7 Things You Should Know Before You Buy a Flute
New vs Second-hand
Nothing beats the joy and thrill of opening the case of a brand new, shiny musical instrument that no one has ever played before. It’s all yours and the anticipation of its potential is priceless. There are no specks of dust marring the plush, velvet lining of the case1. Reliability - How Long Will the Flute Last?
2. How to Spot a Forgery?
3. Extras - Which are the Ones You Need?
4. Tone Quality What Makes a Flute Sound Good?
5. New vs Second-hand
6. Design, Features and Options
7. The Best Brand
Pro1. It will be clean, bright and shiny.
2. You will be the first person to ever play it.
3. A warranty of up to five years will cover you in the event of anything going wrong with the flute.
ConThe most expensive way to buy a flute.
My recommendation:Who you buy from is almost as important as what you buy.
Favor a specialist instrument dealer over a general discount store.
Second hand instruments are nearly always much cheaper than new ones. As soon as someone takes a new instrument out of the showroom, it’s worth less than when they walked in. And if that person only has lessons for a short time, having discovered perhaps that playing the flute is harder than it looks or that their curiosity is satisfied after only a few lessons, chances are that the instrument is still as good as new. And because the first person to own it has already paid for the shop’s profit margin, it can be a great opportunity for you to get into the game at a discount.
This quality at a discount factor also works in your favor if you are wanting to upgrade your flute. For example, if you have been playing a silver-plated flute for some time and wish to move up to the next level by owning a flute with a silver head-joint, you can often pick up such an instrument from someone who is upgrading even higher, say someone who is moving from a silver head-joint up to a solid silver flute. It’s more likely that better quality flutes have been played more than beginner flutes, as people don’t tend to invest that much money in them unless they are fairly committed to practising. So the next-to-new opportunities are more plentiful at the entry level, or for beginner flutes.
The heavier use endured by an intermediate flute is offset by its increased ability to withstand extra playing due to the fact that intermediate flutes are built with greater care, precision and durability. They last longer than student flutes. So, for the same price as a new silver-plated flute you could be playing on a really good, used silver-headjoint flute.
All of the above only applies if the previous owner has taken took good care of it.
A Cautionary Tale
My first flute was a birthday gift from my parents, when I turned 21. Not knowing anything about flutes they were swindled by a dealer into buying me a secondhand Couesnon, a brand I have never heard of since. I can’t blame that flute for the fact that it took me three days to get a sound out of it, and even then it wasn’t much of a sound. But I can blame it for the frustration I endured at repeatedly failing to play any note below F that wasn’t breathy and full of fluff. The flute needed some adjustment or repair that I didn’t know about and couldn’t do, and even after I’d shlepped it across town back to the bozo that sold it to my parents, for repair, it never responded as willingly as the brand new Armstrong 104 that I bought a few months later.
Then there was the time in November, 2011 where I bid at Ebay on a Yamaha flute, model YFL-221 with the following description:My first thoughts were: “Great, a current model flute that must be in good condition, because, a), it’s a Yamaha, my favorite, most reliable brand, and b) hardly used by a child who would have lost interest.” Many a child have I taught at various schools who has shown high enthusiasm for learning initially, but soon becomes bored when she finds out that playing the flute is harder than it looks, or just has her curiosity satisfied. That child’s instrument is usually in top condition at the end of the his/her brief experiment with it, so this listing seemed like an ideal opportunity to add to my stock. The only problem was that it was the girl’s Dad who was in charge of selling the flute not the daughter. Dad put one of the flute pieces in to the case back to front, then closed the lid down firmly, wrapped the case in bubble wrap and posted it to me. When the flute arrived at my studio from interstate, it was unplayable because some of the keys were bent. Only an inconvenient trip to the repair shop at my expense saved the flute. Worst of all, the ignorant knucklehead who sold it to me ignored my complaint.
But don’t let me put you off buying a used flute. I’ve bought many a fine used instrument over the years, usually with descriptions such as the one above. There is an element of luck involved.
- The cheapest way to buy a flute.
- You can buy a better quality used instrument for the same price as a lesser quality new one.
- You can often get an instrument that has hardly been played.
- It’s very easy to buy a dud without knowing it, particularly on Ebay
- There is usually no warranty on defects, so if anything goes wrong, you’re on your own.
Choosing who you buy from will help you pick up a bargain When you buy, tick one of the following boxes, and you should be
- A dealer who trades in flutes all the time will likely inspect and service a flute before it’s offered to you;
- If buying on Ebay, make sure the seller has a substantial number of positive feedbacks;
- Paying with Paypal usually covers you against items not being as they are described.