b-natural flat on keyless flute?

b-natural flat on keyless flute?

On a keyless wooden flute, when the lower octave G is in tune, the 2nd and 3rd octaves are as well. Bottom D is slightly sharp (5 cents), and in general all notes in the bottom two octaves are reasonably well in tune except for B and C#, both of which are about 20 cents flat in both octaves. (C-naturals are in tune). This is my first flute made for ITM although I have played the Baroque flute and the silver flute for many years. Is this amount of flatness typical or acceptable? I’ve read that a flat C# is needed to obtain an acceptable C natural, but can’t find anything about B (natural).

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Re: b-natural flat on keyless flute?

If we’re talking Just Intonation, which is (in theory) how the uilleann chanter is tuned, the scale would be thus:

(+ - differential from Equal Temperament in cents)

D (baseline pitch)
E +4
F# -14
G -2
A +2
B -16
C# -10

So, it’s common on Irish whistles, flutes, and pipes to see the F#, B, and C# be a bit flat of ET.

Remember that B is not only the Major 6th in the key of D but also the Major 3rd in the key of G and in both cases it’s sweeter to have it a bit flat of ET. Both the flat F# and B will blend with the drones in D much better than they would if ET.

Re: b-natural flat on keyless flute?

Nearly all my whistles have a bit of tape stuck over the B, if that goes any way to answering your question.

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Re: b-natural flat on keyless flute?

Thanks for the comments!

Richard: this is very interesting! Do you (or any others) know if contemporary Irish flute makers attempt any sort of compromise between just intonation and equal temperament that would results in a flatter B?

gam: I’ll try this on my flute. The maker has kindly offered to work on the B a bit, but I’m reluctant to ask him to do this until I know a little more about what is typical of modern Irish flutes.

I forgot to mention that the cork is only 16mm from the centre of the embouchure hole. This may contribute to the ease with which the upper register speaks and its sweetness (both characteristics of this flute) and to a less robust first octave (although it seems reasonably good as it is on this flute), but it shouldn’t affect the relative pitches of adjacents notes like A and B should it?

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Re: b-natural flat on keyless flute?

Putting tape on a hole makes the note flatter, so if you B is already flat that’s doing the opposite of bringing it up to its ET pitch.

Seems that most Irish flutes I’ve played (both antique and modern) have been more or less in ET. A compromise, as you put it, might have everything ET but have the F# B and C# just a tad flat, say, around 7 cents. I don’t know what notions or theories the new makers have. The antique wooden 8-key flutes were made for orchestral use and were ET.

As you say the cork has a number of complex effects on the way a flute plays.

Since playing in tune is crucial, I always set the cork where it makes the octaves true. When the cork is just right G in the bottom and middle octave will be exactly in tune; not only that but if the cork is just exactly in the right place you can smoothly transition from low G to G in the 2nd octave. In other words there’s no ‘break’, the thing where as you steadily increase pressure the low-octave note starts destabilizing and fluttering and finally breaks up to the 2nd octave. Rather, as you increase pressure on low G more and more of the 2nd octave G appears in the tone, until at one point both Gs sound equally and simultaneously in a unified tone, then as you increase the pressure more the low-octave component slowly decreases until you have a pure 2nd octave G. If you flute won’t do this, the cork isn’t in the right spot.

Re: b-natural flat on keyless flute?

The OP should tell us what kind of flute this is, because, as many of us know, quality/intonation/internal tunings vary widely.
‘cac’ says "This is my first flute made for ITM" - does that mean new, old, self-made.

I think more info is needed.

Re: b-natural flat on keyless flute?

The flute is made by Richard Cox, is his #137, is new (although he has made others since then), is of bloodwood, has a tuning slide, is two-piece, intonation generally very good, speaks easily and clearly in 2nd octave and I have no trouble playing 3rd octave G (especially good and in tune with lower two Gs), and A (haven’t tried other notes in the 3rd octave except that 3rd octave E is all but impossible). Workmanship is excellent and sound is too.

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Re: b-natural flat on keyless flute?

Richard Cox from Ontario? I’ve tried a bunch of his flutes over the years at festivals, came very close to buying one several times but never have. (I’m not a good enough flute player to have useful advice on their intonation, alas.)

Re: b-natural flat on keyless flute?

Given that Mr Cox has offered to have a look at it, I would leave it in his capable hands. If he says it’s OK, then I would rather trust him than an electronic tuner, or members (knowledgeable thought they may be) of this rather diverse club. Play it for a few weeks before making a decision — it could just be that your ear isn’t attuned yet.

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Re: b-natural flat on keyless flute?

