5 Tips For Sounding Great on a Cheap Flute

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Learn Flute Podcast SHOW NOTES:

You’ll learn:

  • Uses for different qualities of flutes. 
  • The meaning of a ‘cheap’ flute.
  • What flute Rebecca started learning on.
  • What the different levels of flute qualities are.
  • How to sound your best, no matter what flute you’re playing on. 

Learn Flute Podcast 119

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Podcast Transcript

Is it really necessary to have an expensive flute? Well, this is a bit of a loaded question and I’m excited to answer it today and to help you out – because not everyone starts on or has a high quality flute to learn on for a while.

So, let’s get into my 5 tips for sounding great on a cheap flute.

You can do it – let’s get started!

Well hello there! It’s so good to have you here with me today on this Learn Flute Podcast because I like talking about flutes and all the things that go along with it including musicianship, skills, and mindset.

Sound interesting?

I hope so.

I’m Rebecca Fuller and I’ve been playing the flute for almost forty years now. Whoa. That kind of ages me, dates me, doesn’t it? It’s okay I’m alright with it. It means I’m seasoned and have a lot more to say.

Well, I’m actually just going to dive right in today to our subject for this episode because I think it’s something everyone wonders about, especially when they’re newer to the subject of flute.. And of course, wondering what is really possible for them and all the good thoughts that go on in our heads as we begin a new journey.

Also, this isn’t just something that newer players will want to know about because this subject touches virtually every flute player on the planet of all ages and stages. So, you ready to get going? Great!

Let’s find out about lower end flutes. You know, the cheap ones.. Can we really sound good on them? And if we have one, how can we make sure we’re able to do what we need to on it?

Well today I have a great episode lined up for you that will give you 5 tips for sounding great on a cheap flute… because you really can sound great on a lower end flute.

It’s true.

You can.

Now, you’re probably wondering, “Rebecca, then why are there so many more expensive flutes out there? Why would we spend our money on something that we could do on a cheaper option?”
These really are great questions and what we’ll be diving into today. So let’s just jump right in:

Reasons for a lower end flute: 

There are different instances that a person might have a lower end you know, sometimes known as a cheap flute.. And it’s nothing to be ashamed of, first of all – let’s get that out of the way.

There are many reasons you may have one- I mentioned a couple of reasons earlier, one being that it’s just what you have. It’s what you started on.

I’m here to let you know that I started on a cheap flute. In fact, they don’t even make the one I had anymore, but the flute I started on was one of the very lowest options available back in the day.

Did it matter to me?

No way.

I was super excited to have a flute of my own… And I was making a lot of friends and music with it too.

Whether you found your first flute like I did (you may have already heard my story about finding my flute down in my grandpa’s root cellar with the spiders and the dirty potatoes)… or perhaps you have rented, purchased second hand, or purchased yourself one without any other advice, and this is what you ended up with. You’re probably like I was.. Super excited that you have a flute to get playing on.

Yay! I totally agree.

Perhaps you’ve already been playing for a while, even maybe a few years, and you are using your cheapo flute as a travel flute or maybe for outdoor performances like if you’re in a marching band or something.

Can I sound great on a cheap flute?

Anyway it is, the question is always asked of me – “Rebecca, can I even sound great on a cheap flute?”

Well, the super quick answer is..


And then, I’d like to follow that up with “Let me show you how”… because it really is the skill of the musician that will matter even more than the level of the flute.

Now, here we go. I’m going to have a demonstration here, so that you can hear this.

This first flute that I have here is less than a hundred dollars, it’s very thin- in fact it’s colored, and it’s fun looking, and it was very very cheap. Less than a hundred dollars. And I sound like this on it:


And now here is the same demonstration piece on my flute, my professional line flute, that I currently perform on now: Which is about twelve thousand dollar flute. Very different price range from the other one, and I sound like this on it right now:


They’re different. You may not be able to hear all of the resonance and tiny details of each demonstration because you’re not live right here with me, but I think you probably can gather that both sound respectable, right?

Why? There was such a big price difference! Yet, I could play both of them just as well, with a few differences in the sound- deep inside anyways.

Don’t worry this is something we’re going to talk about.

What makes a cheap flute, a cheap flute? 

So, wait. Let’s back up here and talk about this for a bit. First, we need to know what makes a cheap flute a “cheap flute”. I keep using the word cheap.

Well here’s a little list for you:
The price, of course, makes the cheap flute low cost, and the low cost makes it cheap, right? 

