Open Hole Flutes vs. Closed Hole Flutes: An In-Depth Comparison

Reviewed by
Last updatedLast updated: May 08, 2024
Prime Sound is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more about our process here

This comprehensive guide will delve into the world of flutes, comparing the open hole and closed hole varieties, their characteristics, advantages, and factors to consider when choosing the right instrument. With a detailed understanding of both types, you can make an informed decision to enhance your playing experience and achieve your musical goals.

A Brief History of the Flute

The flute has a long and fascinating history that dates back thousands of years. Early flutes were made from bone, wood, or bamboo and used in various cultures worldwide. The modern flute, as we know it today, has undergone several transformations over the centuries, including the development of the Boehm system, which introduced the cylindrical bore and key mechanism that is now standard in contemporary flutes.

The Anatomy of a Flute: Understanding the Basics

To appreciate the differences between open hole and closed hole flutes, let’s start by familiarizing ourselves with the basic anatomy of a flute. The flute is a member of the woodwind family and consists of the following main components:

  1. Headjoint: The top section of the flute, which includes the lip plate, embouchure hole, and the tuning cork. The headjoint plays a significant role in producing the instrument’s tone.
  2. Body: The central section of the flute, which houses the majority of the keys, tone holes, and mechanism. The body is responsible for the instrument’s overall pitch and intonation.
  3. Footjoint: The lower section of the flute, containing the final keys and the end of the instrument. The footjoint connects to the body and completes the flute’s range.

Open Hole Flutes: An Overview

Open hole flutes, also referred to as French flutes or ring-key flutes, have a unique design that sets them apart from closed hole flutes. The keys on an open hole flute feature a small hole in the center, which the player must cover with their fingertips to produce sound. This design offers several advantages for players who are willing to invest time and effort into mastering the instrument.

Improved Technique and Precision

Open hole flutes demand precise finger placement, which encourages players to develop better hand positioning and technique. This attention to detail can lead to improved intonation, overall tone quality, and greater control over the instrument.

Extended Range of Techniques and Expression

The open hole design enables a broader range of advanced techniques, such as multiphonics, glissandi, and microtonal playing. These techniques are particularly popular in contemporary and experimental music, offering players a more extensive scope for creative expression and the ability to explore new musical territories.

Greater Resonance and Projection

Many players believe that open hole flutes provide superior resonance and projection because the open keys allow more air to flow through the instrument. This can result in a richer, more vibrant sound, particularly in the higher registers, giving the player a more dynamic and expressive palette to work with.

Preferred by Professionals

Open hole flutes are commonly preferred by professional players and those pursuing a career in music. The instrument’s design and the possibilities it offers for advanced techniques make it an ideal choice for musicians who want to push their skills to the limit.

Closed Hole Flutes: An Overview

Closed hole flutes, also known as plateau flutes, have solid keys without any central holes. These flutes are more common among beginner and intermediate players, offering a more accessible playing experience. The closed hole design has several advantages, making it a popular choice for those starting their musical journey.

Beginner-Friendly Design

Closed hole flutes are more forgiving when it comes to finger placement, making them an ideal choice for beginners who are still developing their technique. The solid keys allow players to focus on other aspects of their playing, such as tone production and breath control, without the added challenge of covering open holes.

Comfort and Ergonomics

Some players find closed hole flutes more comfortable to play, particularly those with smaller hands or finger joint issues. The solid keys can provide additional support, reducing strain on the fingers during extended practice sessions or performances.


Closed hole flutes are generally more affordable than open hole models, making them an attractive option for students or players on a budget. The lower price point does not necessarily mean a compromise on sound quality, as many professional-level closed hole flutes are available on the market.

Adaptability for Various Musical Styles

While closed hole flutes may not offer the same range of extended techniques as open hole flutes, they are versatile instruments that can adapt to various musical styles. From classical and jazz to folk and world music, a closed hole flute can provide a solid foundation for players to explore diverse genres and techniques.

