Flute selection advice.....

Flute selection advice.....

Flute selection advice.....    23:12 on Saturday, April 30, 2011          

(7 points)
Posted by SailAwayAK

After reading through the forum and lurking for about a month, I am finally ready to ask some questions. I feel like I know far more about flute purchases but am looking for some advice.

Yeppers, they are questions on flute purchases. I know you all cringe, yes, it is the same question every week.

"Where to get...."
"What to get...."
"Best flute for....."

Here is what I know:

1. Have an instructor come with us if possible.
2. Try out multiple brands and models.
3. Price isn't everything.
4. Gold lip plates don't matter.
5. Regardless of buying new or used have the flute looked at by a tech after purchase.

The search tool is my friend.

Here is some of the things I am wondering:

Does changing brands effect your embouchure?

What are the differences between a "Beginner Flute" "Intermediate Flute" and "Professional Flute"?

What price ranges are there for the levels of flute?

When looking at flutes are certain flutes effected buy different temperature's, weather conditions, humidity, dry conditions?

I am sure I will add more questions here. I can already think of some that I would add if questions were answered in certain ways.


My daughter started playing the flute when she was 8 (3rd Grade). We started her in a Gemeinhardt SP of some sort. We still have it in the closet in case she needs a back up. When she was 12 (6th grade) she was still playing and joined a "flute choir". We were given an M3 Open holed Gemeinhardt by a friend. She is part of the Youth Symphony in the city. She currently switched between flute, alto flute, and bass in her flute choir. My daughter isn't a virtuoso, she just likes playing. She does not plan on this for her lifelong career however, I believe in getting just what she needs and will work for her passions and enjoyment. Getting a just right fit in terms of price, level, ability, and use is important. Not getting suckered into a sales pitch is also important.

After sitting in a concert rehearsal this week, I noticed her pitch was different than many players. It was flat. She was struggling to tune her flute. Frustration was written all over her face. I took it in for repairs the next morning and the tech adjusted some things right on the spot for me. We went to her lesson Friday night and she and her teacher were able to get her in tune. We marked the flute to try and help her see where she needed to get it set for the next day. Saturday morning she sat down for choir and couldn't get it in tune again. Her director was also having issues. She has played long enough that her instructors and I are all convinced this is not a matter of technique but of product. Her M3 just isn't cutting the mustard for her knowledge and ability any longer. Sometimes what one place says in "intermediate" isn't always. I was told her M3 was and it would probably serve her though high school. Either they were wrong or she has a better playing ability than I thought. My thinking on Intermediate and advanced/professional might be skewed.

I saw somewhere in here that tuning for new flutes is different that it used to be. I can relate as I have a beautiful antique violin that I constantly had to make play sharp because everyone sounded horrid to mine in comparison. Sad, sad, sad. Interesting that tuning has had to change, IMO, because newer violin makers weren't any good. Just imagine people trying to tune to the new standard in 100 years of the eBay flutes of now? *cringe*

In the next 6 months, before the start of fall sessions I think we need to look at a new flute. I originally came here looking for Piccolo advice. I had no clue I was going to hop in here for other advice. I have read an amazing amount of information and appreciate all of you taking time to answer so many of the repetitive questions here. Just know that your knowledge is appreciated. Maybe I need to try out her old flute and start learning myself.

I think you all need a "sticky" in the section on how to buy a new/used flute that answers so many of these questions. LOL. Maybe this can be that starting point for you all to refer to....

Re: Flute selection advice.....    13:30 on Sunday, May 01, 2011          

(130 points)
Posted by TBFlute

First of all, THANK YOU for being so considerate as to actually read old posts before posting. I've all but stopped posting here because I'm sick of asking the same thing over and over again.

The Gemeinhardt M3 model she's currently playing on is pretty old. Perhaps it is pitched at a slightly lower pitch standard than the rest of the ensemble? It's certainly possible to play an older instrument at the slightly higher pitch we tune to today, but it requires a lot of practice and if she's only playing for fun, it might prove to be more frustrating than it's worth.

