How to Know the Condition of My Flute

I teach a lot of flute lessons, and I have seen many flutes in my days. The truth is that the condition of your flute matters.

I know that when a flute is in proper condition it plays beautifully.  And, I know first-hand that the opposite (improper condition) means that your flute will hamper your ability to play well or at all.

…when a flute is in proper condition it plays beautifully

 

Here are some hints and tips you can use to check the condition of your flute:

The best hint I can give you is to take your flute to a reputable flute technician.  If you do not know where to find one look in the business section of a phone book under “instrument repair” or “band instruments” or “music instruments”.

Call to find out if there is a flute specialist available.

BUT… if you want to check it all yourself to get started, then here is a great self-guide.

1.      Study the flute closely for nicks, dings, scratches and dents.

These don’t necessarily mean the flute won’t play great, but big dents in the wrong places (especially on the head joint) can mess up your tone if they’re too deep.

2.      Turn the flute over and look at the pads (under the keys).  Do not touch the pads with anything (damage).

Look for fraying, peeling, puffing, or tears in the “skin” of the pads.  If you see any of these, your flute can limp along for a while, but probably needs repair depending on the severity of the tears.  Some bubbling or dirtiness is possibly okay.

Look for fraying, peeling, puffing, or tears in the “skin” of the flute pads.

3.      Check your cork.

Maybe you didn’t even know there was a cork in your flute.  It’s at the top inside the head joint.  Unscrew the top cap of the flute and look in there.  See it?  It has a metal plate top with a long screw-looking thing coming out of it.  Don’t touch it.  Just know it’s there and that you don’t need to touch it unless it’s positioned incorrectly.

 You can make sure your cork is properly sealing off the end of your head joint by:

Placing the palm of your hand over the opposite end so it makes a tight seal.  Next, place your mouth completely over the embouchure hole (where your lips go) and start sucking the air out.  Gross, I know.

 Once you have sucked all of the air out your mouth will be vacuum-stuck on there.  You can wait a few seconds and then pull off.  “Pop” the seal will be broken.  If this doesn’t happen, you possibly have a nasty leak.  This is a problem that will not allow you to sound at all good while learning to play the flute.  Take your flute to a flute technician.

4.      Look at all of the screws on the ends of the long rods of your flute.

DON’T TOUCH.  They should all be screwed in.  BUT, if you start screwing them in and out for fun, you really WILL mess the mechanism up pretty bad.  Just look at the screws.  You can visibly see if they are poking out.  Gently screw them back in until they stop turning if so. Never tighten past the stopping point.

5.      Notice and be aware of the flute mechanism.

There are also tiny little screws behind the keys and under the rods on your flute.  REALLY DON’T TOUCH THESE.  They are for adjusting tension between multiple parts of the flute.  Messing with these is a not smart thing to do.  You’ll be off to repair-land faster than the Flight of the Bumblebee if you don’t heed this warning.

6.      Learn to care for your flute properly as it ages.

Probably the most common problem I see with flutes that haven’t been properly cared for or is getting on in age, is when the pads (under the keys) are not sealing properly.  There is nothing you can do to fix this yourself.  The flute needs to be seen by a flute technician.   It will not play well at all unless all of the pads seal properly.

The last thing I can say in this article is that a flute in great condition also plays great.  Learning how to clean a flute properly is super-duper important.

7. Be nice to your flute and it will be nice back.

Store your flute in its case daily.  Although it is pretty to look at and you may be tempted to leave it out so you can look at it and pick it up often – push away the temptation. It needs to stay protected from dust and tarnishing so you can continue improving and enjoying your flute.

I definitely show-and-tell these points in great detail inside the members area here at Learn Flute Online. How to know the condition of your flute is just one little (important) detail. Once we get all of this going in the right direction we get to focus on our skills.. and tone.. and enjoying A LOT of great music.

Have a great day!

