How to Find the Best Irish Flute: Our Top Favorite Picks

Do you listen to Irish tunes, wishing you could play them? Consider figuring out how to find the best Irish flutes. Then, you can start to play the music you enjoy on an authentic instrument. Whether you play the concert flute or not, the Irish flute is great. You can play a lot of music on it, and you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to get a good instrument.

What Is The Irish Flute?

Irish Flute

The Irish flute is a type of flute that players use to play Irish music. It’s similar to historical flutes from the Baroque and early Classical eras in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Most Irish flutes use wood, but you can find some that use polymer or other materials. That can be a good option because caring for a wooden instrument is a lot different than caring for a metal one. It has a conical bore, meaning that one end of the tube is slightly bigger than the other. Meanwhile, the concert flute has a cylindrical bore, so the tubing is the same width throughout.

You can learn the Irish flute if you already play the “regular” concert flute. But you don’t have to play the modern metal flute to learn the Irish flute.

How To Find The Best Irish Flutes

Whether you’re new to music entirely or have experience with the flute, the Irish flute is a great instrument to try. You can play a lot of great Irish and folk music on it, and it’s not as complex as the metal flute.

Still, you should know how to find the best Irish flutes. Then, you don’t waste money on a cheap instrument that you’ll have to replace after a few months.

Know The Types Of Irish Flutes

Whistle Key

The standard Irish flute is a wooden, transverse flute that you try off to the side. But you might also come across the Irish whistle or tin whistle. You play the tin whistle similar to a recorder, so you blow into the end of the flute. The tin whistle is also smaller and plays higher notes than the Irish flute.

However, both instruments have the same fingerings. If you want to try Irish music before committing to an Irish flute, the tin whistle is a good option.

Decide Between New And Used Flutes

As with anything, you have to consider if you want to buy a new or used Irish flute. Because Irish flutes aren’t that common, you may need to search around for a good one. Finding a new one will probably be easier than finding a used model. However, opening yourself up to both types of Irish flutes will give you more options to try and compare.

Then, you won’t have to wait as long until you get an Irish flute. But while you wait, you can practice on the tin whistle to learn some Irish music.

Consider Your Budget

Irish flutes come at a variety of price points, so you should know how much you can afford to spend. Some Irish flutes cost less than $200 while others cost about $2,500.

Knowing your budget before you start flute shopping can help you search for the right instrument for you. Then, you don’t have to spend time trying flutes that you can’t afford.

Know Your Schedule

Wooden Irish flutes require a lot more maintenance than a metal flutes. You can’t just use your daily routine of swabbing the flute and calling it done. A wooden flute requires regular oiling to keep the wood from drying out. And when you first get a new Irish flute, you will need to slowly break it in before you can play it as much as you want.

If you don’t have the time to break in and maintain the wood, you can look for a polymer or plastic model. Then, you can get a good instrument that doesn’t require as much time outside of playing.

Learn The Technique

Irish Flute 1

You should also learn the fingerings and embouchure for the Irish flute. If you play the tin whistle, the fingers should transfer over, depending on if you get an Irish flute with keys or not. But you’ll also need to adjust your embouchure to match the smaller hole. I’ve played a Baroque flute, which is very similar to an Irish flute, and you can’t use the same mouth formation as with the flute.

If you have access to a piccolo, that can give you a good idea of how to form your lips for the Irish flute. Then, you won’t have to spend as much time learning the technique once you get the instrument.

Test Multiple Irish Flutes

If possible, consider testing at least a couple of Irish flutes. You may find one design or wood is easier for you to play than another, and that can help you choose which model to buy.

Unlike other instruments, at-home trials aren’t as easy for the Irish flute. Some stores may not want to ship them out for trials and have the wood be in a truck without climate control, but you can travel to a music store with plenty of Irish flutes.

Listen To Irish Flutes

If you can’t travel to a store or test Irish flutes yourself, you can find recordings and videos of the instruments. Then, you can get an idea of what it takes to play and get a sound on one of the models that interest you.

You may decide you want to spend money on a trip to try Irish flutes yourself. Or you could hear one Irish flute and know that it’s the instrument for you. Joanna from JustAnotherFlutist has tried a couple of Irish flutes on camera that you can see and listen to.

Keep The Trials Consistent

If you do get to try a couple of Irish flutes, make sure you keep as many elements the same as possible. Try to play the instruments in the same climate and at the same time of day.

Use the same excerpts, scales, and pieces to focus on comparing the tone colors, and feel of each instrument. If you play different things on the flutes, you will have to compare those factors, which can make choosing a flute harder.

