Inline and offset flutes have different constructions that place the position of the keys in different positions depending on the design. Choosing the right flute for your purposes depends on several factors, including your own personal physical characteristics. Spending some time to determine the correct instrument for your needs will increase your comfort while playing.
An offset flute and inline flute have one major distinction. The offset flute has a secondary bar in which all of the Gs throughout the octaves are placed. The inline flute places all of the keys on a single bar. One major disadvantage to inline flutes involves the way in which the left hand has to contort to play the keys. Since the left hand will rest against the rod while playing an inline flute, the rod is susceptible to bending.
Traditionally, an offset flute was considered a student flute because the offset keys were easier to remember and an inline flute has some awkward positions when the left hand gets involved. The inline flute also makes simple repair operations more difficult; the repairmen has to maneuver between the small spaces on a single bar. Bent rods tend to be more common with inline flutes. As attention to healthy playing and carpal tunnel syndrome has become a more common concern for flutists, the trend toward professional offset flutes has gained traction.
There is no difference in the sound between an inline and offset flute. The keys on both flutes are adjusted so that they produce identical pitches. However, since most student models use an offset design, unless you actively seek out a professional model flute, the inline flute will generally sound better than an offset flute. Some players may also have hands that fit better on an offset flute, which will enhance the sound and precision of the instrument.
The main advantage for the performer involves the ease of playing and comfort when playing an inline versus an offset flute. Performers that have longer fingers will find that an inline flute will be easier to play over long periods of time with less cramping and fatigue because the fingers can stretch out on the flute. However, an offset flute makes it easier to identify the G octave keys.
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