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

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

84 thoughts on “How To Know The Condition of Your Flute”

  1. Hi Haley, there are a few really nice brands for Intermediate flutes. What you want to do is try and get more ‘silver’ than you’ve had before. The student model flutes (like your Emerson) are a mixture of metals including nickel etc. The more real ‘silver’ you can get especially in the head joint, the bigger and better you can potentially sound. It’s still up to the player to play well though. 😉
    I really like this Pearl Intermediate for a good start https://amzn.to/2QAh4PH – and you can go higher through the quality levels from here. Let us know when and if you get one! ~Rebecca

  2. I just started the intermediate level and am saving for a new flute what would be a good brand? The flute I have is a Emerson and the only problem that I know of is that there is a nice sized dent in the head joint and a few sratches other places But that didn’t seem to efect my tone any.

  3. Hello Rebecca! I’m the girl with the “basement” flute. I saw that when I play Bb the key will not go down all the way. I *assumed* that it was a specific screw that would simply not tighten down anymore so I solved the problem with a tiny, thick piece of paper. This is my Redneck WV fix it up style. BUT since reading this you explained that ALL the screws -on the rod- should be screwed in all the way. One of mine that is closest to the headjoint was very loose. Since I tightened it I don’t need my paper! I guess the rod was jutting inward a little and throwing it all off. Thanks SO much. I can’t believe how much I’ve learned here (like just how delicate this lovely instrument is)

  4. Hi Trixie, thanks for being here. I love your reference “neophyte flautist” – it’s perfect. You’re getting familiar quickly. See you again soon! ~Rebecca

  5. Thank you so much for offering this valuable information to a neophyte flautist. It’s really helping me to become more familiar with my flute!

  6. Hi Naomi, you’ll want to take your Grandmother’s flute to a flute technician to have it checked out. Hopefully it can be shaped up quickly. 🙂 ~Rebecca

  7. PS also I have three keys on my Grandmother’s flute that don’t work very good. What should I do?

  8. Hi Rebecca! I am going to be looking for a flute for my birthday and I am not sure what one to get. Can you help me?

  9. Hi Bernt, you can leave the black on the pads. Rubbing them with something will only fray them and create problems. If your pads seem to have sticky problems you can get some of these special little papers to blot them with: http://amzn.to/2DRYIjd Regular paper isn’t a good idea because it lets off little fibers that cause problems in the mechanism. Thanks for asking. 🙂 ~Rebecca

  10. Awesome, Kiran. Your flute will be happy for you for a very long time with proper care. 🙂 ~Rebecca

  11. Hi Rebecca,

    Thank you for that and yes I shall definitely keep taking good care of my flute.
    Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a happy new year!!

    Thank you,
    Kiran

  12. Hi Kiran, I’ve actually seen this before. If you don’t feel it’s affecting the play-ability of the flute (not sure what model/level it is), then I would just carry on as is. I did, however have a student once ‘sit’ right on her flute (on the bed) and bend it into a V shape. It was definitely ruined. It probably came this way if it’s a lower model (guessing). Keep it in as good of condition as you possibly can, and hopefully it’ll continue playing well for you for a long time. 🙂 ~Rebecca

  13. Hi Rebecca!

    Thank you for your tips! I have a concern about my flute. I got my flute second hand (but hardly used) a few years ago when I started playing. Over the years I have noticed that overall my flute is not completely straight and that it is bent into a very weak C shape. It is not very obvious but when I put my flute down on the table and match it up with the edges, I can see that it is rising from one side. I haven’t had any difficulty playing the flute and it sounds very nice to me but I am curious as to why this has happened to my flute. Any ideas?

    Thank you,
    Kiran

  14. Hi Paul, unfortunately this is what happens to flutes when they are left out (amongst other things)… If it doesn’t twist apart, you’ll need to take it to a technician.. so sorry. From now on, you can clean it after you play and place it safely in its case every single day. This is the best way to keep it in good condition. I know it’s fun to keep it out for fast access, but the nature of the instrument doesn’t make this a very good idea. Glad you’re practicing. 🙂 ~Rebecca

  15. Paul wojtusciszyn

    Rebecca I have a pearl flute,I always kept it put together in the corner of the room for instant access.Unfortunately the head is stuck to the body,I have tried and tried but won’t come apart,what can I do?