In-Depth Comparison: Open Hole vs. Closed Hole Flutes

To better understand the differences between open hole and closed hole flutes, let’s examine their key features and benefits side by side:

Feature Open Hole Flutes Closed Hole Flutes
Finger Placement Requires precise finger coverage More forgiving; easier for beginners
Advanced Techniques Allows for extended techniques Limited by closed key design
Resonance Greater resonance and projection Slightly less resonance and projection
Comfort Depends on individual preference May be more comfortable for some
Cost Generally more expensive More affordable option
Adaptability Suitable for advanced repertoire Versatile across various musical styles


Choosing the Right Flute for Your Needs

With a clear understanding of the differences between open hole and closed hole flutes, the next step is to consider your personal needs and preferences when selecting the right instrument. Here are some factors to take into account:

Skill Level

Consider your current skill level and future aspirations as a musician. If you are a beginner or intermediate player, a closed hole flute may be more suitable, as it provides a more accessible learning experience. On the other hand, if you are an advanced player or plan to pursue a career in music, an open hole flute may be the better option for pushing your boundaries and achieving your full potential.

Musical Goals

Think about the type of music you want to play and the techniques you’d like to explore. If you are passionate about contemporary, experimental, or extended techniques, an open hole flute is likely the best choice for you. If you primarily play classical music or do not intend to explore advanced techniques, a closed hole flute may be sufficient for your needs.

Physical Comfort and Ergonomics

Take into account the size and shape of your hands, as well as any potential physical limitations. If you have smaller hands, finger joint issues, or find open hole flutes uncomfortable to play, a closed hole flute may be a better fit. It’s essential to try different instruments and find the one that feels most comfortable and natural for you.

Budget and Investment

Your budget will play a significant role in your decision-making process. Keep in mind that closed hole flutes are generally more affordable, while open hole flutes tend to be more expensive. However, don’t let price be the sole determining factor; the right instrument is an investment in your musical journey and should align with your goals, skill level, and personal preferences.

Enhancing Your Flute Performance: Tips for Success

Regardless of the type of flute you choose, there are several strategies you can employ to enhance your performance and get the most out of your instrument. Here are some tips for success:

Regular Practice

Consistent practice is essential for developing your skills and achieving your full potential as a musician. Set aside dedicated practice time each day, and focus on a combination of technical exercises, scales, and repertoire to build a strong foundation and continually challenge yourself.

Quality Instruction

Working with a qualified flute teacher can greatly impact your progress and success. A skilled instructor can provide guidance on technique, tone production, and musical interpretation, as well as help you set and achieve realistic goals. Consider taking private lessons, joining a flute ensemble, or participating in masterclasses to benefit from the expertise of experienced professionals.

Listening and Analysis

Develop your musicality and understanding of the flute by actively listening to recordings and performances by accomplished players. Analyze their technique, tone, and interpretation, and consider how you can apply their approaches to your own playing. Attending live concerts and workshops can also provide valuable insights and inspiration.

Breathing and Posture

Breathing and posture play a crucial role in flute performance. Develop proper breathing techniques by practicing long tones, breath control exercises, and focusing on diaphragmatic breathing. Maintain good posture while playing to ensure optimal air support, minimize tension, and promote ease of movement.

Proper Care and Maintenance

Regardless of whether you choose an open hole or closed hole flute, proper care, and maintenance are crucial for ensuring the longevity of your instrument. Here are some essential tips for flute care:

  1. Cleaning: After each practice session, use a cleaning rod and cloth to remove moisture and prevent build-up inside the flute. Gently wipe the exterior to remove fingerprints and oils.
  2. Handling: Always hold the flute by the body, avoiding contact with the keys and mechanism. This will help prevent accidental bending or damage to the delicate parts.
  3. Storage: Store your flute in its case when not in use, away from direct sunlight, extreme temperatures, or humidity. Regularly inspect the case for signs of wear and replace it if necessary.
  4. Servicing: Schedule routine maintenance with a qualified repair technician to keep your flute in optimal playing condition. Regular servicing can help prevent costly repairs and extend the life of your instrument.


The choice between an open hole and closed hole flute ultimately comes down to personal preference, skill level, musical goals, comfort, and budget. Each type of flute offers unique benefits and challenges, so carefully consider your needs before making a decision. Remember that the right instrument can greatly impact your playing experience and contribute to your growth as a musician. By selecting the flute that best aligns with your goals and aspirations, you can embark on a fulfilling musical journey that enriches your life and the lives of those around you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *