Flute Specs: Beginner vs. Intermediate vs. Pro

B foot. Split E. C# trill. Soldered tone holes. What do these all mean? These, my friends, are just a few flute specs. Flutes come with many different specs, sometimes even made specially for the person who will play them.

Hannah B Flute | Flute Specs: Beginner, Intermediate, and Pro

Different level flutes come with different features that are meant for players at that level. Beginner flutes are made so that it is easier to make a sound. Professional flutes offer more resistance and special features.

Today, we are going to look at some of the most common specs, what they mean, and who they are for. Remember: no two flutes play the same, and no two players play the same.

Beginner Flutes

These flutes have the fewest amount of add ons; the specs are pretty standard across different brands. That is part of why the cost is lower for beginner models that intermediate or professional flutes.


Beginner flutes are silver plated throughout the entire flute. Silver is expensive; by plating a flute, you can cut cots while still having the sound of a full silver flute.

Beginner flutes also come with a C footjoint. Flutes with C footjoints have a shorter tube and one key fewer than flutes with a B footjoint. These flutes go down to middle C rather than the B right below middle C. The lack of a low B is not a big deal for most beginners, and the lighter weight makes holding the flute easier.

Student flutes come with closed hole keys. Keys with open holes in the middle require a more refined hand position. Starting out on a flute with closed holes allows the player to focus on other things at first, but hand position is still important.

The offset G key is almost always used in newer student flutes. If the G key (left hand ring finger) is in line with all of the other keys, it can be harder to reach. An offset G key can alleviate this problem

Intermediate Flutes

Intermediate flutes go by many names. Sometimes they are called step up flutes or mid level flutes. No matter what you call them, these are the flutes between beginner flutes and professional flutes. They offer more professional specs while staying budget friendly.


A handmade headjoint is one of the features that sets apart intermediate from beginner flutes. Beginner flutes are almost always factory made. The bodies of most intermediate flutes are also factory made. Intermediate flutes will have a handmade headjoint, though.

Another feature seen on many intermediate flutes, at least in the United States, is open holes. Open holes, while not necessary, allow the player to start learning certain extended techniques, like quarter tones.

The third common spec for intermediate flutes is a B footjoint. While this is less common in Europe, North American flutists looking to upgrade will probably find a flute with a B footjoint.

The last spec that is standard with most intermediate flutes is a higher silver content. Whether it is a silver headjoint or a silver headjoint and body, intermediate flutes contain more solid silver than student flutes.


It is at the intermediate level where you have the ability to start customizing your flute. Student flutes come as is, but intermediate flutes offer extra features that can help with certain notes and fast passages.

The first common option for intermediate flutes is the split E or the G disc. Both of these options fix the same problem: the high E. A split E key closes the lower G key. This flattens the pitch of the high E and allows for more control and less cracking.

The G disc takes a different approach than the split E by placing a “donut” in the lower G tone hole. Doing this allows lowers the pitch on the high E without making as much of a sacrifice as the split E.

The C# trill key is yet another common option for intermediate flutes. The key is placed onto the flute between the thumb key and the trill keys. It facilitates C# in both trills and as the main note.

Professional Flutes

The biggest thing that professional flutes have on intermediate flutes is that they are fully handmade. Professional flutes are also more expensive. Aside from that, there are not a ton of differences between intermediate and professional flutes.

Professional flutes are slightly more customizable. They come in different metals, even silver plated. Professional flutes are priced highly for a reason: they are for professionals and serious amateurs.

These flutes are not for the faint of heart.


There are two specs that you will likely only find on professional flutes. Those two are: solid silver keys and soldered tone holes.

Most professional flutes are all silver, including the keys. While some lower cost professional flutes have plated keys, solid silver keys are just as common. Are they necessary? It’s up to you on whether you want to spend the money.

In the professional flute world, there is a long running debate between drawn and soldered tone holes. Drawn tone holes are created by “drawing” the silver from the tube to create the tone holes. Soldered tone holes, on the other hand, are made separately from the flute and then soldered onto the tube.


Professional flutes come in all sorts of metals. You can find silver plated flutes, sterling silver flutes, gold, and even platinum flutes. Professional flutes can also be found in different types of silver, like the darker Britannia silver.


This is just a short list of all the different specs that you can find for flutes. Did I leave out any of your favorite flute specs? Leave a comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe if you haven’t already.


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Laurel & Yanny: Sound Perception

Do you hear Laurel? Or do you hear Yanny? This case of sound perception has been dividing the internet for the past few days. You can find the offending audio clip all over social media.

As with the famous dress of 2015, the audio clip is some sort of illusion. Some people clearly hear “Laurel” and others clearly hear “Yanny.”

Sorry Team Yanny, it’s actually Laurel.

In this post, I am going to share with you what we as musicians can learn from Laurel & Yanny.

Gold vs. Silver

In the flute community, there are people who prefer the sound of gold flutes and those that prefer the sound of silver flutes. Silver and gold are the two most common materials of flute, but every flutist has their preference.