"If he says it’s OK, then I would rather trust him than an electronic tuner"

Sorry but I find this strange. Checking against a tuner will reveal whether an instrument is actually in tune, or out of tune. You don’t have to ‘trust’ an electronic tuner: it cannot lie.

Many things can happen to an instrument between the time it leaves the shop and the time you play it. Many’s the time that I, or people I know, have received flutes or chanters which didn’t play well from respected makers. Flutes can develop leaks in myriad places, and chanter reeds can go crazy when sent to different climates.

Re: b-natural flat on keyless flute?

Of course a tuner won’t lie, but it won’t know about just intonation and/or intonation compromises the maker might have made (because of the irregular hole sizes, the lack of keys etc.) either. So I suppose gam’s point was that the maker might tell the OP if it’s really a flaw or if it’s tuned the way it is on purpose, which might indeed be confusing if you’re used to the Böhm flute. Asking Mr. Cox would probably be the best thing to do either way.

Re: b-natural flat on keyless flute?

That was indeed what I meant — the tuner won’t lie; but neither will it tell you how the flute is supposed to be tuned. I have a Korg electronic tuner with, if I remember correctly, six different systems built in, and two user-generated slots for ‘non-standard’ tunings.

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Re: b-natural flat on keyless flute?

I also have a Korg (OT-120) and it is far better for both the mind and the constitution to avoid asking your tuner if your whistle/flute is in tune and to simply play along.

Re: b-natural flat on keyless flute?

Yes, it is Richard Cox of Ontario and I’ve just had a pleasant visit with him this evening while he adjusted the flute. He pointed out that an individual’s embouchure also affects intonation (and this was clear from his playing of the flute and mine (using his Seiko tuner and also my Korg, but also our ears)). So the flute is now adjusted to my embouchure and the B is fine now. He knew exactly what change to make, and I learned a tiny bit. The craft/art/science of making our instruments is really something wonderful, something the whole human race can take pride in even if only a few are blessed with the skill to actually do it. Thank you all who added comments on this thread. As always, thesession is a huge help.

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Re: b-natural flat on keyless flute?

Playing into a tuner is notoriously unreliable in flutes since we tend to blow differently depending on what we are expecting/seeing. Terry McGee did a flute tuning project where you play a tune or part of one and then the tuning of the notes within that tune is analysed. It produces a much more accurate picture of the intonation of the flute as actually played. You can check it out with the description and all necessary tools available on his website.

Re: b-natural flat on keyless flute?

Any kind of flautist will be able to adjust the pitch of any note up or down almost a whole semitone, sometimes more depending on which note it is. Therefore, electronic tuners are fairly useless for flute players. Having said that though - try tuning to a middle (not low) D instead of the more common A.

Re: b-natural flat on keyless flute?

I NEVER use an electronic tuner. If you cannot tune by ear, get out of the business. I will have another player give me a low E and a low A, plus sometimes the same notes an octave higher. More often than not, though, I just adjust as I play with the group. Takes literally seconds. Electronic tuners??? Bleccch!

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Re: b-natural flat on keyless flute?

I’d have to agree with Ailin here for playing, though I would also say that I just _know_ where my flute(s) tunes to A=440Hz give or take a little bit and that the first serious set of tunes is going to be flat (3mm in) and the tenth enthusiastic set will be heading sharp (2-3 mm out). There are enough fixed pitch instruments around to make sure everyone else is close to 440 too. And if they weren’t I’d ask for an A or a G - G is preferable, though I would take A from a fiddle as it is an open string.

Once playing every note has to get adjusted according to what I am hearing anyway - I regard the flute as being in tune when the acoustically in tune note is mostly not too far from the neutrally blown note.

Where electronic tuning aids are helpful is in working out how your individual flute blows for you and identifying any particular notes that you tend to play _way_ out. By way out I mean where a quick wobble up and down from the note is not enough to tell which direction improves things…

Also a good exercise is playing against drones. Get something to play a steady multi-octave D (or G… or A… depending on tune.) and play so that you are always in tune with the drones on all notes. If you can’t hear when you are in tune with the drone then play long notes and twiddle with the tuning up and down until you _can_ recognise the difference.

However - and this often happens - when the rest of the session has not hit a common tuning then you will never manage to be in tune with them all either. Stop playing or pick a likely winner and play louder.

Oh, and just in case you haven’t practised this yet, practise bending the notes up and down at will by redirecting the airstream up and down with your lips (turning the headjoint in and out also works, but I can never do this at speed in a tune…). See how far you can bend the notes. As Greendraggon says, you should be approaching a semitone either way…