Best Flutes in 2020 – Top Brands & Options for Beginners & Students
The flute is probably the most popular wind instrument on Earth. Its popularity spans across continents and genres alike.
If you're a curious beginner wanting to know about the best flute brands, this article is just for you. I've talked about specific flute models that are most suitable for students and novice players. After that, I've also discussed the key things to know and consider before picking a flute for yourself.
The western concert flute is a member of a vast and ancient family of wind instruments. Wind instruments trace their origins to prehistory, though the contemporary western concert flute was developed between the baroque and the early 20th century when Theobald Boehm finalized its design.
The flute is most commonly found in symphony orchestras and other ensembles playing classical music. However, throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, the flute has seen use in popular music genres. It was introduced to jazz in the late 1930s, while the first rock bands to feature the flute started out in the 1960s.
12 Best Flutes for Beginners & Students
Table of Contents
- 12 Best Flutes for Beginners & Students
- 1. Jean Paul USA FL-220
- 2. Mendini Closed Hole C Flute
- 3. Eastar EFL-1
- 4. Yamaha YFL-222
- 5. Glory Closed Hole
- 6. Hallelu HFL-200
- 7. Gemeinhardt 1SP
- 8. Jean Paul USA FL-430 Intermediate Silver-Plated
- 9. Herche FL-297
- 10. Cecilio High-Grade Student Flute Package
- 11. Eastrock Closed Hole 16-Key Flute
- 12. Lazarro 120-NK
- Materials & Construction
- Open vs. Closed-Hole Keys
- Split E Mechanism
- B Foot
- Gizmo Key
- Inline or Offset G Key
- Plateau or French-Style Keys
- Standalone Flutes vs Complete Bundles
- How Much Does the Brand Matter?
When starting out, it is important to have a quality instrument that will facilitate the process of learning and help you hone your craft faster. The Jean Paul USA FL-220 student flute is made with beginners and students in mind. It is an affordable instrument with beautiful design and durable construction and a tone that can give more expensive models a good run for their money.
The FL-220 by Jean Paul was made in the key of C and features the closed-hole system, allowing the players a more relaxed hand position while playing. The offset G key makes this model even easier to handle and play. The power-forged keys guarantee an even response across the board.
This flute is made entirely of high-quality cupronickel and coated in a gorgeous nickel finish. It comes in a heavily padded carrying case with a zipper pocket and company logo in the front. Aside from the carrying case, the list of accessories also includes the cleaning cloth, gloves, and cleaning rod.
The FL-220 is aimed primarily at students of classical music and novice players. That being said, intermediate-level players can get a lot of value out of this flute, too. However, pros would be better off with a more advanced instrument. All in all, the FL-220 is undoubtedly one of the best student flutes.
As both classical and contemporary musicians can attest, playability is one of the key parameters by which a musical instrument is judged. Good playability makes it easier for a beginner to learn and advance. The Mendini Closed Hole C flute is one of the most affordable student/novice models out there, though it plays as smooth as an intermediate-class flute.
The Mendini flute comes in the standard C major tuning and has 16 keys. It rocks closed-hole construction and has an offset G key, as well as the split E system. The highlights also include the well-made double-bladder pads, undercut beveled embouchure, and rubber key bumpers.
The flute is of standard size and sports nickel finish from top to bottom. It is packed in a lightweight yet sturdy carrying case with plush lining on the inside. The exterior of the case is clad in elegant black with a prominent company logo in the front.
The accessories include a cleaning cloth, cleaning rod, pair of white gloves, flute pocketbook, and foldable Cecilio stand. I would recommend this model to those looking for their first flute, as well as experienced musicians in need of a low-cost backup instrument.
3. Eastar EFL-1
Along with the good tone and playability, reliability is among the most important features in a musical instrument. Made with students in mind, the Eastar EFL-1 Closed Hole C-Flute is built to withstand the kind of punishment that only novice players can dish out.
The highly affordable EFL-1 has a cupronickel body and nickel finish. It also features the closed C hole, split E key system, and an offset G key. The spring needed is carbon-rich NAS steel, while the bladder pads are Italian felt, giving this super-affordable flute a touch of class.
The list of accessories is among the longest in the budget class. It includes a fingering chart, adjustment screw, cleaning cloth and rod, hard shell case, shoulder strap for the carrying case, and portable stand.
