These are the suggestions that I give to people who are searching for a new flute.
- Understand the process you need to undergo to feel confident about your final decision. If you want to try three instruments and make a purchase, then do it. If you need to spend a year and try at least 50 instruments before buying your flute, then do it. It is common human nature to regret expensive purchases. And flutes can be expensive purchases. It is also a truism that the flute is always shinier on the other side of the music stand: We tend to want what we don’t have. So having a decision-making plan to which you adhere greatly improves the likelihood of your satisfaction with your shopping outcome.
- Have a budget. You can buy a flute for as little as $125 or spend up to $70,000 for an instrument. So unless you have a general sense of how much you can and want to spend on an instrument, it is maddening to start shopping in earnest. Certainly go to a store or a flute fair and try instruments to get a sense of what you can get for different price points. And in the course of looking at instruments your budget may adjust. But without a budget, you can’t make an informed flute purchase decision.
- Know what sound you want. While it is true that it’s the player and not the flute that makes the music, your flute is a very active partner in your music making. And people do sound differently on different flutes. And flutists also play differently on different flutes. So unless you know what you’re trying to achieve on the instrument, you can be pulled in an infinite number of directions with all the flute options.
- Have clear expectations for the instrument. Flutes have different abilities and may be more suitable than not for you. Are you looking for a flute to play in high school? Are you auditioning for professional orchestras? Are you playing your flute at Burning Man? Do you play amplified jazz as a doubler? Some instruments can be expected to last a lifetime while others will give you 10 good years under normal playing conditions. While many of us have heard the tale of the famous orchestra flutist playing a student flute and no one noticing, I don’t think any of us have heard of a famous orchestra flutist happily playing a student flute as his or her primary instrument. Yes, you do get what you pay for.
- Decide if you want to explore the used market for an instrument. If you go this route, you can expect to spend more money immediately for maintenance on the instrument. This will be off-set by a lower initial price. And be aware that if a student or intermediate flute is in need of an overhaul this cost may exceed the fair-market value of the instrument.
- Work with a teacher or colleague in making your decision. Choose a small number of people to be your trusted second set of ears. They can hear what you can’t when you play.
- Be systematic in how you try different flutes. Then compare the results. Your teacher can give you invaluable assistance in this area. Don’t be dazzled by one aspect of an instrument and forget to explore all its strengths and weaknesses.
- Really want to buy the instrument. If you love the flute, then that’s even better.