Have you ever thought of why the flute is included in the woodwind family? Of course, there is a history of flutes made partially with wood. The real answer though is much more interesting: the woodwind family is actually classed by the way sound is produced an excerpt from WWBW “the way they produce their sound which is by splitting the player’s air stream on a sharp edge, such as a reed”. When looking at flute specs – especially for younger students – often you are dealing with a cheaper silver – usually nickel. Here is a comprehensive list of both flute specs and flutes for students:

SPECS

There are so many variables with it comes to manufacturing a flute, this is no way a fully complete list (since there are a vast amount of custom variables), I have divided these specs into 6 common
categories:

Choices

New v.

C foot v.

Open holed v.

Inline G key v.

Preowned

B foot

Close holed

Offset G key

Extra Keys/Attachments
  • Gizmo key (foot)
  • Bb side key (body)
  • C# trill (body)
  • Split E (body)
  • C# roller (foot)
  • D# roller (foot)
  • Brossa F# (body)
Materials/Metals
  • Nickel silver – sometimes with silver plating on the exterior
  • Coin silver OR Sterling silver
  • Gold – How many karats?
  • Wood (uncommon)
  • Combination of metals
    • ie. a sterling silver body with gold keys; OR a coin silver body with gold interior wall.
Risers

The riser is part of the embouchure hole and can be any metal (ie. silver, gold).

Wall

Standard v.

Heavy

The wall thickness can impact the color of the tone (and the weight of the instrument).

Also as mentioned, the inner wall of the flute can be made of a different metal than the outer
wall.

Tubing

The thickness of the tube is important because flute players will often upgrade their headjoint
(since it is less expensive than buying a whole flute) and the diameter of the tubing MUST
match the body of the flute.


FLUTES – General Names to be aware of

Beginning Brands (can also be used for outdoor playing/marching band)
  • Yamaha
  • Gemeinhardt
  • Selmer
  • Jupiter
Intermediate Brands
  • Trevor James
  • Yamaha
  • Pearl
  • Jupiter
Conservatory Brands (get through Undergrad)
  • Muramatsu
  • Yamaha
  • Azumi (by Altus)
  • Powell Sonare
  • Amadeus (by Haynes)
  • Di Zhao
  • Miyazawa

More specific – general specs and pricing

Beginner (Grades 4-6)

Close holed

~$300-500

  • Selmer – FL711 Prelude
  • Gemeinhardt – 2SP
Intermediate (Grades 6-12)

Close holed

~$600-1200

  • Pearl – PF 500
  • Yamaha – YFL 222

Open holed

~$800-1700

  • Pearl – PF 505 RBE
  • Yamaha – YFL 262
Conservatory (Grade 10 upwards)

Open holed

~$1800-4500

  • Yamaha – YFL 577(H)
  • Powell Sonare – PS 601
  • Muramatsu – EX
  • Azumi – AZ series (1, 2, or 3)
  • Trevor James – Cantabile OR Virtuoso Voce

What are your favorite student flutes and specs? Let me know in the comments below!

Young flutists that are surrounded non-flutists or are self-taught can develop a wide range of bad habits that take years to unlearn. There are common myths that are just taken as fact by band directors when recruiting or coaching young flute players. In this article, I’ll be clarifying what/if there is any true to these myths as well as sharing resources for more information!


Myth 1: Lip Shape/Size Matters

… NO! The way I have most commonly heard this myth is referred to as the “textbook embouchure” where the lips are fairly even is size (the bottom might be slightly wider) and the embouchure when playing is centered or inline with the nose.

James Galway, example of the centered/textbook embouchure

This isn’t the best or the only (obviously) way to produce a good tone on the flute. In fact, people with that “textbook embouchure” may struggle to get a sound out.

In comparison, the lip shape deemed challenging for flute playing is one that is tear drop shaped because of the jut in the top lip, this is also untrue. Accommodations such as forming an “offset embouchure” are common for not just this lip shape, but many others. For more detailed information check out Dr. Cate Hummel’s article.

Anyone who wants to play flute should not be deterred by the shape or ratio of their lips. More factors than just the exterior lips play a role in how easily someone produces a sound on the flute.

Emmanuel Pahud, example of an offset embouchure

Myth 2: Alignment Doesn’t Matter In The Beginning… It Will All Sound The Same

First, Jennifer Cluff has written many articles/FAQ on flute alignment – check these out to answer specific questions.

