The flute is one of the most popular instruments in the world, with variants dating back thousands of years all over the globe.
The modern Western flute is seen in all kinds of ensembles and can play a wide variety of different music, from Baroque sonatas to ethereal folk themes. There is even a whole genre of jazz flute, which uses techniques such as flutter tonguing and multi phonics to produce specific sounds.
Do you dream of dazzling audiences with your flute playing? Are you a newbie who wants to get started in learning the flute? Or maybe you just love the sound and want to be able to recognize quality when you see it?
For any of these situations, you will need to familiarize yourself with at least the main brand names - otherwise you run the risk of either wasting your money or not being taken seriously in fluting circles.
With great demand comes great supply, and the flute market is saturated with brands vying for customers. Some of these are budget brands, some are top of the range, and some cater for all levels of performance. However, there are definitely certain brands that stand out among their competitors in terms of quality and value for money.
Here we discuss the top 5 flute brands with the best reputations in the music world - the ones that are important to know, whether you are looking to purchase a new flute or just interested in learning more about this wonderful instrument.
They are in no particular order, as we feel that each entry has its own unique selling points. Read on to unleash your inner connoisseur!
Yamaha is a massive name in the music industry, so you will almost certainly have heard of it. With a comprehensive catalog of every instrument you could want, as well as a plethora of useful accessories, the company has earned a reputation as an outstanding all-rounder for students and professionals alike.
Yamaha’s flute range includes gold, silver and wooden flutes, handmade flutes, professional flutes and student flutes. For each category on their website, there is a handy table comparing all the models so you can see at a glance what the differences are between them. The pages also contain lots of general information about flute features, helping you make an informed decision.
The 400/300/200 series contains Yamaha’s student models, such as the YFL-222
Higher models include the Yamaha 677H, which is highly recommended by various flute publications (Buy Yamaha 677H/677HCT Online at $3971.99 - Flute World).
- Huge variety of flute models, from beginner to professional
- Very well-established brand for peace of mind
- Website can take a while to load
- Can’t buy directly from the Yamaha website - you have to go through authorized dealers
Another Japanese brand, Miyazawa, manufactures high-end flutes that are renowned for their responsiveness and light key action.
This brand specializes in flutes, so you can be sure they know their stuff. In addition to nickel flutes, Miyazawa also crafts bodies from other metals including gold, platinum and rhodium. The variety of precious metals on offer sets Miyawaza apart as a premium mark for professional flutists.
- All flutes are handmade
- Made from top-quality materials
- Prices not shown on website - you have to request a pricing sheet
- Not accessible for students
Renowned for producing dependable flutes for students and professionals alike, Gemeinhardt is a German company founded by fourth-generation flute maker, Kurt Gemeinhardt.
At first, he sought to build an exclusive range for only the most prestigious flutists, but he soon realized his products were in high demand. Therefore, he expanded the line to cater to all players.
Today, Gemeinhardt has grown to become one of the biggest flute-focused brands globally, with factories in the US, Taiwan and China. The range also includes bass flutes, alto flutes and piccolos, as well as a handful of clarinets and saxophones.
- Varied choice of C flutes for beginner, intermediate and professional levels
- Extremely well-respected in the industry.
- Represents value for money, with even the most basic models producing excellent tonal quality
- Cases for the beginner flutes can be flimsy to keep costs low, but this does not affect the instrument quality
Jupiter is a manufacturer of student brass and woodwind instruments. These vary from basic to mid-range, but that doesn’t mean they are of lesser quality - Jupiter flutes are particularly praised for their strength and durability.
As well as the standard concert flutes, Jupiter offers flutes of other sizes, including bass, contrabass and alto flutes. They look quite different from the familiar flute shape, with bends in the metalwork to enable players to reach lower notes.
There are also junior flutes with Waveline technology - these have a curved headjoint to reduce the distance between mouthpiece and body, making it easier for younger people to play (Chuck Levin's Washington Music Center (chucklevins.com)).
- Excellent starting instrument for beginners
- Durable key work doesn’t bend from pressure or wear out over time
- Range includes full flute family
- Limited choice of regular concert flutes
- Doesn’t cater to top end of the market
Pearl Flutes is a subsidiary of Pearl Musical Instruments, a company founded in Japan in 1946. They trade on innovation, having patented the unique ‘pinless mechanism’ that forms the basis for all their models.
This refers to the core body work being held together with bridges instead of pins, making it more accessible for servicing and less prone to wear and tear.
- Innovative craftsmen who constantly strive to improve the manufacturing process
- Unique pinless mechanism and one-piece core bar set these flutes apart
- Each model has an elegant name
- More affordable compared to similar brands
- Key pads can be sticky at first, but this usually sorts itself after a while
Best Flute Brands in the Market You Must Know Buying Guide
When deciding which flute to buy, there are a number of things to consider, even if you purchase from one of the above brands. This section will give you a better idea of what to look out for and what to avoid.
