This is a common question I am often asked by my students. Deciding on the right time to upgrade has a few different factors. There are many things to consider before deciding to upgrade your instrument. It is important, particularly as an upgrade can be expensive, to avoid simply thinking ‘I want a new flute!’
So when is the best time to upgrade your flute?
Often, the best time to upgrade is around grade 5/6. However, this is completely dependent on what instrument you are starting with. For example, you began with the Nuvo flute you will hit the limits of this instrument in quite a short space of time. This is due to the material it is made out of.
Should age of the pupil be a factor when upgrading?
I also believe that the age of the student is very important. If the student is very young and perhaps a little careless, now is not the time to upgrade. It is also very important to think about your financial situation carefully. Is it completely necessary to have this upgrade? Communication is also key if you are the teacher recommending an upgrade… your student may appreciate a bit of advanced notice that they will soon need to purchase a new flute!
A beginner flute is designed with a few specific things in mind. This is usually the price tag, the ease of playing and the durability of the instrument. When you get to the stage of needing to upgrade it is because you are exceeding the limits of your flute. This may be to do with the sound or perhaps a clunky mechanism that lets you down. A beginner flute is simply designed to help get you through your first years of playing the flute.
I’ve decided to upgrade my flute… what next?
Once you have decided to upgrade, how do you choose an instrument that is worth it? There really is no point buying something that is only slightly better. However, equally you don’t want to buy something that Is completely top of the line and difficult to play.
When upgrading your flute, I suggest you focus on these important features:
- Solid silver head joint
- Silver plated or solid silver body
- Open holes
- Inline/offset G
- B foot joint
Solid Silver Head Joint
This is perhaps the most important feature to consider when upgrading. A silver head joint will dramatically improve the tone quality of your instrument as it is a much more resonant material. The head joint will also be able to play with a good tone throughout all three registers of the instrument and will be more responsive that the nickel that most beginner flutes will use.
Silver plated or solid silver body
The material used to build a beginner flute is often silver-plated nickel. This material is not used with the sound production of the instrument in mind, meaning that you can end up being limited as you progress further. Silver-plated nickel is often opted for in beginner flutes as it is sturdier, it is not chosen for it’s great sound.
I would also point out that the mechanism on a beginner flute can often be more basic meaning that it can be harder to play quickly and can often be clunky. This is not what you need as you progress into the higher grades
Beginner flutes often have closed holes. Not having to worry about covering these when you first start the flute is brilliant as it is one less thing to worry about, it also does not require the young beginner to have big hands. However, when we get more advanced if we do not have the holes this can encourage sloppy hand position. The holes will also allow for a clearer sound.
B foot joint
A beginner flute also often has a C foot joint, this simply means that the notes will only go down to middle C. In an upgraded model, flautists often opt for a B foot joint. This simply adds one extra note on the bottom of the instrument but can aid the flute in producing a richer sound. This is not strictly necessary but is another feature to consider when upgrading.
A beginner flute will often usually have an offset G key due to the ergonomic benefits. This means that it is easier to reach the G key with your left-hand ring finger. When you upgrade you have the decision to bring your G key in line with the rest of the keys. This is not something that every flute player decides on, but again it is another thing to consider. An offset G key needs its own extra section of mechanism which can add a bit of weight to the flute whereas an inline G can be integrated into the mechanism that is already there.
There used to very much be a stigma around using an offset G. However, over the years this has diminished a lot as people have become more concerned with the best position for the body.
What can I do if I cannot afford a whole new flute
If upgrading your entire instrument is too costly for your current financial position, there are other options. You can simply upgrade different aspects of the flute, this could be a new head joint or even just the lip plate. But do bear in mind that this can be very expensive if you are not careful, some head joints and even lip plates can cost thousands…
I hope that helps you to upgrade your flute! Check out my other blog posts here!