Alignment is VITAL to setting young flute players up for success,

Balancing the flute properly with the chin, left hand pointer finger, right hand thumb and pinky – helps with the stability of the instrument which creates consistency for students which will improve tone quality and register.

Also, alignment of the flute itself is vital – lining up the center of the embouchure hole with the center of the keys of the body AND the rod of the foot joint with the center of the keys of the body). When the flute is out of alignment, the experienced flutist has to work much harder by contorting to get a focused sound on the flute.


Myth 3: Roll In/Out To Improve Tuning and Tone

NOOOOOOOOOOOO! Below is a representation of how I feel every time I’ve heard that advice during a coaching session before I step in to talk about how meddlesome this is.

For tuning, you should NOT default to adjusting by rolling the flute – this fosters posture and alignment issues. You SHOULD pull/push out the head joint to tune. You can use this saying to remember the direction… “if you have something SHARP in your eye you should PULL it OUT”.

To be clear, this CAN be done, but it SHOULD NOT be the primary or first defense for tuning. Therefore, teaching your band students to do this is unnecessary and causes more trouble than it’s worth.

Jennifer Cluff did an article on this where she states, “Rolling the flute inward only covers the embouchure hole too much with the lower lip and strangles the tone quality, and is not a “cure all” in any way.”


Myth 4: The Flute Embouchure Doesn’t Change For Each Register

FALSE – There are very specific adjustments made to help produce a focused and vibrant tone in each register (typically divided into the low, middle, and high registers). There is an adjustment between the top and bottom lips as well as slight changes inside the mouth (much like singing) that occur with register shifts.

Jolene Harju Madewell articles one on the low register and one on good tone.

And Jennifer Cluff has an article on playing in the high register.


Vital teaching tool:

I highly recommend giving this a watch and sharing this with your students: James Galway embouchure video.


Any flute myths I left out? Did anything here surprise you? Have more embouchure resources to share? Let me know in the comments below!

With back-to-school season in full swing a lot of companies offer these savings and deals to entice families to buy new instruments. The factors that go into making that large purchase are vast – budget, stock, knowledge, trialing, repairs, etc. For each flute I mention, (whether or not it’s still in production) I’ll provide the pros and cons of that experience. With hindsight informing things I wish I knew as a young student.

When I was first starting out as a high school sophomore I was given an unused and unserviced 20 year flute; promptly switching to borrowing a Yamaha from a friend in high school who had stopped playing. Now I’m playing a Weissman Haynes that I trialed from the Flute Center of New York. Here’s how I got from that 20 year flute to today…


Starting Out

When I was 15 years old, I decided to join marching band; to do so required learning flute over the summer. This is went I was exploring temporary flute options. My sophomore and junior years of high school were spent playing silver-plated, factory produced flutes. I played the same flutes in both marching band and concert band so durability was very important. I started with a KING flute, over the summer, and ended up with a Yamaha 221 by the time my sophomore year started.


My first “flute”: King Flute 610

Pros

  • It was a free instrument – An older band family had it sitting around for ~20 years.
  • I was able to use it to practice fingerings.
  • Later on (in my late undergrad), I was able to use it to learn about flute repair and got to see how the mechanism works up close.

Cons

  • The head joint cork desperately needed to be replaced. (Over the 20 years of sitting, the cork began to rot and the head joint had a very strong smell and would not tune).
  • The metal was extremely malleable – easy to bend and dent.
  • Servicing the instrument was a nightmare because KING no longer manufactures flutes.

My first REAL flute: Yamaha 221

Pros

  • Another free instrument: I borrowed this one from a friend who had quit back the previous year.
  • Very durable – the instrument was very low maintenance as far as COAs go (minimal mechanism issues).
  • Easy to get a sound out of and great sound quality for a student instrument (since it was well maintained and cleaned).
  • Open hole.

Cons

  • I was going to need a more permanent solution for continuing in band (which you’ll see I ended up purchasing my own Yamaha 221 after this section).
  • Repairs – since I was borrowing this instrument getting repairs was challenging because I didn’t know who I could trust to service it and the family I was borrowing the flute from had absolutely no clue either.

School loaner instruments: Bundy 300 / Gemeinhardt 2SP

If you’re budget is tight… DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY ON AMAZON. School loaner instruments are one option. Most schools will give out the higher quality or even brand new instruments out on a first come first serve basis so you should be in touch with the band director early to discuss what works for your situation.

If loaning an instrument is not an option there are flute societies that offer grants for students to purchase instruments or even donate instruments to young students.

