If you’re looking for an Irish flute, there are plenty of places to find one for sale. The issue is, they can be tough to find at first. While the flute is a very popular instrument in Irish music, it’s still a little too niche to be carried by big retailers like Amazon or Guitar Center. Luckily, whether you’re looking for a new, used, or antique Irish flute, you have many options available to you.
By far, the best way to buy a new Irish flute is directly from the maker. In fact, for most makers this is the only way to buy a new flute! Very few makers offer their flutes through online retailers, but most have websites with prices, information on what they offer, and contact details.
There are too many great flute makers to list them all here. The Irish Flute Guide has a handy searchable list of flute makers that you can use to find makers near you. Looking through discussion forums like The Session and Chiff and Fipple is a great way to get a sense of which makers other flutes players really like. As you’ll find, there are a lot of great makers out there, and lots of strong opinions from players as to which are the best!
As for online retailers, there are only a few with a decent selection of new Irish flutes for sale. The one brand you’ll find a lot of is Tony Dixon. He makes mass-produced flutes that are relatively inexpensive and available on sites like Amazon and eBay. While they’re not regarded as being the same quality as more expensive flutes, many players do enjoy playing them.
The Irish Flute Store has a large selection of both new and used flutes and tin whistles for sale. The owner, Blayne Chastain, is an excellent flute player in his own right, and very happy to answer questions about the flutes he’s selling. While most other online retailers are larger shops with limited flute experience, Blayne is very knowledgable. Plus, he has a much wider variety of Irish flutes for sale than any other site, including many from top makers.
Lark in the Morning is one of the largest retailers of folk instruments in the US. They have a decent selection of Irish flutes for sale, including ones made by Joseph Morneault, Casey Burns, and Tony Dixon. One thing to be aware of is that they also sell a few mass-produced flutes that are not made by expert flute makers. They’re cheap, but these are not very good flutes for reasons I’ll detail a little later in this article. When in doubt, search the brand name and see what information you can find on the maker.
Other Online Retailers of New Flutes
- Hobgoblin USA and UK – Both sites sell Tony Dixon flutes as well as the cheap mass-produced flutes I’ll talk about below.
- Harp and Dragon – Based out of Connecticut, USA, Harp and Dragon sells Tony Dixon flutes.
- Grey Larsen – Larsen is a well-respected flute player from Ohio, USA who has irish flutes made by Casey Burns and Terry McGee for sale on his website. The McGee flute model he sells is a copy of the antique flute Larsen plays, and was made specially for him.
Buyer Beware: Avoid Cheap Flutes!
If you look on eBay, Amazon, and other online retailers, you’ll find a number of very cheap “Irish Flutes” for sale. They’re often billed as “Professional,” and supposedly made of exotic woods like ebony, blackwood, and rosewood. While even a keyless Irish flute from a well-respected maker might cost upwards of $1,000, these can be had for $300 or less, sometimes even less than $100! A bargain, right?
A lot of players call these “flute-shaped objects,” or FSOs for short. In other words, they may look like a flute, but that’s just about it. They’re usually made of cheap wood painted or stained to look exotic. Their embouchure, bore, and toneholes are usually crudely done at best, and tuning and basic playability are horrendous. You may not even be able to get a sound out of them!
To save yourself some money and frustration, stay away from FSOs. They may seem like a good deal to start with, but they don’t play well and have little to no resale value. There are a number of budget-friendly options for beginning Irish flute players that are made by well-respected flute makers.
How To Separate Good From Bad
- Irish flute makers are master craftsmen who usually work alone. They may have an apprentice or a helper around their workshop, but they don’t run a big production line. Usually, they build flutes under their own name. If the flute you’re looking at has a brand name rather than a person’s name, it’s likely to be bad.
- Be careful with Asian-made “Irish flutes.” The vast majority of Irish flute makers are based in Europe and North America, with a few notable examples elsewhere. The vast majority of badly built “flutes” come out of Pakistan, with some coming from China and Taiwan. There may well be some very good Irish flute makers in Asia who aren’t well-known yet, but most Asian-made “flutes” are cheap and poorly made.
