For anyone not progressing fast enough learning on a poor quality flute, it can be difficult to pinpoint whether it’s the instrument or your skill set that’s not up to scratch.
And there is no greater tragedy than giving up on your dream believing you lack the skills required to play flute when it is your cheap quality instrument that’s to blame.
Your flute shouldn’t make you doubt your skills. Starting out, you need to get your hands on the best flute for beginners.
But what really is that?
This article will answer that question and also point you towards 5 options you ought to consider.
To fully appreciate the flute, however, it may be prudent to first explore the history of the instrument.
Origins of the Flute
A flute is a wind instrument that is identified by a narrow metal pipe with several keys running along its length.
Side held and played through a lip plate that sits on the side of the instrument and towards the top of the head joint, the flute is one of the first instruments ever played by man.
According to instruments maker, Yamaha, the first flutes were more like recorders.
The prototype of the modern flute is the work of German wind instrument maker, Theobald Boehm. In 1847, Boehm unveiled a metal flute with several keys.
Before then, the instrument had been made out of wood, bamboo, animal or human bones, with a few holes to control the instrument’s pitch and sound.
A lot like another German, Johann Christoph Denner with the clarinet, Boehm’s improvements changed the quality and character of the flute’s sound in a big, transformative way.
The flute, the Western concert version at least, is now almost exclusively made out of metal.
There were other improvements in the next 50 years after Boehm’s new design, but none were as significant as the German music instrument inventor and flutist’s.
How to Choose the Best Flute for Beginners
There is no question about it, whatever instrument you are learning, the instrument you choose to learn with will dictate your progress.
And, like every other musical instrument, there is the good, the average, and the plain bad. As there are going to be concepts you will struggle to master, the last thing you need is a faulty flute that limits you even more.
You will need a good quality instrument that will push you through the tough phases and help you stay the course.
With a little diligence you should be able to separate the good from the average and the bad as you shop.
Where to begin, though!
Know Your Instrument
To get the most out of your flute, you must have a good knowledge of the instrument, including its basic anatomy, the material choices it comes in, and how it produces its sound.
A more informed appreciation of the instrument will help you decide what features are important and which ones can be skimped on. Learning how to assemble and disassemble the instrument also becomes easier when you know where each part should be.
At its most basic form, the flute has the head joint, body, and the foot joint. These parts can be taken apart and reassembled as you do with the clarinet. Cork too is used to seal the parts together to prevent air leakages.
The flute is an aerophone, which means, unlike other woodwind instruments, it does not use reeds with its mouthpiece.
In fact, there is no mouthpiece to talk about. What you have is essentially an embouchure hole on the middle of a lip plate that sits on the side and towards the top of the head joint. For that distinction, the western concert flute is known as a transverse flute.
The instrument is thus held and played sideways, across the body. This marks the instrument from flutes from other parts of the world, which are end-blown.
How Old is the Beginner Flutist?
Standard flutes may be too long for small, young beginners to reach all the instrument’s keys and still play comfortably.
For this reason, the head joint on some beginner flute models is bent slightly to give smaller players greater reach.
Yamaha goes even better and offers some of its beginner flutes with a headjoint that is bent completely backwards to extend the reach for smaller players even further. If you are buying for a child, those will be perfect.
Open Hole Flutes are the Best for Beginners
Another important distinction between student and pro flutes is on the holes.
While open hole (French style) flutes give the flutist greater control over the instrument’s intonation, they aren’t the easiest to handle for learners. If the player is a young child with smaller fingers, they will even struggle with covering the holes fully to stop any air leaks.
Until they have refined their technique, beginners are better off learning with closed hole (German style) flutes. Also known as plateau holes, closed holes will make the instrument much easier to play for beginners.
As you improve though, you will certainly want to upgrade to an open holed flute, which, as we have said, will give you more control over the instrument’s tone.
There is, of course, the option of open holed flutes with removable plugs that seal the holes. These flutes are a viable option if you want a flute you will not need to upgrade before long. But the plugs tend to affect the instrument body’s resonance, which is important for a fluent flute sound.
The Best Flutes are Made of Silver, But Those May Not Be Practical for Beginners
Flutes should ideally spot metal bodies. But it isn’t uncommon to find beginner models made of plastic.
As you would expect, plastic flutes will not give you the best sound quality. But for young learners these may be the more practical choice. Metal flutes maybe be too delicate for young hands to care for.
Note, however, that even though the resonance and timbre a flute produces depends largely on the material used in its construction, the thickness of the instrument’s walls is also a factor.
Still, flutes made made from chrome/nickel, wood, silver, wood, or plastic will sound distinctly different.
