Keyed vs Keyless Flutes

Keyed vs Keyless Flutes

I have played mostly plectrum instruments most of my life. I haven’t been sessioning for awhile due to lack of time, but I’ve been playing a bit of whistle for personal enjoyment, and quite liking it. It’s not my favorite ITM instrument, due to it’s shrillness. I’m much more inclined to the tone and register of flute. Amongst the more “pure drop” instruments, I think flute speaks to me the most.

I’ve considered picking up a Forbes Delrin flute eventually. I live in the Arizona desert, so wood seems like it would be quit an undertaking in this climate, plus I hear so many positive comments on the Forbes flutes.

Anyway, my question to all you flutists would be: do keyed flutes make a big difference? I ask because if I were to find a keyed flute that I can afford, I wonder if it would be worth the extra expense. All useful comments are much appreciated.

Re: Keyed vs Keyless Flutes

That depends on what you want to play. If you only want to play trad and are happy being limited to the keys you can get on a keyless than you don’t really have any reason to get keys. If you wanted to play another type of music or a tune in Dmin or something than you would want keys. Really it depends on what you want, and that is something I can’t tell you. As a beginner to the flute just go for a keyless and worry about keys later as you have to learn to play before you can think of playing in difficult keys.

And FWIW Forbes flutes are quite nice.

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Re: Keyed vs Keyless Flutes

echoing Why Bother?:

Whether you get a keyed flute or not depends on the tunes you play, or are likely to play. I have both a 6-key flute and a keyless. When I’m playing the keyless and get into a situation where the set turns from a tune that needs no keys to one that needs keys the only option is to use alternate fingerings of half-holes. It works sometimes, but many of the un-keyed accidentals don’t sound very strong or necessarily in tune. (A person can get good at it though - listen to Garry Shannon) Bear in mind that if you get a keyed flute, you need to learn how to use the keys. That takes plenty of practice.

Keys don’t make a difference tone-wise. There is a difference feel-wise, depending on whether you have post mounts or block mounts. But either way, eventually you get used to the key style.

In order of the keys that I use the most to the least, here are the keys that I think are important for the repertoire that I play:
G# - use the most
Short F
Bb
Long F
Eb
C’ - use the least

Keyed flutes require more cleaning and maintenance - but not a lot more, unless the flute is an antique. I sent my 6 key back to the maker after 6 solid years of playing it with no issues - finally springs gave way on the G# and short F, and the pads needed replacing.

Playing a delrin flute in Arizona is probably a good idea, but not completely necessary unless you plan on leaving it in your car during the day. I haven’t played a Forbes (many folks love them) but I had a delrin flute, and I found I was a lot lazier about cleaning and caring for it than my current flutes.

Re: Keyed vs Keyless Flutes

Keyless cost much much less, and will do for nearly everything you would play in ITM. Bonus for the delrin - you can take them anywhere (I sometimes go play my awesome Forbes flute at the beach, beside a fire, which I wouldn’t do with an expensive wooden flute).

Re: Keyed vs Keyless Flutes

Thanks for the input. That settles it, although I was already figuring on going with keyless. Yes, it’s strictly for the D and G centered ITM, so yes, I knew it was unnecessary. I tend to half-hole rather than cross-hole on the whistle since it’s mentally less taxing on my cluttered brain, but already understand that the tuning can be a problem that way, so I was wondering if keys would make a big difference in that regard.

Thanks again.

Re: Keyed vs Keyless Flutes

Jimmy! How you been? How’s yer boy Declan?

If you wish I can put you in touch with a couple of top notch flute players in Arizona. You can speak to them directly and get loads of info. They might even have a flute you can test drive.

Hope to see you out again on whatever instrument you’ve handy one of these days.

Re: Keyed vs Keyless Flutes

JNE -

How goes it? Life has been busy between the boys and my master’s degree. I’m almost finished with the latter and looking forward to be finished with school.

As it happens, the wife and I are expecting our third. Just confirmed over the weekend. With two hell-raising boys I’m hoping on a nice mellow girl. :)

Re: Keyed vs Keyless Flutes

Yeah, keyless is the way to go. Also, wood flutes aren’t as fragile as they seem. I live in a very dry climate and have had no problems with wood. I know 2 great fluters in AZ who only play wood who don’t seem to have problems. Anyways, Forbes is a fine flute. Best of luck.

Re: Keyed vs Keyless Flutes

Get a keyless. Learn to play it.

You can always get a keyed flute later or move to the dark side and play a Boehm flute as well - both will address the issue of tunes in other keys, and honestly, once you get out of ITM and related genres, the Boehm flute does a better job more cheaply anyway. But a keyed simple system flute is also a perfectly valid option for other music too - after all it is what classical musicians were playing before Boehm came up with his system.

Another option is to get keyless flutes in other keys - I have keyless flutes in A (low and high), G, EFlat and F. Covers quite a lot of options… And get used to moving tunes around (into different keys) on the instruments. I can certainly imagine a C flute being useful too - I have a number of common session tunes that I prefer to play on a C whistle in the keys that they are normally played in. (Or on Boehm, if I have it with me…)

I also play Boehm. But that all said, I often go to a session with a keyless D flute and nothing else.

Re: Keyed vs Keyless Flutes

Oh, and: Half holing is easier on large holed flutes; cross fingering tends to work better on smaller holed ones…

Re: Keyed vs Keyless Flutes

Wood is nice too and tupperware with a bit of thought can cope with most environmental situations.

Re: Keyed vs Keyless Flutes

Yeah, my Boehm system flute sits around in its case waiting for the stuff in wierd keys to commence, then it gets its workout. Never gets practised though!

Re: Keyed vs Keyless Flutes

I have a couple of keyed flutes - one wood one polymer. My wife plays the harp and major reason I bought a keyed instrument was so I could play with her. The other reason was no one bid for on the eight keyed flute on ebay and I got it for a song.

I do miss my keyless McGee though. I think you made the right decision.

Allan

Re: Keyed vs Keyless Flutes

Another vote for keyless (at least for this music).

Re: Keyed vs Keyless Flutes

Get the keys.

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Re: Keyed vs Keyless Flutes

You sound like you are taking a casual approach, so get the keyless. If, in time, you consider the flute to be your primary love, you might want a keyed flute the same way someone serious about playing piano gets a real piano instead of an electronic one. Keyless flutes are good instruments; they’re just not complete. It matters only if you care.

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Re: Keyed vs Keyless Flutes

Yes, just to clarify my post - a keyed flute is the way to go - eventually…

However they are more expensive and often harder to either find or involve a waiting time. Also, doing some time on _any_ flute (keyless or not - whatever is available) will give you a much better understanding of what you want when it comes time to start the search for _your_ flute.

So make sure your first flute is technically sound, i.e. does not leak, is in tune and is capable of good tone. Beyond that you need to know more about your own playing before you can say which is the best flute for you. Which means you have to learn to play a bit first.

Re: Keyed vs Keyless Flutes

Learn on the Forbes ,and move on to keys later if you think you need them. And if you do get a wooden keyed at some point, the Forbes is a great go anywhere spare.