The flute is a great choice for new players of all ages. It shares many of the benefits of the clarinet, surpassing it in some areas. It is a great choice for younger players as a curved headjoint allows players to start playing earlier. It is very lightweight and portable making it perfect for trips to and from school. The flute has wide application across a range of repertoire and settings and is commonly found in orchestras, windbands and jazz ensembles.
Types of flutes
Tips for younger players
Popular Student Flutes
|Concert Flute||C||Solo, Orchestra, Windband, Jazz, Flute Ensemble||Strongly recommended for new flute players.|
|Alto Flute||G||Orchestra, Windband, Jazz, Flute Ensemble||Tends to be learnt as a second instrument once proficient with concert flute|
|Bass Flute||C||Orchestra, Windband, Jazz, Flute Ensemble||Tends to be learnt as a second instrument once proficient with concert flute|
The flute is a great choice for younger players. It is much lighter when compared to other woodwind and brass instruments and has a small number of parts reducing the chance of damage when putting it together. As with any instrument, it is vital that any new player is comfortable and capable of holding their flute in the correct position with a good posture. In the case of the flute, an important factor is arm length of the player so that keywork is easily reached. If players are keen to start playing at an early age a number of options are available.
Purchasing a flute with a curved headjoint is a great way to enable younger players to start learning earlier. Some models, like the JP011CH, are supplied with both a curved and straight headjoint so that once the player has grown, the headjoint can simply be switched over to the straight version. The curved headjoint reduces the length of the flute so that players with shorter arms are able to reach all the keywork.
Similar to some other woodwind instruments, reduced keywork versions of the flute are available which may suit particularly young learners. Models such as the JP010CH feature a two piece design omitting the footjoint completely. This further reduces the chance of damage when putting the instrument together and makes the instrument even more lightweight. Despite reducing the range of notes that the instrument is capable of playing, for young beginners this usually isn’t an issue.
A relatively new trend within the musical instrument industry, improved plastic instruments are increasingly competing with more traditional materials. A plastic flute may be lighter, easier to maintain and more durable than a traditional nickel silver alloy model. However there are some downsides to consider. Whilst plastic instrument may be more resistant to small dinks and dents, once they crack, it is very unlikely that they can be repaired. Plastic flutes are commonly available in a wide range of attractive colours making them especially attractive to younger children.
Your flute’s headjoint acts as the mouthpiece for your flute and features the lip plate and riser. Headjoints on student flutes tend to be silverplated nickel silver whereas in more expensive models you may come across ‘solid’ headjoints which are made from solid silver. Other materials such as grenadilla wood are also sometimes used due to their unique effect on the sound of the instrument.
As has been previously mentioned, headjoints are available in both a curved and straight configuration. Curved headjoints help to support younger players to be able to start playing at a younger age. These are easily interchangeable once the player is old enough to start playing with a straight headjoint. Some models such as the John Packer JP011CH Flute are supplied with both curved and straight headjoints to make this switch over seamless.
The keywork on your flute will either be ‘open hole’ or ‘closed hole’. This describes whether there is a gap in the middle of the keywork. Although open hole models will require a more accurate finger placement to fully cover the key, this enables players more control with certain more advanced techniques such as multiphonics and glissandi. It is common for players to start on a closed hole model as this will encourage swift progression. Keywork plugs can be used to convert an open hole flute to a closed hole model by temporarily plugging the hole in each of the keys.
You may have come across mentions of ‘Offset G’ and ‘Inline G’ when browsing different models of flute. This refers to whether the G key is inline or offset against the other keys. Traditionally, ‘offset G’ models would be associated with student flutes and ‘inline G’ with professional ones however these perceptions have changed over time. An ‘offset G’ mechanism provides a more natural, ergonomic hand position improving comfort and reducing the chance of injury such as carpal tunnel syndrome. These days it is relatively rare to find ‘inline G’ models given the growing popularity of ‘offset G’ and the comfort they provide.
Finally, you may also come across mentions of a ‘Split E Mechanism’. This describes a small bit of mechanism that divides the action of the upper and lower G keys, enabling the lower G key to close when high E is played. The result is a much improved response when playing a high E. In modern flutes, it is becoming increasing rare to find models which do not have a split E mechanism given the benefits that is affords players with little downsides.
Flutes are available with two different types of footjoint, ‘C Foot’ and ‘B Foot’. Although less common, a B footjoint increases the bottom range of the flute by allowing players to reach a low B rather than a low C. The vast majority of student flutes have a C footjoint with ‘B foot’ models only appearing in more professional standard ranges. Footjoints are easily visually identified by whether they have 2 keys (C foot) or 3 keys (B foot).
Flute material is a common area of debate and discussion between flautists. The material that your flute is made from has a noticeable effect on its sound and playing characteristics although many will argue that quality of design and construction has just as much of an impact. The vast majority of student flutes will be made from a silverplated Nickel Silver Alloy, this keep the cost of the instrument affordable whilst delivering some of the acoustic benefits of silver. Once students require an upgrade, they may notice some models featuring solid headjoints or solid body. This refers to being made from solid silver rather than nickel silver. Although again there is much debate in this area, solid silver models are sometimes described as having a ‘brighter’ tone.
In professional ranges, flutes constructed from other precious metals can be found. Gold and platinum can be used as well as other materials like Grenadilla wood.
The JP011CH is a good quality student instrument specifically designed to get a novice player 'off and running'. The instrument has a full keywork system and includes an offset G and split E mechanism giving students all the tools they need to progress to a good level. This 'CH' variant of the JP011 is supplied with both curved and straight headjoints to increase the longevity of the instrument.
Andy, our woodwind manager is more than happy to answer any flute related queries that you might have, feel free to contact him via our contact form or leave a comment below.