Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

Hey all,
Been a while, but it’s been a rather good while cause I’m going to a session regularly and picking up new tunes rather quickly. Back to practicing martial arts in isolation, but that’s OK. The martial arts exercises and vitimins are why I’m finally playing again, sorted all my issues on my own.. At the moment I have a Dixon Three Piece flute. Still love the flute, but actually considering an upgrade. I do like the traveling capabilities of Delrin, but tempted to try a wooden flute. It’s been a while since I’ve even considered buying a new instrument, and looking for some help. The Dixon is a bit of a stretch at times, so a flute that would accomodate less of a stretch would be nice. Any links and suggestions are welcome.
Cheers.

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

If stretch is a REAL thing then you could consider a Carbony flute - made in USA. Pretty indestructible https://carbony.com/products/flutes/

Carbony do a silver-flute spacing holed version - slightly easier if you are struggling with stretch. I still maintain that the position of holes is determined by acoustics and - all things being equal - you’re better off purchasing and getting used to a standard-spacing instrument.

Your profile tells me you are based in Florida - guessing you will have a significant variation in humidity levels. That is going to prove a challenge for a wooden flute - care/storage routine to prevent cracking.

Another option is a Geoffrey Ellis - he also makes flutes in ebonite (indestructible, no humidity issues). I have an F flute from Geoffrey - it’s a nice instrument. The only drawback is non-tunable https://www.ellisflutes.com/world-flutes/transverse-folk

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

I doubt you’ll find a definitive answer here.
Whose playing do you most admire?
Which maker’s flutes are played by players whom you most admire?
Which maker will give you a few days to see if the flute suits you?

I have been playing the flute for over forty years. The best advice I can give you is to make a money-back return policy part of the purchase agreement.

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

Not looking for a definitive answer, looking for options to explore, I’m rather happy with my current flute, just curious to see what’s out there/get familiar with makers. Delrin appeals because of climate concerns. I rather like the brass rings and overall feel of current flute, but curious on other options. Looking at a new flute is more satisfying now since I’ve got my music back and waiting for a PS5 is a bit daft. If I were to list names of players, I’d likely butcher the spelling, sadly. MM, SH, KC make sense? :P
Cheers

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

Martin Doyle (http://www.martindoyleflutes.com/) makes a great, relatively inexpensive wooden flute. I haven’t ever had a flute crack with a water pillow in the case (On Amazon: Water Humidification Pillows Portable Humidifiers).

MM and SH play Olwell flutes. Not sure if KC still plays a Grinter flute. My favorite makers would be Doyle, Olwell, Wilkes, Jezequel, Lesouef, Lejeune, Lehart. This is not an inclusive list.

In Praise of Wooden Flutes, by Biddy Jenkinson

I do not want a plastic flute
However perfect it may be
Peerless, crackless, ever-young,
flutes and men, alike, bore me.

Give me a flute whose voice is sound
most of the time, who has his days,
who squeaks a bit when warming up
and grumbles about cold and rain.

What woman wants a flute to stay
cucumber cool, when she is hot.
It should expand when they both play
and contract when the playing stops.

I would not want my flute to sing
as well, when I am dead of thirst
as when my breath is vintage wine
and all my spits are strong as stout.

Whatever cannot die, is dead.
Wood is quick with memory
of sun, moon, rain, wind, seed, shoot, leaf.
It learned to sing in swaying trees.

Let angels play on plastic flutes.
Angels are perfect, above all craic.
Fallen Eve says Timber! Wood!
And Devil mend it if it cracks!

– Biddy Jenkinson.

[http://www.martindoyleflutes.com/in-praise-of-wooden-flutes.html]

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

Love the poem David! Even a bit rude, which is a good thing.

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

I’m not opposed to wooden flutes. One of the people at my session let me play on hers for a bit and I know that it definately felt lighter than the one I have atm. Her flute was fully keyed, though which was interesting. Sure a nonkeyed flute would be lighter, as well.
I haven’t yet sorted out a budget. The mandolin I play atm is an Eastman 305, and never felt the need to upgrade once I sorted out a good setup and strings and such. How long are the waits on wooden flutes? I can mannage the humidity well enough, never had any cracks or issues with my mandolin. Just wanted to pick the collective ITM brain and get ideas and suggestions overall. I’ll go take a look at everything suggested so far. Keep em’ coming please.

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

non-musical advice. I have wrist problems and I cannot finger the low holes on low-D irish flutes and whistles, longest I can do is low-F’s. My solution. High-D and C flutes from Ralph Sweet (RIP), still in production https://musiquemorneaux.com/contemporary-fifes/ (scroll down to “Piccolo” Fifes). They are tuned for chromatic playing (all forked fingerings are in tune) and are the most exquisite, pleasant to hold and play woodwinds I have seen. also small and light.