What this audio clip proves is that we all hear certain things differently. It can explain why one flutist will only play gold flutes and why another might only want to play silver flutes.

It’s not that gold or silver is definitively better than the other. The two materials have their own unique qualities, and we all hear things in our own ways.

C foot vs. B foot

A recent thing I learned was that the length of the flute can affect how it sounds. The longer tube of a B foot flute can make it sound darker. A shorter C foot flute sounds brighter.

Or so they say.

I’m not a scientist, but it would make sense that a tube’s length would affect the sound waves that the tune produces.

A B foot also weighs more than a C foot, and that added weight *can* darken the sound of a flute.

Drawn vs. Soldered Tone Holes

Like the C foot vs B foot conundrum, soldered tone holes are argued to have a darker and richer sound than drawn tone holes. This is because the tone holes are heavier.

Drawn tone holes are “drawn” from the metal that is part of the tube of the flute. Soldered tone holes are manufactured separately from the tube and then soldered on.

As with different metals and different tube lengths, the different method of forming tone holes can also play a role in how your ear perceives the sound of a flute. But some people might hear a bigger difference between drawn and soldered tone holes than others.

Testing Flutes

The Laurel/Yanny debate is also proof that having a friend listen while you test out a new flute can be important. The ears of a good friend or colleague can hear things you may not.

The same flute will sound different to the audience than to the player. A trusted friend can play the flute for you so you can listen. If you must go play testing alone, then a recording device can simulate the experience of having another person there.

While I believe you should pick the flute that you like best, listening and not just playing flutes can help you make your decision.

Why do I hear …?

The main reason people hear Laurel or Yanny has to do with pitch frequencies. If your ears pick out the higher frequencies, you are more likely to hear “Yanny.” For those of us that hear more of the lower frequencies, “Laurel” is the obvious choice.

If you major in music, you have to take two years of ear training. While I don’t know about other students, I was taught to listen for the bass line.

The bass line is the fundamental part of any piece of music, so that is what my ear gravitates toward. As a flutist, of course and can also hear higher frequencies. That is why I understand how some people might hear “Yanny.”

The Oral Cavity

Another reason why Laurel and Yanny can be easily mistaken is that the shape and size of your oral cavity is almost the same for both words.

La and Ya are very similar; r- and n- are also similar. The sounds el and ee are also very similar.

The only part of the mouth that changes is the tongue along with slight change of the lips. Try saying “Laurel” and “Yanny” and pay attention to how your mouth feels with both words.

Almost identical, right? The slightest change in your mouth can result in larger changes outside of the mouth.

So flutists, be sure to remember that when practicing long tones and working on intonation.


Which word do you hear? Is there anything else flutists can learn from this phenomenon? Leave your response in the comments!


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NFA: How to Save Money

Welcome to this month’s installment of the NFA series! Today, we are going to talk about how to save money, specifically for a big event like a convention.

Hannah B Flute | NFA: How to Save Money

I have spent the past few months saving up for my first trip to NFA, and I have a few tips to share with you. Some of these tips do work for other areas of life, like a new instrument. So even if you’re not going to any big convention this year, hopefully you can learn a little something.

Without further ado, here are my biggest tips for saving for a big trip or event.

Start Early

As soon as you know you want to attend a convention or go on a trip, start saving. The more time you have to save up, the easier it will be. If you have, say three months to save, you won’t have to be as strict as if you only had one month.

I knew last fall that I wanted to go to the 2018 NFA convention, so I upped my savings game. Since I don’t have a ton of expenses right now, I took the money I would have been spending and put it into a savings account.

Each time my paycheck comes in, I put the majority of it into savings and leave just enough in my checking. This keeps me from being tempted to go and spend that money, and my savings account earns interest, so I can save even more.

Research Expenses

Some things, like convention registration and membership fees, are fixed. But flights, hotels, and car rentals differ. Shop around to find the best deals on flight and hotel.

I personally wanted to stay at the convention hotel to cut down on ground transportation, but if you want to stay somewhere cheaper, do it.

Researching your various convention expenses will help you figure out how much the trip will cost you. Knowing the costs will also help you budget before and during the trip.

If you’re traveling to a higher cost city, like LA or NYC, plan to spend more on food and other accommodations. If you’re traveling to the Midwest, you can get away with spending less.

Know Your Deadlines

Some conventions will have early bird registration fees that come with a discount. If you register by a certain date, you can get your ticket for cheaper.

Some hotels will also fill up quickly, so if you want to stay where the convention is, book your room early. Same goes for flights. As you get closer to the trip, seats will be taken and ticket prices will rise.

If you plan to participate in any special events or competitions, be aware of those deadlines, too. Some events will accept participants at the convention, but others will require previous registration.

Plan Ahead

Plan on bringing snacks, an empty water bottle, and other necessities with you. Sure, it will seem like a lot of money, but you will save. A bottle of water at the airport can cost over $3. Snacks are also ridiculously expensive.

Bring your own toothpaste, toothbrush, and other toiletries. Those costs add up, too.

