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.
The Only Flute You Should Buy From 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.
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!