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Flutes for Students

If your child is ready to take up the flute and join the middle school band, here are some things that will help you get the right flute at the right price.

Buy or rent?

Buying a student model flute can be a good investment unless you are unsure if your child will stick with it -- in which case you might do better to rent. Most musical instrument stores offer reasonably priced rental plans (with lower payments during the first three months to encourage you to give the instrument a try). If you think there's a good chance that you will want to keep the flute you are going to rent, ask about a "rent-to-buy" option -- for a few extra dollars, it gives you the flexibility of a rental along with some portion of the monthly payment going toward the ultimate purchase. Caution: stay away from off-brand low-cost overseas flutes from discount stores. Band directors say repair shops won't touch them because they are so cheaply made and hard to repair.

Flute makers and features

All major flute manufacturers make student models. Construction is more geared to promote durability and ease of playing than sound quality or pitch accuracy over the entire note range. Student flutes are typically made from nickel-silver, which actually has no silver in it at all—it is an alloy of copper, zinc, and nickel. These models may be plated with silver. Better flutes have more silver content, but the price goes up substantially. Since there is no appreciable difference in quality across manufacturers' student models, seek the advice of the band director to find music stores or online merchants offering the best deal for you.

One feature to look for is the shape of the lip plate. A curved lip plate makes the flute easier for a student to play. And the size of the mouth hole should be average, though a larger hole makes it easier to play low notes, while a smaller hole benefits the high notes.

Regulating screws (usually four or five) allow the flutist to adjust the instrument’s keys without the need to send it to the repair shop.

Accessories

Make sure you include a hard case that can take the abuse dealt carrying it back and forth to school. A cleaning cloth and rod allows the student to clean out the flute after use, thus resisting rust and mold and increasing the flute's life.

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