The Best Irish Flutes

When shopping for any type of flute, you need to start with some of the best options on the market. While there aren’t as many Irish flutes as concert flutes, there are a lot out there.

And there are quite a few cheap models that don’t deserve your time or money. To make your Irish flute shopping easier, check out some of the following instruments.

Windward Flute, Maple Wood

Flute

Windward Flutes are from Canada, but they’re similar to any Irish flute from Ireland or any other country. The Maple Wood flute doesn’t have any keys, so you need to be able to cover the holes to play it.

This flute uses heat-treated maple wood for the body, and there are African Olivewood rings. It has a Prowse style embouchure, which is similar to other simple-system flutes, like the Baroque flute.

The flute is in the key of D, but it plays in concert pitch. D is the lowest note, rather than C like on a metal flute. You’ll get a soft case with compartments for each of the three pieces of this instrument.

Pros

  • Great sound
  • Looks good
  • Easy to play

Cons

  • Quite expensive

Windward Flute, African Olivewood

Windward Flute, African Olivewood

Another great Irish flute from Windward is the African Olivewood model. It has a lighter color than the maple flute, but it still looks and sounds good.

The flute features grenadilla rings and a single billet. This model has a Riley-style embouchure, which is a bit more rectangular than the other style. If you use a lot of air when you play, this embouchure style could be easier for you.

You will get this flute in a hard case, which is super nice if you plan to take it with you to different places. Like the previous flute, this one has a range down to low D.

Pros

  • More versatile
  • Good for a lot of players
  • Comes with a protective case

Cons

  • Pretty expensive

Windward Flute, Olive Wood

Windward Flute, Olive Wood

You should also consider the Olive Wood Irish flute from Windward. This model is a darker wood than the African olivewood, but it’s not as dark as the maple.

Like the maple instrument, this one features a Prowse style embouchure, which is great for smaller airstreams. It has grenadilla rings, and the lowest note you can play is D.

Unfortunately, this model is one of the most expensive Irish flutes out there. If you want to upgrade from your current Irish flute, though, this could be the right choice for you.

Pros

  • Good sound
  • Small embouchure hole
  • Perfect for professionals and advanced amateurs

Cons

  • Not for beginners

Windward Flute, Mopane Wood

Windward Flute, Mopane Wood

The last Windward Flute you should try if possible is the one in Mopane Wood. A lot of piccolo headjoints use mopane, so it could be a good choice if you’ve played with that wood on the piccolo.

This model has the Prowse style embouchure, which is very similar to that on a historical flute. It has African Olivewood rings, and the wood is dark so can blend in with other Irish and wooden flutes.

You get the flute in a nice hard case and cover to help protect it when you aren’t playing. And like the other Windward flutes, this one plays down to a low D.

Pros

  • Sounds and looks good
  • Great for professionals

Cons

  • Pretty expensive
  • Not for students

The Essential Flute

The Essential Flute

If you want something more affordable and available in different keys, consider The Essential Flute. This instrument comes in Bb, C, and D, and you can choose from woods such as cherry and curly maple.

The instrument comes in one piece, so you don’t have to worry about assembling or disassembling it. However, that does mean that you can’t tune the instrument.

You’ll need to focus your air so that you can keep the instrument at the right pitch. But it’s a nice option for more casual players who want something easy.

Pros

  • Easy to play
  • More affordable
  • Variety of options

Cons

  • Can’t adjust the tuning

Galeon Delrin Pratten Irish Flute

Galeon Delrin Pratten Irish Flute

The Galeon Delrin Pratten Irish Flute is a fantastic choice for a lot of players. It has a rectangular embouchure hole that both beginners and professionals can play.

You can choose between three or four pieces, so the instrument is tunable. If you go with three pieces, you also have the option to get ergonomic holes so your ring fingers don’t have to reach as far.

This model does have bigger holes, so you should have big hands and fingers. The instrument can come with or without a tuning slide.

Pros

  • Tunable
  • Multiple options
  • Ergonomic

Cons

  • Only in one wood

Randal Hauck Polymer D Flute

Randal Hauck Polymer D Flute

If you don’t want to deal with maintaining wood, consider the Randal Hauck Polymer D Flute. This model is in the key of D, and it comes with a brass tuning slide to help you play the right pitches.

The flute has the same design found on historical flutes from the classical era, with a conical bore. You can disassemble the flute to make storage easier, and it has the standard six holes you find on other Irish flutes.