  16. Hi Azubuike, I’m glad you’re working on learning how to play the flute. I’d love to help you! You can opt-in to my email list and then I’ll send you to the link to the first 35 videos that will teach you how to get started playing the flute (which will help you play all of these notes perfectly). The video series is free. Come learn. 🙂 See you soon. ~Rebecca

  17. Pls I’m having a difficulty when playing on key c, the e, f, and g are not making sound, which is me, fa, soh, but the last time I met somebody,he played it and it made sound,pls is there any tip u can give me on how to try again

  18. RebeccaFuller

    Hi Rajgopal, thanks for the questions. I have many students in this online flute studio from India. They have been able to order the correct type of flutes by visiting the real instrument stores in the largest cities where they live. You can try that, or find out if it is possible to order one. Ask for a western/concert/classical/silver student model flute. (offset G and C foot is best) I’m excited you are coming to learn. 🙂 ~Rebecca

  19. Rajgopal Rao G

    I am residing in Visakhapatnam (State of Andhra Pradesh in India).

    In our area only bamboo flutes with out any metal attachments available.
    The fulte, that you have suggested is new to me.
    Such flutes are not available here.

    Please let me know ….

    From Where and how can I get such flutes, you suggested ?
    Can I purchase it online ?
    If yes, what specifications should I mention before placing order.

  20. RebeccaFuller

    Awesome, Anna. We’re all so glad you’re here learning to play the flute well. Come back often for more. 🙂 ~Rebecca

  21. Hi Rebecca. I’m enjoying the silver level, in just very few lessons I have learnt so much. It feels like you are right beside me, wow so glad I found you. Your traching goes a long way.thank you so much.

  22. Hi I bought a Lazarro flute from Amazon The reviews said it was great for beginners. So far everything seems fine. I like it.

  23. Hi Justin, congratulations on learning to play the flute. Hmmm, the G isn’t usually an airy note unless it is leaking. Is it airy even on the low and higher one? If so, then your pad is probably leaking and needs to see a flute technician. Take your flute to the best and most reputable music store in the biggest city you are near and have them look at it. Good luck! P.S. try pressing ‘harder’ on the G key and see if it sounds better,.. if it does then it is indeed leaking. ~Rebecca

  24. Hi, I have had my flute for about 2 years now, and my flute is a Yamaha 381. The flute had no problem for the two years until recently, where the flute sounds like a lot of air is coming out but not much sound. I have been trying to play the Air on the G String but the first G always sounds airy and I cannot continue on. Is there something wrong with my flute?

  25. Hi Martin, yes yes- a brand new flute -or- a newly serviced flute play sooooo much better than one that’s been sitting, or played on for years. They just need to be taken care of, and life with your flute is super nice. Good observation! ~Rebecca

  26. Martin Sheriff

    Hi Rebecca – just to emphasize your comment about being nice to your flute. I recently had mine serviced after playing it for three years almost daily, and although to me it had nothing wrong with it, after some TLC from the service technician it feels like a different instrument, and plays so easily! So yes, be kind to your flute, and it will reward you! (For those of your students interested, mine is a Yamaha 225SII, an oldie but still good.) Martin

  27. Hi Hope, I’m glad you’re learning how to play the flute. There are many tricks we can use to get really good tone on our flute. These include different things at different stages of learning. Are you brand new? If so, the reason you’re hearing so much ‘breath’ in your tone is because your aperture (the hole in your lips) is too big. This happens at first until you learn to tongue right.. etc. I’d love to take you through exactly what you need to do. Have you joined the Gold Level yet? If not, come join and find out how fast you will learn! Here’s the link: https://learnfluteonline.com/gold-lessons/ See you soon! ~Rebecca

  28. Dear Ms. Fuller,

    My flute sounds very breathy when I play. How can I adjust the head joint to make it sound better? Cleaning does not work. My mom said something about turning it so the lip of the head joint points to the middle of the first key, but that does not work at all.

