstrong, Selmer, Bundy, Vito, Winston, Lark, Sinclair and other unknown brands.


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