Other solution. Try (rent-to-buy) a boehm-system keyed flute. you will be shocked by how cheap they are and you will discover why everybody on this forum recommends “go keyless” and “go wood” (cheap springs, leaky valves, heavily rusted “silver”).

If you “go wood”, know that after a session or a gig, you cannot “just throw it in the bag and go home”. you must carefully clean it, remove any inside water, the works, or else. takes about 5-10 minutes, a big downer if your mates are already drinking beer in the pub.

If you have money in the bank, “go carbony”, no question. I have an A flute and a low-G whistle, they are indestructible lifetime keepers.

Here is Ralph Sweet (RIP) in action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fW7jumYTPQc

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

“If you “go wood”, know that after a session or a gig, you cannot “just throw it in the bag and go home”. you must carefully clean it, remove any inside water, the works, or else. takes about 5-10 minutes, a big downer if your mates are already drinking beer in the pub.”

I swab my flute out every time I put it away, a minute or two at the most. Not really any longer than a fiddle and how being put away etc.

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

I’m actually fine making the stretch, just was looking for anything with closer holes so that it isn’t as much of a stretch. Martial arts and vitimins have me back on track as far as music goes tbh.

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

Point is to find something as comfortable to play so that I can focus on learning flute as an instrument. I’m split between wood and delrin, and I will admit that poem above is making me lean towards wood ;D I do like the rings on the joints though, and that seems to make flutes pop up in price. Casey Burns website is a bit tricky to navigate, some of the links like checking pricing of small handed flutes are tricky. I’m not opposed to cleaning and general caring for a wooden instrument either. I’m keeping my flute assembled atm so I can pick it up any time.

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

Grey Larsen seems to stock Casey Burns’ Folk Flute and has a clearer description. The hole-spacing and ergonomic options are similar on some of Casey’s other flutes. https://greylarsen.com/shop/product/folk-flute-by-casey-burns/

I have a small handed Burns flute. The reach is much less than flutes based on 19th century designs. Bear in mind that whilst they play well they don’t have the same sound as flutes with bigger holes nearer to the optimum position. I wouldn’t leave mine assembled for any time

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

“If you “go wood”, know that after a session or a gig, you cannot “just throw it in the bag and go home”. you must carefully clean it, remove any inside water, the works, or else. takes about 5-10 minutes, a big downer if your mates are already drinking beer in the pub.”

FWIW, I don’t swab out my wooden flute (Peter Noy 8-key blackwood) immediately after the session ends. I wait until I get home because I’m also taking time to pack up a mandolin (the dreaded multi-instrument problem). Never had a problem doing that. The flute doesn’t mind sitting in the case wet until I get home to swab it out. Of course it’s blackwood, which is about the most impervious to moisture wood around.

“If you have money in the bank, “go carbony”, no question. I have an A flute and a low-G whistle, they are indestructible lifetime keepers.”

I have a Carbony low Bb flute, since replaced by a Lehart six-keyed Bb but it’s a good design for a keyless flute. Carbony flutes are not as lightweight as you might expect for carbon fiber, because a wood-like wall thickness is maintained for the acoustics. The angled tone-hole tube design does reduce the finger stretch a little bit, it’s an interesting idea.

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

One of my session mates is going to let me take one of her keyless blackwood flutes for a few weeks to give it a try so I can play with it some. Should be interesting and give me a bit more of an idea what I’m looking for. About how much are the Casey Burns flutes with tuning slide and rings? I don’t mind splurging a bit if the slide is actually useful. Don’t exactly know what the tuning slide does. Obviously helps tune, but what exactly is it on the instrument?
Cheers.

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

Going somewhat against the grain so far, I would recommend a keyless delrin flute. If you want a nice reedy loud Pratten-style flute with attractive rings, I recommend Rob Forbes. If you would like a flute that takes a little less wind, but is still fine for session play, I recommend Dave Copley. His delrin flutes are available with or without rings. Both makers are in the US. If you can find a used delrin flute by Garry Somers, either his Pratten or his Rudall model, I would also recommend that flute. Any of these flutes are ones that you would want to keep for the rest of your playing days. Later you may wish to purchase a wooden flute, but it is nice to have the delrin flute as well. In my experience, there is a difference in the sound of a delrin flute and a wooden one, but it is probably only noticeable to the player, and even the player will not notice the difference unless the flutes are compared side by side. That is, if you are only playing your delrin flute on a given day, you won’t notice a loss of tonal quality. Just don’t play the two kinds of flutes in the same playing session. Chet

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Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

I have a delrin atm by Tony Dixon, the three piece model. It’s a nice instrument and I never struggle to get a sound out of it. Starting to get used to the slight stretch.

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

Just a counterpoint, I also have the tony dixon 3 piece Delrin model (with brass rings) and, whilst I like it, I bought a Damian Thompson Delrin Rudall keyless flute (as I’d heard good things) and (for me) the stretch issue is massively reduced.

