7 Things You Should Know Before You Buy a Flute
Design, Features and Options Some of the ways to enhance a flute’s performance - without the player learning anything more - are to vary the design. These variations include open holes, pointed cup arms, high rise lip plates, a B footjoint, the split E mechanism, and the Altissimo C gizmo.
Covered Holes and Open Holes Covered hole flutes are easier to play. Nearly all beginner flutes are made with covered, or closed holes. This means that the player is not required to exercise any skill at covering the tone holes, beyond holding the key closed.
As the player’s ability improves, a superior sound can be gained by creating an opening in five of the flute’s keys, immediately beneath the player’s fingers. The purpose of these holes is to allow the sound to project from the flute more fully than when the holes are covered. My recommendation: They don’t make a noticeable difference to the sound of a beginner flute, and are a waste of money unless you have at least a solid silver headjoint. Pointed Cup Arms On beginner flutes, the keys that cover holes, sometimes known as cups, are attached to a shaft by a length of metal called an arm. A variation of the normal, or Y arm is the pointed cup arm. Pointed cup arms don’t have much effect on the sound, but are stronger and stay in position better. My recommendation: Not necessary for beginners, but pointed cup arms are a superior form of engineering for high quality flutes. B Footjoint This is an extra note on the footjoint that allows you to play down to Low B, instead of Low C.
My recommendation: Considering that most beginners have a lot of trouble playing even Low C, adding an extra note below that just gives them an unrealistic target and makes their job even harder. Also, the fact that there is hardly any sheet music, even in the professional repertoire, containing Low B, makes this feature very low on the list of priorities. Your money would be better spent on a silver-plated or solid silver headjoint. Split E Mechanism This device is a lever that closes one of the G keys when the note high E is fingered. High E is notorious for its resistance to sounding in tune - it tends to come out sharp. The split E mechanism lowers the pitch a little, making it easier to blow high where it should be.
Split E Mechanism Highlighted in Purple My recommendation: Definitely worth having, although few students get up to high E for at least three years. It is difficult enough at the best of time to play the flute in tune, and any feature that makes this task easier is a big asset. Yamaha didn’t think this was a worthwhile feature until after they started producing their YFL 211 series. The previous model, the F100, doesn’t have the split E, nor does the YFL 221, but the high E is manageable with a little extra attention to embouchure (mouth position). The only difference between the 221 and the 211 is the split E, but it will cost you $150 extra. If you’re on a tight budget, don’t fret about it - just listen to that note and adjust. Offset G Keys If the G keys aren’t offset, it is a big stretch for young fingers to reach them. This feature is as common as cars with four wheels.
My recommendation: Since 1975, I’ve never seen a beginner flute that doesn’t have offset G keys, so I don’t know why evey manufacturer feels the need to boast about it as though it were unique to their brand. Inline G keys are available on higher level flutes, but the consensus of opinion amongst flute players on the internet seems to be that the difference is only one of comfort, and nothing to do with the sound.