  29. Hi Hilde, first, make sure your flute is very clean- especially the tendons (joints). Also, always twist when you remove the pieces. Twist. Twist. (instead of pulling straight off) This will help keep your flute pieces in the proper shape so they slide on and off easily. Good luck~ Thanks for the question. Rebecca

  30. Hi Jocelyn, thanks for the comment here. I’m glad you are participating in band- it’s a great place to have friends and play fun music. I completely understand about the pad situation. Humidity does interesting things to instruments- as does overly dry places. Without seeing the flute I can’t tell its condition, but I can tell you that you can have it looked at for free (usually). If it’s playing great, then it’s probably okay for now- keep it in mint condition and you may squeak out another year. Let me know if you have any more questions. Hope to see you soon in a lesson module in the membership area here. ~Rebecca

  31. Hi Rebecca!
    I am a senior in high school and I’d love to go to music school once I graduate… anyhow… my flute is seven years old now. I bought it (or should I say my parents bought it brand new). It’s a Yamaha Advantage student flute. I’m pretty sure everything is in good condition, but since it’s marching band season and it’s really humid where I live I am TERRIFIED for my pads. They’re so expensive to repair and money isn’t super abundant right now. I just want to know if my pads are in good shape and what exactly I should do.

  32. RebeccaFuller

    Hi Ara, yes I teach flute. Every single day. I don’t live near you, (I’m in Utah) but you can take my online lessons here at LearnFluteOnline.com You’ll be able to benefit from my teaching (it’s really good!) even from where you live. Just get signed up for the email list and I’ll let you start the first few lessons free, then you can join us in the membership section of the online studio called the “Gold Level”. See you soon! (enter your name and email in the provided spot on this page) 🙂 Rebecca

  33. ara bouloutian

    do you teach the flute? If so, where are you located?

    I’m in Willow Grove, PA

    If you are not nearby, have any suggestions?

    ara

  34. Hi Kenny, we’re so glad you are here at Learn Flute Online. There are many Ian Anderson fans here learning. And, I think you’re definitely not the only one in the perfect stage of life right now. You’ll love my lessons, they’ll take you further than ever. Keep it up! Rebecca

  35. Geraldine in Oz

    Hi Rebecca, Now that I have reached retirement, I promised myself that I would learn to play the flute … just for the fun of learning it.

    I bought a new flute from a German supermarket chain for ~US$200. It sounds lovely and I can play all the low notes except low C (roller) already. But it’s made in China.

    It has a 60 day full satisfaction guarantee so I can still take it back. **Should I**? Or will it last for my first year of learning?

    What are the common problems with supermarket flutes please?

  36. My wife gave me a Yamaha student flute.Not sure how old it is but it seems to play ok. I’m a harmonica player and thought flute would be fun to try. I’ve been practicing a half hour to an hour a day for about 6 weeks. I’m a Jethro Tull (Ian Anderson) fan so the first song I tried was Bouree, I can almost make it through the whole song. Love it! Can’t wait to try your course. Your YouTube videos have got me to where I am now. Did I mention I’m a 60 year old kid LOL. Thanks for flute’s condition article, I never would have thought to check any of these things.
    Thanks, Kenny

  37. Hi Amritananda, I hope you can find a flute in your area. I have other students in India, and they have found the right flutes at a larger music instrument store in the big city. Let me know what you find. I am curious as to which brands are available in India. Rebecca

  38. amritananda sandy

    Dear Rebecca Fuller Ji, Namastae Ji ! Kindly advise on the purchase of a Concert Flute transversal from you with just one difficulty – Payback in Indian Rupees. If you can -) I am ready for it even if I have to Cut some Meals.
    Thanks. Waiting for your help. – amritananda sandy