Switching to a better cut headjoint will improve an embouchure for the better. If you're playing on a Bundy, for example, there's a wall that you'll hit eventually where you've improved as much as you can on the crappy headjoint included with the flute. However, if you move to a better flute and work on improving your tone, you'd also sound better on the Bundy. You'll be able to make better use of a more flexible embouchure that doesn't really develop as much as it can on a crappy instrument.

A "Beginner flute" is commonly defined as a plated, closed-hole, instrument with a C-foot. However, this definition doesn't always hold water. There exist flutes like the Haynes commercial model that has closed holes and a C-foot but is handmade and blows many other flutes out of the water. Conversely, there are also flutes on the market with open holes and a B-foot that are for all intents and purposes still "beginner flutes," but with extra bells and whistles. So, we'll define a "Beginner flute" as an inexpensive mass-produced instrument with a machine-cut headjoint.

An "Intermediate flute" is harder to define. I would consider the "student" brands produced by the handmade flute makers to be intermediate flutes. These include Azumi, Avanti, Amadeus, Resona, and Sonare, and would probably be your daughter's best bet if she's looking to upgrade. The headjoint is hand-cut (I believe) and the body is produced somewhere else at a much lower cost than their handmade counterparts. There are also models produced by Yamaha and Pearl that fall into this category.

A "Professional flute" is a handmade model produced by Burkart, Haynes, Brannen, Williams, Muramatsu, Miyazawa, Sankyo, and many other makers. These are entirely handmade and very, very expensive. If your daughter isn't looking to make music a career, it's more flute than she needs. They can also be harder to play and require hours of practice a day to keep your embouchure in shape to get the full potential of the instrument.

Flutes aren't really effected by temperature and humidity change as much as other instruments. Since they are made of metal, they do not run the risk of cracking with rapid changes in temperature or humidity. On my old flute with traditional pads, I did notice a difference in how well they sealed on warmer, humid days compared to the small leaks that would appear in the middle of the New England winter, but that's an issue that could have been solved if I took it to a good tech and got it properly adjusted, ha ha.

I would suggest looking at Flute World to get an idea of the price range.

Good luck!

Re: Flute selection advice.....    13:36 on Sunday, May 01, 2011          

(437 points)
Posted by Pyrioni

I try to stay away from flute purchase threads, because Im only interested in playing technique threads, and I believe over 90% problems came from the players not the flute. But no one answers you in 24 hours, I try to help you.

This is me..
I play in 2 youth orchestras every week, and during the summers I play in Japan or Europe's youth orchestras. I can tell you that all youth orchestras and bands are so terrible in pitch, they keep shifting pitch, I spend 60% of the time in orchestras trying to adjust my pitch to match my left players and my right players and the orchestra. Maybe your daughter's ears are not very sensitive to pitch changes/fluctuations in youth band.

Flute may be also the reason, out of shape flute, or innate bad scale flute may also cause this problem, I don't know about Gemainhardt flutes, there is very very few of them in my country, most people play Yamaha 221,211,3xx,4xx,5xx,6xx here, also in our orchesras. I played Yamaha 211 for 5 years before change to Sankyo 401. I find Yamaha flute's pitch quite stable and ok in scale.

Why don't you see what the other guys in your daughter's band are using? or even ask them to lend their flute to check if it is your daughter's problem being flat or it's the flute?

If you have money, just buy the best student flutes like the famous and common Yamaha 221/211, or buy the very expensive high end quality big brands like Powell, Burkart, Brannen Brothers, Muramatsu, Sankyo. These brands will guarante your daughter have a safe flute and better self-confidence in her music life. Don't buy intermediate flute, that's my opinion, you may end up buying again and again. doubting again and again with frustration.

