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One of the things that I love about this industry is change. I enjoy keeping up with the trends and helping guide customers through what to some seems an absolutely monumental task of choosing a new flute. Luckily for the flute consumer, the values available to them on the market today far surpass normal "market change". We have seen more "value" change in the flute market than in any other market.
When shopping for flutes, the trick is being "in the know" on what is really being offered. I cannot count how many times that I deal with customers whose teachers are 10-20 years behind the times on the flute industry. Granted, I don't believe that it is the teacher's job to do the work for the student or to even be a sales person in a store. I believe teachers should focus on teaching. However, when they make recommendations to students, it benefits all involved if the teacher is up to date on what is being offered. Sadly, even being in the industry, it can be difficult to stay up to date with all the changes going on.
So I wanted to give consumers somewhat of a guide of some of the better offerings. In the end, everything involved with buying and selecting a musical instrument really comes down to personal preference. You the player need to be able to play the flute and make sure that it is the right flute for your needs.
Old School Thinking
First, do yourself a favor and realize that when it comes to flutes (and any other instrument for that matter), what matters the most is design, not material. For so many decades, we have been taught to believe that the more Solid Silver in a flute, the better the performance. While I will admit that when comparing the identical design, I do tend to lean towards the sound of the flute with more silver, this is not a 100% universal truth.
We sell MANY flutes that have solid silver headjoints (and even one with NO solid silver parts whatsoever) that completely outplay other all solid silver flutes. The reason why is the design. A better designed and made flute will always outplay the lower level design even though it possesses the "better" materials.
In-Line G vs. Off-Set G
This one still cracks me up. I still to this day get parents who are looking for an in-line G flute because their teacher told them that it was better and that the professional flutes only come in an in-line G. The truth: neither in-line or off-set has any playing advantage over the other. It is simply a personal ergonomic preference. The off-set G more naturally matches the contour of the human hand. The off-set G also offers a more technically sound mechanism as you have less keys pivoting off of the same rod.
As for the argument that professional flutes are only available in an in-line G, this simply is not true. Professional flutes are available either way and there is no difference as to availability in most scenarios.
If you prefer an in-line G, then buy an in-line G. If you are not sure, go with the off-set G as it will be more comfortable for most players.
OK, so what do I buy?
Obviously, I am going to be a bit biased on these answers as in the end, I sell flutes and my recommendations will be for flutes that I can sell. However, keep this in mind with that bias: we only sell and stock flutes that we feel offer our customers great value and performance when compared against other brands in the same price point. We do not sell and stock every model that a manufacturer makes. We cherry pick through their offerings and select the flutes that we think offer our customers value.
Student to Intermediate Range
For our store, we have decided to narrow down our student and intermediate selection largely to 2 brands. Jupiter and the Galway Spirit. Both offer exceptional value and performance for their respective price ranges.
The Jupiter models are more affordable as they are made in Asia (China or Taiwan depending on the model). They are built very well and play as well as they are built. Their headjoint cuts are precise and offer good response and tone.
The Galway Spirit models are the most impressive performing flutes in the student to intermediate sector of the market. They are more expensive than the Jupiter models as the Galway's are made 100% in the USA. However, the headjoint on the Galway Spirit flutes is absolutely out of this world. They are powerful, colorful, rich, resonant and responsive.
"Advanced Intermediate" Range
This is my own unofficial classification of the market that many makers will call "pre-professional" as well as "professional". I personally have never cared for the term "professional" in any instrument. However, I feel that many in the industry use it in a way that is done to justify price for customers. Regardless of this argument, to me the "Advanced Intermediate" segment consists of flutes that have advanced designs (many times from the "professional" makers) but are built to fit an "intermediate" price point. This price range starts around $1,000 and can go upwards of $2,500 on average.
This sector of the market is where the absolute best values can be found. This is where the most change in the flute industry can be found. There are a lot of offerings now in this segment, but to us a few really stand out. The main brands that we have singled out in this category are Avanti, Azumi, diMedici and Sonare. There are also a few select models in the Pearl line that we feel offer this same value range.
To me, the 2 that really stand out are the Avanti and the diMedici. The diMedici is a brand that has been around for quite some time. The parent company is Jupiter and the diMedici are simply the next level up in the Jupiter line. For many, they seemed to get pushed out of most people's minds when the market exploded with all of these other brands. However, we find the quality of the diMedici flutes to be on par or better than most flutes at price ranges much higher. The diMedici models all feature pointed key arm construction and a Solid Silver hand cut headjoint.
They have even come out with a new "dolled up" version call the 1311 that has become one of my personal favorites. It is a solid silver headjoint and body, with a solid 14k gold riser, pointed key arms with engraving on all the key cups, crown and lip plate. It is an incredible playing flute and offers a GREAT value to the advancing flautist.
This is a tough one to write about because of the varying opinions that are involved as to what really defines a "professional" model as well as what style of performance that the player is seeking. We really enjoy the Burkart flutes and think that they offer the best values in the professional market. However, seeing as there are not a lot of customers for professional flutes in Las Vegas, we are not always stocking a ton of professional models. However, we will usually stock the 2 best "low cost" professional models.
The Burkart Resona 200 and the Powell Signature Series flutes. Both of these flutes are unbelievable values for the advanced player. Both offer great performance and a great price.
Above this price, most people will instead deal directly with the maker of their preference so that they can get their flute with their options the way that they want it.
The flute market is changing constantly. I believe that we have found a few companies that have really stepped out ahead of the rest of the market and those are the brands that we have decided to place in our stores for our customers to choose from. In the end, you have to play them and choose for yourself, but make sure not to get tunnel vision and choose to only look at one brand. When you don't compare, you end up paying too much.
Disclaimer: I am not directly benefiting from this post in any financial way. However, I do sell flutes through my family's business, Kessler & Sons Music.