Buying a Professional Flute

I just bought my first professional flute, at NFA. If you’re following me on Instagram, then you already know this. And if your not following me, be sure to! I post lots of updates on there.

Hannah B Flute | Buying a Professional Flute

But, for this post, I wanted to share some information on how I ended up buying my new flute. I also want to share some tips for any of you who are looking at upgrading to a new flute.

The info I’m about to share will apply to flutes, piccolos, low flutes…and (to an extent) other instruments as well. Unlike last week, this post is gonna be a long one. So let’s get started!

Saving Up.

Before you actually go to buy a new instrument, you need to either have the money or know that you will be able to pay for it with financing. If you only have $100 in your bank account, you’re not gonna be able to afford a flute. That’s just the reality of the situation.

Over this past year or so, I have been saving up as much money as possible. Partly in anticipation of buying a professional flute, but also to build an emergency fund and to save for graduate school.

I do live at home with my parents and am lucky enough to not have to pay rent; I am also still covered for things like health insurance and the like. So, yes, it was easier for me to save enough money for a professional flute in one year.

Research Flutes.

Go online to sites like FluteWorld, Flute Center of New York (FCNY), Flutistry Boston, and Carolyn Nussbaum and figure out what different professional flutes cost.

I can tell you a range; professional flutes ranges from about $6,000 (entry level) all the way to $80,000. Its a large range.

You want to do your own research to see what is out there, what sparks your interest, and how much you would need for those flutes. Plus, there are over a dozen companies that make professional flutes. Different companies use different materials, like sterling silver, Britannia silver, Gold/Silver alloys, and more.

Different materials also cost different amounts. Gold and platinum flutes cost more than sterling silver flutes, for example.

Then you also have different mechanisms. Companies like Powell, Brannen, Miyazawa, and Pearl all use some sort of pinless mechanism, whereas other companies use a pinned mechanism.

Do you research to figure out what materials, designs, and models are out there so that you can prepare for the next tip.

Budget. Budget. Budget.

I cannot stress it enough: make a budget and stick to it. You can buy flutes at your budget or even under your budget. Just don’t go over your budget.

One thing I didn’t even touch on in the last tip was the different add-ons for flutes. You can get a C# trill key, a split E mechanism, a D# roller, and even different headjoint cuts. All of this does add to the cost of a flute. So when making your budget, don’t just consider the base price, consider the base price PLUS any extra upgrades you want for your flute.

Because this purchase was my first professional flute, I didn’t want to go too expensive. I set a budget of about $10,000. From the research I did, that seemed to be a good number in terms of what I wanted in a flute. I wanted (at least) solid silver throughout the tube; I wanted a C# trill key, offset G, B foot, open holes.

Now, you may not want some of those things; you may want a completely different flute. So again, do some research on the flutes that you are interested in and budget (and save) accordingly.

Test Flutes Out.

I was pretty lucky in that I was able to go to the NFA convention this year. There were SO many flute makers and flute dealers all in one place. I was able to try a Powell, a Burkart, a Di Zhao, a Miyazawa, and others before settling on my new flute.

While I do live in a major metropolitan area, there are not a ton of places for me to try professional flutes. My flute repair tech carries tons of flutes, but most of them are at the step up/intermediate level. The only professional flutes she carries are from Altus, Miyazawa, and Sankyo. All of those are great brands, but they barely scratch the surface of professional flutes.

If you are not able to attend a flute festival or convention (NFA or otherwise), you do still have options. All of the flute dealers I mentioned earlier (FluteWorld, FCNY, Flutistry Boston, and Carolyn Nussbaum) allow for in home trials. You can contact any one of those companies and add to try flutes. Now, trail by mail isn’t always free; you will either need to pay for shipping or have a hold placed on your card for the value of the instruments. Each company has different trial policies.

But no matter how you do it, try out different flutes before buying. You will thank yourself.

Be Open Minded.

Last November, I briefly played a Miyazawa 602. I was at my flute tech’s annual flute party, and, while I was mostly there to test piccolos, I had a second to try a 602. All I played was a scale, but from that, I thought it might be the flute for me.

