The flute is a relatively easy woodwind instrument to learn, so your child can start learning the flute reasonably young.
What is the Flute?
The flute is a musical instrument from the woodwind family. Unlike other woodwind instruments, a flute produces its sound from the flow of air against an edge, instead of using a reed.
The first flutes date back several hundred years and were typically made from animal bone. While wind instruments such as recorder and tin whistle are considered a type of flute, the “flute” as we understand it today is known as the Western Concert Flute and, along with it’s smaller cousin the piccolo, is ‘side-blown’ – producing a tone by blowing through a hole at the top of the instrument and playing it ‘side-on’.
A musician who plays the flute is generally referred to as either a flautist (common term) or a flutist (correct term).
Flute tones are sweet in character and blend well with other instruments.
The flute is commonly found in orchestras and some jazz groups.
Where do you learn the Flute?
Most primary and secondary schools offer flute tuition – including flute – as an extracurricular activity. Your child could hire a flute for a minimal cost, which includes the tuition plus the opportunity to perform in the school’s orchestra or music group.
The tutors are usually of a high calibre and are experienced musicians. This is a great platform to get your child started on the flute in an environment which fosters their creativity.
The other options are private and academy tuition.
Music schools and academies generally offer both group and individual flute tuition. Many families start their children in a class environment, then move to individual tuition as their child progresses on the instrument.
Many private teachers work from a home studio. Most have been classically trained and are well qualified to provide your child with tuition and advice.
What age can your child start learning the Flute?
Because the flute doesn’t require the more difficult mouthing techniques of the woodwind (reed) instruments and the fingering is less difficult (clarinet for example requires the child to have reasonably long developed fingers), formal tuition can start as young as six or seven.
By this age, your child probably has a good reading ability, which is essential for formal flute study. They should also have the attention span required to practice regularly and concentrate in class. It’s a good idea to have a teacher assess your child’s readiness.
Some teachers recommend starting your child on recorder first, perhaps beginning at age five. There are several reasons for this; it requires less breath control than other woodwind instruments, so your child can produce a sound more easily. Being smaller and lighter it’s easier to handle and the fingering is fairly logical, and the flute follows a similar fingering pattern as your child progresses to the more complex instrument.
How do you progress over time?
Depending on their musical interests and styles – classical or jazz – many young flutists choose to pursue a more formal examination method of progress.
Examinations start at beginner level through eight grades and a diploma. Such a course of study provides the opportunity for students to develop the necessary skills and techniques to encourage several years of playing.
Your child will be encouraged to pursue either Trinity College of Music or The Royal School of Music (ABRSM) examinations. Their tutor will advise them as to the most appropriate examination system for them
In addition to practical examinations, your child will be encouraged to undertake theory study, usually through one of the above music examination schools. The combination of theory and practical provides a solid base for a life-long interest in music.
What equipment do you need to learn the Flute?
All flutes should come with a hard carry case. You will find a music stand to be helpful as it assists the player to read the music clearly while maintaining a good posture. Music stands range from $25 – $60.
How much does it cost to learn the Flute?
There are two types of flute available – silver plated and the more expensive solid silver head and body.
Silver plated ones are more than adequate for the student and new ones start from around the $1200 mark. Solid silver ones start from $2500 – $3000, and the higher quality models retail for more than $10,000!
It is well worth considering a second-hand model, where a player has upgraded. It pays to shop around and you could find a good quality pre-owned student model from about $695.
If you start with a recorder first, a plastic model can be purchased for $10 – $12 in most music stores.
You may want to consider hiring your child a flute in the first instance. This will allow them the opportunity to consider if the flute is the instrument best suited to them, without the outlay for a full-priced instrument in the initial stages of learning.
There are several hire options available –monthly, six and twelve-monthly. The six and twelve monthly options coincide with the school year and may not be available in the latter part of the year.
Minimum hire is usually three months. Expect around $30 per month hire fee.
Most music stores around the country offer such a hire-to-buy scheme. Should your child choose to continue with the flute, a portion of your hire fee is deducted from the retail price of the instrument.
The cost of lessons varies depending on whether your child begins with class or individual tuition. You can expect to pay around $18 – $25 for a 30 minute individual lesson.
How much time does it take to learn the Flute?
Beginner’s lessons are generally 30 minutes in duration (up to an hour for more advanced players). There are usually 10 lessons per term, four terms each year, coinciding with the school terms.
Then there is additional practice required by the pupil, most teachers advocating a minimum of 30 minutes additional practice daily.
Once the breathing and blowing technique has started to develop, your child can be playing simple flute pieces within a few weeks.
Should they choose to head down the formal examination path, the player will be looking at a commitment of several years as they progress through the grades and learn to master their instrument.
Great Flute Websites
This website is the ultimate source for online flute-related information on the Internet.
The National Flute Association website – a non-profit institution and the largest flute organisation in the world. Join the Flutist Quarterly newsletter.