But, we also use the word cheap, meaning low quality. And, so, yes cheap flutes are also low quality in not only the material that they are made with, but also the design – you know, the exact pattern that was used to create the flute in the first place because all flute makers are different and have their own designs.

The cheap flutes we’re talking about today were stamped out by a machine in a factory, as of this date, that was usually in China. Not like that’s a bad thing.. Because it’s not at all.

Where we get the cheap word from, is that these types of flutes go from the machine, into the case, and then shipped and into your hands without an expert or a human going through it to make sure all is well (and thats kind of where a big difference is).

And there are hundreds and hundreds of tiny details into the regulating of a flute.. From the rods and springs, to the pads, and the keys. It really is just a lot, and many times these lower end flutes arrive into homes or classrooms with things a little bit skeewampy on them.

Without a human expert working through it first, you never know what you’ll get.
Here’s just one example, I have first hand knowledge with this one: 

I had a new student start with me a few years ago, this was quite a few years ago – and when she arrived here all excited for her first class, I had to be the bearer of bad news to her, and show her that the keys of her flute were assembled on crooked.. 

Like some of the keys didn’t even cover the holes. 

She felt really bad, and her mom was kind of angry.. And I was stuck in the position of working through educating her on what happened, and how we can avoid this type of problem by purchasing a more quality brand from a reputable company with a good flute technician.

It’s kind of hard to have this conversation because people really are doing what they can do sometimes, and we all want to make things work. We did have to send that flute back, and get a different one.

There are two sides to this, as a teacher- the thought process goes like this: I want the student to have the best fighting chance possible at learning to play well and sound great, right?

And I also want to be sensitive to the possibility that certain price ranges are just maybe a bit out of reach at first… and that’s okay.

Over the years though, I have almost always required a certain level of flute for my beginners here for the reasons that I can move them along at a very nice pace if we’re not having to slow down or stop because of the instrument’s issues.

Here in our online learning world, I’m sure there’s a whole range of flutes out there. Right? And again, it’s fine – let’s learn a few things right now that can help you with your flute no matter what end of the spectrum it’s on:

Just as we demonstrated earlier, an expert can usually get any flute to play decently. It’s true. In fact, I’ve traveled before and had the person who booked me have a flute waiting there for me.

I’ve had some crazy scenarios in my life haha and it’s all just part of my pile of knowledge. Well anyway, I’ve had to play on flutes that are in pretty bad shape – like leaking pads and clicking keys or even sometimes keys not even functioning properly.. And somehow I’ve made it through my performances..

I remember once I had to re-write a whole section and change some of the notes so that I didn’t use a certain key- just so I could make it through the performance without anybody noticing that there was an issue with the flute that I was given.

Well yah- I don’t suggest playing on someone elses flute but I’ve had to in a few instances. And, you know, with a lot of effort I’ve gotten the job done. It just takes a serious amount of compensation I’d say to negotiate each note on a flute that isn’t in perfect working condition. And without a high level skill set, I would never have made it through some of those pieces and some of the things that I’ve done.

So, playing on my Twelve thousand dollar flute right now is different to me in the fact that I can sound the way I want to, and the way I know how to (skill-wise) because the mechanism and the make and the material of the flute are set up with such precision that it allows me to do it so much easier. And it just allows my skills to be used.

Could I play with my best skill level on a cheap flute too?

Well, yes actually, I can use my best skill level, it’ll just take a lot more effort to sound pretty decent on a lower end flute. And this is ONLY if the flute is in good condition to start with. It doesn’t matter who you are, you could be the most advanced flutist in the world and you’d have a hard time playing a flute that didn’t have the keys on straight. That’s just a fact.

So, in a nutshell, the better shape the flute is in, and the higher craftsmanship and material it is made of, the less effort it’ll take to use the skills you have to sound nice.

I hope this is getting really clear now… because it really does come down to your skill level, and after you’re sure the flute is able to function properly of course.

So let’s start our official list right now of 5 tips for sounding great on a cheap flute…

Number one

is that the flute needs to be in really great shape to start with- just as we talked about. It can be a hundred dollar flute off of amazon, and if it comes in mint condition, with everything in the right place.. Then you’re off to the races and you’re ready to get going on your skills.

Okay, so I know this poses the next question which is well, Rebecca what do I do if the flute isn’t in good condition when it comes? Well the answer is: send it back if you can. Get a hold of the company and tell them to try again. But, If you are a brand new player, you honestly may not even know if the flute is right or not. This is the gamble you take when you buy a cheap flute.