Why am I telling you this? Well, I did not end up buying a Miyazawa 602. I tried one at NFA, more in depth this time. So for about nine months, I thought I knew which flute was for me.

I did play a Lyric Artisan flute; Lyric and Miyazawa are “partners” similar to Altus and Azumi. So I thought that Miyazawa would fit me. When I tried the 602, I realized that it wasn’t all that different from my Lyric. There wasn’t anything that struck me about the flute.

The flute I ended up choosing was a Pearl; you can check out my Instagram for posts about it.

While I had considered Pearl (my piccolo and alto are from them), it wasn’t my first thought. But when I walked through the Pearl booth at NFA, my whole world stopped when I saw this flute. I picked it up and instantly felt a connection.

Don’t Rush the Purchase.

When you are trying flutes, it can be overwhelming. Especially if you are at a flute festival or convention and are surrounded by flutes, don’t feel like you have to buy a flute then and there. Even if you want to.

As much as I fell in love the flute, I knew that I did not want buyer’s remorse. Professional flutes cost a lot. They are an investment, not an impulse buy. That’s what sheet music is for.

I left the Pearl booth and walked around the convention a bit; I went to a couple of workshops, and I had lunch. During that time, I couldn’t stop thinking about the flute.

It was calling me. Maybe this is cliche, but we flutists are like the wizards in Harry Potter. The wand chooses the wizard; the flute chooses the flutist. And this flute chose me.

So, I went back to the Pearl booth that afternoon and tried the flute again, this time testing it in other ways. I fell in love all over again, and I knew it had to be mine.

Yes that all happened in one day, but it was over the course of a few hours. So if you can, try some flutes and walk away. Maybe try other flutes or do something completely unrelated to music. Later, you can come back to the flute(s) that you enjoyed and you can (hopefully) make a clearer and more informed purchase.

Now What?

Buying a professional flute is not for the faint of heart. Ideally, you will already be at a high level of playing before you even consider it. And that’s what’s so great about step up and intermediate flutes. They give advancing students the ability to upgrade their flutes and get some professional features but for a lower cost.

That also allows players to hold off on buying a high cost flute for a bit longer.

If you are in the market for a professional (or even an intermediate) flute, don’t hesitate to set up a trial. You can set up a trial with one of the previously mentioned companies, you can contact a local flute dealer, or you can also look for flutes for sale online. The last option is tricky, but it can be a good way to find used instruments which cost less than new instruments.

So…

Have you upgraded your flute before? What flute did you end up buying? Let me know down in the comments!

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NFA: Flying with Your Instruments

The 2018 NFA convention is less than two weeks away, which means you are probably thinking about your travel plans. Hopefully, you already have everything set, but you still might be worried about flying with your instruments.

Hannah B Flute | Flying with Your Instruments

While this is my first time attending NFA, I have flown with instruments before. So, I am going to share tips from my own experience as well as from various travel websites. The tips here will be in chronological order, so you can get a head start with the first few tips before you even arrive at the airport.

You really shouldn’t be worried about flying with instruments, and these tips will further diminish your worries.

1. Boarding/Check In Upgrades.

I don’t know much about other airlines, but Southwest has an amazing upgrade option called EarlyBird Check-in. Southwest is unique in that you do not get an assigned seat on the plane; you choose your seat when you board the plane.

So your boarding position could have a huge impact on not only the seat you get but also the overhead bin space. Overhead bin space is crucial for musicians, because it means you can still bring your carry on and personal item on the plane.

As the plane fills up, passengers might be required to gate check their items; DO NOT DO THIS. Your instrument needs to make it onto the plane in your hands (more later).

For these reasons, I decided to pay the extra $15 each way to purchase EarlyBird Check-in. This feature will check me in automatically, and it will check me an 12 hours earlier than normal check in.

If you can swing it, boarding and check in upgrades can relieve some or all of your travel stress.

2. Remove Excess Items.

Make sure your case is void of items that might be considered suspect. A simple reed knife or cigarette paper (for pads) might be okay to a musician, but that same item might pose a problem for security personnel.

