Jen Cluff ~ Buying flutes for Children
Canadian Flutist and Teacher
Starting your child off as a flute beginner;
Also see: Article for Parents buying flutes
1. If your beginner is a child under the age of 8, the normal C-flute may be too large and heavy at first. Many excellent teachers recommend that the child start on a plastic Yamaha fife (played like a small, lightweight flute) along with Liz Goodwin's Fife Book for beginners. Both these items are very inexpensive (under $9 + $15 for fife & book) and available are at: www.fluteworld.com or through your local sheetmusic store.
For more info. on the fife see:
Articles on starting children on Yamah Fife, Buying fife at Amazon or Fluteworld, Online Fife fingeringchart, Goodwin's fife book, large picture of Yamaha fife.
Other options for the very small child:
Joining a children's choir or taking piano lessons are also very good options while waiting for your child to grow to the size they might need to be to control their breathing and arm-stretching for the flute. A good children's choir is particularly recommended as it teaches musical ideas, pitch and using the lungs in a similar way to flute.
2. If your beginner is 9 to 11 years old, but small for their age you may wish to begin them on a C-flute with closed holes, and an off-set G, and to suggest they leave the footjoint off the flute for the first few months, until they adjust to the size of the instrument.
If balance and strength are slow to come, it can be very helpful to learn to play with the left hand only, on the notes G, A and B, and to leave the right hand, palm facing forwards, around the barrel of the flute to steady it.
(The barrel is where the headjoint inserts into the middle section.)
Many notes are possible (chromatic and diatonic) as well as the overblowing of low, middle and high octaves. G, A, and B can later be extended to include F and E (only D doesn't work without a footjoint) and the teacher can teach footjoint-left-off as well. Using the head and middle sections only many skills and tunes can be learned in this way without undue discomfort for the smaller child.
To rent? Or to buy?
If you don't know whether to purchase a flute, because you're unsure of your child's interest level, why not also check out their interest in small fifes or wooden (plastic) recorders.
Sure about the silver flute?
To take a test-run on a silver flute, to guage the child's interest, you can rent a flute. Rentals can be cleaned gently around the mouth-hole area with alcohol.
You can rent a flute from a local flute repair technician, or from a good quality music store (ask around among music teachers which rental companies have the best flutes for reasonable ratess.) A reputable store will provide a rental flute that is in good repair (have the fluteteacher check it over) which will do until it's seen whether the child enjoys their daily practice (adult supervision of a "fun" level practicing is recommended for all young children just starting out on the flute.)
Suzuki Method ( special flute teaching method) may also be a good option for a small child learning flute alongside of their parent who is learning also. Look into what kind of beginner lessons are most successful in your area. Talk to other flute parents. Find the best teachers.
B) Jupiter beginner flutes (closed hole)
Also recommended: DiMedici, Jupiter, Yamaha, Trevor James.
Other teachers have recommended Pearl, Barrington (very cheap at Woodwind & Brasswind) and Armstrong, but I do not personally recommend them. I believe a higher quality beginner flute is a safer bet for the student to stay un-frustrated by poor mechanical performance, and keeps its re-sale value.
The smartest purchase you'll make?
Find a private flute teacher to spend time with you and your child over several lessons picking out a flute, and eventually purchasing it. The teacher will also recommend books and recordings, videos, concerts and interactions with other flute playing kids. Taking flute lessons instill more enthusiasm in playing the flute and helps your child to find appropriate songs, sheetmusic books, flute CDs and fun flutey projects; perhaps more than any other factor in the quest for playing the flute, flute lessons from a flutey mentor are key. :>)
For full length internet articles on all the details of flute purchase, special options, availability and manufacturing details See the following links:
Other articles online (for intermediate flute shoppers):
*NOTE: Corrections about "A" in serial number issue:
Previously I had printed here: "Avoid the purchase of any Yamaha flutes with an 'A' in the serial number as these were assembled during Yamaha's American quality control problem years. No 'A' in the serial number means Japanese assembled and therefore durable and high resale value."
I have now been advised that the problem with the "A" serial numbered lots of Yamahas were a finite problem, and had to do with key set up and adjustment only. Repair technicians can and have repaired these used flutes over the years, and can currently assess any used Yamaha key adjustment problems. So consult a repair person to know if there's anything needing repair with your 10-20 year old "A" numbered Yamaha.
Above note added Sept. 2010
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Copyright © 2004 Jennifer Cluff