And because not all hotels have free breakfast, or your schedule won’t match up, have some breakfast bars in your bag. That way, you can eat in your room and not be tempted to order expensive room service.

Expect the Unexpected

When buying your convention ticket, don’t forget about any potential membership fees you’ll have to pay. If you plan to spend $300 on the convention itself but there’s a $70 membership fee, you can easily go over budget.

And for traveling? Flights can be delayed or cancelled, rental cars might not be available, there could be a ton of traffic, etc.

While you can’t expect everything, don’t be surprised if your plans get derailed. Know what you need to do in case something happens.

Know How to Transport and Store Your Instrument(s)

If you will be bringing an instrument, make sure you know how to transport it and store it during your journey. Know if you need to buy an extra plane ticket for your instrument.

Splurge a bit on insurance. It may sound like you’re not saving money, but a $200 insurance plan is a lot cheaper than replacing a $2000 flute.

And of course don’t let your instrument get checked. Don’t get on that plane without your instrument in hand. That’s the only way you can guarantee its safety.


Have you even saved up for a big trip like a convention? What are your tips? Leave a comment below!


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Life After Music School: Year One

It has been a year since I finished my last final for my undergraduate music degree. This past year has brought a lot of change. Life after music school is not what I thought it would be. Transitioning from student to “real” adult was tough.

Hannah B Flute | Life After Music School

For the first two months after graduation, I tried to make an income through music and writing. Sadly, that did not happen. It takes time to start a career in a creative field, like music.

I got a part time job and then left that for a full time job. This year in review will cover what I learned from a year out of school as well as my plans for this next year.

School is Not Everything

Until this year, school was all I knew. I was in school from the age of three (preschool) until age 21. A year out of school has taught me that there is much more to life than school.

I have also learned that I really do want to earn a masters degree in music. When I was still in school, I thought my desire for a masters was simply a desire to stay a student.

That is not the case. I have learned how to function as an adult outside of the school/college system. I now know that my life does not need to revolve around grades or juries.

But it is Something

School may not be the center of my life anymore, but it is still important. I had an informative phone call with a flute professor at a local college. She told me that a masters degree would give me more credentials and would show more legitimacy than just a bachelors degree.

Since a music career is something I really want, I can be confident that going back to school next fall (2019) is a good decision.

A masters degree will give me the chance to study flute at an even higher level than before. I can also choose an area within flute to focus on. Some people choose new music, others choose early music. Other flutists even choose to specialize in piccolo or low flutes.

Discipline is More Important

As an adult, I have had to start paying for more things myself. Living rent free at home with my parents, I need to contribute to the household in someway. I have also had to give myself music to practice.

While my parents do still pay for a lot of my expenses, I am slowly starting to take on my own bills. That means I can’t just go out a blow all of my paycheck on clothes, shoes, or partying.

Since I don’t pay rent, I have to do my part in other ways. I will help shop for food, set the dinner table, do the dishes, and clean around the house. If I don’t help out, my parents could charge me rent or even make my move out.

When it comes to practicing, I have to find things for me to play. I am no longer in weekly lessons. It’s up to me to find repertoire that will challenge me. Yes, I do play in groups that have music chosen, but solos are my own choice.

If I don’t have anything to do, I won’t do anything. I think a lot of you will agree.

Save as Much Money as Possible

Living at home has allowed me to live very frugally. When my paycheck comes in, I leave some of it in my checking account, but most goes straight into savings.

Saving money is important, because you never know what will happen. You could lose your job, get into a bad car wreck, or get really sick.

Having an emergency fund is key.

Also, since I have decided to go to graduate school, I have had to save money for that. Applications, transcript requests, and travel to auditions all cost money. That doesn’t even begin to cover tuition and fees.

While I do intent to apply for scholarships and assistantships, I still need to have enough money in my accounts. There is a chance I might not get any financial aid, apart from loans, and so the more money I have saved, the easier it will be to pay for a masters.

Shoot for the Stars

Being out of school has also taught me to take as many risks as I can. Shoot for the stars, as they say. I don’t want to be one of those people who looks back on their life wondering “what if?”

What if I auditioned for grad school? What if I applied for that cool job?

Complacency has become my biggest fear since graduating. That is why I have become much more active with this blog and on social media. My online presence is my ticket to the future that I want.

Have a Safety Net

…in the form of a day job. I am still in the beginning stages of my career as a musician and writer. While I am serious about this career path, I do like having a job for financial support.

I currently work full time as a teller for a local bank. If I need to work part  or full time outside of music to make ends meet, I have a back up plan. I plan to work as a teller until I start grad school

Maybe music will only ever be a side hustle, but maybe not. In either case, having experience in a full time job will help me. With previous teller experience, I can apply for other bank jobs in the future, should the need arise.


A lot can change in a year. I moved back home, got two different jobs, joined local music groups, and decided to apply for a masters. This next year will also bring a lot of change and growth. From visiting my first NFA convention to applying and auditioning for a masters of music, I can’t wait to see what this next year holds!

What did you learn after finishing school? Let me know in the comments!


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