The flute is one of the mostly frequently played woodwind instruments, and the transverse flute is the standard orchestral design, so-named because it is held horizontally and air is blown across the mouthpiece rather than into it. It is usually made from metals like nickel or silver, or sometimes hardwoods like Grenadilla. As a result of how it is played, the tone is much breathier and softer than the recorder, but it does need a lot more puff (air), so for younger children there are smaller flutes available.
These are approximately 7cm shorter than the normal flute allowing fingers to reach all the holes and pads easily. In addition to this they weigh less (approx. 325g) and are easier to play, requiring less breath than standard flutes.
Because of the special breathing, sound generation and fingering techniques required, it is best to get professional tuition and guidance from the outset, as is the case with all woodwind instruments.
What to look for
- Get the teacher’s advice before shopping, as they will have to teach the child and will want to be sure you are buying a good quality instrument.
- Make sure you buy a flute of the correct specification. Closed hole keys with an offset G, an E mechanism and a C footjoint is the most common in the UK.
- There are different finishes of flute available. The most popular for beginners is a silver plated finish, comfortable to hold and easier to keep clean.
- When buying the flute, ensure it has been checked and tested properly, as flutes have intricate parts which, if not set up correctly, can make it difficult to play. This includes making sure the joints are not too loose or too tight.
- If the flute is for a small child, a curved head flute may be required to avoid strain issues with the player. Some curved flutes are also supplied with the straight head joint making the transition to a standard flute easy as the child grows. Check with the teacher if this is necessary and always follow their advice.
- Buying flutes on the internet can end in disappointment. Stick with a popular brand and make sure it is the correct pitch for the UK. Buying from another country can also affect your rights in the event of a guarantee issue.