While affordable and sturdy, the Eastar EFL-1 flute is best used for easier tasks and lower workloads. Additionally, experienced musicians in need of a home practice flute should check out this model.
The road from a complete beginner to a master is a long and winding one. It might require you to change your instrument several times in order to match your skill level with the quality of the instrument. The Yamaha YFL-222 is one of the most popular options in the lower intermediate and intermediate classes, representing the first serious instrument for many flutists.
Construction-wise, this is a standard-sized flute made in the key of C. It has neoprene key bumpers and power-forged nickel-silver keys. The YFL-222 features superior playability and handling when compared to its predecessor, the legendary YFL-221. Like the previous model, the YFL-222 is made to withstand tremendous use and abuse.
The YFL-222 has a clean, strong attack, with very precise intonation. Playability is slightly above the level one would expect from a student-level flute, and the tone is rich and well-balanced. The list of accessories includes polishing gauze, polishing cloth, owner’s manual, and plastic case.
Though nominally a student flute, I would recommend this great flute to any player looking for serious quality in an affordable package. The YFL-222 can also be used as a performance instrument.
Almost all great musicians started out practicing on super-affordable beginner instruments. Some of them, including John Lennon and Joan Jett, never stopped performing and touring with entry-level instruments. The Glory Closed Hole C flute is among the most affordable student flutes around and it brings a nice tone, along with a wide color palette.
In the construction department, the Closed Hole C flute by Glory features genuine cupronickel build which grants it above-average resilience and toughness. It comes with a standard set of 16 keys and a high-quality needle spring. The leather pad grants this flute a high level of airtightness and water resistance.
Glory offers a huge range of color combinations, with black/nickel, nickel/nickel, black/gold, white, and white/lacquer being the most popular. The more eccentric players can also opt for green, pink, purple, red, or blue. White gloves, cork grease, polish cloth, and tuning rod make up the list of accessories. The flute is packed in a soft fabric carrying case.
While a great instrument to start out with, the Glory Closed Hole C flute can continue to serve you well after you’ve mastered the basics.
Apart from classical music, the flute can be heard in a wide range of popular music genres, such as jazz, bossa nova, rock, and many others. The Hallelu HFL-200, though very affordable, features quality tone and an exceptional price/performance ratio.
This great little flute comes with nickel-plated keys and body. It features the plateau (closed hole) design and the offset G key. The embouchure is, like the rest of the body, plated in nickel and gives a good intonation. The Italian double skin pads grant this model a commendable level of clarity.
The flute comes packed in a soft carrying case. The case is nicely padded on the inside and slotted to fit the flute snugly. A shoulder strap is included, as well. Other accessories include a cleaning/tuning rod, a cleaning cloth, and a short guide about the flute.
While sufficiently good for a beginner, this flute won’t satisfy the needs of an intermediate or professional player. However, they might be able to use this flute as a reliable practice instrument.
While it might sound like a good idea to start off with an intermediate or advanced instrument, the reality is that a beginner can rarely make full use of it.
On the other hand, it does pay off to invest in a basic instrument that’s well-built and sounds good. The 1SP student flute by Gemeinhardt is one such instrument. It offers all the basic features along with commendable build and tone quality.
Though the Gemeinhardt 1SP is made overseas in China, it is a well-made flute. This sturdy, resilient instrument is built to last. The 1SP features a nickel-silver headjoint, closed-hole (plateau) keys, and beautiful silver finish. The key of G is offset, as is common among student flutes.
This flute comes in a simple and plain carrying case that’s made of soft fabric and filled with soft padding. The case opens and closes with a zipper and can be carried around the shoulder. Unlike many models in its price class, the 1SP doesn’t come with any tuning and maintenance accessories.
The Gemeinhardt 1SP is nominally a beginner flute, though intermediate students can use it as well. Professionals might find a trusty practice ally in this model.
The Jean Paul FL-430 flute is an intermediate difficulty flute. It features closed hole keys, and that makes it more forgiving than other designs. Although less accuracy is required to get the desired tone, the FL-430 sounds very clean nonetheless.
You’ll notice that the flute comes in the key of C and with a C foot joint. That gives it a warmer tone than your standard beginner flute. You may also appreciate the natural feel of the offset G configuration and how this facilitates an even faster play style.
