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Best Irish Flute for Beginners

When starting a new instrument, finding the right balance between the cost and the quality is tricky. Unlike most instruments which are quite easy to find (you can find the usual instruments for an orchestra, like the clarinet or the trumpet, literally anywhere), finding the best Irish flute for beginners is not the easiest task.

Irish flutes are usually not available in store (at least outside Ireland), and most of the time, you don’t get to try one before you buy it (even when you place an order to a flute maker, the first time you’ll try the instrument is… when it’s ready for you). Hence the recurring questions: what is the best Irish flute for beginners?

So the best way to go by is searching for information all over the internet, reading forums, reviews, YouTube videos… Or land on this page and get lucky 🍀 . Let’s dive in!

Price considerations

This is the very first question that comes up: how much is an Irish flute for beginners?. If you look online, Irish flutes prices range from €150 to €3,000 and more. So should you go for the €150 flute or break the bank?

In general, an entry-level Irish flute will cost you between €300 and €500. A serious instrument that will allow you to grow and improve your playing is always handmade by an Irish flute maker. The Irish flute is one of the instruments that is not industrially produced (unlike most woodwind instruments today), thus the higher price tag.

The good news? When you buy an Irish flute, you support someone who’s carrying out an old tradition of flute making, and you directly contribute to his living!

Benefits of buying a serious instrument

Most beginners will be tempted to go for the cheaper options, and buy an “Irish flute” made in India or Pakistan. Not a great idea!

First and foremost, those cheaper flutes will usually feature a bad embouchure cut, making it even harder for you to learn and progress (the embouchure is probably the most challenging part of learning the Irish flute. Imagine learning how to ride a bicycle with one square wheel). You’ll end up selling your flute as quickly as you bought it.

Which brings me to my point number 2: you won’t be able to pass on your cheap flute to someone else, meaning you’ll throw your €200 in the trash.

Think about it: spend €400 for a decent instrument, that you will keep for a while, and get €250 back when you’re ready to move on, or spend €150 on a bad flute, and another €400 once you see for yourself how unusable it is.

Make sure you have all this in mind when allowing yourself a budget for your first real Irish flute.

Should I get a keyed flute?

This is another classic question when choosing a first flute. Short answer is no.

Keys are useful to play alterations and chromatic scales (like in A, or G minor). However, most Irish trad tunes are played in major keys that do not require a fully keyed flute.

irish flute keyed
An Irish flute with keys

And even if one specific tune that you like requires a G# key for instance, you can find workarounds and variations to make it work on your keyless flute. Plus, keys are another thing you’ll have to practice, in addition to learning all the other aspects of the instruments (embouchure, tone, breathing, fingering, ornaments etc).

Pick a maker

There are a lot of makers out there, and the best way to make your mind is to try, which might not be the easiest (plus it looks like flute swap with other players is off the table for a few years with COVID fears). So you have to trust your guts. Below is a short selection of makers who are offering entry-budget quality instruments:

M&E Polymer Flutes : Polymer is durable and won’t crack which is great for a first flute.

Steffen Gabriel: his budget flute goes for €590, and Steffen is one of the top makers and a great flute player.

Steffen Gabriel flutes

Casey Burns: his folk flute at $450 is a bargain, and Casey has been making flutes for years. He has developed ergonomic flutes for smaller hands that should fit every player.

Gary Somers: starting at €145 for a metal flute, and €395 for a polymer flute, Gary offers entry-level instruments that will no disappoint you.

Thompson Flutes: with an entry price at €225, and great quality instrument trusted by many Irish flute players, this is a serious option to consider.

Bear in mind that most makers have a waiting list depending on the demand. So check with each maker before placing an order.

Wrap up

As you have now understood, buying your first Irish flute is key to a great start on your learning path. There’s not one best Irish flute for beginners, but a selection of makers out there that will be able to craft your first genuine instrument.

Feel free to comment below if you want more recommendations on which Irish flute to get, or if you have a suggestion for an entry-level flute maker.