Needless to say, plastic and nickel beginner flutes also come with prices that won’t punch holes in your pocket.
At the high end are flutes made of silver, occasionally gold, and less commonly platinum.
Sterling silver, considered the choicest material and a favorite of Boehm’s, is also preferred for its sweet tone and smart, industrial finish. Faithful with their tone and resonance, these flutes are a dream to play for skilled players.
For beginners however, silver may not be the most prudent of choices, largely because of a typically forbidding price.
Most student flutes have bodies made out of a silver and nickel alloy. This makes them tougher than nickel and plastic flutes, and less expensive than silver flutes. Some are made from other alloys and given a silver plating.
Granadilla wood flutes on the other hand produce a warm, charming and fabulously satisfying tone. But they aren’t the easiest to maintain.
Clearly, gold, platinum, and wooden flutes are not viable options for beginners.
Quality of Keys Will Make or Break Your Flute’s Sound
If the keys on your flute won’t cover the holes fully, without letting out any air, playing your instrument is going to be a frustrating experience.
This is especially critical on a flute than other woodwind instruments because the flute is side blown, which means even blowing more forcefully into the instrument isn’t going to help you overcome issues associated with air leaks.
Other than the airtight seal, the keys also need to be made of strong, pliable material. Cast metal keys may feel strong, but they are brittle and more likely to break when the instrument is put in the hands of an unskilled player.
Forged metal keys, though more expensive, are stronger and can bend without breaking, which is important for beginner flutes. You will want to choose those for an instrument that will last that much longer.
Least but not last:
Which Should You Choose: B-foot or C-foot?
First, the two are all flute foot joints. The difference between them is that the C-foot is the shorter one, which you will find on most student models.
What it simply means is, because there are only two keys, the lowest note you can play on the C-foot joint is the C note.
On the other, the B-foot is longer and has three keys, with the effect that you can go one note lower, which is the B note. However, even if you are a pro level flutist, you will only rarely ever use the B note.
So whilst many buyers of student flutes will always ask if a flute has a B-foot, in real terms they may not ever need to use it.
It’s safe to say then, a beginner flute does not need to have a B-foot. That C-foot is more than adequate.
The Best Beginner Flute Reviews
While we naturally associate a high price tag with fancier features and better quality, in reality it is not always that simple. Some higher priced instruments aren’t necessarily as better as the price difference may suggest.
For example, a $1,500 flute will likely have better quality over $300 one. But often it won’t be $1,200 better.
For flutes and other woodwind instruments, it is even harder for beginners to notice the differences between a cheaper instrument and a pricey one.
You need a trained ear to recognize the subtle differences between the sounds, which only comes with playing experience.
So, even if you can afford a more expensive pro flute, as a beginner the benefit of using that instrument over a cheaper one won’t be as apparent. You are better off settling on a functional beginner flute for now.
With that out of the way, let’s now consider your options:
Jean Paul USA FL-220 Student Flute
Even if you are going out to specifically look for an inexpensive beginner flute, the plan is likely there to upgrade to a better instrument at some point.
Some may already have a good instrument but require a cheaper one to practice with on their travels. This FL-220 Student Flute by Jean Paul USA is great for both scenarios.
The fact Jean Paul trains much of its expertise on beginner and intermediate level instruments probably explains how it manages to make good quality instruments at such low prices.
At its low price point, the FL-220’s intonation is surprisingly quite good. The power forged metal keys, while durable, also ensure even response and consistent playability.
Other Features and Benefits
- An embouchure plate designed with beginners in mind makes the instrument easy to play for learners,
- The plateau keys and offset G-key make the flute easier to hold and play for young learners with smaller hands,
- Comes in a sturdy, contoured carry case that protects the instrument and makes it easy to travel with,
- Includes accessories like a cleaning cloth, gloves, and cleaning rod,
- Sells at a great price, which makes it a fit for a child you aren’t sure will keep their interest in the instrument.
- The cupronickel body isn’t the strongest and may not withstand the occasional rough handling by inexperienced learners.
Gemeinhardt 1SP Student Flute
Besides the omnipresent Yamaha, there aren’t many manufacturers with as much expertise in flutes than Gemeinhardt.
But not everyone can afford or is willing to pay so much for Yamaha beginner flutes. Often buyers of beginner flutes are parents who would want something cheap that is still decent quality.
Yes, you can look at the Gemeinhardt 1SP Student Flute flute’s poor quality carry case and immediately dismiss the flute itself as poor quality. The cleaning rod is a cheap plastic too.
