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Is Now the Right Time to Upgrade Your Flute?

Wondering if it’s time to upgrade your flute? Let’s look at some key factors that will help you determine if now is the right time to invest in a new flute

Have you found yourself wondering if it’s time to upgrade your flute? Upgrading your instrument can unlock better tone, articulation, response, ease of play and so much more, but flutes can be expensive, so finding a flute that is a suitable upgrade without breaking the bank can be stressful! 

But don’t worry, with so many options out there, finding a better fit for your skill level and goals is totally doable. In this blog, we will explore the key factors that will help you determine if not is the right time to upgrade your flute so that you can make an informed decision.

Do You Really Need to Upgrade Your Flute?

Sure, we’d all love to be able to afford a fancy pantsy flute, because how pretty are they?? But is it really necessary to upgrade. 

On one hand, upgrading will make playing much easier in many ways, but on the other a good flutist can make just about any flute sound good. So, how do you know when it’s actually time to invest in a new instrument? Here are some key signs that suggest it might be time to consider upgrading your flute.

Your flute needs lots of work 

I’ve seen lots of students come to lessons – often returning to the flute after many years – with an old instrument that hasn’t seen a repair technician’s table for a loooong time. This means there are likely pads that need replacing, adjustments to be made, the cork replaced, etc, all of these will severely affect how easy it is to play and will need to be fixed. But it might make more financial sense to upgrade your flute rather invest loads into fixing a beginner instrument. 

Having said that though, decent flutes are built to last and it is 100% worth repairing well-made flutes.

You feel you have to work really hard 

A good flutist can make any instrument sound amazing, but the better the flute, the less they have to work at it. The higher quality the flute, the easier playing becomes. If you feel like you’re constantly having to work hard to make the sound you want, it might be worth looking into an upgrade to an instrument that offers smoother, more effortless performance. 

However, the sensation of having to work hard might also be due to a flute that just doesn’t fit you and your body. Everyone is shaped slightly different and that means different flutes might feel more comfortable. So, you may find that you don’t need to upgrade, but a sidestep to another brand or model might just fit you better making everything feel so much easier. 

For example, I used to play on a lovely Miyazawa for over 20 years and it was a great flute, but I felt like I had to work so hard to make my high Es sound and to have clear articulation in the top register. But I think this was just a matter of the flute didn’t fit me very well (my parents bought it for me well before I knew anything about how to properly buy a new flute). I later discovered that comparable American made like Powell and Haynes just seemed to fit me and the way I play much better and made playing feel so much more effortless. 

Wanting to expand your tone colours

The more expensive the flute, the more of it is made by hand, which ensures that the flute is made for quality playing and can offer a wider range of tone colours. If you struggle to get the range of tone colours that you’d like to have, an upgrade my help unlock this wider palette. 

It’s worth noting that headjoints can have a HUGE impact on your tone and tone colours, so it is worth shopping for a new headjoint that you can use with your current flute to enhance your playing in a more financially efficient way!

Needing better key action and response

If you’re finding that your flute’s key action and response aren’t as smooth or reliable as you’d like, it could be a sign that it’s time for an upgrade. Beginner flutes often have less precise key work, which can lead to clunky, stiff action. And leaky keys can cause a player to grip much harder than they should, potentially messing with their technique. As you advance in your flute playing, you’ll want an instrument that responds quickly and accurately to your technique. Upgrading to a flute with more professional-level key work can make a big difference in your ability to play with speed and precision.

You’re preparing for advanced study or professional opportunities

Upgrading to a higher-quality flute can also help prepare you for advanced study and performance opportunities. If you’re considering pursuing a music degree or career, having a professional-level instrument is often a requirement. Even if you’re not planning on a professional music career, having a flute that can handle more advanced repertoire and playing techniques can open up new opportunities for personal growth and enjoyment.

Benefits of Upgrading to an Intermediate or Professional Flute

So as you may have inferred from the above, upgrading to a step-up, intermediate or professional model flute can offer several benefits including ease of play, better key action and response, and a wider tonal palette and dynamic range. 

Flutes can be made from a variety of materials, all of which have a profound effect on their sound. Student flutes tend to be made from nickel or silver plated nickle. The more silver the flute has, the nicer the sound. Step-up flutes will often be silver plated nickel with solid silver head joints. Intermediate flutes will often have a silver body with silver plated mechanism. For those with deeper pockets, there are gold and even platinum flutes, which offer different sounds. There are also plenty of nice woods like grenadilla (blackwood), mopane and cocus wood that have beautiful sounds. You may wish to experiment with different materials to see what you prefer the sound of. 

