One common question I see online occasionally has to do with cheap flutes. I know, flutes are expensive. But these cheap alternatives are from some of the worst flute brands out there.
Whether you’re a beginner flutist, teach beginners, or need a backup flute, you should avoid these instruments. They hardly work and can fall apart quickly. And most repair technicians won’t work on them.
If you want to know more about these instrument shaped objects, keep on reading.
But first, a quick note: this post contains affiliate links. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
What Are Instrument Shaped Objects (ISOs)?
Instrument shaped objects, or ISOs, are very cheap flutes, clarinets, violins, and other instruments. They look like instruments, and they may even be slightly playable.
However, they are nowhere near the same quality as flute from reputable brands, like Yamaha, Trevor James, or Gemeinhardt. I compare these to beginner flutes, because the worst flute brands focus on the beginner market.
It’s easy to see an expensive, Trevor James beginner model retailing for almost $1,000, and think it’s too costly. If you go to Amazon, you may find dozens of flutes for around $100.
But most of the flutes on Amazon won’t last very long. A lot use cheap materials that will fall apart after a few months of playing. And if you want to get it repaired? Most technicians won’t touch these ISOs.
The Worst Flute Brands
The worst flute brands are readily available on Amazon, eBay, and other marketplace sites. They’re usually too good of a deal, and they may come in different colors.
To keep people from buying any of these flutes, I will not link directly to them or mention the names of these brands. They aren’t worth your attention, even if you’re on a budget.
But what if you want to buy an instrument off of Amazon? Or what if you can’t afford the higher price tag of new beginner flutes?
You can still get a decent instrument for you or a student. But you have to know where to look.
If you want to know specific brands to avoid, consider these.
Glory flutes are one of the many cheap flutes you’ll find online. They may look like a good deal, but I’d stay away from them.
For one, the flute comes with a ton of accessories. Sure, that’s nice, but those accessories dilute the value of the flute. It can only be worth so much when the price also includes cleaning supplies.
Also, the flute comes with cork grease, which you should NEVER use on a metal flute.
Eastar is another brand that you’ll find on Amazon for very cheap. Like with Glory flutes, these models seem like a good deal for beginners.
They come with accessories, so all you need is some flute sheet music. However, the quality of the flute isn’t the best. You may need to upgrade to something better within a year, so you might as well do that now and save the money.
At least this model doesn’t appear to include cork grease. But I still wouldn’t recommend it.
Rhythm flutes also appear to be a good price, and the lip plate is even engraved, which isn’t very popular among beginner models. However, it has many of the same problems as the other worst flute brands.
Now, it also comes with accessories, and the cost has to cover those. So the actual value of the flute is probably much lower than the sticker price.
Just avoid it and save yourself the frustration. It may be cheap, but it’s not worth it for most people.
The Only Cheap Flute You Should Buy From Amazon
If you want to buy a cheap flute model, I’d recommend Mendini by Cecilio. Now, it’s by no means a good flute. It’s still one of the worst flute brands.
However, I know that not everyone can afford to spend hundreds or thousands on a flute. I have a Mendini piccolo, and it plays surprisingly well for the price.
So if you’re on a tight budget, go with Mendini. But set aside some extra cash to spend on a better flute in the next year or so. You’ll almost certainly need to upgrade by them.
Other Flutes You Can Buy on Amazon
If you want to buy a Pearl flute, you can buy it on Amazon. The company lists Amazon as one of their dealers, so you should be safe. A few years ago, I bought a Pearl piccolo from Amazon.
However, you may want to avoid that. For one, you can’t try the instrument before you buy it. And while you may be able to return a flute, do you really want to deal with that hassle?
Also, I found out the information about flute dealers years ago. It’s possible that Amazon is no longer authorized to sell Pearl flutes. So proceed with caution.
Instead, look at the seller of the flute. Consider if the seller is a reputable store, such as the Flute Center of New York. They sell good quality flutes, so you can trust any of their listings, even on Amazon.
How to Buy an Affordable Flute
Some of the worst flute brands are also the most affordable. It’s a double-edged sword that will probably always be impossible to avoid. But many musicians, especially beginners, don’t have a ton of money to invest.
If you aren’t sure if you want to play flute, you probably shouldn’t spend close to $1,000 on an instrument. I get that. But you should also avoid the worst flute brands online.
Instead, consider a few options.
Rent a Flute
Renting a flute is one of the best ways to get an instrument when you’re starting out. You can get a beginner flute from a reputable brand, and your rent will only be about $25 to $35, give or take depending on where you live.
When you rent a flute, you don’t have a huge commitment. Most rental programs let you cancel at any time without question. And if you do finish out the rental, you can use what you’ve paid in rent to help buy the flute.
I know a lot of beginners start by renting an instrument. That way, you don’t have to worry about selling it if you don’t end up continuing.
Another option if you know you want to play the flute long-term is to buy a used model. You can find plenty of used student flutes for a couple hundred dollars.
Yes, it is still more expensive than the worst flute brands. But it can still be a lot less than buying a new beginner flute.
If you need a backup flute or have been playing a cheap flute and need an affordable upgrade, the used market is great. You can get an excellent quality flute for a fraction of the price.
Do you want to improve your flute playing knowledge and avoid the worst flute brands? Head over to Flute Files and check out my flute-related downloads!