I think the big tony dixon stretch is particularly challenging due to the design/pronounced thick curve on the middle of the instrument (it’s kind of an inverse hourglass)

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

If reach is an issue get hole spacing and diameter for any flute you consider rather than relying on subjective comments mainly from people who don’t have reach issues. Smaller holes are easier to cover at full stretch - but won’t be as loud.

From a brief try on a UK made flute with slanting tone holes I think that method may offer a more even sound for the same reach than the Burns.

“Don’t exactly know what the tuning slide does. Obviously helps tune, but what exactly is it on the instrument?” It’s like an extra joint (that you won’t normally separate) on the head with a thin metal tube sliding into another thin metal tube so that you can change the overall length by half an inch or so without changing the inside profile of the flute much. Flutes without them usually have a small amount adjustment on the top joint. Playing with conventionally tuned instruments at normal room temperature I rarely move mine more than an eighth of an inch, which could be done on the top joint. Extremes of climate or altitude may require more - ask people who live somewhere similar to you.

It’s possible to play a flute in tune with the tuning joint in the wrong position by quite a way, but not be getting the best sound from the flute or oneself, and it feels hard work.

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

Yeah asking few makers measurements is my next step. So far I am looking at Casey Burns, Copley, Olwell, Carbony and M and E. Looks like Dave Copley has a $495 African black wood flute with rings and no slide. I’ll play around with the flute sessionmate is lending me and see. Hers has some offset holes so I can get a feel for that as well. I read somewhere that some makers soak their flute in linseed oil, which is also a practice in Martial Arts to get a remarkibly sturdy and weather resistant training weapon. Is that a common practice?
As far as the tuning slide, seems a bit unnecessary when you can just make minor adjustments at the headjoint. I got myself a tuning fork and was pleasantly surprised to see I playing flute in tune rather well.

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

If you work out how to use the tuning slide and do so you will be generally much more welcome at sessions 😉

Material choice, two vs three part, big holes, small holes, et.c. You really cannot say what suits you without playing it and a lot of other things as a basis of comparison. I recommend viewing your next flute as a step up, but not necessarily the end of your search for the perfect flute (does it ever end?). What you seek in a flute will change as your playing does and what you choose now will not necessarily stay as your first choice later.

That said, I have and like a Casey Burns two part folk flute in Mopane (the ones he doesn’t make any more…). Beautifully minimalistic in aesthetic and plays brilliantly. No tuning slide though. I actually own a couple of better flutes, but in a price class differing by about a factor of ten! I would not recommend moving all the way to the several thousand euro price point without more experience of different flutes to inform your judgement.

Good luck with it, try every flute that anyone will let you and peruse the “used” foren regularly - Chiff and Fipple, here, irishflutestore.com. Beware of physical shops - their selection is often flawed. On the other hand, try out every flute that they have that they will allow you to.

Chris

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

Altitude, temperature and humidity can all seriously move the default tuning of your flute, sometimes putting it beyond the reach of adjustment available without a slide. Extreme adjustments with a tenon joint can struturally weaken the flute leading to leaks or even damage. Extreme adjustments even with a slide can lead to problems with the internal scale of the flute too… TANSTAAFL.

The default tuning of the flute will also change as your playing changes, especially as you become able to build up more power in your tone.

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

… I can’t ever particularly see myself jumping to a several thousand dollar pricepoint, even if I won five million dollars tomorrow. I’ve had my mandolin for around 10 years now, and have loved the sound as I have experimented with strings, picks, etc. I figured out what I like and I tend to stick with it. I’ve had a delrin flute since 2018. Played with it off and on, but I like the three piece design, I like the rings on the joints, and sure a slide would make me more welcome at sessions, but I’ve found a perfectly lovely session up the road and don’t have the ability to travel a long ways to go to sessions in other cities. Part of the appeal in both whistles and simple system flutes is the simplicity. Both have their own sound which can be lovely once you figure out how to get good sound out of them. I’m glad to see that lots of makers offer smaller holes and slightly offset holes to more naturally fit to the hand. Gotten lots of good ideas here to look in to. I’ll post some clips on sessionmates flute to see how I’m sounding and keep asking about to make a final decision.

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

@TheBlindBard: ‘I can’t ever particularly see myself jumping to a several thousand dollar pricepoint, even if I won five million dollars tomorrow.’ - Chris Thile when he got his MacArthur ‘genius grant’ of $500,000 spent all of it on a mandolin.

If i got infinite moneys of this kind, as a whistle player, i actually have almost completed a ‘sensible full set’ of whistles, which is low Bb, C, D, Eb, E, F; alto G, A; high C, D, Eb - they aren’t all by one maker but i’m actually very happy with the palette.
With infinite money’s … i’m honestly pretty happy as is, ‘contentment is wealth’: i would get a new gig bag though because the current one is held together by duck-tape and maybe an alto B and a low Bb.