Pros

  • In many cases, the repairs for the instrument are covered by the school district so you don’t have to worry about finding a reliable technician.
  • It’s a great option for students who are unsure whether or not they want to commit to the flute – less financial commitment.

Cons

  • The district may hold on to worn out instruments due to lack of funding – these instruments are usually given out as a last resort if all the loaner stock is in rotation. This can make learning the flute frustrating for a beginner.
  • The students need to be responsible for properly cleaning and maintaining the instrument; in districts where the band director is not primarily a flutist this can easily get overlooked.

Preparing for college

The following year I became the section leader for marching band, was promoted to piccolo, and had made the decision to own my own flute. Shortly after the school year had started, I had bought my own Yamaha 211. However, that year I always went through what I’ll call the “tale of many piccolos”…


The piccolo saga: Emerson (silver-plated), Jupiter (half plating half resin), Pearl (half plating half resin), Gemeinhardt 4SP (resin)

To be specific: in the span of 1 month I went through 5 piccolos (since I tried 2 Pearls). It was during the month of September, my Junior year, when these horrific trials began…

The silver-plated Emerson was my outdoor piccolo for marching band – there were no issues to complain about. However, when I needed a piccolo for concert band, I decided the shrillness of the all metal piccolo wouldn’t do so I decided to find a plastic composite or combination piccolo.

For whatever reason, I kept on going back to my local SamAsh to get replacement instruments. I won’t recall all the gory details, but the worst experience I had was one of the Pearls ended up having the head joint come off with the barrel.

Finally, the light at the end of the tunnel, I discovered the Gemeinhardt 4sP which I still own to this day – and has miraculously not given me any technical issues (granted it is taken in for annual COAs). For piccolos, I’ll break them down by make – all metal, half, or all resin.

Emerson (All metal)

  • Great for outdoor ensembles – durable in high and low temperatures.
  • Reliable mechanism.
  • Very shrill for inside rehearsals/closed spaces.

Jupiter & Pearl (half)

  • Good option for outdoor/indoor – if you want just one piccolo.
  • In my experience, the half metal-half resin were not reliable – key issues and that one traumatic barrel accident.

Gemeinhardt (resin)

  • Good for indoor/outdoor playing. Since it’s plastic it is less susceptible to cracking than wooden piccolos.
  • Easier (compared to all metal) to tame – intonation and shrillness.
  • Reliable mechanism.

Yamaha 221

Pros

  • Affordable and high-quality student instrument.
  • Open hole.
  • Very durable when well maintained.
  • This was a good enough instrument for beginning undergraduate/college auditions. (It can last a young student a LONG time).

Cons

  • Another flute upgrade looming for college (for a music education major).

Undergraduate/Graduate

I started out on my Yamaha 221 in the first year of my undergraduate degree, but knew I would inevitably need to upgrade. Since I am a stone’s throw to the Flute Center of New York so I scheduled a visit to trial flutes. All the flutes at this level (as an undergraduate student considering the possibility of graduate school in the future) where handmade and either silver (or silver and some other metal combo).

Flute trials: Powell with a Brannen head, Muramatsu EX, Haynes

There is a lot that goes into flute trialing and flute specs, if you want to see a post on that let me know! After my in person visit to the Flute Center, I ended up with these 3 instruments which I took out on a 7 day trial.

Powell

  • Preowned
  • B-foot
  • The body was an in-line G Powell all silver on the outside and keys, but gold playing on the interior walls; paired with a Brannen head joint.

Muramatsu

  • New
  • B-foot
  • The Muramatsu EX is an economical, sterling silver flute that is a great option for unversity students.

Haynes

  • Preowned
  • B-foot
  • A custom Weissman model Haynes flute with a silver body and head with a 14K gold riser.

After trialing all the flutes for a week, I knew the Haynes flute was the one for me so that brings us to today…

Weissman-Haynes

Pros

  • Handmade, silver flute – instantly a much higher sound quality than my student Yamaha flute.
  • B-foot
  • The extra keys: gizmo, C# trill and D# roller.
  • Straubinger pads.

Cons

  • Adapting to the head joint – compared to the Yamaha (which had a narrow, oval embouchure hole) the Haynes has a much wider squoval shaped hole.
  • Having to find my own local repair technician that was (preferably) Straubinger certified.
  • The heavy wall makes this flute much heavier than my previous flute as well as most other professional flutes.


Have you played any of these flutes? What are your about these instruments? Have any questions about a specific flute – let me know in the comments below.