But looking at the quality of the flute itself, a counter argument could be that the company simply chose to concentrate resources where it matters most - the flute itself.
Other Features and Benefits
- At this level of quality and considering the prestige and reputation of the brand, the price can’t be beat,
- Solid construction and a silver plated alloy body ensures dependability and function.
- Tonal quality is certainly a lot better than you would expect for a student model at this price point,
- Plateau keys and an offset G key gives it playability and ease of handling, especially for young learners,
- Ably balances the oft competing demands of affordability, durability, and quality of sound,
- The carry case is a poor quality and looks anything but ‘cool’, which may bother your child.
Prelude FL711 Student Flute
Selmer is a trusted instruments maker. So you can bet any instrument that carries their name will be a quality instrument.
It does not have any rock star appeal, but the Prelude FL711 Student Flute student flute works. The design of the instrument looks carefully considered. It certainly delivers on the tone and playability.
To ensure inexperienced players play for long without getting worn out, the flute uses learner friendly offset G-key and plateau holes.
The flute is built to last, something it needs to be as it is sure to be knocked and banged about if you are buying for a young child.
Other Features and Benefits
- Has a standard silver plated body, which protects the instrument and is suitable for allergy sufferers,
- The stain-resistant silver plating gives a smart polished finish and also makes the flute easier to clean,
- A lightweight body means the flute is more comfortable to play for younger students, which encourages them to practice for longer,
- The flute’s overall design, including offset G-key, closed holes ensure comfort and smoother control for beginners still to master their technique,
- Comes with a carry case.
- On the balance of features, the flute seems overpriced.
Gemeinhardt 2SP Student Flute
There is little arguing against the fact Gemeinhardt’s flute game is on point. And with the 2SP Student flute, they produced a beginner flute of outstanding quality.
Made in America and highly recommended by music teachers, the Gemeinhardt 2SP Student Flute is made to stringent specifications, almost at par with some of the brand’s finest flutes.
And with a reliably consistent response and solid construction, this flute has been trusted by learners and advancing flutists for decades.
Perhaps overly impressed by the flute’s overall appearance and quality some people have mistakenly called it an intermediate flute. Gemeinhardt themselves classify this as a student flute.
The key action isn’t pro level quality but is probably the best you will get for a student flute. It certainly is the best you will get at this price.
Other Features and Benefits
- A tough build quality adapts the flute to the occasional clumsy handling of inexperienced players,
- A triple silver plating enhances durability and gives the flute a beautiful, easy-to-clean finish,
- Aided by a smooth key action, the flute plays like a dream right through the range,
- Professional padding ensures exceptional tonal quality,
- Uses stainless steel springs, which are stronger and more reliable,
- Comes with a carry case as well as a cleaning rod and cloth.
- The straight headjoint means younger children may struggle to reach all the keys.
Yamaha YFL-222 Student Flute
There was almost always going to be a Yamaha flute on the list.
And again, the Japanese instrument maker is here strictly on merit. Their YFL-222 Student Flute Student flute is an exceptionally good beginner flute.
If you can afford it, this wouldn't be a bad start to your learners’ journey on flute.
While the cheap flutes will be playable for absolute beginners, and generally serviceable, eventually the mechanical problems will make them unreliable. This Yamaha is an upgrade on those.
This flute is the international version of the same model made in USA. This one is made in Indonesia to the same exacting Yamaha standards, albeit selling at a cheaper price.
Other Features and Benefits
- With a nickel/silver body the instrument is very well built,
- An even, pleasing response right through the range,
- Screw key adjustments with resistance inserts ensure accurate, smooth adjustments and prevents the keys from loosening gradually,
- Alignment on the foot joint will guide and allow correct assembly by inexperienced beginners,
- Comes with a sturdy plastic case that will protect the instrument when not in use,
- A shoulder hook that makes the instrument easier to hold for younger players is also included.
- Perhaps too expensive and not a practical choice for absolute beginners.
And Our Pick Is ….
It is built to last, has great intonation, and is made in America, which is always reassuring.
While the Yamaha YFL-222 Student Flute is a great instrument, the fact it looks different than the one made in America may make some people doubt its build quality.
Selmer’s Prelude FL711 Student Flute and the Gemeinhardt 1SP Student Flute are both good beginner flutes, while the FL-220 Student Flute is a cheap, decent alternative, especially for absolute beginners.
However, it isn't difficult to see why the Gemeinhardt 2SP has been trusted by student flutists for so long.
It is a well made instrument, with wonderful intonation that will not disappoint you, and is available at a fair price.
Here is to your joyous, fulfilling journey on flute!