The silver-plated finish looks very stylish, albeit perhaps too bright for some. You also get the Jean Paul FPC-200 carrying bag. It is rugged enough for transport and storage and has a cleaning rod and cloth inside for maintenance.
If you’re looking for a student model, then you might want to take a closer look at the Herche FL-297. It features a sleek nickel-silver construction as well as unrestricted melody and volume potential.
But what makes it beginner-friendly besides its affordable price? For one, the flute comes with an offset G key and a closed-hole key system. That means that it will require less finger precision when playing.
It also means that it can accommodate players with smaller hands as well as kids and teens. The split E mechanism also makes the flute easier to play on, and also improves its tonal profile.
I also like the treated pads, which offer a better grip and are less punishing on the fingers. What’s perhaps the best is the fact that the FL-297 comes in a small hard carry case.
This nickel-silver student C flute by Cecilio comes as part of a complete student bundle. The flute has nickel-plated keys and a closed-hole system, which is far more forgiving to beginners.
But, this is a simple student flute. So, what makes it great is the package deal and all of the included accessories. Along with the flute, you’ll also get a foldable stand, cleaning accessories, a pair of gloves, a screwdriver, joint grease, and even a sturdy carry case with room to pack all accessories.
Given the low price tag, this is one of the best buys for beginner players looking to have their first hands-on experience with the flute.
Another affordable starter flute bundle comes courtesy of Eastrock. This 16-key flute features a closed-hole key system and some interesting memory springs, which help make the instrument one of the most forgiving when it comes to finger accuracy and pressure.
The bundle includes a sturdy case as well as a flute stand. Other small but necessary accessories are also included. You will get a pair of gloves, cleaning cloth, rod, and joint grease. What sets this particular budget-friendly flute apart is perhaps its metal echo panels.
They give the flute more volume and better resonance. The flute also offers a rather warm tone with sufficient clarity to pass as an intermediate level instrument too. However, you should look out for the spring system. It may not be accommodating to experienced, returning musicians.
12. Lazarro 120-NK
Although dubbed as a professional silver-nickel flute, I’d put the Lazarro 120-NK model right up there with all other beginner and student flutes. Because of its closed-hole key system, it might not have enough tone richness for band or orchestra play.
However, what it lacks in tone, this flute makes up for in color variety, ease of play, and accessories. Along with the carrying case, all necessary cleaning and maintenance accessories are also included – gloves, joint grease, and all.
Even though there’s some nice color variety, I wouldn’t peg the Lazarro 120-NK flutes as particularly stylish. Because they feature a 16-key design and various colors, I would recommend them for kids that need to be convinced to pick up the instrument.
Materials & Construction
The material of the flute should be the first thing to consider when you’re shopping for one. Also, it is one of the most important things about a flute, like the wood to guitars and violins.
Flutes are most commonly made of nickel-silver, silver, or gold alloys. All three materials can also be used for plating. However, top-tier flutes might also feature platinum and titanium. Here’s a word or two about each of the common materials.
Nickel-silver flutes are among the most affordable and the majority of student flutes are made of this alloy. Tone-wise, nickel-silver flutes sound light and clear, boasting a quick, agile response. This should be your choice if you’re starting out.
Silver is overall the most popular and the most frequently used material in flutes. It gives a light and fluid tone. Silver flutes are somewhat heavier than their nickel-silver siblings. Though more expensive and better sounding, silver flutes also need more care. This might be a good option if you’re serious about taking your playing beyond the beginner level.
Gold is quite a bit denser than silver, thus it delivers a warmer tone. However, gold is also significantly softer and has to be used in combination with other materials. Silver and copper are the most common choices in this regard. Gold flutes tend to be pricy and you should consider one if you are a professional or serious about becoming one.
The headjoint is the top piece of a flute, as well as the one closest to the musician when he or she is playing. By blowing air into it, a musician creates sound. Commonly, the headjoint is made of silver, though wooden, nickel, platinum, and golden headjoints also exist. The tuning cork is located in the headjoint.
The body is the middle portion of the flute. It is connected to the headjoint on one end and the footjoint on the other. The body is where the tenons, tuning slide, and the majority of the flute’s keys are found.
This is the smallest part of the three-part flute. It is located at the opposite end of the headjoint and contains the remaining keys. Student models are usually equipped with a C foot, while advanced models might sport the B foot. C-foot models have the E-flat, C-sharp, and C keys. The B key on the more expensive flutes extends the range all the way to the B3 note.
