Open Hole Flutes vs Closed Hole Flutes

JC Music carries both open hole flutes and closed hole flutes, and customers will often ask what the difference is between the two types. Here are some facts to remember when determining which flute is more appropriate for a student:

As is immediately clear when holding the instruments, an open hole flute’s keys have holes in them where a player’s fingers go, whereas a closed-hole flute does not; because of this, finger-placement on an open hole model is essential since not completely covering the hole will result in the note not sounding.

Open Hole Flute
An Open Hole Flute pictured above a Closed Hole Model.

Open holed flutes are sometimes called “French flutes” and closed hole flutes may be called “plateau flutes” – the main difference in playing an open holed flute is that your hand position has to be exact unless you plug the holes; while many students do this, it also negates having the open holes in the first place! Some say that the difference in tone quality is usually completely attributed to the fact that better quality instruments tend to be made with the French system.

According to JC, however, the main advantages of an open hole flute include being able to cover 1/2 or 1/4 of the hole to lower the pitch, and forcing a student to learn proper/better playing position for their hands because you can’t cover the holes unless your fingers are in the correct position. There are also certain effects that advanced flutes players may use, like certain glissandos, which cannot be done with an open-hole flute.

Young and beginning student would probably want to choose a closed hole flute because it’s easier to start producing sounds on them right away. If you have trouble playing an open hole model, you can close the holes with the plugs that come with the flute – or you can buy French plugs which we sell at JC Music. There are only 5 keys which have the hole in the center, but we sell flute plugs in packages of 10 so you have extra in case one gets lost!

Hopefully this information will guide you in choosing the most appropriate flute for you. And remember, we not only rent both models, but we sell them as well! Click the picture above to see our online selection of woodwind instruments!

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