Looking for a new Flute or Piccolo? Here's my advice.
How to choose a new flute or piccolo
Try many instruments. Every instrument is different, especially if you are getting into silver intermediate or professional flutes or wooden piccolos. At this level, headjoints are usually handmade so each one is different. There are many things to think about. Here is a brief list in several price ranges.
Under $1000 –
In this price range you will mostly find silver plated flutes and piccolos, or composite piccolos. These are mostly just more expensive student models. You must spend over $1000 if you want to upgrade your student model, whether it has open holes or not.
You can find MANY nice flutes in this range. The higher the price, the more silver. You want at least a silver headjoint for improved response. These usually have hand cut embouchure holes. The most consistent brand in this price range is DiZhao. They are easy to play and the intonation is great. The DZ 400 and DZ500 have silver headjoints with silver plated body. The DZ 600 has a silver head and bode with silver plated key work.
Powell Sonare flutes are nice. You have to try a few, even the same style, to find one that you like. When you find that one, it will be awesome. Models PS501 & PS 505 are under $2000. Trevor James also makes a nice, easy to play flute in this price range. Try the Cantabile Voce model. Pearl also makes very nice flutes. I find them to be very heavy and prefer the models that are over $2000.
Top pick here is the Azumi AZ3. All silver with a hand cut Altes Headjoint. You have to try a few because the cut on the headjoint is different and takes some getting used to. Muramatsu has one model in this price range. It is silver plated but most Muramatsus are beautifully made and this is a great step-up option, especially if you buy directly from Muramatsu, because you can trade it in when you’re ready to step up again.
There will also be many fine, used flutes in this price range. Powell, for instance and Haynes. Even the older flutes are wonderful. Another option is a new headjoint. If you have an older silver flute and like the way it feels in your hands but don’t love the tone you are producing, just get a new headjoint. This can make a huge difference and will be in this price range, depending on the material. You will have to try a lot of these to make sure it doesn’t mess with the intonation of your flute.
NOTE - Buyer Beware!!! Please stay away from brands on the internet. Brands like Hunter, Mendidi, Eastar, EastRock, Kaiser, Glory, Jean Paul USA, Cecilio, Lazarro, Hisonic, Etude, Ammoon, Prelude, Merano, Flanger, Libretto, Herche, and any other flute of this type. These types of flutes will play for a couple weeks. They are not repairable and are a waste of money. Stick to the known brands, made by flute makers.
These are just guidelines. You must try flutes, many flutes, before you step up to a new one. Always have someone with you when you are trying flutes, either your teacher or a professional at a store that sells only flutes. A non-flutist cannot give you the right advice. DON’T BUY AN INTERMEDIATE OR HIGHER FLUTE ONLINE!!!!! I can’t stress this enough. You have to try more than one no matter what the brand is. When I have a student who wants/needs a new flute, I have a selection sent in to play test. This is no charge to anyone but if you can’t get to a store that sells only flutes, this is the next best option. DON’T BUY A FLUTE ONLINE!!!!!
It’s even harder to select a piccolo. If it’s a wood piccolo, many factors come into play. Play atleast a dozen and make sure the intonation is good and that you can easily play a high C. Many composite piccolos are great. Pearl, Gemeinhardt, Jupiter and Yamaha make awesome piccolos under $1500. Even used, these instruments are reliable and play well, as long as they have been maintained.
NOTE - Buyer Beware!!! DO NOT buy a piccolo online. Don’t go to Amazon thinking you’re getting a good deal. You would just get a cheap piccolo that doesn’t play, you’ll get frustrated and quit, when in fact, it’s the awful instrument, not you.