You may also be wondering if you could take it to be repaired, and set up properly – well, much like vehicles, repair does have a price to it, and it many times taking a lower end flute will actually total your instrument. And when you find out the price of the repair .. depending on what needed to be done- meaning the price of the repair is going on out-cost the new flute.

Some repairshops won’t even work on low quality flutes. They simply don’t have the matching materials to what is brought in. And, they find the cheaper flutes with mechanism that is so soft that they are breaking and bending right in front of their eyes… But don’t let this deter you though, remember- there are different reasons a cheap flute can be a totally okay thing to have.

Is it your travel flute? Your second flute in case your main one needs to go for a COA- like a clean, oil, and adjust for a week or two? Are you playing in a marching band or outside in general where you wouldn’t want your main instrument? Or… the most common reason is that it’s just the flute you ended up with at first for whatever reason.

It’s still super awesome to be learning and making music!

Some people like to pick up these lower cost flutes and think of them as a disposable instrument that they can start on and then work their way up from there as they improve in skill and education.

So number two on our list

will be to learn to maintain said flute the best you can to keep it running as long as possible. The good thing is that you have me here at Learn Flute Online to help you in this little endeavor – I’ve been there, done it, seen it, taught it, experienced it, fixed it, recommended it, all before, all of it and we have some really great classes here in our members area to help you know exactly how to keep your flute, no matter the level it is, keeping it in really great shape for a long time.

I’ve had these cheap flutes running for a few years around here. It’s actually most of the time all about the cleaning and daily maintenance habits. It really is.

If the flute is being used often, that is of course. And one thing I’ve learned is that if the lower end, cheaper flute sits in its case for months and years by itself, you will open the case to find that it has deteriorated. The workmanship, and the material, the pads especially, will be all dried out. It really just will not function properly for you, it’s just what happens.

So, if this is sparking more questions you’d like to ask me about this, be sure to ask. And if you’re a member here at Learn Flute Online, remember that the Gold level especially is put in sequential learning order for you… And this doesn’t just mean flute playing skills is the only thing there.

We cover virtually every little detail about playing the flute and maintaining your instrument so that you can journey on and enjoy for many years to come. You can do a search using our super special handy-dandy search feature in the members area so you can find where I’ve talked about these things and any given video demonstrations also in the live classes we have.

You’ll find the information on your flutes in the modules. And I’m not done – we’re just continuing to get more and more educated as we go.

This brings us to tip number three

on our list of sounding great on a cheap flute, and that’s to improve your skills as a flute player. Remember in my demonstrations I showed you that I could really sound nice on both flutes I played regardless of their original price point and make.

And I want to make a quick observation that you could spend thirty, forty thousand dollars on a new fancy-dancy flute but it will still play the skill level you put into it. And that’s okay as well. Just keep at it and play the best instrument you can get your hands on if possible.

That’s my professional advice… as long as you’re practicing and getting really good education along the way, you’ll progress and be able to have a ton of fun as a flute player!

So now our fourth of five tips

for sounding great on a cheap flute is to realize that not all budget flutes are made equally, as we discussed. But that they’re out there, and they are a possible good option for the times we discussed like a travel flute, kind of a disposable throw-away flute, a marching band flute, or a second flute to have on hand when your first love is off to the shop.

I actually have a desk flute here. It was only a couple hundred dollars, and it’s the one I keep out when I’m at my desk writing and arranging music. It’s the perfect time for my main flute to stay safely in its case since we know that leaving our flutes out for extended periods of time isn’t good for it.

I like to have this desk flute here to just grab when I need to finger something and play a bit over a few hours time – quality of sound isn’t my main focus during these times… it’s just to grab it, and try a few things while I’m writing music.


Does that give you a few things to think about?

Okay, this is a perfect segway into number five

and that’s to never feel guilty, but to always use your education to do your best as you keep on the journey towards better music and life. If you feel your skills are outperforming your flute, then it’s time to upgrade. And, be careful who you get your advice from. Just sayin’. I’m in this for YOU.

So let’s keep learning and enjoying this journey together! You’re awesome, and it’s fun to learn and explore more about this beautiful instrument Flute. As usual, I’d like to invite you in for a lesson today – the modules and progress are all waiting for you in the member’s area of Learn Flute Online.

As I play you out today, I’d like to remind you to use these 5 tips for sounding great on a cheap flute because they are also the same tips you can use for sounding great on any flute!

Well, let’s keep at it.

Bye now!

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I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about tips for sounding great on a cheap flute.  Join us for the next episode!

Have any questions? Comment below and I will help you out.

Rebecca FullerRebecca Fuller
Get Flutie with us! Learn and enjoy every musical minute.

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