Trouble with Seery?

Trouble with Seery?

Hi there,

I play whistle in the main although was taught and played flute whilst at school and for several years after. A decade on, I am playing whistle in a scottish trad band and thoroughly enjoy it.

The call of the flute led to me buying a second hand keyless seery last year which is beautiful, except when I am playing it! It seems to be so unforgiving. I really want to pursue the flute playing, it is where me heart is, but I don’t seem to be getting anywhere. My hands ache, my embrochure is rubbish and my mouth aches. My hands are quite small (too small to play a low d whistle comfortably). I practice as much as I can between practicing the whistle and wonder whether this is going to take years or have I started with the wrong type/make of flute?

Thanks for taking the time to read, any advice would be great.

Cheers, Louise.

Re: Trouble with Seery?

My hands ached terribly when I started playing the flute. It’s OK now, unless I am playing tunes that need to use keys (that I don’t normally use) a lot.
Keep going, but can’t offer any thoughts on the Seery.

Re: Trouble with Seery?

Louise, I started on a Seery (a Delrin one), too. At first I didn’t realize that it was a fairy demanding flute. But when I upgraded (first to a Copley, then to a Hammy), I soon understood that the Seery wanted a lot of air and was fairly heavy in my hands. By comparison, the Hammy keyless that I now play feels wonderful–easy to fill, comfortable hole spacing, and light as a feather.

If I were you, I’d shop around and at least try different wooden flutes. You may find something that suits you much better.

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Re: Trouble with Seery?

I bought my first flute about 20 years ago. It was a keyed flute and I had a devil of a time getting used to it, The embrochure wasn’t right. I coildn’t get an even sound out of and, to top things off, I got tendonitis. Other people cpuld play the thing quite well. I soldiered on with it few a few years and finally bought a new flute from a different maker and WOW. This one worked. Sometimes, I think, the flute just doesn’t fit.

Re: Trouble with Seery?

Hi Louise

Tell you an interesting story. In 2002 I took my “self-indulgent flutemakers tour”, travelling from Australia to the US and Canda, then England Ireland and Scotland, meeting makers and players all along the way. One of my ambitions was to try out other makers’ flutes - I’m a bit sheltered down here in Australia! I found staggering differences, and this is the bit that’s important to you.

I particulalry found that the closer I got to Ireland the harder flutes were to play. The difference is not subtle - I’d put it at at least 3:1, maybe more. Fascinating - it’s a matter that deserves some research.

So if someone put a flute in your hands that was three or more times eaiser to play, you’d hopefully feel more motivated to perservere.

Secondly, let me mention that the big flutes based on Prattens or similar originals are the hardest end of the flute spectrum to get on top of. I started on such a flute and got nowhere; it was only when I got a small hole flute I could get over the hump. Interestingly, I now have no problem with the Pratten.

The third point I’d make to you is that it is a hump. Even with a small hole flute, I kept scurrying back to the ever-so-easy whistle. I finally got over that by leaving the whistle at home one night when I went to the session, so that I was forced to perservere with the flute. It only took me one session to achieve that, but it was pretty heavy going about one hour in when I was exhausted! See it as a pain barrier you need to break through. Now I can play all day without problem.

Finally, let me mention flute types. There are three categories of flutes in common use in Irish music. Starting at the big end are the Prattens. Large bore, large holes, hard work but big response. The Seery falls into this category.

In the middle are the Ruddal and similar instruments. Still largish holes, but smaller bores, a more reedy sound and not so hard to “fill”.

In the past small hole flutes were usually of German origin, and usually rather poor performers. But now you can get very responsive small holed flutes based on US makers such as Firth and Pond. I believe Grey Larsen and I can largely take responsibility for popularising these - see for the story. These flutes have small holes and small bores and are much easier to play without lacking in performance. They are much closer to the whistle in feeling and so an easier transition. I believe I’m no longer the only maker offering such flutes, so look around.

So to summarise a rambling post, don’t give up - flute playing is far too much fun to miss out on! But do look around for an easier flute to get you over the hump. Most flute players at sessions and festivals are happy to let you try their flutes, and depending where you are there may be somewhere nearby you can try a flute at the other end of the size and nationality spectrum!


Re: Trouble with Seery?

A student of mine plays a keyless Desi Seery flute and I think it’s a great instrument, but she also finds the stretch quite difficult. On the Seery flute all the finger holes are in line and this can make the stretch difficult. When you have a joint between the finger holes of the left and right hands, allowing you to have the finger holes out of alignment the feeling of your fingers being over stretched diminishes considerably.