- If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t expect to pay any less than about $400 for a wooden Irish flute, even used.
- There’s no such thing as a “Professional” flute. A lot of cheap flute makers use flowery language to describe their instruments. An Irish flute is an Irish flute, and there’s no distinction between what a professional might use and what a student might buy. In both cases, all they’re looking for a good flute.
Where to Find Used Irish Flutes For Sale
If you’re looking to buy used, it’s always best to buy from a fellow player. Many of the local online classifieds like Craigslist, Gumtree, Donedeal, Kijiji et al. often have Irish flutes listed for sale. Buying local means you can see the flute in person before you buy, try it out, and ask the seller questions.
If you’re not able to buy locally, there are a few online options. The Irish Flute Store (mentioned above) has a section dedicated to used flutes, and usually has many different models for sale. You’ll find a few flutes at a time listed on eBay, although the selection can vary wildly.
Discussion forums are another great option, where you can buy directly from another player. Just make sure to do your due diligence, and never send money if you think something may be a scam. The vast majority of people on these forums are music lovers and flute players who just want to see their instrument go to a loving home. But it never hurts to ask a few questions!
Chiff and Fipple is a website and discussion forum centered around the instruments of Irish music. The site started out with a focus on the tin whistle, but has since added sub-forums for the Irish flute, uilleann pipes, and other instruments. It’s an active community, and there are many friendly and knowledgable posters who can answer any questions you might have.
There’s also a dedicated “Used Instrument Exchange” sub-forum, where Irish flutes frequently come up for sale. Even if you don’t see anything you’re interested in, it’s worth putting up a “want to buy” post just in case someone has the flute you’re looking for.
TheSession.org is another website dedicated to traditional Irish music. While it’s best known for its large database of tunes, it also hosts an active discussion board. Flutes and other Irish instruments are frequently posted for sale, and a “want to buy” post can also usually get some attention.
Parlez-vous français? If so, this forum is a good resource. Even if you don’t, a bit of Google Translate can help with the basic idea. Look for “Achat/Vente” to find the “Buy/Sell” section of the site. French and European flute makers like Jil Lehart, Stéphane Morvan, and Geert Lejeune are well-represented in the “vente” (“for sale”) postings.
Buying an Antique Flute
Since the modern Irish flute is based off of the flutes popular in the 19th century, many Irish flute players play antiques from that era. Flutes from well-known makers like Boosey and Hawkes or Rudall and Rose can sell for thousands of dollars. But there are also a lot of relatively inexpensive flutes for sale on eBay and other sites which work well for irish music.
There are some important differences between a “used” (but recently-made) flute and a true antique. Used flutes are usually sold by players, and are almost always in good, playable condition. Antique flutes, on the other hand, are often sold by antiques dealers with little to no flute experience. They can be in any condition, from ready-to-play to unsalvageable, and it can sometimes to be hard to tell which is which from just a few pictures.
There’s also the question of tuning. Today, most instruments are tuned to a pitch standard called “A=440.” This wasn’t always the case, though, and antique flutes are often pitched lower or higher than modern ones. This is fine if you’re just going to be playing alone, but it can cause serious problems if you try to play with other people. Antique flutes also commonly have internal tuning issues that modern flutes don’t.
All of this is to say that you should be careful when buying an antique flute. You may or may not get a flute in playable condition with good tuning. Always ask questions and do your research. You should be absolutely sure that what you’re buying is what you want. If the flute needs repair or restoration, research whether you can do it yourself. Expert repairs will add to the cost.
eBay has plenty of antique flutes for sale, usually labeled as “wooden,” “antique” or “Irish.” As noted above, their condition can vary considerably, and many sellers know little to nothing about the flutes they have for sale. You can find some great bargains if you’re careful and patient, but you can also get ripped off if you’re not.
Based in Philadelphia, Vintage Instruments has an incredible variety of antique instruments for sale, including flutes. They’re usually very meticulous about documenting the condition of everything they sell, so you’ll know exactly what you’re getting. And, if you happen to be in the area you can always physically inspect your prospective purchase as well.