Should you spend $400 on a flute, or $40,000?

Should you spend $400 on a flute, or $40,000?


norman lebrecht

November 07, 2017

The entertaining Flute Channel stages a showdown in Montreal.

If you’re a flutie, you cannot afford to miss this.


  • Pianofortissimo says:

    The sound of the dollar!

  • Bruce says:

    Interesting for a layperson, but nothing in the video is news for a professional. Trying out flutes is always fun though 🙂

    People usually just sound like themselves, no matter what kind of instrument they’re playing. I’ve bought a few new flutes over my career, and I’ve also had periods where my practicing increases or decreases. Nobody’s ever noticed I have a new flute unless I tell them; increased practicing always attracts compliments.

    That said, the quality of the instrument does make a difference: a top-quality racing-car driver would still be a top-quality racing driver if you put him/her behind the wheel of a 1998 Toyota Corolla, but their performance in a race would be limited by what their Corolla was capable of. On the other hand, a Ferrari’s potential would be wasted on someone who could barely drive. (On the other other hand, Ferrari will be happy to take your $200,000+ regardless of your ability as a driver. I remember working with a lady once who liked to talk about her collection of fancy instruments: “I like the Powell for chamber music because it brings out the intimate colors within my sound, but I like my white gold Muramatsu for orchestra because it’s richer and has more carrying power” or some such blather. Meanwhile, she played at the level of a promising 7th-grader. But hey, she was doing her part to keep the flute makers in business!)

    • herrera says:

      “she played at the level of a promising 7th-grader”

      You should hear her play without her white gold Muramatsu… 😉

    • Jay Miller says:

      It’s called having a rich husband.

      “Men are like linoleum floors. Lay ’em right and you can walk all over them for thirty years.”

  • BillG says:

    Generalize observation, the better the musician the better the musician can make any instrument sound.

    Several years ago at the International Horn Society annual convention one program was set up to demonstrate whether or not audience could differentiate between different horn manufacturers. Several top players each played a series of four different makes of horns. The audience really weren’t good at telling the differences between the horn, but many could identify some if not all of who was playing the instrument.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    There is a careful blind test study done with flutes made of widley varying materials, from nickel to gold and everything in between.

    Neither players nor listeners could reliably discern among them.

    (I’d put the link here but when I do the comment is rejected)

    Of course build quality counts but it seems that one need not budget for exotic materials to have a fine flute.

  • Cyril Blair says:

    Great advice that you should buy the instrument that suits your abilities – before you have any, get a basic instrument. It made me think of Alan Rusbridger, the Guardian editor, who was a mediocre pianist taking up piano again in late middle age with a Fazioli.