Flutists who progress beyond the basics are usually excited to discover the benefits step-up flutes offer them. Among them are a fuller and richer sound, quicker and more sure response, extended range, and a sense of increased control — all of which creates more enjoyment in playing and increased encouragement to practice.
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.
An intermediate flute typically has a solid silver head joint. This step 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.
The next step up, performer flutes, have solid silver
head joints, bodies and foot joints. They offer additional improvements in tone and response. This level is appropriate for young musicians who
take their music seriously.
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 from intermediate to top-line. 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.
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.
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.
Some schools with strong music programs like their players to play similar brands and models of instruments so the sound blends well and the instruments are in perfect tune with each other.
A step-up flute, whether intermediate, performer, or top-line, should
last through school and longer — with regular maintenance step-up
instruments shouldn't have to be replaced. (Ask about Amro's Maintenance and Replacement plan.)
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