When you play a woodwind instrument, chances are you will be asked to double on another woodwind. Whether you’re playing in the pit for a musical or you’re part of a jazz band, you may need to be able to double on flute.
If you want to double on flute, you don’t necessarily need to invest in a professional instrument. Find a high quality student flute with a head joint that responds easily and has a good sound. Look for a closed hole instrument with an offset G and a C foot, durable for a variety of uses.
Let’s dig a little about what to look for in a flute for a doubler, and look at some examples of good new and used flutes on the market today.
Why a flute for a doubler?
Woodwind players, especially clarinetist and saxophone players, often double on flute. It’s a great way to get more playing jobs because you’ll be in higher demand.
Woodwind instruments have some characteristics that make picking up the flute and playing it feel natural under the fingers.
While the fingering systems aren’t exactly alike for all woodwinds, but they are similar enough that a good bit of your knowledge of fingerings can transfer to the flute.
It’s also considered fairly standard that a woodwind player for musicals and in the jazz band can double and even triple on instruments. Learning the flute adds an important facet to your playing abilities.
It’s important to begin doubling as early on in your career as you can. It takes time and practice to develop a good flute tone. You can often tell that a clarinet or saxophone player is doubling on flute because they still have a small, airy sound.
What to look for in a doubler flute?
If you want a flute for doubling, you’re probably not in the market for a top of the line professional instrument.
Whether you’re searching for a new instrument or a good quality used one, it’s possible to find a good flute that will suit your needs.
Many doublers use student model flutes. In addition to being more economical, a student flute is probably safer to take on rock or jazz gigs than a very expensive flute.
Closed hole vs. open hole
Doublers often choose to play a closed hole flute – plateau keys. These are generally less expensive models, and they’re easier to play.
When a saxophonist switches to flute, for example, they don’t have to worry about getting their fingers in exactly the right place to close the holes.
If you have an open hole flute, however, you can always plug the holes if you find that works better for you. Some players feel closed holes compromise the overall tone, although that’s debatable. Some feel open hole flutes sound better, others don’t.
Also, if you’re playing in a pit or a jazz band, the tone of a closed hole flute works very well.
C foot vs. B foot
By the same token, a C foot flute will most likely work better for a doubler than a B foot. It’s lighter, making it easier on the hands and arms.
It also responds more easily, especially in the third octave. In addition, you most likely won’t be asked to play a low B very often. Buying a flute with a C foot is also a less expensive choice.
Inline G vs. offset G
As a doubler, it’s a good idea to get a flute with an offset G. It matches the design of the keys on a saxophone better, with the third finger of the left hand set a little further over than the other keys.
An offset G is simply more comfortable to play, because it follows the natural shape of the fingers and the hand.
Split E mechanism
If possible, try to get a flute with a split E mechanism, which makes the high E respond much more easily. For many flute doublers, this note can be difficult to respond.
When play-testing a flute you’re interested in, make sure the head joint is one that responds easily.
Try playing your other instrument(s) then quickly switching to the flute quickly. How easily does it respond? Does it produce a sound with good tonal depth throughout the range of the instrument?
It’s a good idea to get a silver head joint to go with a student level flute as it will improve your tone drastically.
Budget for a doubler flute
Much of the cost of a flute is determined by how much silver it contains. You can find a new flute with a silver head joint for around $750.00.
An instrument with a silver head joint and body costs about $1,500.00, and it’s about $3,000.00 for a flute with a silver head joint, silver body and silver keys.
Best flutes for doublers
The Haynes Commercial is an older model flute that has been popular with doublers for years. Featuring a silver body and keys, this flute is closed hole with an offset G and a C foot.
The Commercial is known for having good projection throughout the range of the instrument, and has a compact tone. Its intonation is excellent.
Since the Haynes Commercial is very durable, if you buy one that’s in good shape, it shouldn’t need much work done on it.
Used Haynes Commercial flutes are selling for around $2,500 to $3,500.
Many doublers use and recommend Yamaha flutes, specifically the Yamaha 222. It is considered a student flute, but is very well made and durable.
The Yamaha 222 has a nickel silver head joint, body and foot joint, with a silver-plated finish. It is closed hole, and it comes with a C foot joint and an offset G.
This flute includes Yamaha’s CY headjoint. The design of this head joint features a double flare taper and an undercut design to the embouchure hole. These specifications give the flute a quick and even response from low to high.
A new Yamaha 222 is about $580.
A top seller, the Armstrong 104 is another favorite among doublers, who appreciate its easy response throughout the registers.
This flute has a silver plated head joint and body. It is closed hole and has an offset G and a C foot.
The keywork has light action, making it easy to play. But it is sturdy and durable, so it’s meant to last.
The Armstrong 104 sells new for about $1,200.
Pearl Quantz 505 with the plateau key option
This model of Pearl flute comes with many options: closed or open holed, inline G or offset G, and a C foot or a B foot. It features a split E mechanism. The instrument is silver plated.
Pearl flutes are well known for having a beautiful tone and excellent intonation and are very popular with doublers.
The Pearl Quantz 505 flute version that is closed holed with an offset G and a C foot sells for $732.
Di Zhao DZ-200 for doublers
Di Zhao flutes are relatively new to the market, but they are highly respected.
The DZ-200 has a silver plated head joint with a sterling silver lip plate. The body and foot joint are silver plated. With an offset G and a C foot, the split E mechanism is also available.
The Di Zhao DZ-200 has closed holes, and is padded by hand to ensure a tight seal that will last. The head joint is hand cut.
The DZ-200 is priced at around $700.
Prelude by Conn-Selmer
Conn-Selmer has been a highly-regarded instrument manufacturer for many years. They are known for providing excellent instruments which are durable and not overpriced.
The Prelude is also a popular choice among doublers. It’s silver plated and comes with a head joint that responds easily. The holes are closed and it has an offset G and a C foot.
This flute has a full, projecting tone and the key action is quick and easy. It is priced at $550.