Flute for beginners

Flute For Beginners

13 minutes

So, you want to learn to play the flute and you’ve just bought yourself a shiny new instrument. Now what?

I’m here to answer all your burning questions about the flute, and offer you lots of tips and details about how to get the most out of your flute. This article should tell you everything you need to know about flutes for beginners.

Origins of the flute

The flute is one of the oldest instruments in the world. Flutes made from bone have been found that date back tens of thousands of years!

 Have a listen to this hauntingly beautiful video of a bone flute:

Flute For Beginners

From baroque times onwards, flutes were made out of wood and only had a few keys. This limited how many notes this type of flute could play, and made it difficult to play well in tune. Players involved in historical performance still play copies of these instruments, and they are called traverso or baroque flutes.

old baroque flutes

In the 19th century, Theobold Boehm revolutionized the design of the flute by inventing a new fingering system which is still used today by flute manufacturers.

If you like a challenge then it’s worth checking out his studies that he wrote to show off his new flute. They are fantastic and are standard repertoire for a budding flutist!

Composers have used flutes as solo instruments and for different music groups for hundreds of years and they are still used in the modern symphony orchestra today, and certainly aren’t limited to one music genre.

Why not listen to some of my favorite pieces for flute to inspire your practice?

Types of flute

Flutes come in a variety of shapes and sizes so you have a great choice of instruments. The most common types of flutes are:

  • Piccolo
  • Concert Flute
  • Alto Flute
  • Bass Flute

The most common member of the flute family is the concert flute. It has a range from middle C to 3 octaves above this. This flute comes with either a straight headjoint or a curved headjoint for flutists with smaller hands.

These flutes are most commonly made from metal, either silver or silver plated. You can also buy flutes made from gold and platinum if you want to buy a professional model.

Yamaha YFL212
Best for beginners
$ 838
/£593
  • Perfect For: Beginners Who Want A Quality Instrument
  • Price Level: Intermediate
9/10
The TedScore™ is our unique system of scoring products. The professional musician who wrote this article combine many things, from the product build, manufacturer's reputation through to feedback from other users, to create our famous TedScore™.
The TedScore™:  9/10
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The smallest member of the flute family is the piccolo. This means tiny in Italian. The piccolo is most at home in the orchestra and adds a magical sparkle to the sound of a full orchestra.

They are most often made from wood to give a more rounded sound to their high range. You can also find piccolos in marching bands.

Student Piccolo

FC-100 by gear4music
$ 130
/£100
  • MATERIAL: Silver Plated ABS Body
  • FEATURES: An offset G mechanism
10/10
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The TedScore™:  10/10
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An alto flute is larger than a concert flute and plays in the key of G, so it is a transposing instrument. You will hear this flute played in famous orchestra pieces such as Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloe and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.

Flute For Beginners

It is also featured in the score for Disney’s The Jungle Book. The alto flute represents the snake!

An even lower instrument is the bass flute. This instrument has to have a curved headjoint so the player can reach all the keys! It has a beautiful, mellow sound and can be heard in Holst’s The Planets Suite.

All of these instruments can be used in a flute choir which is a great ensemble to join.

But as the two most popular instruments are the concert flute and piccolo, I’ve created this little video to show the difference:

Flute For Beginners

Anatomy of the flute

How Do I Put My Flute Together?

The flute is made up of 3 parts

  1. Head joint
  2. Body
  3. Foot Joint
Flute for beginners

The first thing you need to know is how to take your flute out of the box and put it together correctly. Pretty much all flutes come in 3 parts – the headjoint, the body and the footjoint. A good tip is to take 2 pieces at a time and gently wiggle them together. Most student flutes have markings to show you when the flute is lined up correctly.

Do I Hold My Flute?

Whether you are left or right handed, you hold the flute the same way. Your flute should point out to your right hand side and your left hand should be closest to your head. All 10 fingers and thumbs are important to play the flute but most of the weight of the flute is supported by your right hand thumb and little finger and your left hand 1st finger.

 

Flute for beginners

Things to consider when buying a flute

Open or closed hole flute

For a beginner, a closed hole student flute is recommended because they are much easier to play, and more suitable to that skill level. You may want to consider buying an open hole flute if you are interested in playing jazz or contemporary music using extended techniques. You can buy handy plugs to cover the holes whilst you get used to playing with an open hole flute, which is ideal for students.