Pros

  • Great for beginners
  • Affordable
  • Low maintenance

Cons

  • Sound isn’t as rich

The Lon Dubh Polymer Irish Flute

dubh polymer irish flute

Another non-wood model to try is The Lon Dubh Polymer Irish Flute. The flute uses a dense polymer to make the instrument durable and suitable for playing in any climate.

It has holes and no keys, so you can learn on it and move to a wooden flute later. You can get a rich sound on the instrument, which is great if you don’t want to worry about using wood at any point.

The materials won’t break down, so this flute will last for decades. Then, you can pass it down to your kids or grandkids if they want to play the Irish flute.

Pros

  • Great for players of all levels
  • Sounds fantastic
  • Durable

Cons

  • Tail joint doesn’t always fit securely

Cygnet Irish Rosewood Flute

The Cygnet Irish Rosewood Flute with Foam Lined Box

The Cygnet Irish Rosewood Flute is a fantastic choice for beginners who want to try a wooden model. It’s pretty affordable and easy to play, and you can even get a good sound on the low D. This model offers a woody and mellow tone, and you can play it at a good volume. Intonation isn’t a problem, which is great if you want to play music with other people.

Pros

  • Great for beginners
  • Easy to play
  • Tuning is excellent

Cons

  • Joints don’t fit perfectly

The Irish Cocuswood Flute

The Irish Cocuswood Flute

Cocuswood is a relatively common woodwind instrument wood, so consider The Irish Cocuswood Flute. The flute offers a bright, full tone, so you can stand out as a soloist or in a group. Beginners and intermediate players can use this instrument to get a good sound, so you don’t have to upgrade as quickly. It’s in the key of D, and it comes with a tuning slide to help you adjust the pitch.

You’ll get the instrument in a protective case, so you don’t have to worry about damaging the flute. Then, you can take it to rehearsals or store it more easily.

Pros

  • Easy to play
  • Versatile
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Requires quite a bit of maintenance

McNeela African Blackwood Flute

McNeela African Blackwood Flute

The McNeela African Blackwood Flute is one of the best options for concert flute players. Another name for African blackwood is grenadilla, which is the standard wood for piccolos and other woodwinds. You can use it to get a good, warm sound, and it’s not too expensive. This model responds easily to your playing, so you don’t have to work too hard as a beginner.

It has cork on the joints, which also makes it a good transitional instrument for western music players. Everything comes in a protective case for transportation and storage.

Pros

  • Great transitional instrument
  • Suitable for beginners and advanced players
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Case is a little lopsided

FAQs

Question: Is the Irish flute hard to learn?

Answer: The Irish flute can be easy to learn, but it can also be difficult. You need to be able to form a small (not tight) embouchure with your lips to get a good sound.
If you play the concert flute, you also have to learn some different fingerings to play the correct notes on the Irish flute. The biggest thing to learn is that the F natural on the metal flute and the F# on the Irish flute share the same fingering.
You also have to learn how to place your fingers so that they cover the holes. This isn’t a huge issue if you’ve played an open hole flute, but it can be difficult if you have smaller hands.

Question: How many holes does an Irish flute have?

Answer: Most Irish flutes have six holes, and those are the holes you cover with your fingers. You’ll use the first, second, and third fingers of each hand to cover those holes.
Some models have two extra holes on the tail joint that are there for decoration. You can’t reach them with your pinky, so you shouldn’t have to worry about playing them.

Question: How big is an Irish flute?

Answer: An Irish flute is about 23 inches long, and the bore is about the same as that of a western concert flute. The average Irish flute weighs just under two pounds.
Specific weights and measurements can depend on the Irish flute you buy. Some woods may weigh more than others, so it’s important to compare those when looking at the best Irish flutes.

Question: What can you play on an Irish flute?

Answer: You can play a lot of Irish folk music on the Irish flute. It’s also a suitable instrument for a lot of music from the 17th and 18th centuries because the Irish flute is similar to concert flutes from that time.
The Irish flute can work as a solo instrument, or you can play it in a group. Just make sure you can adjust the tuning if you decide to play it with other musicians.

Question: Why should you play an Irish flute?

Answer: You should play an Irish flute if you like listening to Irish music. Another reason to play the instrument is if you want to expand your skills as a flute player.
If you don’t play the concert flute, the Irish flute can also be a good introductory instrument. Once you master it, you can learn the metal flute.

Final Note On How To Find The Best Irish Flutes

Knowing how to find the best Irish flutes is crucial for beginners and professionals. If you don’t get a good instrument, you’ll struggle to make a sound and improve your playing.

The Windward flutes are fantastic for serious players. But if you don’t want to pay that much, consider The Lon Dubh Polymer Flute or the McNeela African Blackwood Flute.

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