Will change brand affect embouchure? Yes! you need time to adjust to new flute, finding the best sounding points (all resonant points at different angle!) on that flute, also you need to adjust to the unique scale of each flute!!


whoops, TBFlute answered just now. sorry. :)


TBFlute said it very well. Handmade flutes "can also be harder to play and require hours of practice a day to keep your embouchure in shape to get the full potential of the instrument.", with my Sankyo 401, I need at least 2-3 hours a day to keep my embouchure in shape. If I don't play for 1-2 days, this flute is a totally stranger to me, and need to start over again. I can't afford to be sick/ill. :(

Re: Flute selection advice.....    21:21 on Sunday, May 01, 2011          

(173 points)
Posted by egretboy

Yeah, Gemeinhardts tend to have that problem. For now, tell her to push her head joint all the way in. I suggest a Sonare for a new flute: pretty cheap and good quality.

Re: Flute selection advice.....    22:41 on Sunday, May 01, 2011          

(7 points)
Posted by SailAwayAK

For her performace tonight she has borrowed a Yamaha 221n it seems to be holding the tune better. Speaking with her director and instructors after her dress rehearsal they seem to think this one will work for her for a bit. We may borrow it for a month and see what she thinks. She doesn't seem rot be getting enough air flow right now. Watching her she seems to hunch a bit in her playing. Her stand is pretty low. Her stand can't raise any higher. She is currently 6'1" and it looks Ike she has maxed out the height for most stands. Anyone know where to get a stand that hits at a greater height? LOL I did find a taller one for the performance tonight in the horde of 60 players. Hopefully it will help her a bit.

A few other questions...

Will changing just the head joint work for an improvement in tuning?

If changing to a different flute requires some new truing with your embouchure, when people are looking at new flutes why say people should make purchases on what is most comfortable for them? What should she be looking for when it comes to playing and comfort?

I can't say that at 14 she knows she wants to play professionally. I do not doubt she will want to play in university. Many of the students in her program play internationally. They are certified and taught with accreditation from schools in England. I can only think they follow the standards I have seen discussed here in this forum. It does make me feel good to know I may have found a good school for her.

Most kids in the public schools are playing rented Armstrongs and Gemeinhardts. We laugh because they usually aren't even taught how to tune. Sad but very true. She ended up teaching her flute section how to do that and then helped them have lunch time practices. When they see her flute ensemble music they almost wet themselves.

I do worry about temputatre sensitivity as we are in Alaska right now and she does do some busking in the summers. She started that two years ago and loves it.

Re: Flute selection advice.....    07:10 on Monday, May 02, 2011          

(437 points)
Posted by Pyrioni

I don't care about the -2 on my posts, I am only trying to help.

See? told ya, the Yamaha 221/211 works fine, not the best scale, but still ok, also the pitch fluctuation is very low on Yamaha 221/211, I used 211 everyday for 5 years, I knew it very well.

"Will changing just the head joint work for an improvement in tuning?" ~ no, (unless the your original headjoint cork is out of position), it will not change the tuning problem, the scale and tuning problem came from the design of the scale key holes on flute body! That's why you need to buy a new flute.

Change headjoint only improve tone and tonal colour and tone quality.

Change flute body improve most playing technique, key touching and scales and tuning.

Cold Temperaure affect pitch, but it affect all brands, even the most expensive flutes. you can't do anything about it, but to adjust with your lips in winter.

Stick with your Yamaha 221, it will help your daughter for few more years, trust me.

Flute head will not help your daughter right now, That's why I don't recommend you to buy her intermediate flute, most intermediate flutes are freaks (my opinion), because they give you medium good headjoint (not the best, some even with minor defects), and then they give you bad flute bodies made in cheap-labour countries. What you pay for is like a ok headjoint and terrible body, sometimes bad scales. no point.

I suggest you either buy her 221/211/371 now or buy her the most expensive handmade flute you can afford. I think 221 is best for her now.