So try and keep your case simple and neat, that way if your bag needs additional screening, it won’t take as long.

If possible, store these other items in another bag or suitcase. You can still have them on your trip, but it won’t seem as scary to those who might need to investigate your bag.

3. Get to the Airport Early.

Give yourself extra time to get to the airport, through security, and to your gate. You never know what the traffic will be like on the way to the airport; especially if your flight is at a busy time.

You also want to allow extra time for going through security. While there shouldn’t be a huge problem, you want to be prepared for the worst. Depending on your instrument or baggage, it might be manually searched. The TSA staff might also want to inspect your instrument itself.

Then, you will still have to make your way to the gate. I am pretty lucky in this regard, because the Kansas City airport (my home airport) does not have one central security line. Each group of gates has its own security line, so once I know where my gate is, I can go through security and be at the gate.

But if you aren’t so lucky, you will still need time to get from security to your plane’s gate.

4. Have Your Paperwork Organized.

Especially if your instrument is on the more expensive side, or you are traveling with a wooden piccolo (see CITES), you will want to have proof that you own your instrument.

Be prepared with the serial number, approximate value, and purchase receipt or invoice. While you shouldn’t need to show this information to anyone, it is good to have it for your records. You will also want this information if your instrument becomes lost or stolen.

God forbid something so terrible, but you should be able to show proof of ownership.

And a side note: be sure your instruments are insured, whether on their own policy or under a home owners or renters insurance. You want to protect your babies.

5. Pack Your Instrument with Other Items.

Whether you stick your flute or piccolo in a backpack or you store some clothes in a bass flute bag, make use of all available space. Packing your instrument with other items will help keep the instrument safe during any turbulence, but it will also allow you to carry more stuff on board the plane.

My goal every time I travel, alone or with family, is to carry on everything I bring. Yes, I know that’s a crazy goal, but it cuts down on time spent in the airport and lessens the chance of losing something of value.

I will probably be packing my flute in my backpack or carry on bag. That way, I can have my flute with me but also have space for things like my computer, snacks, and other necessities.

If you have to carry your instrument case separately, make sure you have documentation from the FAA that states musical instruments count as personal items.

6. DO NOT ENTER THE PLANE WITHOUT YOUR INSTRUMENT.

If you only follow one of my tips, make it this one. Do not check your instrument. Do not gate check your instrument. And do not let your instrument out of your sight/possession.

This is possibly the most important tip of all, because it actually concerns you and your instrument.

If your instrument is too big to carry on, please consider buying an extra seat. Yes, it is expensive, but the cargo hold is often not temperature controlled. Anything you check will be subject to fluctuating temperatures, and instruments (especially wooden ones) can sustain major damage.

Make sure your instrument makes it onto the temperature controlled cabin of the plane. If you play a string instrument, make sure you tune the strings down so that they don’t break. And make sure your instrument is in a hard case.

7. Maintain Physical and/or Visual Contact.

This goes for any instrument. During your whole trip, you want to make sure you know exactly where your instrument is. You can take a break if it goes up into the overhead bin.

Other than that, you want to keep track of your instrument. Thieves can be quick, and it only takes one second looking in the other direction for someone to steal your instrument.

In order to avoid this, don’t travel with an expensive looking case or bag; use the case your instrument came with. Flutists, as stylish as Fluterscooter bags are, they look and are pricey. Thieves can see an expensive bag and they will go for it.

But no matter the case you use, do not leave it with anyone. Do not set it down without securing it to you. When sitting at the airport, string your arm or leg through a strap on your bag. That way, no one can just walk by and grab your bag.

8. Use Straps.

Whether you are sitting at the gate, on the plane, or walking through the airport, straps are your best friend. Make sure your case or bag has straps. They could be backpack straps or an over the shoulder strap. But you want to have straps that can be secured to your person.

If you merely sling your case over one shoulder or hand carry it, the likelihood of dropping it or someone stealing it increases.

Don’t let that happen to you.

So…

As much as we’d like to believe the world is full of good people and that TSA is completely understanding, that is not always the case. Make sure you have extra time and that you are alert during your trip. And if you’re looking for something to do on the plane? Why not learn a foreign language?