In theory, i could be caught out by eg a singer singing in one of the uncommon chromatic keys so get all them too, but in practice its not been necessary, and i’d need 2 gig bags to cart everything around - very heavy, hard to keep track of and you’d spend as long finding the right whisrle as it takes to play half a set of tunes…!

And maybe on general principles with infinite money try and corner the market on Copelands. I’ve got a D and its my best whistle, i’ve had it so long i’ve actually worn down the metal round the holes, so i might try and get a sterling silver one as an upgrade. And i’ve never seen any but low F and D, but apparently they exist. All copelands are owned at this point, so i’d have to offer silly money for one second hand.

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

I’m not exactly Chris Thile here :P lol. I am simple when it comes to my wants in an instrument, if I’m happy with the sound and the overall playability, I stick with it to get familiar with characteristics and enjoying that instrument. I own a grand total of 4 whistles, three of them by Jerry Freeman. They play nicely and allow me to make music. Once I corrected issues on mandolin grip with Marla Fibish, I have no desire to upgrade to a new mandolin. This mandolin has travelled with me to four different countries, and aside from a few bumps, She’s in just as good condition as when I bought her.

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

my longest serving whistle is my copeland, and after 30 years, the brass is worn down appreciably around the holes, to the extent that the edges are sharp. I wouldn’t think about replacing it apart from that it has been literally worn away. Assuming i am able to keep playing for the next 20 years or so (not a given) there’s a good chance it won’t outlast me. Which is sad. Your instruments should outlive you and be handed down. …I should probably check the relative tuning actually.

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

I’m going to go against the grain and suggest that after some trying of instruments and research you’ll know your instrument when you encounter it. I play one of Patrick Olwell’s keyless flutes and one of his adjusted historic keyed flutes (1862) but I’ve liked a flute that was made by a maker in Buenos Aires a friend has and I liked another recently made flute a friend got. If you’re bumping up against the limits of your instrument then it’s time to invest in something new, but if you like what you have I’d wait for the right used instrument to grab your attention.

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

Good to see the Carbony mentioned here as it reinforces my impulse to go that direction.

I play a Bohem flute, and frankly, am not at all well-versed in Celtic music. In a bold and foolish venture, I attended a Pipers’ Weekend recently, where I was seeking advice on Irish flutes. (The weekend was really for small pipes players, but I was told there would be some flute and whistle players that I could get advice from. But I also rented a set of pipes, just to see if I could work with bellows, bag and chanter simultaneously. One weekend is hardly a fair trial, but methinks those pipes are not going to be my friends.) In any case, one teacher (Iain MacHarg) said he no longer played flute as much as he had switched to low whistles.

He let me try several of his, without telling me anything about them, and something in the Carbony spoke to me. After looking at the Carbony web site I was even more intrigued. Searching for more information, I found that Grey Larsen had done a few videos where he somewhat endorses them. Being rather new to it all, his name didn’t mean anything to me. But I liked the videos.

Being a bit lazy, and having slightly less of an ear than some, the idea of an indestructible instrument that is immune to temperature change, and has an option of hole placement that is familiar to my fingers is rather appealing.

I still haven’t made any decision, but I’m reading through the discussion here. I’d like to actually sit down with a variety of wooden instruments, as that was the original impulse in thinking about something in addition to the silver Bohem flute. Despite my ear not being the most “choosy” I like the way some people make wood speak, and I’m curious with regard to whether or not one of the woods would deign to have a conversation with me and how much difference I would hear comparing various “wood” winds and “carbon fiber winds”. (All of the other whistles that Iain had were metallic -- and they were whistles not traverse flutes.)

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

I really love the sound and feel of wood, have an old wooden Haynes, circa 1910 and a Patrick Olwell keyless. I always bring the keyless along but really like to have every note at my disposal with the Haynes. It’s a bigger sound too. Knock on wood, never have had a problem with cracking. My theory is that they need to be played continually, to keep enough moisture, then I store it upright, never put away, so the moisture drips down. And swab too, of course! I’d love to find a low D, where I can reach the holes, my quest!

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

I’m a fan of wooden flutes for one practical reason and one purely aesthetic reason. The practical reason is that I need keys for some of the tunes I enjoy playing, and there is a very wide choice of keyed wooden flutes available on both the new and used market. Very few keyed “Irish” conical bore flutes are available in synthetic materials.

On the aesthetic/emotional side, I like the feel of wood under my fingers, and appreciate the historical link to the 19th Century flutes these designs are based on. I don’t find the minor maintenance required with wooden flutes to be difficult. A quick swab after playing, and then storing it in a humidified and temperature-controlled music room at home. If I lived in a more extreme home environment I couldn’t control, I might consider a synthetic keyed flute. But that goes back to very limited options for that type.

