The Flute is one of the oldest instruments you will come across, and it has undergone incredible changes. It dates back possibly 40,000 years judging by fragments that have been identified as being one. In its earliest form, it was made of bone, but it still possessed the holes and a mouthpiece for blowing air.
In those days, of course, people were not asking how much does a good flute cost? They made them mostly from animal bones. What these finds tell us is that even all those years ago, there was an established musical tradition amongst peoples.
Some can even be still played today, as with the 9000-year-old flute found in Henan, China. That was not a rude creation from a piece of old bone. It was made from bamboo and given a lacquer finish.
Additionally, it has a slightly different design in that the ends were both closed. Furthermore, it seems from the care used to produce it that making flutes was a serious business even then.
Through The Ages
As we move through time, there are mentions of the flute in Sumerian writings and the Bible. Some of these even offer musical texts and tuning instructions. Its use spread, and it became a fundamental part of Indian culture and worship. And as time moved on, so did the designs and the complexity of the instrument until we have what we see today.
But What Constitutes Being Called a Flute?
It would take a complete article to describe the various types of what we could call flutes. Let’s just group them into three distinct variants.
The Fipple Flute
Some flutes like the whistle, the recorder, ocarina, flageolet, and the tin whistle have a built-in duct. That directs the blown air onto the edge of the tone hole. These types of flutes have a very distinct sound and are much easier to play. Having said that, you don’t have the control over the instrument you will find with other flutes.
End Blown Flutes
These are similar in their design in part to Fipple flutes, like a recorder. They are both played in a vertical position, but end-blown flutes do not have a duct directing airflow.
They are not particularly common but are seen in most countries of the world, usually in local folk music. The variants go on to include pan pipes, nose flutes, and the ocarina. They may have a single tube or multiple tubes.
The Flute We Know
When people say “flute,” we get a picture in our mind of a certain style of instrument. A side-blown instrument, usually made of some sort of metal, though it can be made of wood.
This is the instrument we know that you will see played in concert orchestras, bands, and even in rock music. Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull and Thijs Van Leer of Focus are the most common exponents.
The concert Flute, as we call it, is open-ended. This creates its brighter timbre, and the general sound has more in the way of harmonics. They provide flexibility that allows them to be played in varying styles.
The price of this type of flute is what we will look at today…
And the results may surprise you. But let’s break it down into three groups of Flutes before we start because they are all going to be different. Let’s consider Starter or Beginner Flutes, Intermediate, and the Professional player’s Flute.
Before we do that, let’s just consider the evolution of the instrument over the last 50 or so years because it has a bearing on the price of a good flute.
In the 1980s
In those days, as recent as they seem to some of us, there weren’t many options to choose from. And if you lived away from a city, there would have been even less. But these days, things are somewhat different.
And those differences we now see have had a marked impact on the prices of quality instruments at every level. I will come back to that point about quality later.
How Have Things Changed?
There were companies like Selmer in Paris and London that pre-1970 manufactured flutes and other instruments. But then something happened to change the game. You can probably sum it up in one word, Yamaha.
They weren’t the only ones, of course, but they were the most noticeable. They launched their flutes in 1973, and whilst they weren’t universally applauded for their quality, they improved very quickly.
By the 1980s…
They were an excellent flute manufacturer and a much sought-after instrument. Of course, they didn’t stop with flutes and made everything else in the orchestra as well. But that is another story.
The effect was to hold the prices down, as the Japanese options were far cheaper than the European ones. This has affected what you pay for a flute today. To give you an example:
- In 1990, a good quality flute would probably have cost you between $1,200 – $3,000.
- In 2021, you would expect to pay between $700 – $2,000.
Inflation in the intervening years means the flute costing $3,000 in 1990 would have cost you a lot more. Probably around $5000-6000 today without the likes of Yamaha entering the manufacturing arena.
The Pricing Policies
The changes in the pricing are quite dramatic. Although, it must be said that it isn’t all down just to Yamaha. Other manufacturers started to make cost-effective flutes as well.
It all caused the major manufacturers to re-appraise their pricing policy. The good news is the price has been held down, and more people can afford to take up the instrument.
Quality of the Instrument
I referred earlier to “quality instruments.” These days there are recognized quality manufacturers. Yamaha is one of them. But there are plenty of cheaper options around.
Some are okay, but some are not so good, and care needs to be taken. There is also a thriving business in “copies” being made and passed off as originals. Don’t be fooled.
Quality Across the Levels
One last thing about the quality. Just because an instrument is for a beginner doesn’t mean it will be of poor quality. It needs to be of good quality, or the student won’t be able to play it.
The point is, whatever level of flute you are looking for, make sure the quality is as good as you can afford. Let’s turn to the prices you might have to pay.
How Much Does a Good Flute Cost – Resources and Example
As I have just said, if the quality is poor, then the student will find it hard to play. It will end up in the cupboard collecting dust. You will need to try and get the best instrument you can. There will be those on a budget, and so you will need to find a manufacturer with a good reputation that won’t break the bank. Let’s look at a couple of options.
Eastar is a company I have had the opportunity to assess. They provide well-made, good quality flutes made with very good materials. They usually come in a package as well, including case and accessories. An example of one of their packages is the Eastar ‘C’ Closed Hole Student Flute in Nickel
At the top-end, you have this Yamaha YFL-222 Intermediate Flute for Student. This comes with a big reputation and is highly recommended by musicians. It takes the player from student to intermediate level.
The Intermediate Player
For the Intermediate player who may be established in an orchestra or band, you will need to spend a little more. This is a difficult area because you are now looking at needing a very good quality instrument. With that comes a price tag. But in my view, it is still not exorbitant.
Professional Level Instrument
These are just a few of the options, and it seems that every time we look, there is another brand available. That can be good in some cases but not so good if the quality is poor.
Interested in Flutes?
We can help with that. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Student Flute, the Best Flute, the Best Tin Whistles, the Best Ocarinas, the Best Blues Harmonicas, the Best Melodica, and the Best Bagpipes you can buy in 2023.
Also, take a look at our handy articles on How to Learn Flute Notes for Beginners, The Difference Between Brass and Woodwind Instruments, The Baroque Music Period, and The Romantic Period of Music for more useful information about music.
How Much Does a Good Flute Cost – Final Thoughts
Buying an instrument is never as easy as it should be. And with some instruments, it is harder than others. Any instrument like a Flute can have its own set of unique issues to consider. All things are relative in terms of cost, of course. What is expensive to some won’t be to others. That is why I have enclosed two options for each.
There are other manufacturers, of course. For me, Yamaha offers probably the best value for money, but you will find other makers. Some slightly cheaper and some more expensive.
The most important thing you can do is to try to be as careful as you can when buying. The best quality will cost a little more, but it will be worth the extra expense.
Until next time, let the music play.