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Upgrading From the Student Model Flute to a Conservatory or Professional Model Flute

By Richard Hahn

Making the transition from an entry level instrument to one that offers professional styling and features is an important step for most students. Often, the ability to successfully transition to a quality instrument at this stage will determine whether or not the student remains committed to playing the instrument. Our research shows that a student can make significant progress when stepping up to an instrument that is more professional in its look, feel and tone. In the process of stepping up, a student often intuitively senses success and accomplishment, and this feeling can become the foundation for continued growth as a player for many years.
Gemeinhardt student model flutes are durably constructed of nickel silver, which is, in turn, heavily silver-plated. The use of nickel silver, in combination with power-coined keys and posts on rib construction enables the instrument to be extremely resistant to the rough treatment which might be associated with use of young and inexperienced students.

A young flutist is ready to graduate to a more sophisticated instrument once they have developed confidence in their technique and tone production, and have acquired a sense of responsibility as to how to properly care for their instrument. However, even after upgrading, it’s a good idea to keep the “old” flute ready for “tough duty” performance situations, such as in marching band, or at athletic events.

In working with students in clinics around the country, I am frequently asked what to look for in the purchase of a step-up model flute. Following are some important factors to consider before buying a new instrument.

While the Gemeinhardt line of student model flutes offers an excellent range of options for developing flutists, for a modest investment, the move to the Conservatory (step-up) model series crosses an important “level of commitment” threshold. These instruments feature solid silver headjoints and a greater emphasis on other solid silver elements in construction, resulting in improved tone and a more immediate response. A solid silver headjoint produces a dramatically clearer tone than that of a plated headjoint. This alone can translate into more excitement and commitment from the player. Additionally, the Conservatory flute models introduce the student to Gemeinhardt’s exclusive multiple headjoint program.

Gemeinhardt’s headjoint selection option results in a variety of tone and response enhancements and offers the student the opportunity to select a headjoint that best fits his/her embouchure and tonal style.

Generally, French, or open-holed model, is the best step-up flute choice, unless the student has extremely small hands or a disability associated with any of the fingers, the flute of choice should also have a low “B” footjoint. Gemeinhardt also offers the option of an in-line or offset G-A key on its French flute models. While the traditional French model flute has been an in-line instrument, many people prefer the offset G-A key, believing that it fits the hand more comfortably.

There is no acoustical differences.

Advantages of the French model flute include:

  • Encourages good hand position development, which, in turn improves technique.
  • Produces a more resonant tone which will carry better.
  • Provides the ability to use special fingering which involves partially covering the holes.
  • This is important for adjusting the pitch when playing at extreme dynamic levels.
  • Enables the student to play quarter-steps and other pitch alterations required by many modern compositions.
  • Allows for multi-phonics tone production – the ability to play more than one note at a time.

Advantages of the low “B” footjoint include:

  • Reduces the tendency for the instrument to play sharp in the 3rd register while increasing the darkening of the 3rd register’s tone color so that it better matches the lower registers.
  • Gemeinhardt includes a special key commonly called a “gizmo key”, which facilitates the accurate production of high “C”.
  • The ability to reach the 4th octave, an octave that cannot be played on an instrument lacking the low “B” footjoint.

Gemeinhardt professional model flutes feature thin-walled headjoints and pointed pad cups. Thin-walled headjoints allow quicker response and increased tonal resonance, while the pointed pad cups transfer the motion of the key to the center of the pad cup, helping to eliminate the possibility of leakage in pads which are not covered by the fingers. The professional model flutes also often have white gold springs, which allow for a lighter and quicker action, making more difficult musical passages less technically challenging to play. Gemeinhardt’s professional model flutes are custom instruments, hand-assembled and finished. They are the product of the most experienced and skilled of Gemeinhardt’s artisans.

The wide-ranging options available in both Conservatory and Professional model flutes allows a player to select the instrument that best fits his or her particular preferences and needs. The variety of flute models and options available on the market today inevitably makes the decision-making process more complex. For this reason, I encourage those at the point of graduating to a Conservatory or Professional model flute to ask for guidance from a teacher or by authorized Gemeinhardt dealer. Gemeinhardt sales representative are trained to answer questions and provide counsel, but even more importantly, they can offer a customer the opportunity to play a variety of instruments. The ability to compare instruments before buying is critical to making the best possible selection.

It is important to stress that, regardless of the model of flute, Gemeinhardt continually places paramount emphasis on high quality. Every Gemeinhardt flute is hand-finished and carefully tested to ensure that all aspects of the mechanism are functionally accurate and reliable.