Updated: Feb 26, 2021
This is a common question, straight after someone mentions this cheap 'coloured' flute they found on eBay. -_-
Before we go any further can I just say DO NOT BUY THAT COLOURED INSTRUMENT!!!
You will regret it.
Why will I regret it?
Why will you regret it I hear you asking? Well let me explain. I have had the opportunity to teach many students and even do a couple of maintenance courses at a local music store and pull apart a couple of instruments. From these experiences, this is what I have learnt.
To start with, the materials they use to make these instruments are cheap and do not sound very nice. To save money, the manufacturer uses less materials and worse quality materials. The glue, for example, that holds things in place often fail within 6 months or so and things start falling off the instrument. The other thing that cuts costs is the amount of time a human spends setting this instrument up. To ensure that your flute is playing well, the pads need to seal perfectly. If they don't your flute will be hard to play or simply won't play (think of that low C - anyone have trouble with that?). This takes a LOT of trial and error of analysing what isn't sealing, removing the pads, sliding in slips of paper of different thicknesses, putting the pad back in, testing to see if that fixed the problem and then repeat until it's right. It's takes a long time. And a lot of the keys interact, which means that fixing one problem can quite easily cause another. Although the instrument might be cheap outright, you will quickly pour in additional funds to get the instrument serviced over and over again as you run into problems.
So what instrument SHOULD I buy?
The flute of choice for schools in Australia for all beginner students is a Yamaha YFL212. This instrument, brand new, according to a quick Google search that I just did, will set you back about $700-$1000 AUD.
Too expensive? How about a second hand flute? Or rent one from a shop for a couple of dollars per week.
If you are buying second hand, please play the instrument or take someone with you to play it and be prepared to put it in for a service. A general, no frills service will put you back $150 AUD or so. If it needs re-padding or any other type of serious work, put it down and walk away, a new instrument would be cheaper!
So why this particular instrument? Well, it's made well, it should get set-up by a technician in a music store before it is sold to you, technicians will actually service your instrument should there be issues (there are some brands that technicians won't touch because of how badly they are made) and it is a good sounding instrument that works well. Also, it holds its value should you need to resell it (hello Mum's and Dad's purchasing an instrument for school and little Johnny changes his mind).
These are my opinions and what I would tell my own students. This does not mean that there aren't other perfectly good flutes out there and it isn't even the student flute I had the opportunity to play (I had a second hand Gemeinhardt that my Dad found at Cash Converters!). However, if I were to start all over again, this is what I would choose. It is also the instrument that I purchase every year for my school loan instruments.
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