A side note on “ergonomic” flutes for easier fingering. Unless your hands are unusually small or you have a condition like arthritis that limits flexibility, I think it’s better to use standard hole spacing. If you get used to a particular close-holed layout, it will be difficult to switch to a more standard spacing as an upgrade later on. It locks you into a narrower niche. The majority of flute makers use a more-or-less standard finger spacing, based on the need to compromise fingering ease with tonal quality and volume.

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

ergonomics. the length of the low D flute is fixed by the physics. the position of the holes, too (hole size, chimneys & etc can move them a little). if your fingers can reach the holes, good for you, if not, tough. this is not like a guitar that you can order in any custom size to match your body dimensions.

history of the flute seems to be a struggle against the “cannot reach the holes” problem. old historical drawings and paintings seem to show flutes much shorter than an A440 low D flute. T.Boehm and others invented a “one size fits most” keywork mechanism (used by the “modern flute”). It’s ergonomics is not great (say my wrists) and was improved in the alto flute (also invented by T.Boehm, did not exist before him) and in the bass flute. the keys moved to make them really easy to reach (go to a music store a try. ignore the price stickers, ignore the weight). (I cannot say about ergonomics of similar keywork on saxophones, etc).

so, if the A440 keyless low D flute is too long for you, here is your choices. play a shorter flute (F, G, A) or play a fully keyed flute (metal or metal with wood head boehm system, in practice. wooden boehm system flutes exist, but good luck finding one).

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

“you have unusually short fingers” and “you have arthritis”, rub it in, yes! I have neither, but if I use a low D keyless flute, I get pinched nerves in one or both hands after about 5 minutes of playing. (“you are holding it wrong!”, “you don’t say!”)

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

wooden flute maintenance. arguments about low maintenance requirements (no tuning, no changing strings, no expensive refrets, only just a quick swab) are undercut by “I store my flutes in a special temperature and humidity controlled room”. to prospective flute buyers I would say “follow the flute maker’s care&feeding instructions, or else!”. said instructions usually talk about removing all accumulated moisture before putting the flute away. why? moisture will rust metal parts, “rot the wood” and “grow mushrooms”. after I play, I usually find a lot of moisture in the head and I find it a bit of a chore to remove it. cleaning the main bore and the outside is a quick swab, indeed.

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

The finger stretch required on the two ‘small handed’ D flutes I have played is roughly the same as on a Boehm flute. On mine it is exactly the same as on an F flute from a modern maker. I have them (the D and F) lined up on the table in front of me.

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

If the third finger(s) stretch is the problem, the specific solution is to get a Siccama system flute. It is identical to a simple system flute with the addition of keys for both third fingers.

In addition, you get a flute that is louder and has better intonation on the A and E notes.

Also to your benefit, Siccama flutes tend to sell for less than the equivalent 19th Century R&R flute.

Regarding wood care…

If it cracks, then you get the crack fixed. Many if not most 19C flutes have a crack. Since 200 year old wood is very stable, your friendly repair guy pulls out the head lining, glues the crack (almost invisibly if they are good), slightly bores out the head to avoid pressure, and uses a flexible adhesive to re-seal the head - QED (Quite Easily Done).

As mentioned, swab it out after use, which you will do with any flute to avoid excess humidity and bacteria build-up. Storing it in a tupperware box with a guitar humidifier keeps your flute at 50% humidity with very little effort no matter what the climate is like.

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

…IDK who’s flute poridge I pissed in but there seems to be a missunderstanding of what I am after here. I am not looking for anything rediculous. Several makers offer alterations to their hole positioning as well as closeness. I can make the stretch, but if there is another option that would make flute a more relaxed instrument to play then all the better for it. Surely these flute makers aren’t charging hundreds to thousands of dollars for rubbish products. I am after a simple wooden flute,, no keys, three pieces, and holes a bit less of a stretch than what I am currently dealing with. I’m not trying to order some whacky custom flute with super finely closed spacing. Just a bit closer and possibly a bit offset to make it a bit more comfortable. There’s no reason playing music needs to be uncomfortable with good body positioning.
I’ll keep poking about and post clips sometime soon.
--edit--
I’ve played on a silver flute before and it was rather comfortable and not like the flute I currently have. If a smallhanded configuration is about that, that’d be perfect. Copley offers a threepiece with rings in African Blackwood with what I’m looking for in terms ot holes closer and offset to make it more comfortable. appologies for the snippiness. The “just force your fingers to the flute” is part of what got me in the boat of not being able to play for three years or so, so not trying to repeat that if I can help it.

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

If it was me I would begin playing your session mate’s loaner, put any thought of a new flute on the back burner for about 3 months (at least), unless you are chomping@the bit, in which case put yor money down & buy another flute.