Online vs. physical store
The main advantage to buying from a physical store is that you can spend time trying out different models to see what is best for you. Music shop assistants are usually very knowledgeable and will answer any questions you have about the products, as well as advise you on how to get started. If there is one in your area, it is a good idea to pop in and see what is available.
Of course, depending on where you live, there might not be a convenient music shop nearby. Or even if there is, it may only have a limited stock and not sell the brand you’re looking for. Some large companies like Yamaha have dedicated physical stores in different locations, but again these will not cater to everyone.
There is a much higher selection available online than you would get in any one store, but you have to purchase a product before you can play it. The company will usually have a 30-day returns policy or similar, so you should be able to get a refund if it’s not what you expected. This is more hassle than being able to try before you buy, but at least it won’t be money down the drain - instruments aren’t cheap!
Another worry with buying from online is that your instrument could get damaged in transit. Online retailers will usually send expensive items via tracked courier, and some will use courier services that specialize in delivering musical instruments. Even if your instrument does arrive damaged, it should be covered by warranty so you will be able to claim a new one.
The flute is made up of three main components: the headjoint, the body and the footjoint. These each fit into a separate slot in your case when you take the flute apart.
The headjoint consists of the following parts:
- Crown - the dome-shaped cap at the top of the flute, which stops sound escaping from the head joint
- Tone reflector, or reflective plate - a metal plate inside the flute that directs the sound downwards and out the other end
- Lip plate - where you rest your bottom lip for the optimal playing position
- Tone hole - the hole you blow into to produce notes
The body is where all the complex key work is located. This is held together by a combination of screws, pins and washers. The body work system in place today is called the Boehm system, invented by Theobald Boehm in the mid 1800s, which improved upon a basic flute concept for greater functionality and ease of playing.
The footjoint is the smallest individual part and houses the E flat, C sharp and C keys. You can also get a B footjoint, which has an extra key and extends the flute’s range to a low B. These footjoints are usually found on professional flutes, as the players are more likely to require the additional note.
When you go to purchase a flute, you will notice that different features are available on different models. Here are some common ones that you might find, and what they are used for.
- Tone holes - these are holes in the flute body that the keys close over when you press them. They can be drawn or soldered, generally depending on the quality of the instrument.
Drawn holes involve pulling the tubing out from the body to create the chimney that the key pads rest on, whereas soldered holes are separate pieces of metal sculpted onto the body. These are more expensive and fiddly to make, but allow for a deeper, more resonant sound.
- Split E mechanism - the flute can be temperamental in higher registers, particularly with high E. A split E mechanism allows you to press the E key without affecting its partner key, to produce a clearer, more stable note. It raises the flute price, but is often considered necessary for advanced playing.
- Trill keys - these are extra keys that help to facilitate trills between different notes. You can get them for either B/C# or G/A, but you cannot have both at the same time. The B/C# trill key is very popular among professional players.
- Closed/open holes - the keys that close over the tone holes can be either closed or open. Closed holes mean that the keys are fully solid, whereas with open holes, 5 of the keys have a hole in the middle like a donut.
For beginners, it is easier to have closed holes, as their fingers may be too small or not nimble enough to cover the holes completely. Open holes are often favored by professionals, as they are said to create a purer sound. They also enable advanced techniques such as micro tones and slides, which are heavily featured in jazz music.
Frequently Asked Questions
What material is best?
Flutes are often made from a silver-plated copper-nickel alloy, which describes the majority of flutes seen today. Such flutes balance quality and cost-effectiveness, which is ideal for many players.
However, they can be made of other materials such as gold, platinum or wood. These give the instrument different tonal qualities, depending on the specific sound the player wants to achieve.
Wood has been used for millennia as a constituent for flute bodies. Early wood flutes were much more rudimentary than modern ones, and you can now get flutes made from grenadilla wood that are as intricate as their metallic counterparts.
This means you can still reach all the same notes, thanks to the added metal key work. Wood flutes allure listeners with their rich, warm tones, and they are particularly popular for folk music.
As well as being silver-plated, flutes can be solid silver or gold. These options cost considerably more, due to the rarer metals. Solid silver flutes are said to be more pure and resonant, while gold blends are denser, giving them a mellow tone.
Some may prefer the yellow color of the golden flute to the more common silver. Be wary if you opt for a solid silver flute, as the keys can be less durable than the harder alloy of a regular flute.
Experts have not reached a consensus regarding how much difference a flute’s material actually makes to its sound; some say there are notable contrasts, whereas some believe they all produce more or less the same sound.
The most important aspect of a prospective flute is good craftsmanship - if it’s not well-made, it’s unlikely to produce a pleasing tone.