When you first start out playing the flute, there are few options for the type of flute you play. It is generally recommended that you start out playing a beginner flute, as they are designed for beginner players. They usually don’t require as much air as a more progressed flute, but they will play the correct notes and are a little easier to play for beginners. After you master a flute for beginners, you can then progress to a step up flute, which is a bit more advanced and is better suited for someone with a little bit of experience. Read on for more information about both beginner and step up flutes.
Did you know that band directors can often tell which students will drop out of the band by looking at the quality and condition of the instruments that they're using? Why is that?
It's because an instrument that is difficult to play or won't perform properly is a huge discouragement to beginning musicians. Like anyone learning a new skill, a beginner can find it challenging to make the first sounds. The instrument used during the first few months of study is critical in determining the success or failure of a young musician.
Beginners are learning the basics of making the notes, so beginner flutes typically don't have the features to produce a high-quality tone. Beginner instruments are designed for early use and gratification for the student.
When selecting a beginner flute, one of the first things to consider is whether or not your director has a preference. Their expertise is highly important when considering brands and models, as they typically have many years of experience with weighing the pros and cons of different choices. If the director does not have a preference, or if you don’t know what their preference is, there are a few next best things to try.
Brands like Yamaha, Gemeinhardt, and Accent offer a variety of models appropriate for beginners. For example, the Yamaha Advantage is a trusted beginner instrument that is crafted to produce excellent tone and is easy to play -- two components that encourage a young player to continue playing. Yamaha is a very common brand preference among band directors.
By the end of the first year of musical study, a student is already outgrowing their beginner instrument both physically and musically. A musician's instrument should grow with them. This means it's time to step up to a more advanced, higher-quality instrument that will complement their developing music skills.
You may be wondering, "How advanced of an instrument is needed at this stage of musical study?" Step-up flutes are available in three levels: intermediate, performer, and top-line. While most beginner flutes are made of nickel silver, step-up flutes are made of increasing amounts of solid silver. Solid silver vibrates more freely, creating a fuller, more pleasing tone with more harmonics. Here's a breakdown of the different step-up levels to help you decide:
An intermediate flute typically has a solid silver head joint. This addition makes a dramatic difference in tone and response that often surprises and thrills a flutist playing one for the first time. Band directors, fellow musicians, and those with a musical ear notice the improvement in tone immediately. A good model for junior high students likely to continue on flute into high school is an intermediate open-hole flute with a low-B foot. This model will keep up with their developing abilities and should not have to be replaced unless the student decides to pursue music after high school.
Performer flutes have solid silver head joints, bodies and foot joints. They offer additional improvements in tone and response. For students who are serious about their music or who might play past high school, a performer open-hole flute with low B foot is a good choice.
Music majors or professionals most often play top-line flutes, although others sometimes choose them too. Top-line flutes have solid silver head joints, bodies, foot joints, and keys. They provide the best response and tone, and the special attention they get in manufacturing is meant to make them the ultimate instruments.
A low-B foot is an option that is included with most step-up flutes. The "low B" is actually an additional key at the end of the flute; to accommodate it, the foot joint is slightly longer. As well as giving the flutist the additional note, it improves the overall tone of the flute.
"Open-hole" refers to holes in the middle of the keys; the flutist covers them with the fingers when playing. Open-hole/closed-hole can be a matter of player preference, although most fine flutists play open-hole. Flutists often say open-hole gives them better flexibility and control of the sound. An open-hole flute is a safe choice because it can be played as a closed-hole flute by inserting plugs. Plugs are also helpful in giving a flutist time to adapt to open holes.