Thursday, February 21, 2013

Parents' Guide to Purchasing a Step-Up Flute

Linda Fisher
We featured Royalton Music Center in North Royalton, Ohio in one of our earlier posts, highlighting their music therapy program:  They also have a very busy lesson program for wind, string, and voice students.  Flute Instructor Linda Fisher recently shared her guide to purchasing step-up flutes with us.  Linda's guide was designed to answer some of the essential questions she receives from parents on the topic of step-up flutes.  We will share her guide in several posts, beginning with some of the essentials:

Question 1: Why does my child need a new flute?
That's usually the first question parents ask themselves when their child's teacher recommends a "step up or intermediate" flute.  Think of it this way, your budding musician has now reached the limitations of a student model -- that's great!  What limitations?  A flute is a flute, right?  Well, yes and no.  All flutes have three parts:

A headjoint – which is the part we blow across.

The body – where our fingers press the keys down (the middle section).  On an “open-holed” flute, the keys that our fingers press down actually have holes in them.  It’s hard to have bad hand position if you have to keep holes closed!

The foot – the bottom section of the flute.  On a step up flute, an additional key (B) is added – this gives the player access to notes that were not previously available on the student model.

Question 2: Why is the headjoint so important?
The part of the flute we blow across is the headjoint.  Eighty to ninety percent of our sound comes from this part.  One way to make the tone different is to make the headjoint out of a different material.  The first choice for step up flutes is to make the headjoint out of sterling silver.  Try this exercise, ring a silver plated bell.  Now ring a sterling silver bell.  Notice the tone on the sterling silver bell has a ring to it – almost a deeper, richer tone.  That’s the sound we are looking for in a flute.  But it doesn’t end there.  Some flutes have a higher content of silver than others.  Well, if it has more silver, then it’s better, right?  Not necessarily!  The best one is the one that sounds the best for YOUR flute player.

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