Do you have any tips for flying with your instruments? Leave your tips in the comments!

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The Benefits of Doubling (+ a free guide!)

As flutists and other woodwind players know, you can’t always get away with playing just one instrument. Especially for music majors and professionals, the benefits of doubling are numerous.

Hannah B Flute | Benefits of Doubling

Playing a second instrument can help you get more performing and teaching gigs. It can get your foot in the door with other musicians. And it can even help improve your playing on your main instrument.

Today, we are going to talk about the benefits of doubling that flutists should know about, as well as the different types.

Primary to Primary vs. Primary to Secondary

To me, there are two main types of doubling. There is primary to primary doubling and primary to secondary doubling. Bret Pimentel has an amazing post for flutists who want to double, and that is where I learned this terminology.

Basically, primary to primary doubling is when a flutist decides to learn an instrument outside of the flute family. It could be saxophone, clarinet, piano, etc. It just can’t be another flute.

Primary to secondary doubling is when a flutist learns another type of flute. That could be piccolo, alto flute, or even flutes from other parts of the world.

The type of doubling that is best for you depends on your goals. Do you want to play in a big band or a musical theatre pit? Try saxophone or clarinet. Would you prefer to play in a symphony or opera orchestra? Then learn piccolo or alto flute.

Primary to secondary doubling will be slightly easier, because the technique for flutes is fairly similar. The embouchure changes only slightly.

Primary to primary doubling requires the player to learn a whole new instrument. You almost have to forget that you are a flute player.

A Little Backstory

I started music when I was 5 or 6, but I didn’t really start with woodwinds until age 14. At that time, I learned the saxophone. Flute came soon after, because I wanted more opportunities within the classical music scene. I wasn’t a huge fan of jazz.

Eventually, I decided that doubling between families took too much time away from what I really wanted. So, I settled on the flute family.

As mentioned, there are times where primary to primary doubling is perfect. But for the remainder of this post, I will be focusing on primary to secondary doubling for flutists.

Playing Piccolo

Piccolo is the most commonly asked for double in almost all situations. Whether you play in an orchestra or band, you will probably be called upon to play piccolo at some point. If you are an amateur player, though, it may not be as necessary.

For the career bound flutist, it is EXTREMELY difficult to have a career on flute that doesn’t include piccolo. It is possible, but rare.

Being able to play piccolo at least a little bit will help you a lot. It means you can audition for jobs that involve piccolo. You can take on advancing flute students who want to learn piccolo. So try to treat the piccolo as an extension of the flute.

Should You Play Alto Flute?

The alto flute is not quite as common as piccolo, but its use is growing. More flute choirs are popping up, and more flute players, pro and amateur, are buying alto flutes.

Modern composers are starting to write more and more for the alto flute. That combined with flute choirs means that the opportunities for playing and teaching the alto flute are increasing.

The alto flute will continue to become more important to flute playing. Its use in orchestras is limited, but that may change in the near future. From solo and chamber playing to teaching, the alto flute has many venues now.

If you are looking to expand downwards in the flute family, try the alto flute. Alto flute resources are limited, but Chris Potter has an amazing website for alto (and bass) flute. If the alto flute interests you, go check it out.

The alto flute is a little more complicated than piccolo, since it has two headjoint options. Other than that, it is an easy transition for most advanced flutists.

Related: Piccolo vs. Alto Flute

The Benefits of Doubling Flutes

I have found that piccolo and alto flute both help my flute playing in different ways. The piccolo helps me get better control in the high register. Playing alto flute helps better my air support.

Other benefits of doubling include marketability and access to more repertoire.

Marketability pertains to more than just professional musicians. If you play flute and piccolo, you will be able join more ensembles and competitions than if you only played flute.

Maybe your local band is full of flute players but no one likes the piccolo. If you can play piccolo well, you might just get your foot int he door.

The alto flute is similar. If your community has a smaller flute choir, they might need alto flute players. The group might be overflowing with C flutes. If you show up with an alto flute, you will have a better chance of joining the group.