If you feel like investing in a great 5-piece flute, also with somewhat smaller finger-holes (which is also easier on the hands), check out Michael Cronnolly’s M&E Rudall and Rose model polymer flutes. Keyless D is around 340 euros, (that’s around £305 these days). They’re beautiful to play. They also have a sweeter, less strident tone than the large hole, large bore, louder, more modern instruments. Here’s a link:

Just in case it applies to your case, you should make sure you have a good posture, this will reduce physical stress, and especially overstretched fingers. By this I mean a good traditional (and also classical) posture, where you hold the flute lightly, slightly tilted down, elbows slightly out, and the right thumb bears almost all the weight of the flute, and where the flute rests on the left hand just below the index finger (this point acts as a pivoting point). The little finger of the right hand steadies the flute when all or most of the finger holes are uncovered. The upper body is twisted slightly to the left and the head looks slightly left and tilts down slightly to the right. I’m sure much of this is old hat to you, but so many teachers of Irish music say nothing whatever about posture I thought I’d mention it as centrally important.
(In other words avoid at all costs the so called pipers’ grip for flute, where you keep your fingers rigidly straight and rest the flute on your shoulder, twist you windpipe, etc.)

For the embrochure make sure your lips are relaxed, that the stream of air is directed in such a way to give the clearest sound, that it is symmetrical (left & right); Practice in front of a mirror (while you’re looking at the mirror, of course!) And make sure not to press the flute into the lower lip; lots of people do this as it compensates for lack of lip strength in getting a workable embrochure. Also you should practice standing up, in general. As with the fiddler, standing is the optimal position for the flautist, and when sitting you should try to have the upper body as balanced, upright, and free-moving as when standing.

Stick with it, the flute’s a wonderful instrument.

Re: Trouble with Seery?

Terry, thanks for taking the time for a thoughtful, insightful, and potentially helpful response. Just so Louise is aware, Mr. McGee is a highly respected maker of wonderful wooden flutes widely played in the Irish trad world. He knows what he’s talking about.

That said, I’d love to hear an explanation for why I find my Hammy so easy to play. Isn’t it based on a large-hole, large-bore Pratten design? I’ve never played a true small-bore flute, so I don’t have anything to compare to. But I love my Hammy.

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Re: Trouble with Seery?

I play an early Hammy Hamilton small-bore, small-holed flute and it’s really easy to play too.

Re: Trouble with Seery?

Thanks everybody for the thoughtful responses. It is great to know that everyone knows what I mean. I find it difficult to explain to people that it feels that this flute just doesn’t fit me, I thought they might think me a bit of a nut!

Your thoughts Terry are spot on. I just came back from Australia with a set of interchangeable synd whistles which are fantastic and easy to play compared to my overton, I think this is the same sort of comparrison on a very basic level.
I do need to have a flute that gets me over the ‘hump’-i would like to keep the seery to go back to eventually but fear that i need to re-home this in order to fund the ‘hump’ flute!! I wonder what money I am looking at to get me into a good flute to give me back the enthusiasm that the seery has battered!!

Thanks again, Louise.

Re: Trouble with Seery?

PS!! I am posting whilst looking after my 4 and 2 year old kids so it’s a bit sporadic!

We are out on the west coast of scotland where there are rarely any sessions to go to. I am reliant on the testimonials of you guys as to what flute to buy as i don’t have access to any to try, so, many many thanks for all of your thoughts. It is invaluable to me. After reading waht everyone has said, I am going to have to take the plunge and go with a different maker, it is going to be a gamble i feel as i can’t try before i buy so i guess i have a lot of research to do. I am so excited though at the prospect of being able to play again and am pleased that it may merely be that i don’t have thr right instrument for me. The seery is truly a great flute just not in my hands!

Cheers, Louise

Re: Trouble with Seery?

couple of quick points.
1.Brendan Mccabe (R.I.P) had the tops on two or more of his fingers missing and had no problem playing the flute. This was a great source of inspiration when I was finding the finger stretch difficult. “If he can do it with those finger stumps then surely I can. Not to talk of the 10year olds you see around the country.
2. Agree completly with Terry when he says leave the whistle at home when you go to play the flute. its the only way to make progress and you will improve very quickley.
3. Seery flutes are good flutes and changing to another maker may not improve the situation. What then!
4. Angle you hands and don’t force them at right angles to the flute and use “pipers fingers” the pads in the middle of the fingers and not the tips of the fingers as you would with the whistle.
If another good flute player has played well on your Seery I would keep it and work on it. Besy of luck eitherway.