A great sound effect on the flute is to slowly slide your finger across a tone hole or one of the open holes. This creates a gradual change of sound which is also called a glissando.

Material

Most beginner flutes are silver plated which offer good sound quality at an affordable price. There are also some plastic flutes on the market. These can be a good option for smaller players as they are a reduced size, lighter and more sturdy. However, you do sacrifice some sound quality.

Nuvo jFlute 2.0
A colourful flute at a great price
$ 148
/£105
  • Perfect For : Beginners who have smaller fingers!
  • Price Level: Beginner
8/10
The TedScore™ is our unique system of scoring products. The professional musician who wrote this article combine many things, from the product build, manufacturer's reputation through to feedback from other users, to create our famous TedScore™.
The TedScore™:  8/10
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The best flutes are made of precious metal. This offers the best sound quality, but they are also the most expensive. Flutes can be made out of solid silver, gold, platinum and even newer metals such as Palladium. Each of these metals has a different look as well as a different sound.

Some flute players prefer to buy a wooden flute. These can offer a softer and more mellow sound and can also look beautiful. If you are interested in baroque or folk music then this might be the material for you.

A good compromise for a mid-range flute is to buy a solid silver head joint with a silver-plated body. You can also change the sound of your flute with a wooden head joint. You will be amazed how much changing a head joint on a flute can affect the sound, it is also a great option to bear in mind if you want an upgrade but don’t want to replace your whole flute.

Quality of keys

Most student flutes have silver or nickel plated keywork. However, if you want to invest in a quality instrument then you will have the option of solid silver or gold keywork. This greatly improves the sound so is a great thing to look out for.

Very cheap flutes often have key work which is too soft so it bends easily. Avoid these flutes, because they are a bad investment that often cost a lot in repairs!

How much does a flute cost?

Flutes range massively in cost, from the price of a decent restaurant meal to the cost of a car!  Watch this video to find out more:

Flute For Beginners

B-foot or C-foot

Beginner flutes usually come with a “C” foot joint. This is all you need until you have been playing for quite a while.

A “B” foot joint gives you an extra low note which is a lovely addition for more advanced players. There are some pieces in solo and orchestral repertoire that require a B foot joint.

How to care for your flute

After every practice session you should clean your flute to remove any moisture that might have built up whilst you’ve been playing. You can use a cleaning cloth or gauze and your cleaning rod to remove moisture – or like me, use a ‘cleaning swab’ like this.

Flute for beginners

If you’re feeling extra keen then you can also polish the outside of your flute using a silver polishing cloth so give it the best shine.  I like this cloth from Music Nomad.

You should also book your instrument in for a service with a qualified repairer every year or so. They will make sure your flute is adjusted correctly and replace any pads which have become too worn.

Your flute teacher or online forums will have recommendations for trusted repairers. Most woodwind shops also have an in house repairer.  But if in doubt, join the Ted’s List VIP Facebook Group and ask the members who they can recommend.

I would warn you against trying to fix a flute yourself unless you really know what you’re doing. You should bear in mind that you make the problem worse, which will cost even more to fix!

Accessories for your flute

There is a huge series of products and accessories to choose from, because the flute is such a popular instrument. Here are the things you absolutely must have.

Case

Protec LX308PICC Pro
Pac Lux Messenger Flute/Piccolo Case
Great size to store everything you need
$ 164
/£116
  • Perfect For : Orchestral Musicians
  • Price Level: Advanced
8/10
The TedScore™ is our unique system of scoring products. The professional musician who wrote this article combine many things, from the product build, manufacturer's reputation through to feedback from other users, to create our famous TedScore™.
The TedScore™:  8/10

Your instrument needs a case for when you take it out of your house to rehearsals and lessons. A hard case is best as it protects your flute from damage and weather conditions.

Your instrument will normally come with a standard case, but you can also get great cases which include storage pockets for pencils and cleaning accessories.

You can also get cases which fit a flute and a piccolo, this can be useful if you need both for orchestra.