Plenty of suggestions above. I’ll add a wee bit. I currently play a Rudall & Rose style Delrin made by Garry Somers. I love Somers’ flute even though I tend to play Pratten models. I have a Forbes flute which I rarely play since purchasing Garry’s Rudall.

I think well made wooden flutes (this is absolutely generalising) they can be more responsive than Delrin’s. Certainly the Hammy Hamilton I borrowed was a different, responsive, wonderful experience. Fluter’s really should benefit their appreciation of different flutes by letting other people play them….

Sorry, I’m rambling & distracted.
Let me know if you want to borrow the Forbes. I’m serious; though my advice (*my advice*) is start playing your friend’s wooden flute and use the experience to inform your decision before buying a new flute.

edit: I need to state that my above comments do not address concerns about the ergonomics of flute playing. Blind Bard, if this is your primary concern I appreciate why you posted this thread. Unfortunately it is not at all part of what I posted above.

Take care,
AB

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Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

What’s the main differences between pratn and R and R?

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

R & R made anything they thought would sell, so there is no standard design beyond making whatever they made with high quality. That’s why their flutes are prized. Pratten flutes, named for Robert Pratten, are made with a larger bore and larger tone holes. They require more air but deliver more volume and power, which is an asset at sessions if you want to be heard.

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Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

(Sorry I appreciate this isn’t what the OP is looking for, but two people in the above chain have said eg “I’m looking for a low d my small hands could play, that is my quest”

If you do have seriously small hands, as above people have mentioned, do check out Carbony Low Ds (or flutes) with “finger chimneys”.

They’re expensive, but supposedly the only real solution (other than keys) for truely small handed people)

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

I do like the idea of the carbony flutes, but my endgoal has always been to get a nice wooden flute that is simple and sounds good. Wooden instruments are not really that hard to care for if you are careful about it. My mandolin has never cracked or warped, and I’ve travelled with it to multiple countries. I will likely need to find a decent hardcase for wooden flute though to keep it properly humidified.

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

You cannot fairly compare a wooden mandolin with a wooden flute. They are very different instruments.

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Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

I’ve lived in Idaho for eight years after 30 years of wooden flute playing in Southern California. Never had any use for a humidifier.

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Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

Humidifier?

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Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

OK. I just didn’t think Blind Bard was talking about an active humidifier when he mentioned finding a case.

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Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

half a sponge soaked in water in a plastic bag with holes in is the cheap way I’ve always done it. We talking about drastically different things? and Yes, different instruments, but both wood, both add something to the sound over time.

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

Love the stream of consciousness, BB!

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Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

Gotta put it somewhere, otherwise it’s all just bouncing round my head! :P
Thanks for all the help and stuff to look in to. I’m hopefully getting this flute on loan tomorrow and going to spend some time with it before I post anything for criticism. Glad I’m still on this journey and that years of not playing haven’t taken the passion and drive to play away.

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

I owned one of those 3 piece conical bore Dixon flutes way back when, and they are small holed. Small hole flutes often have MORE of a stretch between holes than more normal hole sized flutes. Being a guy with smaller hands and thinner fingers, I find some smaller holed flutes much harder to play. I currently play a fully keyed delrin Copley and an antique flute from the 1830s that have similar hole sizes and spacing, and that works great and I find the holes easy to cover.

Just wanted to toss that out there.

While my current non-wood flute is delrin, I prefer ebonite in non-wood flutes over anything else. Hopefully, carbony has come a long way. I played some of his flutes many years back at the KC Irish Fest, and I wasn’t a fan at all. He did take some measurements off a couple of my flutes, so I know he was working on his design.

Eric

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

Yeah my fingers are pretty thin and long. Told I have good hands for piano. Session tonight so we’ll see what new tunes I can pick up tonight.
Cheers.

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

I have been playing seriously for abut four years. I’ve got flutes from delrin flutes from Forbes, Copely, Walt Sweet, and and Ebonite Geoffrey Ellis and an Olwell in blackwood. The Olwell is the best, by a lot, and I’m not sure why. Is it the material. or the fact that Olwell really knows what he’s doing? I like the Copely flute a lot: it’s got a good bit of volume but does not take a lot of air. The Ellis flute is light and nicely in tune but the Olwell flute has more dynamic range.

I really like the zero worry quality of Delrin. I love the Olwell flute but I’m always checking the humidity. I’ve had instruments crack before--I play the upright bass and it just cracked in the middle of a winter night. Very expensive repair. So I’m always fussing about humidity. I have the Olwell in a pelican case with two small hygrometers. Just now I came back from a session and added a small piece of damp sponge to the case, because the humidity was getting low. The Copely flute, on the other hand, lives in my car with zero issues.