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Re: Trouble with Seery?

Just read this thread on the Seery keyless D…I converted from classical flute (aftera couple of frustrating years trying to play trad-style on the wrong instrument) by making a purchase on Ebay. I’m sure lots of people will be grimacing by the mention of the website but I did my homework and things worked out great - got a Des Seery keyless D polymer for a good price from a reluctant seller!

It was really tough to play to begin with and I can certainly relate to everyone’s complaints about hands aching, embrochure straining etc but it’s worth persevering. I have had it four months and the tone is really starting to emerge more every time I play it. I seem to emit more flute-drool with the Seery but I guess that’s to do with being a newly converted player and the large pratten-model requiring a fair bit of ‘puff’!

I just wonder if anyone else has a problem with C# on the keyless D model? I feel that the note is very slightly flat when played with open holes…I can cover it up with a delicate finger over the first hole but I’m sure this isn’t quite right…am I missing a trick; should I roll the flute towards/away from my lips when playing C# or have I bought a dud? Help!

Re: Trouble with Seery?

This thread has been dormant for 10 years but I had the same trouble as Louise with a Seery. After breaking my wooden flute (never put a flute on a chair especially at night when camping… Dumb I know), I bought a 2nd hand delrin Seery online to keep playing during repairs. I couldn’t play it. I was constantly losing the sound completely in the low octave and it was hard to force myself to finish even one tune once. The 2nd octave was ok but the flute was generally discouraging to try to play. Nuala Kennedy could make it sound great when she tried it for me. So the problem was me…But Mark Hoza, who lives locally got out his dremel and carefully worked on the embouchure for me and in 20 minutes transformed the flute entirely. It now plays beautifully and much more easily across the full range. Maybe Louise’s flute was like mine.

Re: Trouble with Seery?

I got my Des Seery keyless flute the other day and after hours trying to figure out why it is so hard to play, the rubbish bin looks like a good place for it….totally unforgiving and got fed up with losing notes all the time…after reading through some of the reviews here, maybe, and hopefully, it is just me ? I shall persevere for a while longer before finding a space in the wheely bin for it…another complaint, I cannot loosen the head to tune it…I have tried penetrating oil and sheer strength to pull it out…maybe I should use the vice…?
So far, very disappointed with my purchase…I hope it does not end up in land fill!

Re: Trouble with Seery?

Regarding flutes, I’ve been told I could get music out of a sock, but there was this one gorgeous keyless boxwood flute from a fine modern maker that I was literally unable to play.

It had a very large square embouchure and required a fundamentally different blowing style that I never was able to adapt to. It just wasn’t a good fit for my lips and blowing style and I wasn’t willing to fundamentally change my technique for this one flute.

After fighting with it for a few months, I ended up trading it to a friend for a different maker’s fine keyless boxwood flute and have been thrilled ever since.

So, it could be the flute, or it could be that it isn’t a design that works for you.

If you’re able to play other flutes but not this particular Seery, or it is your first flute, I strongly suggest having another flute player try it to see if it’s the flute or if it’s something you are doing.

Re: Trouble with Seery?

I bought a Delrin Seery from McNeela’s at the beginning of the year to leave around the house so I could just pick it up and practice. I have to say I really like mine and wish I’d bought it sooner. The tuning slide on mine is stiff but moveable.Maybe contact Seery explaining the problem.

Re: Trouble with Seery?

Just stumbled on this thread having acquired a Seery delrin recently via McNeela. I actually like it a lot (being a beginner-intermediate player). Initially I was not as impressed but I realized it takes a lot more air than I was giving it and when I did blow powerfully it sang beautifully! I love the bouncy feeling it has (which may be a delrin property). Hard to explain properly but it feels like the notes are “bouncing” in the air in the tune :D and the percussive feeling sometimes briefly touches the next octave which sounds amazing. There may be technical terms for these but in short as a somewhat OK playing beginner I’m pretty happy 🙂

Re: Trouble with Seery?

If you’re having trouble with a Seery Delrin D it’s you. This is the Pratten sound at its finest. It barks. It Howls. You need a lot of air and technique but once you’ve got it you sound like a fierce animal. It’s like a pit bull on a short leash. The owner has to be strong in order to handle it. If you can master it it provides a sound and power like no other. If you want those hammering thundering rolls of a McAuliffe or a Crawford get yourself a Seery, practice forever and do heavy curls in the gym. I’m not kidding about any of those.