The flute is a famous and well-loved instrument. As a member of the woodwind family of instruments, the flute is what is known as an aerophone, meaning sound is created by a column of air blowing through the instrument’s tubing.
Unlike many other woodwind instruments such as the saxophone or the oboe, the flute doesn’t require a reed and instead produces sound from air being blown across the opening in the flute.
The flute is a wonderful instrument with a beautiful, light sound that adds a layer of airiness to any ensemble. And as one of the oldest known instruments in human history, its design has changed over the thousands of years humans have been using flutes to make music.
So, if you’re a new flutist looking for an instrument, or an established player looking for an upgrade, you’re probably wondering how much a new flute will set you back.
In this article, I’ll explore the price ranges for different kinds of flutes, and we’ll take a look at what you can expect to get for your money when you’re in the market for this beautiful instrument.
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What is the Price Range for a Flute?
The price range for all kinds of flutes, from absolute beginner student models to high-end, top-of-the-line prestige flutes for professionals, is a big one.
You can pick up a beginner flute for around $100, and you can spend well in excess of $20,000 at the other end of the spectrum!
And of course, there are hundreds of options in between these two extremes. What determines the amount you will pay for a flute are these three things:
- Who the flute is designed for
- The materials the flute is made of
- The brand name of the flute
A lot of the time, these three things will intersect. You will find that a metal beginner flute made by a well-known name like Yamaha, for example, will set you back more than a non-branded beginner flute made from plastic.
And prices of high-end flutes can vary by the thousands just depending on which name is on the box, largely because of the materials different companies use, but also because of the prestige of some of the bigger and more well-respected instrument manufacturers.
Beginner Flute Prices
So let’s start at the low end and work our way up; first we’ll take a look at some of the cheaper options you have when it comes to buying a flute. Don’t be put off – although these student flutes are cheaper, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re poor quality!
Coming in at just under $30, this beginner flute from Nuvo is made from plastic and is specifically geared toward younger players and beginners. It’s smaller than a standard flute, measuring around 12.5 inches as opposed to a full-sized flute’s 26-inch length, and has a lip plate attachment to help students familiarize themselves with the mouth shape needed for playing the flute.
It won’t sound exactly like a proper metal flute, and it has silicone closed-hole keys to facilitate better learning without worrying about finger pressure. While this may not be what you had in mind, even for a beginner flute, you can see that there are options available to cater to those right at the bottom of the price range.
This student set from Glory is the next step up in terms of a beginner instrument. This flute is slightly closer to full size at around 16 inches, has no lip plate attachment, and features a closed-hole key design. The body is nickel, and it has no silver plating like a higher-end flute would, but it approximates the feeling and weight, making it feel much more like a professional instrument.
Intermediate Flute Prices
As you progress on your flute-playing journey, you’ll want to improve your instrument as you go, so an upgrade will be necessary at some point.
As you progress to intermediate flutes, the prices will jump up quite a bit, as these instruments will now be made of metal, and the specific mixture of alloys used will affect that price. Intermediate flutes will also have more features than entry-level instruments which more seasoned players will be familiar with, such as open-hole keys and a split E mechanism.
The reason for this price increase comes mainly from the materials used and the craftsmanship employed to make these instruments. Flutes in this price range will almost always be made of metal, with a silver plating on at least the foot joint, if not the entire body of the flute.
The open-hole keys will be hand-drawn and the flute will have to be assembled by hand to ensure the best tone and playability.
Professional Flute Prices
Professional flutes are built to be played by the most talented and demanding musicians and therefore have a number of features that you won’t find on beginner flutes, and only some on intermediate flutes.
The price range for pro instruments varies wildly, but you can look to find professional flutes from prices starting around $3,000 all the way up to $20,000, though most instruments at the high end of this scale will probably be custom-made bespoke jobs.
Of course, there is always the option to buy second-hand, and prices in that world will vary even more. It’s hard to guarantee what you’re getting if you go preowned, but there is always the chance you could get a bargain!
This professional flute from Powell is a fine example of a high-end professional flute. The body is made from sterling silver, then coated with a layer of 9-karat rose gold. And it’s not just for looks – these precious metals are known to improve the tonality of the instrument, giving it a lively and colorful signature sound.
In addition to the materials, the professional flute will often feature open-hole keys, a B foot joint, and an inline G. The Powell professional flute, however, has an offset G in this case, which is becoming more common, even on professional flutes as it aids playability.
Yamaha, a big-name brand, makes this alto flute, which has the option of a curved or straight head joint, to further aid the comfort and dexterity of the player. The body is made of lightweight gold brass, which again improves playability and offers a slightly different sound in terms of tonality.
As you can see, the price range for flutes is a huge spectrum, with the most basic beginner flutes something you could easily afford to pick up and just try out, which is great for beginners or parents of a child who is toying with the idea of becoming a flutist.
On the other hand, things can get very expensive very quickly, as soon as you enter upper-intermediate levels. The benefits gained from a $16,000 flute are really only for those who know the instrument inside out, and who have experience playing with ensembles, to know how these small, seemingly insignificant differences, are going to affect the overall sound of an orchestra.
So if you’re just starting out on your flute-playing journey, opt for something cheaper like a student set so you can get a feel for the instrument. There’s really no need to even consider the more expensive flutes until you understand how open-hole keys, offset Gs, split Es, and B vs. C foot joints are going to make a difference to your sound.