The keyless Olwell is great. It took 15 months from deposit to delivery and was close to $2000. A fair price for what it is. I’d like to order a keyed flute but I will probably ask Dave Copely or PolJez to make one in Delrin

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Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

Don’t get stressed out because of humidity problems. I think one poster here even mentioned you need 10 minutes to carefully swap out the flute :D
It’s no big deal, to swap the flute out after playing. Takes like half a minute for me.
Just play the flute on preferably daily base and oil it from time to time (again, the piling process takes lake 5 minutes for me and then I wait a day before swapping excess oil away…no big problem).
If doubling in a dry climate and don’t play the flute for some time, just but a piece of wet cloth or so in the case m, it will humidify the flute for you.
I think a good instrument would be a keyless Giles Lehrt flute. The sound very nice and can produce a lot of volume. And you will only have to wait a really short time for one of his flutes.
A bonus is, that he can add keys for you later.

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

So, thoughts on the wooden flute my session friend loaned me:
Much lighter overall than Delrin. Her flute has a tuning slide which does make it more topheavy, but honestly that’s not bad. The main thing I really love is that the G hole is offset and it’s rediculously natural. 30 degree offset might seem a bit extreme but I can put my first two fingers on flute and finger just falls right on the third hole no problem. When I am playing flute now, I continually pause to check both the general straightness of my wrist as well as the amount of tension on the blade of my hand and in the palm by the thumb. I’ve never been able to get my hand quite that relaxed before. I check straightness of wrist by resting forearms atop one another to use the bones as a guide. All good there and it’s staying that way without needing to really think about it which is good. I’m amazed at the ease of getting tone out of it once I figure out where to position the headjoint. Slightly turned in and headjoint resting above goatee. All in all I’m for sure sold on a wooden flute. The weight alone and how relaxed I can get while holding it is really lovely. She said it’s an O’Brian flute, don’t know if He’s still making them, but lovely instrument.
Cheers.

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

So just today I noticed that my pratten style Olwell flute, which I got in October, has developed a crack in the center section. See image at the link below.

http://spokeshave.net/crack.jpg

This is pretty dismaying--I keep it in a pelican case with two hygrometers monitoring humidity, and it’s never gone below 60%

For people saying humidity doesn’t matter with wooden flutes, or it’s not a big deal, I would say that depends on where you live. This flute is less than five months old. I hope it’s repairable.

This really confirms my feeling that I will never buy a keyed wooden flute

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Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

I have only ever had one wooden flute crack, in the fifty or so years that I’ve been playing. The flute was exposed, sitting on a flute rack, not having been played for days. That was in winter, 30 years ago, in the northeast, in a house heated with wood stoves and with no humidification. The RH must have been way below 10%. I know better now and have had no problem with any of my wooden flutes, keyed or keyless.

I don’t think it’s fair to make the flute crack a public issue. You should have contacted the maker before complaining on a public forum.

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Isn’t the point about wooden flutes that they can be sensitive to changes in humidity? It seems reasonable that members‘ should be able to post about their experiences on this forum. I appreciate being able to read even personal, antecdotal details. Then one may be able to weigh ’all’ availabe information in deciding how best to take care of different types of flute.

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Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

@Hark!: I agree with the above post that you should contact the maker. I’m sure they’ll either fix or replace this under warranty.

“This really confirms my feeling that I will never buy a keyed wooden flute”

Although I believe in principle that we should support our modern makers of “Irish” flutes, one option is to buy a keyed wooden flute on the used market that hasn’t cracked. At least you would know it has survived for a few years without an early onset crack, and may have stabilized a bit more over time.

I didn’t plan it this way, but as it happens, all three of my keyed wooden flutes were bought used (Aebi, Noy, Lehart Bb). None were cracked when I bought them used, and all three are theoretically at higher risk with full metal-lined headjoints. So far, they’ve remained without cracks, but then I live in the US Pacific Northwest, which is a relatively friendly climate for wooden instruments. I store the flutes in a humidified music room, inside cases that are left partially open to stabilize with the room air. Humidity in the music room is kept around 45%-55% rh during the year. Local sessions are in rooms with somewhat low humidity in Winter heating months, but nothing like you’d get in the US Midwest or Northeast during Winter.

If one of these flutes cracks I’ll deal with it and have it repaired. I like the feel of wood under my fingers, and the link to the past history of this music. It’s a purely emotional/aesthetic connection to wooden instruments, I admit, so the risk is worth it to me. Others may of course prefer never having to worry about it with a synthetic material, but if you go for keys it does limit your choices.

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It’s an Owell. Obviously Hark will contact the maker about a repair. Does anyone reasonably think he won’t?

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Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

I’ve already emailed the Olwells yesterday and I’m sure they will respond, and it’s probably a straightforward repair. I’m dismayed that it cracked because I’m very careful with it.