Then there’s access to more repertoire. While the piccolo and alto flute don’t have as much solo repertoire as flute, they have their own set of music. Piccolo and alto flute have their own parts in chamber music, and they can provide more depth to larger works, too.

So…

There are many benefits of doubling that flutists can take advantage of. Even if you just add piccolo to your routine, you will be able to play a lot of different music, and it can help your flute playing.

Be sure to subscribe below to get your free guide to practicing as a doubler.

Do you play multiple flutes? Which ones? Leave a comment below with your answer!

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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.

Specs

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.

Specs

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.

Options

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.

Specs

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.

Options

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.

So…

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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Protec Flute Case Cover Review

If you have been with me for awhile, you might have seen my first review of this case cover. I wrote that post a few years back, and I wanted to write an updated version for you all.

Protec is a company that makes cases and covers for a lot of different instruments. They have cases and bags for woodwinds, brass, strings, percussion, and more.

Hannah B Flute | Protec Flute Case Cover Review

Today, I am going to talk about their deluxe flute case cover.

DISCLAIMER: This post contains affiliate links. To read my full privacy policy, click here.

Why Get a Case Cover?

There are a few reasons why you might want a little something more than just your flute case. First off, student flute cases rarely have a pocket to store cleaning supplies, pencils, and the like.

Intermediate through professional flutes come with case covers, but they are thinner and may not last very long. I know with my current flute, the case cover started to get a little wear and tear after a little over a year.

A case cover also (usually) comes with a shoulder strap. That frees up your hands for sheet music, a music stand, or whatever else you may need to lug around.

Case covers are a simple, convenient way to keep all of your flute related items together but out of the flute case itself. I love being able to keep my flute, cleaning cloths/rods, piccolo, pencils, and instrument stands all in one place.

Why Protec?

Protec Flute Case Cover

There are a lot of companies out there that make flute case covers. I am reviewing the Protec cover, because I actually own it. I have had it for almost five years, and I used it on and off for most of that time.

The Cost

When I got my first flute, it actually came in a case similar to professional flutes. But it didn’t have a case cover. So it also had no outside storage, handles, anything.

I came across the Protec cover at a local music shop, and it looked like a great solution. It was also cheap, which was great for a student. I believe I payed around $35 for the cover.

The Colors

I went with the classic black, but the case cover also comes in purple and pink. If you prefer to have a brighter case so you can find it, go with the pink. If you want a more professional cover that you can take on stage, go with black.

Purple is also great if you want to stand out a little bit, but you still want a more subdued look.

The Features

One thing that I liked about the Protec cover when I was using it was that it had tons of room for accessories. The outside pocket is much bigger than on other case covers. It’s big enough to fit a piccolo, if you have one.

The case cover is also pretty durable. I put it through quite a lot, and it still works. Yes, there is wear and tear, but nothing major.

You can also carry it multiple ways. There is the traditional handle, found on many student flute cases. You can carry it on your shoulder with the detachable shoulder strap. Finally, there is a handle on the end of the case, so you can carry it the long way.

Who is it For?

The Protec case cover is great for students and people who want a more durable cover than what they have. It is budget friendly, and you can order it from just about any online music retailer.

The case cover is also great for more advanced players who don’t have the money to spend on the more expensive case covers.

Almost any flute case can fit in the cover, student or professional, C foot or B foot. Your flute will probably fit, though it is always a good idea to check for return policies when buying online.

Who Should Shop Around?

While I believe any flutist could benefit from the case, it does have its problems. If you are like me, and you play quite a bit of piccolo, this is not the case for you.

The large outside pocket is great, because it does fit most piccolo cases. However the outside pocket is meant for storing accessories. Therefore it is not insulated like the main pocket.

That is okay for casual players, and for people who don’t play piccolo much. But it poses a problem for flutists who will be bringing their flute and piccolo around together a lot. That issue is actually what made me stop using the Protec cover.

There are tons of other companies that make case covers that do have space for a piccolo in the insulated compartment. I do plan on reviewing one of them (Fluterscooter) in the future.

So…

Have you used the Protec case cover? Do you use another brand of case cover? Let me know in the comments!

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