Open vs. Closed-Hole Keys
The keys on a flute can be closed or open. The former style is prevalent in student flutes, while the intermediate and advanced models often feature open-hole keys. Let’s look at the ups and downs of each style.
Closed-hole keys are easier to play and require less precision. On the other hand, flutes that are equipped with closed-hole keys have less resonance and projection than the open-hole variety. This style is recommended for beginners and musicians back from a long hiatus.
Open-hole keys let the air course through the holes in the keys, granting the flute a stronger, fuller tone. However, a player needs to close each hole perfectly when playing in order to get a clean tone. Flutes with open-hole keys are recommended for intermediate and advanced players who desire more power and projection from their instrument.
Split E Mechanism
The split E mechanism is one of several features used to improve the tone and make a flutist’s life easier. It is used to separate the action of the upper and lower G keys. While they can still be closed simultaneously like in a regular flute, the split E mechanism allows the lower G to close on its own when the third octave E is being played.
Aside from the autonomy of the lower G key, the split E system can also contribute to the tone quality and tuning of the flute.
Flutes are commonly made in the key of C, similar to harmonicas and pianos. Most often, they will be equipped with footjoints with C as the lowest note. However, there are models with the so-called B footjoints that have a few additional keys down to B (one half-step below C). While not needed in the beginning, advanced players might find the low B note in some compositions.
B-foot flutes can sometimes have the so-called Gizmo key. The key allows the flute to easily reach the high C and C# notes, a feat not that easy to pull off on a standard flute.
Inline or Offset G Key
When it comes to the position of the G key, you should select the style you’re accustomed to. If you’re just starting out or have small hands, it is recommended to go with a flute that has an offset G key.
The inline design makes the G key harder to reach, though the flute might look aesthetically more pleasing to some. However, the offset G key allows a musician to reach it easily. Neither style affects the tone of the flute.
Plateau or French-Style Keys
Flutes with plateau-style keys are prominently featured throughout the student segment. They are often constructed with an offset G key and are intended to help the less advanced player.
On the other hand, the French-style flutes have holes on the central five keys. Thanks to the holes, French-style flutes have a stronger and clearer tone than your standard student flutes. Also, the inline G key is standard with the French-style flutes.
Standalone Flutes vs Complete Bundles
If you’re a professional or even if you’re dabbling with performing live, chances are you have everything you need to take care of your fleet of flutes. That means that if you’re shopping for a new instrument, at best, you’ll only want a custom case that will fit its dimensions perfectly, included in the price.
However, if you’re at the start of your journey, you may want to consider bundle deals and starter packages seriously. Although these often tend to come with low to average quality flutes, all the cleaning and maintenance accessories included, along with instructions on how to take care of your flute, can be invaluable.
Especially since for practice purposes, you won’t need a premium-sounding flute. Both premium and cheap flutes need servicing and proper maintenance, with the latter requiring extra care to remain in top playing condition. Therefore, the faster you get your hands on a proper set of cleaning tools, the better.
How Much Does the Brand Matter?
It matters a lot. All top flute manufacturers offer their lines of high-end and entry-level flutes. Clearly, even entry-level packages from top brands will cost a decent chunk of change. But, the one thing that sets them apart from the rest is often the craftsmanship quality.
If you want a good deal that includes a long-lasting instrument, without compromising on sound clarity and warmth, you should consider spending a bit extra and choosing a starter package from one of the top manufacturers.
So what brands should you keep an eye out for? In no particular order, look for Jean Paul USA, Herche, Yamaha, Selmer, Piccolo, Muramatsu, and William S. Haynes, among others. When it comes to craftsmanship and factory calibrations, flutes from these brands are top options.
The choice of flute should depend on your needs, playing level, and budget. There are many great options out there, starting from well below $100 for the most affordable student models to professional models that can cost several thousands of dollars.
That being said, you should go with a student flute if you’re just starting out or intend to play and practice casually.
Go for an intermediate model if you’ve mastered the basics and are eager to move forward. B footjoints, inline G keys, and other advanced features are commonly found in this class.
Finally, if you want top-quality materials, impeccable craftsmanship, and world-class tone, you should opt for a professional flute from any of the best flute brands.