I really loved the flute; it was great. I don’t know if that’s because it’s blackwood, or because it’s an Olwell. I don’t know if it cracked because there was some unknowable weakness in the wood, or because if some form of mishandling on my part. I’m very careful, but it does go from sealed in a case in the house, at 65 or so degrees, to a warm and dry bar. We live in a leaky old house with forced air heating. We onlly live three hours or so north of the actual Olwell shop, so there’s no dramatic climate difference.

But from now on it’s delrin for me, delrin or ebonite. I have an ebonite Ellis flute I like a lot, and the Olwell headjoint fits nicely on it, I discovered yesterday.

Who makes a good keyed delrin flute? Dave Copely springs to mind

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Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

As for “complaining on a public forum,” David Levine, this is a thread partly about wooden flutes and their susceptibility to cracking. I don’t blame the Olwells--they clearly know what they are doing! and I have of course contacted them and I’m sure they will repair it, assuming it’s repairable.

But again this is a thread about wooden flutes and cracking, in which many people reported that cracking is not an issue. And this is a wooden flute which cracked shortly after I got it. Seems relevant, no?

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Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

It is for sure something I am worried about, but I also take good care of my instruments and will learn what is required to avoid any damage. If it does get damaged, I’m sure a quick message to the maker and sending it off in the post would solve it.
Partially lined headjoints seem interesting. Are they basically tuning slides cut in half? It seems like a partially lined headjoint would work just as well as a standard tuning slide without having a tube of silver stuck up the entire headjoint of flute. Fair bit cheaper, too! Silver is expensive, especially now.

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partially lined headjoints are yes, “half lined” in that the lining does not extend all the way up to the embouchure hole. There’s some feeling that lined and unlined have a different sound--there’s a post about it on the Olwell flutes blog

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Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

That seems rather sound… the air going in to the flute is first contacting the wood of the flute instead of a metal tube over the wood of the flute. Partially lined headjoint it is, then!

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I’m not sure a half-lined headjoint is any safer against cracking than fully lined. More of a tonal consideration. I haven’t read any definitive tests on the difference in sound, but the Olwell blog page is at least one perspective on it. Also some comments about potential for cracks:
https://www.olwellflutes.com/post/variables-of-headjoint-design

Another consideration with lined vs. unlined or partially lined headjoint is the added weight at that end of the flute, possibly enough to affect the balance point. Maybe not a good thing in a keyless flute, where it might shift the balance point a bit more towards the headjoint? Maybe a good thing in an 8-keyed flute to help balance the weight of the additional hardware on the C foot? The balance of both my 8-keyed flutes seems just right with fully lined headjoints on both, so there may be something to that latter idea.

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Any instrument can crack if it’s wooden…I have a bodhran with a crack in the frame, but it still plays fine. The only wooden flute I’ve ever had cracked only cracked when the case it was in flew out of a basket from my Vespa at 50 mph, hit the road, popped open and the flute cracked as it bounced across the road. That was a bad moment. Then again, I’ve never bought a new wood flute and I suspect new instruments may have weak spots that may well crack after a bit of time. Buying only used wooden flute, usually 100ish years old…I’ve had great luck with stable, non-cracking flutes despite midwest temp and humidity fluctuations not seen in much of the world (105 farenheit to -20 and humidity between 10% and 85%). I play my old flutes outside in the summer heat, outside for gigs at 45 degrees (lower than that is just too cold), etc, all without problem. Old flutes have been through it all for decades or maybe even a century…any spot prone to a crack will have already cracked and been repaired, thus removing the stress point.

Just my .02 worth…and Dave Copley makes a fine 8 key delrin flute…I have one I use for travel.While I would hate to lose that delrin flute when traveling, Dave could make me another but Henry Wylde couldn’t make me a new cocus flute.

Eric

Re: Looking at a new flute, suggestions?

My 1857 Metzler 8-key flute has more cracks in it than a room full of borscht-belt comedians.

They have been repaired and stabilized over the years in at least two restorations and now problem-free for the last 20 years or so.

I’m very careful assembling and disassembling it, don’t use too much cork grease (has corked tenons) and try not to expose it to extremes in temperature or humidity.

Generally, the temperature here in my home office where I play ranges between 53 and 83 degrees and, other than when we have occasional Santa Ana wind conditions (the ones that cause everything to burn), stays around 40% humidity in the house. During Santa Ana conditions, it might be 5-10% humidity outside, but generally around 20% in the house, haven’t had any issues with instruments cracking (so far, fingers crossed).

That’s all I can do. If it cracks again, I’ll bring it to one of my trusted repair techs like John Cornia or The Windsmith here in San Diego, CA.

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Is too much cork grease an issue? I might be guilty of this, oops.

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It can be if it swells the cork too much, but the tech said that it’s more about extending the life of the corks themselves. The last main body tenon cork on mine lasted 10 years.

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That’s quite a while. Good to know.