How “tunable” is a two-piece Copley (or similar) flute?

How “tunable” is a two-piece Copley (or similar) flute?

I’m looking at a used two-piece blackwood Copley flute in D. The thing is, it has no tuning slide, but I’m told that there is still a limited “range” of tunability (if that’s even a word) that can be achieved by pulling the headjoint out slightly from the body. Obviously, it can’t be practically pulled out more than a few millimeters, and I’m thinking that if I have to go *above* A=440 (joint all the way in) I’ll be out of luck.

Is this something I could practically take to a session and still hope to be in tune with other instruments/changing ambient conditions/warming flute/etc? Am I better off just saving my pennies until I can afford a flute with a proper tuning slide? From my limited experience with Copleys, I really like them and was hoping this would work for me.

Re: How “tunable” is a two-piece Copley (or similar) flute?

The Copley site only references minimum 3-piece flutes, and states:

“With our three-piece flutes the tuning is adjusted by pulling out the top tenon joint. This gives a more limited tuning range than a metal tuning slide but is perfectly adequate if you are playing at A440 pitch and do not naturally tend to blow very sharp or flat. This arrangement works particularly well with Delrin as the top tenon is made thinner and produces less disturbance of the bore profile when it is extended.”

Casey Burns makes a wood Folk Flute without slide
and his site says:
“Is the Folk Flute tuneable? I make the Folk Flute with a 32-33mm long headjoint tenon, which allows for some adjustment for when tuning to other players. The headjoint can be pulled out or rolled inward to flatten it as needed. Since most everyone plays at A-440Hz only a small range of tuning adjustment is needed. The range is similar to that found on wooden recorders.”

In either case, though, the flutes have often been used at sessions with no reports of problems.

In a non-wood option, Gary Somers makes very nice Delrin flutes with slides at a quite reasonable price.

Re: How “tunable” is a two-piece Copley (or similar) flute?

For several years I played a vintage c1860 8-key flute for which I had a new headjoint made, the headjoint unlined and no tuning slide. I had the headjoint made so that to be in tune at A=440 it was pulled out a tad, around 3 or 4mm. This was so that I had a bit of tuning leeway in case I needed to tune a tad sharper, but I never really needed to. The flute stayed pulled out at the same place all the time.

I guess it depends on the situation, the sessions here always tune to A=440. If you’re in a place where pitch is “anything goes” then you might need more tuning leeway.

Since different fluteplayers blow flutes at different pitches (mostly depending on the angle of the blow-hole and how steeply into the flute the player directs the air-stream) the way that Copley is tuned may or may not be right for you.

In my case the headjoint played too flat for me, so I sent it back to the maker to be shortened. Then it was perfect, playing just a bit sharp pushed all the way in, which was how I wanted it.

Re: How “tunable” is a two-piece Copley (or similar) flute?

We had to this discussion recently here.
I maintain that the long slides we see on 19th century instruments were to reach a variety of pitch standards and are less necessary today.

As pitches became standardised slides got shorter (see late high pitch instruments) and before they used corps de rechange to do the same job.
We play at one pitch standard (well I like to play flutes at what I find (or think) is their intended pitch but that’s another story)

I would buy the best flute I could afford and slide would be my last consideration.
There are times when it’s nice to have a slide to tune sharper when it’s flat such as a really cold room but maybe that’s not the best place to play flute anyway.

Fiddling about with tuning slides is a beginners folly. Compensating for improper blowing.

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Re: How “tunable” is a two-piece Copley (or similar) flute?

As I said in that other thread linked above, not every session is able to lock into A440 and keep it there, due to the idiosyncrasies of the various instruments that show up.

At one local session, the leader usually asks everyone to tune to the A on one player’s concertina, which is close enough to A440. But there are pipers in that session that will adjust their chanters to the concertina A, and then gradually drift sharp over the course of an hour, pulling the rest of the group along with them. I’ve noticed players of smallpipes and border pipes at other local gatherings that have trouble sticking to A440. Seems to be a thing with pipes -- understandably so. It’s just tricky to chase them sometimes, and with their loud volume it’s clear who’s going to win the tuning battle. 🙂

In situations like that, it’s nice to have a tuning slide that can move sharp as well as flat from the maker’s pitch target. If you never play with pipers, or slightly off-pitch concertinas, whistles, etc., then you may never need it.

Re: How “tunable” is a two-piece Copley (or similar) flute?

I find the my Copley delrin 3 piece plays a bit above A440. I have to pull it out a tad to get it to A440. I have never run into a situation where this was an issue.