If you're a woodwind player then finding a store that genuinely specializes in woodwind instruments is kind of rare. But they're out there. Here is a list of 8 North American woodwind stores you should visit that specialize in the kind of instruments you just might drool over.
This is a compilation of the best flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon and other various woodwinds that I could find. You'll notice saxophone isn't in the list; there is a reason for that. I want to make this accessible for everyone according to interest.
Don't worry. If you play sax or brass, I've put together lists for those too.
Also, this isn't an exhaustive list of places that sell woodwinds. You can find a LOT of wind instrument dealers that "do it all" - they do both brass and woodwind quite well.
Click HERE for the "general" wind superstores that also cover flutes, oboes, saxes, clarinets and bassoons.
So who's on the list?
I've compiled this list after keeping track of a lot of my travels across North America. I'm a bit of a "collector" of music stores and their stories. These stores make the "woodwind list" because they specialize in woodwinds. Sometimes, they specialize in only ONE THING, such as flutes or clarinets. Sometimes it's double-reed instruments.
But specialty stores mean they're "experts" in what you're looking for.
They've done the legwork and developed the expertise and interest over the years to cater to discriminating tastes.
So, in no particular order, here is the list of 8 woodwind stores you should visit in 2022.
Lisa's Clarinet Shop - Chicago
What is worthy of note here: This store looks like it specializes in Buffet clarinets, though they do carry other brands, including one I've not heard of before called "Serio."
You can, of course, play test in the store and they also offer complete woodwind repair services - rebuilds and all - for clarinets, flutes, saxes, oboes and bassoons and the like.
Flute Specialists (Detroit)
This store carries a wonderful inventory of a vast number of brands of flutes. They have all the big names and a fair number of others, too.
Thier inventory is vast - they have over a couple hundred flutes as well as over 60 low (alto/bass) flutes in their inventory as of the time of this writing.
Their repair services seem to be focused on flutes and piccolos. That's not a bad thing. It's just that it seems flutes are what they do best.
They also have an impressive inventory of used instruments, too. At the time of this writing, I saw that their store had an inventory of over 200 used flutes and about 50 used headjoints in stock.
The building is a bit "humble looking" on the outside. But do NOT let that put you off. Check out their inventory.
This one is definitely on my list to visit next time I'm in the area.
Flute World - San Francisco, Detroit, Charlotte
I will say that I've not been to all locations - yet. I have been to the Detroit area store and was extremely impressed with their service.
Being relatively new to the flute, I wasn't even really sure what I was looking for in brands. So I gave them my price range, and they picked out 4 flutes from their inventory to try.
But I had to wait for about 40 minutes. I guess I didn't have to wait but they asked if I could. You see, before they had me try these instruments, they took a half hour to go over each of the instruments they wanted me to try to make sure they were set up properly. I've tried instruments at different stores before but I never had that kind of service before I did.
They carry all the "standard" brands, such as Gemeinhardt, Yamaha, Muramatsu, Pearl, Haynes and Jupiter.
They also carry a vast selection of high-end flutes by Altus, Miyazawa, Powell, Sankyo and Burkart.
They also carry a good selection of alto and bass flutes as well as some great used instruments. Flute World has a selection of "certified" flutes, which, according to their website, means "you know that the instrument is in spectacular mechanical condition and is treated the same as our new flutes under our Service Programs."
They offer trial programs where you can have the instruments to try for a while before you commit to falling in love with one over the others.
These guys have a serious repair facility and can repad any flute to bring it back to new condition. And they also offer a "clean, oil and ajdust" service to tweak your flute once a year or so to keep it in optimal condition.
While walk-ins are always welcome, they appreciate it if you can call ahead, because that way, they can extend the same optimal service to you that they like to do best.
They also have TONS of flute music and exercise books. Worth a visit to any of their locations.
Midwest Musical Imports - Minneapolis, MN
As much as Baltimore Brass is a brass specialist, these guys are woodwind specialists (OTHER than flutes, it seems). But there are a TON of flute specialists out there (as I've listed a few). These guys are about the other woodwinds - clarinets, saxophones, oboes, english horns and bassoons.
Inventory? Again, some pics from their showroom give you an idea of how well stocked they are. For example, bassoons....
You KNOW what the means for how many oboes, clarinets and saxophones?
Bassoon brands include the usual such as Yamaha, Fox and Heckel. But they also stock Kronwalt, Schreiber and Puchner. They have Yamaha, Buffet and Selmer clarinets; but they also have some specialty brands: Royal Global and F Arthur Uebel.
