What should you look for in a step-up flute?

What makes intermediate flutes a “step-up” from beginner flutes?

Step-up flutes bridge the gap between a beginner flute and models used by professionals. Slight changes in materials, construction, and features add up to big changes in sound.

Some features have become so popular, they are now considered standard on step-up flutes. 

What features are standard on a step-up flute?


You’ll want this extra key to be able to play some pieces of music, so it comes standard on all of our step-up flutes and professional flutes. When you get a B-foot flute, you’ll also get a key called the “gizmo” key. This key is used to make the highest C on the flute speak easier. The Amadeus Flute 780 and Trevor James Virtuoso are examples of step-up flutes with a B-Footjoint.

C FootjointB Footjoint

Open Hole

To make things easier for young flutists, some beginner flutes feature keys with closed holes. On an open hole flute, air can flow out of the open holes creating a positive effect on tuning and sound. This feature comes standard on step-up and professional flutes because it is so popular. The Azumi flute and Powell Sonare Flute have open holes as a standard feature. 

Closed HoleOpen Hole

Off-set G

Years ago, having a G key that was exactly aligned with the rest of the keys or “inline,” was standard, even for professional flutes. Today, makers are using a more natural position of the G key that is a little to the side or “off-set” of the rest of the keys. Many players find playing with an off-set G feels comfortable and natural, which is why the off-set G is standard on all of our step-up flutes. Don’t worry! You can still special order an inline G key, if that's what you prefer.  Northbridge flutes come standard with off-set G keys.

Inline GOff-set G

What else makes step-up flutes different from beginner flutes?

The following features are added as a matter of preference. Some step-up flutes include them, and some do not. The player will decide on these features based on budget and how the flute sounds.

Silver Handmade Headjoint

This is one of the most helpful tools for intermediate players to find a mature sound! Having a headjoint made by hand gives many step-up flutes that unique, colorful sound, found in professional instruments. Some professional brands created entire intermediate lines of flutes that include hand cut headjoints from their professional line paired on an intermediate flute body. The result is an economical flute that students have plenty of room to grow into. Whether the body and mechanism of the flute is silver or silver-plated, having a handmade headjoint can make a huge difference in sound. Powell adds their Signature Headjoint to Sonare Flutes and Haynes adds their Classic or Amadeus handmade headjoint to Amadeus flutes.

Amadeus flute with silver handmade headjointPowell Sonare flute with silver handmade headjoint

Split E Mechanism

The split E mechanism can make the note high E speak easier.  Some players prefer Split E and some don’t - it's completely a matter of preference! Split E has additional metal components, so it is an added weight and cost to the flute. An alternative solution is the high E facilitator or G disc. This creates the same effect of ease and can be added at any time for a more moderate cost than split E mechanism. This Yamaha 677 Flute offers the option to add a split-E mechanism.

No Split E MechanismWith Split E Mechanism

C# trill key

C# trill is used to facilitate special trill fingerings between B-C#, C-C#, high G-A, and others. The C# Trill makes these trills easier because you are using a strong finger to wiggle between the notes (the right hand index finger) instead of weaker fingers in the left hand. This is also an added metal component, and adds additional weight to the flute. While C# trill may make it easier to play some trills, is it still completely possible to have accurate trills without a C# trill key. It is also a matter of preference! This Di Zhao 700 Flute offers the option to add a C# Trill key to make technical passages a breeze.

Without C# Trill KeyWith C# Trill Key