Flute/Flute Buying Advice

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Question
Dear Herbert,

Thank you for maintaining this forum.  I've found your advice on previous questions really helpful.  My daughter is 12 and is really enjoying her flute playing experience.  Her private teacher is recommending that we invest in a better flute for her.  My feeling is that I'd rather purchase her a flute that she can enjoy and keep playing right through high school and into college, if she decides to do so.  I really do not want to purchase a step-up flute and then have to purchase another more expensive flute 2-3 years down the road.  To me, this strategy will not only provide her with a more capable and enjoyable instrument now but will, in the long run, save us money by not having to purchase 2 flutes.

Through her teacher we have tried about a dozen flutes, some machine made (Di Zhao 700, Amadeus 700,800 & 900, Azumi 3, Trevor James) and some handmade (Yamaha 677, Muramatsu EX, Haynes Q1 and Miyazawa 202).  We are all in agreement that the handmade models sound better overall and are the way to go.  Right now we are leaning toward a Miyazawa 202 with a C# Trill Key and MZ-11 head joint with the gold riser.  This put us in the $5500 range.  I'm wondering, given the strategy I described above if this would be a good way to go?  We are now getting close to the next level of flutes and it's tempting to spend a little more to move up to a Miyazawa 402 or Muramatsu GX.  Both in the $6000 - $6500 range with no extra features.  (C# trill, gold riser, etc.)  

If she continues to advance in her skills at a reasonable rate, will the Miya 202 and the extra options see her through the next 10 years or so?

Buying a flute is surely a slippery slope!!!

Best,
Darin

Answer
Hi there, Darin!

I'm glad you've found my past responses helpful, and wish you luck with this flute purchase!  You're absolutely right that it's a slippery slope!

I think it's admirable that you are so willing to help your daughter with a very fine instrument, but I think it's important that you consider where your daughter is in her flute playing career before doing so.  Most 12 year old flutists will have been playing for only a couple of years.  If this is true of your daughter, she most likely is not in a position to know whether she'll continue playing in the long term (MANY promising young musicians lose interest or focus in high school when friends/sports/boys/girls/what-have-you become larger factors), nor is her playing likely to be developed enough for her to really appreciate the benefits of a handmade instrument or differentiate between the various flutes she's tried.  

If this is the case, you and your daughter would probably be better served by purchasing one of the less expensive models you mentioned.  Such an instrument will allow her musical growth to continue without risking several thousand dollars on an instrument she may not want to play in 3 years, and which she may find does not suit her needs when she reaches a level where she can appreciate it.

If, on the other hand, she has already been playing for 4 or 5 years, she probably will be able to notice and articulate the difference between various flutes, and is likely at a level where she could make good use of the better handmade flutes you mentioned.  There is still some risk that flute playing will fall by the wayside in the next few years, but this is inescapable until she's several years older.

One final consideration is that if your daughter does reach a point where she is a serious player, she will need a backup flute for when her primary one is in for repairs.  You very well may wind up having to buy two flutes after all, negating the expected savings of buying a more expensive flute now.

Your daughter's private teacher knows her playing and experience far better than I do, and if she's recommending a better flute, there's likely a good reason.  If there's reason to believe your daughter NEEDS a $4k+ flute, or you simply have plenty of room in the budget for such purposes, then it's fine to go that route.  But buying such an expensive instrument is no guarantee that you'll save money in the long run, or that your daughter will be satisfied with it for 10+ years (regardless of what you buy).  She's likely not at a stage of her development where she can choose such an instrument.

In most cases involving students of your daughter's age, I would recommend the less expensive options you listed (all of which are great flutes for the money).  But in the end, you, your daughter, and her teacher are the ones who know her musical history and playing, and you must be satisfied by your choice.  Just realize that buying a handmade flute at this stage may not carry the benefits you expect, and does come with its own risks.

I hope this is helpful, and I wish you luck making a decision.  If you have any further questions, please don't hesitate to ask.

Herbert

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Herbert Smith

Expertise

I can answer questions about almost any flute-related topic.

I have trained professionally as a flute repair tech and music educator, and have a broad range of experiences as a performer. I also have experience with a huge array of flutes with any imaginable material or specification, and can comment on the quality of various instruments, as well as guide people through the flute-buying process. I'm willing and able to discuss various flute gadgets (Valgon rings, Foster extensions, etc.) as well.

I'm very familiar with piccolo, alto, and other harmony flutes (including those in unusual keys, such as Eb flute, Db piccolo, G treble, Ab alto piccolo, Flute D'amore, Contrabass, etc.).

I am also glad to offer advice on how to approach difficulties within pieces of music, offer teaching tips to those who give lessons, or answer just about any other flute-related query you can throw at me!

Please note, however, that I am not an appraisal service, and will not provide estimates of value. Please do not ask me about the value of your flute. I also must decline to date instruments based on their serial numbers.

Experience

I'm a professional repair tech with years of experience, and a veteran high school band director. I've maintained a successful studio for private flute lessons for many years, and have performed professionally in just about any imaginable venue.

Education/Credentials
I have bachelor's degrees in music education and performance from highly regarded universities, and have trained with one of the best flute techs/flute makers in the US.

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