They have a wonderful selection of oboes too - Buffet, Yamaha and Fox; but also Marigaux, Loree, Howarth and Puchner.
Bottom line, if you're looking for a good selection of woodwinds, this is the place if you're anywhere in the midwest USA.
Lazar's Early Music - Carson City, NV
This store, to me, is as unique as KB Sax that I wrote about up above. This place specializes in "period instruments" - instruments that are made specifically to replicate instruments from centuries back.
They have a vast selection of recorders, for instance, made by many manufacturers and from many different woods.
These are replicas of bygone days, and of professional calibre.
Like this straight bassoon.
They also stock dulciums and shawms.
They stock baroque flutes made from grenadella, boxwood, plumwood and maple.
If you're serious about these kinds of instruments or only just seriously curious, it's worth a stop in (if you're anywhere near Carson City, NV).
RDG Woodwinds - Pasadena, CA
This is one of many stores in the LA area. But worth a visit if you're looking for something specific in clarinets, oboes or bassoons.
They seem to have a good inventory of used instruments - particularly oboes. As of the time of this writing, they had over 35 used oboes in their inventory, including Loree, Howarth and Marigaux.
They also have a good consignment program for selling your clarinet or oboe. Give them a call to see what they can do for you. Or check their consignment page on the website for more info.
The Flute Center of New York
Go big or go home. Seriously.
I've explored a lot of musical instrument stores, visited a lot of their sites and looked them up in reviews. And as far as sheer size and selection, this has got to be THE biggest game on the continent.
There are a lot of other flute dealers that probably have 80 to 90 percent of what these guys have. But I don't know much that is out there that is worthwhile that you can't find here. And if you like the wow factor of walking into a place like this, this is the place.
Part of the reason they are so big is because they go out of their way to offer a useful "trial policy" on their instruments. If you're thinking of ordering some to try at home, they really aim to please. From their site:
FCNY is proud to have the most generous and comprehensive trial policy in the country! Unlike many of our competitors whose strict policies only allow a few days, we offer 7-days in your home to decide on your next flute. Many clients find 7 days to be a sufficient amount of time to decide on an instrument. Others will simply need more time, or want to try other flutes. We are always happy to accommodate as best we can by sending additional headjoints or flutes, by lengthening a trial, or by simply talking to you about your flute journey! To learn more about our trial policy, click here. Contact us to request an extension on your trial.
So what brands to they carry?
Well... the usual for sure: Altus, Azumi, Burkart, Di Zhao, Gemeinhardt, Jupiter, Pearl, Powell and the like.
But they also offer some brands that you'll not find many other places. Brands like Trevor James, Rive, Nagahara, Mateki, Jack Moore and many more.
They also carry an extensive list of accessories, including headjoints and all kinds of goodies.
For instance, are you looking for a jewel-encrusted crown? They have them. Lots of them.
Looking for cases? Flute stands? They've got all kinds of those. What about "Flute Enhancers?"
Worth a try. You might be a believer if you do.
Here is something else I never knew existed until I poked around the Flute Center site. Have you ever seen a "Glissando headjoint?"
Check this out. I'm telling you - if you're looking for all the one-of-a-kind and hard to get stuff for flute, this place is worth a look.
The Glissando Headjoint® gives flutists an entirely new mode of expression, bringing the instrument closer to the sound of the human voice. It is a telescoping headjoint, with a high performance contemporary cut headjoint sliding inside a carrier tube! Two "wings" extend from the lip plate and comfortably embrace the flutist’s cheeks. Moving the flute to the right slides the headjoint from its "home position" (all the way in) and extends the length of the flute. A downward glissando can be made from every note! With the Glissando Headjoint® in its "home position," the flute is a traditional Boehm flute and all repertoire can be played as if a traditional headjoint was in use. The Glissando Headjoint® can be positioned to tune the flute like any other headjoint.
It's unusual. But if you're ever in NYC, it's probably one of those places to visit before you die. Just in case you find something here that you just have to have and you never knew it existed until you saw it here.
New York Clarinet Workshop - Brooklyn, NY
Clarinets are their specialty.
Specifically, they are a dealer for Buffet and for "Royal Global" clarinets.
Check out this Royal Global bass clarinet in cocobolo wood.
This store is one of those that specializes in one thing - clarinets. Setup, repair and adjustment. They have a stellar reputation for their work.
No doubt I've missed some.
It's inevitable with a listing like this, there are going to be some stores I've not yet come across.
I'm sure I will find others along the way, and when I do, I will be adding them to the list.
If you know of others that need to be added or have any helpful comments for my readers, please let me know.