  39. Hi Andre, your flute does not need to see a technician unless it is having troubles. If the pads on your flute are sitting nice and flat and you have no problems with your tone, then it’s fine. 🙂

  40. Welcome, Nicola! You’re at a perfect stage to learn. Your children will get so much out of watching you start and stick with a cool skill like this. Good luck! *I love the visual of you blowing the paper around the room. haha 🙂 ~Rebecca

  41. Hi Rebecca,
    I have decided at the age of 36 I want to take up this new challenge and hopefully inspire my children to want to learn too.
    I am waiting for my flute which should be here tomorrow. It is a Jupiter JFL 511E. I am so excited to get it and make all my checks and then follow through your lessons.
    For now I will continue blowing pieces of paper round the room!!

  42. Does my flute need repairing? I have washed my flute before and nothing has seemed to gone wrong. You said in the article that when the pads are not sealing properly the flute needs repair, what do youean by this? As in they don’t lush all the way?
    Happy 2016 -Andre

  43. Hi Anujkumar, I’m glad you’re ready to play the flute. Unfortunately, the lessons in this online program are for the concert flute (transversal). The bansuri won’t have the same skills…

  44. RebeccaFuller

    You’re right, Angela. The Armstrong was a decent brand many moons ago… but I have one just like it waaaaaaay high in my studio closet – it’s so not good compared to the newer ones that are out now. My two favorite flutes for students are these: (nice big tone and durable) http://amzn.to/1QKVGy5 and http://amzn.to/1FlCHIj They’re awesome, you won’t be sorry.

  45. RebeccaFuller

    Cool! I’m glad you are learning more about keeping your flute in shape so it will play well for you. 🙂

  46. Thank you for the tips on how to care and make sure my flute is in good condition. I have an Emerson EF6BOF. Have a wonderful day

  47. Angela Glover

    I am a returning flute student. 60 years old and retired(and on a fixed income), and while I have relearned to read and play many notes, I am still having a hard time with tone, especially the lower notes and today I read that my flute is a terrible flute to learn on. It’s an Armstrong, and I bought it used in the 70’s and haven’t played it in 20 years. What do you think? Should I try to find a used Yamaha or some other brand? Thanks. I am enjoying the gold lessons.

  48. Hi Rebecca,
    I bought my flute last Saturday and I started practising the same day watching your videos. They are very very helpful; 4 days later I can play small songs (basics) with 4 notes.
    Thank you!

  49. RebeccaFuller

    You are very welcome, Mehran. I’m happy you are here learning. 🙂 ~ Rebecca

  50. No, you don’t need new pads. They just get sticky sometimes. The weather oftentimes is the culprit. Just watch them and be careful when cleaning.

  51. Hi Jose, welcome! It’s very possible. There are many, many flute-learning friends here at Learn Flute Online. Join us. 🙂 ~ Rebecca

  52. hy, regards.

    I am 50 years old and had a AVC and now i am trying to play flute and wold like to know if it is possible .
    I live in Brazil .

    Thanks

  53. Thanks for sending this article! There’s one key that makes a noise when I press down…like a sticking noise but doesn’t seem to actually stick …the rest r quiet….do u think it needs new pads? Thanks again,

  54. Hi Anne, thanks for the message here. I actually haven’t had the chance to play the Monique brand. In fact, I’ve never heard of it. But, that doesn’t mean that it won’t do a good job for you right now as a beginner. As long as it is in good condition you can begin with it. At a later date if you feel it will not keep up with your skills you can upgrade to a more reputable brand. Have fun, I’m super excited for you! Rebecca

  55. Hi Rebecca, I am really enjoying the silver modules. I played flute years ago in school, but have basically had to begin all over again at the age of 50! This time I am doing it for me, so I am enjoying it that much more!

    I was given a Monique flute…it seems to be in good condition. However, I have read very negative reviews on the sound and quality of this brand. Do you have any feedback you can provide? I am saving to get a better flute, however, is this one ok to practice on for the time being?

    Thank you very much.

