So you want to buy a flute?
We’re less than 2 months away from the NFA Convention that’s taking place in August and you may be thinking something along the lines of “I’d like to buy a flute or piccolo when I go to convention, but there are so many choices! How do I choose?” It can be pretty daunting when you’re faced with a large room filled with almost every flute maker imaginable. We’re going to offer a few tips to help get you started!
Before you walk into the show room, you should have an idea of what you’re looking for. Ask yourself these questions:
WHAT IS MY PRICE POINT?
This is one of the most important questions! If you have a $6,000.00 price point it’s fairly unrealistic for you to purchase that $25,000.00 flute, no matter how much you love it.
WHAT SPECIFICATIONS DO I WANT?
The modern day Boehm-system flute is so much more tailored than it used to be. There are many different opinions out there about what is necessary and unnecessary to have on your flute. Keep in mind that these are just opinions and what works for one person may not work for you and vice versa. Deciding what specifications you would like on your flute is a great discussion you can have with your current teacher.
The C# Trill on your flute brings more versatility to your trills and tremolos such as your high G-A trill which was previously done using a harmonic fingering. It provides another fingering option for the C# as well. For more fingering options, please refer to our C# Trill Reference on the Burkart website.
An Offset G versus an Inline G refers to where your G toneholes and keys are placed on your flute. . The Offset G places the G keys slightly off-center from the rest of the mainline so that it is in a more ergonomic and natural position for your hand. The Inline G places the G keys in line with the rest of the mainline which can work very well for those with longer fingers and larger hands. For many years, the Inline G set up was viewed as more “professional” while the Offset G was viewed as more of a “student” flute, however these stereotypes do not exist anymore. Acoustically, the flutes sound the same. You should pick whatever set up is most comfortable for you.
WHAT “MATERIAL” DO I WANT?
Material meaning what kind of metal do you want for your flute or piccolo? Keep in mind that the material available for you changes depending on your price point. This is why figuring out your price point is the #1 decision you have to make.
There are many different materials for all of the instruments, so familiarize yourself with the ones that fit into your price point.
BRING A COLLEAGUE
We know that the way we sound to others is not necessarily the way we sound to ourselves! To make sure that you’re getting an accurate representation of how you play, bring a trusted friend or a teacher to give you feedback and to give you their opinion. At convention, there are also going to be representatives at each of the booths as well as at the Burkart/Resona Booth (booth # 202) who you can ask to listen to you when you are trying out their flutes. They will be more than happy to help!
FIND A “QUIET” PLACE
If you’ve never been to convention before, you may be a bit taken aback by how many flutes and piccolos are being played and by how loud the room is. This can make testing a flute seem challenging, so finding little tricks on how to best hear yourself is key! Many players find a corner in the booth to play in. There are often small testing rooms provided by the NFA that offer a little bit of silence from the room. It might also be helpful to bring a pair of ear plugs for you and your friend!
If you’d rather visit the vendors when there are fewer people around, study the convention schedule and try to plan your visit around the different masterclasses. The exhibit hall is open from 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. on most days.
Many instrument makers and dealers will also allow you to take the instrument on trial overnight. If the dealer or maker you’re thinking of buying from allows this, do it! You’ll be able to get to know the instrument a little bit better if you try it overnight. Ask dealers and makers about their policies on this.
Finally we get to the fun part: Playing! By now you’ve planned your visit, you’ve researched the brands and specifications that you want, now you need to play them.
This is one of the main reasons buying a flute at convention is so great – you can try all of the flutes in one place without having to travel to different stores and arrange different trials of instruments.
Go with your gut instinct when playing the instrument. Too many times players confuse themselves by second guessing their first opinion. This only leads to frustration and hours spent terrorizing yourself over which flute to buy.
Perhaps you think that you absolutely need a solid gold flute but when you actually play it, you realize that it’s not the right material for you. That’s okay. Ultimately, the goal is to find the flute within your price point that you sound great on. Often what you end up purchasing isn’t what you had thought you wanted in the beginning.
Try different headjoints! Each handmade headjoint is exactly that: handmade. Due to this, it’s important to try different headjoints to see which one works best for you. Headjoints also come with different specifications that provide a different sound due to their material types and combinations. Resona flute headjoints, for example, are available in 3 different specifications.
Solid Silver Headjoint with Solid Silver Lip Plate and Riser
Solid Silver Headjoint with 9K Lip Plate and Solid Silver Riser
Solid Silver Headjoint with Solid Silver Lip Plate and 14K Riser
While playing each headjoint, pay attention to the versatility of each one. How is the articulation? Can you shape the sound? Can you change the tone color? Is it easy to change register?
Play the same pieces and scales on ALL of the instruments you test. This is important because by doing this you’ll know how each flute compares to the other. What should you play? A chromatic scale is always a handy tool because you’ll be able to hear how the tone and ease changes as you go higher in the register. Pieces with articulation are important to play because you’ll be able to tell how easily the headjoint and flute or piccolo respond. Lyrical pieces are also important because you’ll be able to tell how the flute or piccolo responds to tone color changes as well as the ease of changing between notes. Since you’ll be traveling to different booths without a stand, it may be helpful to memorize two or three different excerpts of pieces so that play testing is easier.
The most important thing to keep in mind is to pick an instrument that works the best for YOU. Keep an open mind while testing instruments and you may be surprised at what you find. Think of your purchase for the long run – is this a flute that will work for you for years to come? Will your flute or piccolo be an instrument that you know is going to help you excel in your expertise? If the answer is yes to these questions and you are in love with the sound, the feel, and the versatility of the instrument, then you have found your instrument!