As flutes get more expensive, the more of it was handmade and this means that each individual instrument was given attention in order to make sure that it offers precision and richer, resonant sound, more dynamic flexibility, and better mechanical reliability. Intermediate and professional flutes are built with more advanced key mechanisms that provide faster, smoother, and more consistent action. 

Factors to Consider When Choosing a New Flute

There are so many flutes out there, that finding the right choice for you when you do decide to upgrade your flute can be overwhelmed. To help you make an informed decision, here are some factors worth considering before you start your search. 

Determining your budget

Setting a clear budget is the first step in choosing a new flute. Flutes vary widely in price (from £100 to £80,000+!!), and having a defined budget will help narrow down your options. It’s important to be realistic about what you can afford and to set a price range that works for you. Keep in mind that investing in a quality flute is a long-term investment in your musical growth and development.

Deciding between closed or open hole keys

Flutes are available with either closed hole or open hole keys. Closed-hole flutes have covered keys that are easier for beginners to play, while open-hole flutes have openings in the centre of the A, G, F, E, and D keys. These openings require a flute player to completely cover the hole with their fingers. Most intermediate to professional flutes are open hole.

Many advanced players prefer open-hole flutes for their ability to produce a wider range of tone colours and more precise intonation. However, they can also take some getting used to if you’re coming from a closed-hole instrument.

​Check out my other blog for more information on how to chose with one is right for you. 

Try them out!

This is perhaps the most important step and I cannot stress it enough. Try as many flutes as you can. It’s worth taking the time to test flutes to see how they play for you. This is especially true for second-hand flutes, as you’ll want to make sure it’s in good working condition, but even new flutes play wildly different for different players. 

Try out various brands and models to see what fits you best. Each brand (and even model) has its own unique feel and sound, so playing multiple flutes will help you find the one that suits you best. Spend time testing different models to assess their response, tone, and overall playability.

Consulting with your teacher or flute specialist

Finally, don’t be afraid to seek out guidance from your flute teacher or a trusted flute specialist. They can offer valuable insights based on your individual playing style and goals, and help guide you towards the best flute for your needs and budget. When I was shopping for my first professional flute, I consulted with my local flute specialist, JustFlutes, who helped me narrow down my options and find the perfect instrument for me. Their expertise and guidance were invaluable in making such a big decision.

By carefully considering these factors, you can select a flute that meets your needs and enhances your playing experience.

Investing in Your Musical Growth and Future

Upgrading your flute is a big decision, but it’s also an investment in your musical growth and future. By choosing a high-quality instrument that meets your needs and goals, you’re setting yourself up for success as a flutist.

Viewing your flute as a long-term investment

It’s important to view your flute purchase as a long-term investment in your musical journey. A well-made flute can last for decades with proper care and maintenance, and can support you through many years of playing and performing. When I bought my professional flute, I knew it was a significant financial investment. But I also knew that it was an investment in my future as a musician, and that it would serve me well for many years to come.

Building a relationship with a quality instrument

As a flutist, your instrument becomes an extension of yourself. By investing in a quality flute, you’re building a relationship with an instrument that will be your partner in music-making for years to come. I remember the first time I played my new professional flute – it felt like coming home. The instrument responded to my every nuance and intention, and I felt a deep sense of connection and joy in my playing.

Enjoying the journey of musical development

Finally, upgrading your flute is just one part of the ongoing journey of musical development. As you continue to grow and evolve as a musician, your instrument will be there to support and inspire you every step of the way. Embrace the process of learning and discovery, and don’t be afraid to take risks and explore new musical territories. With a quality flute in hand, the possibilities are endless. 

Conclusion

Deciding whether to upgrade your flute is a significant decision that can greatly impact your musical journey. While it’s tempting to dream of owning a high-end instrument, it’s important to assess your individual needs and goals to determine if an upgrade is truly necessary. A new flute can enhance your playing experience by offering improved tone quality, articulation, response, and ease of play. However, flutes can be expensive, and it’s essential to find one that provides a suitable upgrade without breaking the bank.

Remember, with the vast array of options available, finding a better fit for your skill level and aspirations is entirely possible. Whether you’re outgrowing your current instrument, seeking better tonal quality, or needing a flute that responds more accurately to your technique, upgrading can open new doors for your musical development.

By carefully considering factors such as budget, material options, key design, and brand differences, and by consulting with experts like your teacher or a flute specialist, you can make an informed decision that will support your growth as a musician. Investing in a quality flute is not just about acquiring a new instrument—it’s about setting yourself up for future success, embracing the joy of playing, and continually evolving in your craft.

Ultimately, upgrading your flute is about enhancing your relationship with your instrument and enjoying the journey of musical development. So, if you find that your current flute is no longer meeting your needs, don’t hesitate to explore the possibilities of a new, better-suited instrument. With the right flute, the possibilities for your musical expression and growth are endless.

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