British music grade system and diploma system are very good, and very systematic learning, that's why now over 80 countries in the world are using ABRSM or Trinity Guildhall system, I'm now hold Trinity LTCL distinction diploma, am tackling the final most difficult exam FTCL. too bad in US there is no such systems.


for safety, buy internationally reconised well-told brands:

Cheap student model - Yamaha 221/211 or 371 if you prefer open hole and silver head.

Expensive model - handmade Powell, Burkart, Brannen, Muramatsu, Sankyo.

my opinion only. there are other good brands, but these are well-talked-about and always stable brands in many international forums I been to. talk about safety! ;)


news in our country reported last week that USA cut education budget and also laying off tens thousands of school teachers. If they lay off normal subject teachers, how can they give you good music or band teachers? So it's normal your daughter's schoolmates know nothing much about flute tuning and knowledge.

Re: Flute selection advice.....    07:44 on Monday, May 02, 2011          

(437 points)
Posted by Pyrioni

egretboy: I had old Sonare, its headjoint was not well-built like the original Powell Signature, its tone is not pure like the original Powell Signature, and they don't even stamp it properly like the original Powell Signature. Check out my Sonare headjoint:


Its body was a joke, I gave it to my friend and he threw away after a while.


wanna see more my Sonare cutting? It's not evenly cut (may be cutted by apprentice of Powell), that's why the tone could never be pure!


If you have money, buy expensive famous brand, don't waste money on intermediate flutes. If you don't have money, stick with a good student flute, period.

Re: Flute selection advice.....    13:34 on Monday, May 02, 2011          

(7 points)
Posted by SailAwayAK

I will probably be taking her in this week to try out a number of flutes, brands and price ranges. I appreciate all of you answering my questions. I may come back with more on this subject. I have learned quite a bit about flutes reading through so many of the posts here. While I do not play myself, it is nice to garner some knowledge with which I can encourage and help her to understand some things when it comes to her playing.

The concert last night to benefit the Music School in Christchurch NZ went wonderfully and it was amazing to see that many flute players in one location playing together. I also got to see and hear a number of different flutes played. I could tell the difference in tone between those beautifully hand mades and the student level flutes. Amazing.

Re: Flute selection advice.....    13:56 on Monday, May 02, 2011          

(1 point)
Posted by switchdk

When I bought my flute I asked my at my local flute store and he recommend buying a Pearl Flute. I took his advice and are really happy about it. Pearl makes great flutes and I am very pleased with my Pearl Quantz 505 Series Student Flute.

I have now been playing it for over at year, it sounds amazing and I never had a single problem with it

Re: Flute selection advice.....    00:37 on Tuesday, May 03, 2011          

(437 points)
Posted by Pyrioni

"If changing to a different flute requires some new truing with your embouchure, when people are looking at new flutes why say people should make purchases on what is most comfortable for them? What should she be looking for when it comes to playing and comfort?"

Yeah, you need to adjust your embouchure and blowing angle to adapt to new flute (also to its unique new scale). So that's why for students to try new flutes is also impossible or inaccurate. they just keep using the same old embouchure and blowing angle on new flutes during test play. Some good flutes even take completely new sets of way of blowing.

For masters like James Galway and Pahud, I saw them taking few times, each time few seconds to adapt to new flutes. For many professional players, they took me they need at least 6 hours or more or even one week to really test out any new flute! For many advanced students, it takes them 3 months to 6 months. Weak students may need 6-12months, It took me more than 6-8 months to fully adapt to my New Sankyo (from my Yamaha 211), not mentioning I practice at least 3 hours a day average.

So you can see, it is impossible to really know whether the flutes in music store are good for her or not just letting your daughter blow test it once twice for few minutes!!