PROS
CONS

Instrument stand

K&M compact stand
Well designed and lightweight.
$ 17
/£12
  • Perfect For : For All flute players!
  • Price Level: Great value
7/10
The TedScore™ is our unique system of scoring products. The professional musician who wrote this article combine many things, from the product build, manufacturer's reputation through to feedback from other users, to create our famous TedScore™.
The TedScore™:  7/10

A stand for your instrument is very important, because this keeps your flute safe whilst you are not using it. I always find I do much more practice if my instrument is already out of its case and on the stand in my room.

Somehow it seems easier to persuade yourself to practice!

I like this K&M compact stand as it folds up so small it can even fit inside your foot joint in your case so it takes up no room at all in your bag!

PROS
CONS

If you are looking for something more sturdy, Hercules Stands are famous for being a very secure place for your instrument.

Hercules Deluxe Flute/Clarinet Stand
Well designed and lightweight.
$ 39
/£28
  • Perfect For : Musicians working in pits due to its sturdy design
  • Price Level: Intermediate
8/10
The TedScore™ is our unique system of scoring products. The professional musician who wrote this article combine many things, from the product build, manufacturer's reputation through to feedback from other users, to create our famous TedScore™.
The TedScore™:  8/10
PROS
CONS

Music stand

Eastar EMS-1
Music Stand
Amazing Kit at an amazing price
$ 40
/£30
  • Best Feature: Seriously well-made & sturdy
  • Includes: Light | Carry Case | Sheet Music Clip
9.5/10
The TedScore™ is our unique system of scoring products. The professional musician who wrote this article combine many things, from the product build, manufacturer's reputation through to feedback from other users, to create our famous TedScore™.
The TedScore™:  9.5/10

A music stand is so important for all musicians for practice at home as this means you can play with the best possible posture. If you have your music balanced on a table or a chair then it is likely you will end up looking down instead of straight ahead. This will affect your sound and your breathing.

Luckily music stands are very affordable so there is no excuse to not have one. You can get a wide range of colours and styles.

Once you’ve bought your stand make sure you have it at the correct height. Your teacher can help you with this if you’re unsure.

PROS
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How to tune your flute

Nobody likes an out of tune flute, so you should learn how to tune up correctly for everyone’s sake.

Most ensembles tune to an “A”, so play this note and listen carefully against a piano, oboe or electronic tuner.

You adjust your headjoint to find your tuning. Pulling the headjoint out a centimetre or so will make the flute flatter as the instrument becomes longer – so do this if your tuner or your teacher says you are sharp.

If you are flat then push your headjoint in a bit. If you can’t push in anymore then try blowing air down your instrument. Your instrument might just be a little cold so warm it up with your air and then try again.

If you are finding it hard to play in tune then check your embouchure hole position on your lip. Your lip plate should sit right in the middle of your bottom lip with the hole in the headjoint pointing up to the ceiling.

It might take a bit of experimenting to find the perfect spot as tiny adjustments can make a big difference to your sound.

Flute for beginners
Summary

We hope this guide to flute for beginners has been helpful, and given you a real insight into this wonderful instrument.

Flutes are a budget friendly woodwind instrument and a great instrument for children to learn. You can make a lovely, soft sound and can play scales with ease. What are you waiting for? Start playing the flute today!

FAQ's

Which is the best flute for beginners?

If you are willing to invest in a great quality beginner flute then I would recommend the Pearl 505E Quantz. Yamaha student flutes are also a great investment and are known for their high quality. For small beginners you will need to buy a curved headjoint or a Nuvo plastic flute, because these are designed especially for smaller players.

Is the flute easy to learn?

If you practice then yes! The hardest bit is learning to make a sound as a flutist, if you play every day you will soon find a great sound. You will be whizzing up and down your scales before you know it!

 

Can I teach myself to play the flute?

I would recommend hiring a teacher, because it’s easy to develop bad habits if you teach yourself, which can be a problem. There are many teachers who offer online lessons, which is great if you don’t want to travel for lessons.

Is flute easier than violin?

This is a tricky question because I have never played the violin. I would say that both instruments are probably a similar level of difficulty, but in different ways, so it’s worth trying both if you can’t decide.

See which one you find most natural! For children it is great to see which one they are drawn to, because they sound very different from one another.

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