Many people who are interested in learning to read and play music gravitate towards the flute, since this instrument has a sweet sound and is fairly inexpensive compared to other instruments like the piano or the violin.
So, how long will a flute last? Most flutes will last up to thirteen years with proper care. Of course sometimes parts need to be replaced, but for the most part they can last decades. Most flutes do not even need major overhauls like metal repairs for at least ten years.
Whether you just picked up a flute, or have had one for a while now, this article goes over all the basics for flute longevity and care. Let’s read on!
How Often Should a Flute be Serviced?
Most experts agree that a flute should receive regular service every six to twelve months. These services typically include a thorough cleaning and oiling, the removal of small dents, inspections of the case, felt, and cork, as well as a check for air leaks. If you are looking for a good quality cleaning kit, I recommend this Instrument Clinic Kit. It has everything you need to clean and maintain your flute.
Other services for flute maintenance include, pad inspections and replacements that you may be able to do yourself. All other major aspects of a routine flute service should be left to professionals.
How Often Do Flute Pads Need to be Replaced?
Flute pads normally last for at least three years, and they may last for up to six until they need to be replaced if you keep your flute fairly clean. Luckily, in addition to flute pad replacement being an infrequent task, it is very easy, albeit time consuming, for flute owners to replace these pads themselves. Here is a simple but professional flute pad replacement kit, that comes with everything you need to do it yourself.
To replace flute pads, you simply need to unscrew the flute’s keys, then pull the old pads out of the pad cups. It is best to place all of these delicate parts on a towel. If the old keypads stick, they may have been glued on. Heating the flute will unstick the old pads.
Measure the new pads by checking to see if they fit in each cup. You can add new adhesive, but this is optional. As you place the new pads, be sure to check for any leaks.
How Often Should a Flute be Overhauled?
Hopefully, your flute will not need any major repairs, or overhauls, for quite some time, especially if you are diligent about getting annual or semi-annual flute services done. However, most flutes may need some sort of major repair after about a decade.
Good quality flutes from established brands like Yamaha will generally benefit from an overhaul. This is because the metal and design these flutes are made of, are meant to withstand an overhaul such as repairing a large dent or crack in the metal. Major repairs can make them playable once more.
In contrast, there is really no point in overhauling a cheaply made flute, as the poor quality of the metal and design cannot be fixed in this way. Overall, it is best to invest in a well-made flute, as proper care can only do so much for a cheap flute.
Check out the end of this article to see my top recommended flutes.
How Is a Flute Kept Clean?
To keep a flute clean and in good condition between service appointments, it is important to wash your hands and, if possible, brush your teeth before you ever play your flute. Keeping your hands and mouth clean will greatly decrease the chances of your flute pads becoming sticky.
Flutes should also never be left out in the air for extended periods of time, as the metal may become tarnished. Many of the delicate parts can get bent easily on a flute as well, especially if the flute is out left on a chair, which is how many of them get sat on. You can also purchase a carry case like this one, to ensure your flute is well protected when not in use.
Lastly, flute players should be mindful of loose screws or stiff joints. If a flute resists being taken apart, the joints need to be cleaned with a dry cloth to get rid of old grease and debris. Loose screws can be tightened in small doses to keep the screws from remaining too loose or becoming too tight.
How Can the Condition of a Flute be Checked?
Some people wait to take their flutes for servicing until they notice an issue like a leaky key instead of going every six to twelve months. While it is best to prevent any issues by having routine services done, it does not hurt to know the signs of a flute with a worsening condition.
Tonal problems tend to be caused by dents or nicks in the metal. If your flute sounds off no matter how much you tune, look for any such scratches or dents. Stubborn keys that do not want to move are often a sign that pads need replaced, and they may look frayed or puffy.
You can also check the cork in your flute by unscrewing the head and looking in it. This cork should be right beneath a metal plate, and you should never mess with it, only note if it is positioned correctly. If not, your flute will probably have a horrible air leak.
My Top Picks for Best Flutes
Jean Paul- Silver Plated Flute– This is a great flute for intermediate students.
Mendini Closed Hole C Flute– This cool flute has an offset G key and split E key with 16 keys. It also comes in many colors!
C Key Dizi Bitter Bamboo Flute– This is a simple beginners bamboo flute, and it comes with some cool accessories.
Flutes are a wonderful instrument with a lovely sound. They can last decades if you choose a quality brand and care for your flute properly. Most maintenance should be left to skilled technicians, and should be done between 6-12 months. Remember to keep your flute clean and never leave it out when you are not playing.