My grandma bought me the most expensive flute she could afford for my birthday - Sankyo 401, I completely didn't know and didn't test it, and I hated this flute when I received it, because I couldn't control it and find it so hard to blow, very hard to focus, and the blowing angle was too steep and too much downward, (compared with my old Yamaha 211). First 6 months my tone was airy, and ugly, and bad.(also scale was different) But 6 months later, my tone is getting better and better, because I was fully changed to adapt to Sankyo now. And start to love Sankyo and found out the special features and potential of Sankyo that many other flutes I do not find.

I have many other brands, like Sonare, Jupiter S511, Yamaha 313(=574), 371, Muramatsu EX, but none of them satisfy me more than my Sankyo 401! If I played test all the flutes in music store myself, I would have never ever chosen the Sankyo, because it's the most difficult flute to play for myself at first!! So you see, with your daughter's current level, she can't find out 'the best' flute for herself just let her to try out. It's the dilemma. Just buy her the best well reputed handmade flute that you can afford and let her get used to it.(this post will probably get like 4~5 thumb downs soon, lol, but the painful truth)

Re: Flute selection advice.....    02:33 on Tuesday, May 03, 2011          

(7 points)
Posted by SailAwayAK

She has played on an Armstrong, Pearl, Jupiters, Gemeinhardt, and now the Yamaha. She just got this Armstrong to borrow from a friend and can already tell me she doesn't like the sound. LOL. She said that the Yamaha was easier t play.

If it takes a few months to adjust to playing it sounds like I will need to get something sooner than the fall for her to work with. Her instructor will be on tour to New Zealand for the summer so she will be missing out on lesson time. It might be the right time for her to play with a new toy. Think we will be biting the bullet soon.

She does practice at least an hour per day so I guess she shows to be more dedicated than other kids in town her age. I doubt she will ever get anything hand made but getting her a nice flute wouldn't be bad either.

Re: Flute selection advice.....    03:42 on Tuesday, May 03, 2011          
Re: Flute selection advice.....    14:19 on Tuesday, May 03, 2011          

(491 points)
Posted by Zevang

...it is easier to play and stable in quality and stable in intonation(I mean less fluctuation)...

Sorry if I missed something, but what exactly did you mean?

Re: Flute selection advice.....    14:36 on Tuesday, May 03, 2011          

(5 points)
Posted by LindaL

I officially registered so I could answer your question. I am pretty sure I "know" you from an AG Board, based on your screen name.
I am an adult amateur, who had played sporadically over about a 25 year timeframe after college. A few years back, I had seen a advertisement for a newly forming flute choir, and thought it sounded fun. I headed off with my old Gemeinhardt M3S, figuring it would serve me fine. What it did was drive me crazy! The intonation was off (flute "scales" had changed), the keywork felt clunky, and the tone just wasn't what I wanted. I was especially aware of this after I sent my M3 to be overhauled. I was given a relatively inexpensive flute as a loaner that played much better. When I got the Gemeinhardt back overhauled, it played "better" but still had intonation problems and didn't feel comfortable to play. It was too much work to try to get it to play. I finally decided I needed a new instrument.
I debated on what to spend, and whether to stay with an intermediate flute or upgrade to one considered a professional model. I tried many brands in the lower price range of professional flutes (2K-4K), and decided on a Miyazawa 202. It is plenty of flute for what I need it for, yet makes me sound better each time I play and should last me a long time. I know you are in Alaska, which complicates things, but Carolyn Nussbaum and Flute World (among others) will ship flutes to you on trial. They are much better than most local music stores, IMHO, as they are flute professionals and carry enough brands where they are not pushing the only model they carry, like a local chain music store might.
Based on what you wrote, I'd say your daughter is pretty serious. Having a 13 year old who voluntarily practices an hour a day sounds like something most parents dream of!
I still, almost 8 months later, can't believe how much "easier" my new flute plays when compared to my Gemeinhardt (which I still have for sentimental reasons, as I've had it nearly 40 years now). I can concentrate much more on the little things when I play, now that I'm not "fighting" my flute.


Re: Flute selection advice.....    23:23 on Tuesday, May 03, 2011          

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