    Sincerely, Anne Loncher

  56. Glad you recognize that your flute needs love and tender care. The screws can get loose, but if you need to take it to a technician who can make it so they don’t loosen so often. Be very careful “dusting” by those rods — I tried that once and messed my whole flute up.. The best practice is to clean your flute and put it away in its case every single day. Prevention is key!! 🙂 ~ Rebecca

  57. My flute is seven years old. The screws loosen themselves due to me screwing them tightly. The dust behind the rods are dusty. I use q-tips to dust my flute.

  58. Hmmmmm, Holly. The screws shouldn’t poke out. Can you send me a picture? It is totally a reality that sometimes they “back” themselves out just with regular playing. I oftentimes have to screw them in on my student’s flutes. I am ALWAYS careful to stop right when it does. NEVER screw it too far at allllll. ~ Rebecca

  59. I’m so glad you did this article. I have a question. There’s a vertical rod going down through the arms leading to the left hand thumb buttons. It’s the rod that holds the buttons on. The screw at the bottom of that vertical rod is poking out a full 2 to 2.5 mm. Is this normal? I don’t recall it poking out before (but my memory is non-existent). And it catches on things like my shirt and other stuff as I move the flute around. Maybe I just never noticed it before.

  60. Hi Alissandra, I don’t have anyone in my studio who has played a Jschmidt, but if it is in GOOD condition, then it’ll do fine for you for a while. Let me know if you have any more questions… there are a lot of good and not so good brands now days. But, I’ve learned that if they are in really great condition then you can do much of your beginner level on it just fine. 🙂 ~ Rebecca

  61. played in grades 5-8….picked it up again 27 yrs. later so really I’m self taught…(thanks for the tips!) I may sign up for some lessons…

  62. RebeccaFuller

    Awesome! So glad you remembered what I said, David. You can do it! 🙂 ~ Rebecca

  63. I logged in as failure, expecting to be one, being ancient. I was because I was totally unable to get a sound from my flute until I remembered your comment about blowing across bottles. I tried with a bottle until it worked, then tried the flute. It works! NOW I WIL LEARN FLUTE.

  64. RebeccaFuller

    I LOVE picturing all of you blowing little bits of paper all over your rooms. It’s FUN, isn’t it?! Rebecca

  65. Thanks Rebecca
    This has been encouraging as I bought an old flute well serviced it seems as its passed all your advice! Busy blowing pieces of paper all over the place and working on the tone and having a good time Thanks best wishes KAY

  66. I see you’ve found your way in Benjamin. I will definitely help you learn to play the flute. It’s my specialty! 🙂 -Rebecca

  67. Rebecca I must thank you for this work you are doing. I just got a flute and I haven’t got a teacher I also just join your learn flute online I wish you could tell me more and help me as well to learn the flute

  68. Hi Revanth, thank you for this message. I will have to say that I do not have information on this site about the bansuri. I am aspiring to compile this information on a different site for you though. Thanks for asking. And, good luck for now. 🙂

  69. rebecca,

    Pls help me in this regard. I’ve bought, a very long back, an Indian Flute. I expected you to be training in that flute too.
    Any tips to me too?

  70. Thanks Eleni! I’m glad you’re here to learn. I’ll be visiting Sweden in May 2014. Can’t wait!

  71. Thank you very much for everything!
    I will tell you soon about my progress !
    You are fantastic !
    Happy new year to you and your loved ones !
    Hugs from Sweden.
    EleniLiverakou

  72. Oh I’m excited for you to continue, Lorraine. Sounds like you have a great flute to learn with. 🙂

  73. Dear Rebecca,
    thank you so, uch for the info on flutes.. I got a lovely new one for Christmas it’s a prelude by conn-selmer . I had a friend who is a professional player test it out and said it was in good condition. I’m so please..I’ve started your silver level and I’m now playing hot cross buns…yay!! I’ll be looking forward to moving on to gold…
    Thank you again and Merry Christmas
    Lorraine from kuwait

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