Abel Siccama - Very Interesting Tone

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tstermitz
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Abel Siccama - Very Interesting Tone

Post by tstermitz »

I just got my Abel Siccama #671 (probably by Hudson who went on to Pratten-style fame) back from Jeff Denning who did a beautiful renovation to a flute that was unplayable due to some breaks and problems. He fixed a couple of cracks, spun silver caps for the tenons, installed new pads, etc. Plus fixed a broken key seat, and a messed up crack at the Bb post.

Siccama flutes add keys for the third finger of each hand so that the A-hole and E-hole can be properly sized and positioned. The uni-body allows the G# key to be in a much better position. On most simple-system flutes, those holes need to be moved close enough for the third fingers to cover them, and then they need to be made smaller. It's kind of a wonder that non-Siccama flutes sound as good as they do.

Siccama flutes appear from time to time, but are not all that common. I'd only seen references to Siccama's in historical flute websites, like McGee's and OldFlutes:
http://www.oldflutes.com/articles/siccama.htm
http://www.mcgee-flutes.com/Siccama.html
http://www.mcgee-flutes.com/Sicc_Ext.htm
viewtopic.php?f=2&t=25289

If I were writing a Siccama review back in 1850...

Now that I've tried a Siccama, the design really delivers in terms of tone volume, intonation and evenness. A is clear, E does not at all require the Eb vent, and the G# note is very strong. Other notes are well-optimized as well, like the middle C/C#. It does prefer using the C-natural key for both C and C#. Neither the OXX OOO nor the OXO XXX C's work as well as the keyed C-natural.

The third finger reach on both hands is even easier than advertised; this kind of flute would be really useful for someone with small hands.

The keys are super-easy to use, requiring pretty much minimal adaptation/adjustment to your playing. You can do all the rolls, taps and cuts you've been used to. I guess slides don't work on those notes. For me slides which are easy on whistle, are not so easy on the flute anyway.

I've played a modern large-holed Rudall, but I've never tried a Pratten Flute, new or antique. The Siccama plays quite loudly and clearly - louder than the large-holed Rudall. It has very big holes (hole #4 is 10.2mm) but the bore is not particularly large - it's slightly smaller than my antique Rudall. My flute tone preference tends toward sweet and expressive on my Rudall, rather than pushing it to the reedy/buzzy tone. For me, this flute seems naturally toward the sweet and loud side rather than toward the reedy/aggressive tone. I'm sure with practice I'd be able to get a lot more volume and a more reedy character.
Last edited by tstermitz on Sat Jan 08, 2022 9:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
PB+J
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Tell us something.: Hello. I'm a historian and musician living near Washington DC. I play the bass and guitar and focus on jazz. I'm interested for reasons I can't quite explain in Irish music. I play the flute.

Re: Abel Siccama - Very Interesting Tone

Post by PB+J »

Thanks for the review. it's a very interesting design and I wonder why it didn't become the norm? It seems to combine the advantages of keys and keyless very well
jim stone
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Re: Abel Siccama - Very Interesting Tone

Post by jim stone »

Just to say that I can slide easily on the keyed notes of the Siccama. Also I have never before seen a 'simple system' almost...flute so agile and comfortable. The key work is a quantum leap above anything else I've played.
tstermitz
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Re: Abel Siccama - Very Interesting Tone

Post by tstermitz »

@PB&J.

I agree the design is elegant. Other makers offered the model. The Siccama came out as Boehm flutes were slowly gaining market share.

But, then Pratten (general Patton didn't make flutes) flutes had their day in the sun. I'm not sure why Siccama flutes were not preferred to Prattens.

In any case, the market (customers) tends to have its say.
Last edited by tstermitz on Sun Jan 09, 2022 9:21 am, edited 2 times in total.
jim stone
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Re: Abel Siccama - Very Interesting Tone

Post by jim stone »

The Siccama flute was, I believe, made and sold from about 1850 till I think 1915 or thereabouts. So it was competing not badly with the incoming Boehm flute. Probably the greater power of the Boehm made the day for it. Composers wanted flutes that would soar above the orchestra, not blend in. If I may a great strength and a great weakness of the Boehm silver flute.
tstermitz
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Re: Abel Siccama - Very Interesting Tone

Post by tstermitz »

One more Siccama benefit, at least with my key-work set-up. You can very easily slide from the D-key to the Short-F key because the keys are at the same height and there is a very short distance between them (the keys for both left & right index fingers are closer than on a normal flute. (Maybe this is what Jim Stone was saying. I think usually people are talking about the slide or glide where you can bend the notes on open-hole flutes.)

Now, I've always been a long-F kind of guy because I was never able to slur from D to short F-nat without blipping. One of my flutes does have the twisted short-F key which almost helps, but even so, my fingers don't really roll or slide to short-F.

As long as we're on key ergonomics...

The C-natural key on some flutes is easier than others. I had one flute where I merely had to straighten my index finger, and the C-nat was triggered. On my right hand my fingers are fairly flat and sort of an angled pipers-grip, so making the index straight was just the tiniest move. On other flutes the C-nat requires me to move my index finger up the flute a little distance, which is workable but not nearly as easy. And on other flutes, the C-nat key is just a little too high, so you have to both lift the index and move it upward.

On this Siccama, the C-nat is low enough for the middle-solution, move the index up the flute a little.

One thing I don't prefer on the Siccama, is that the long-F is positioned around the flute a little. It works, but isn't my preference. On my Rudall flutes, I tend to roll the joint slightly in so that the long-F is more DOWN the flute and only slightly around.
augurforever
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Re: Abel Siccama - Very Interesting Tone

Post by augurforever »

Hi!
Siccama No 205 is my workhorse since some years - it took some time to master the beast, but now i'm very happy!
I had to bring down A,G+E with some epoxy, now tuning is very good.
Third oktave grips are different than on a normal simple system flute, and i use a cran instead of the e-roll cause it's hard to play in higher tempo.
With a tight and proper embouchure it enables a very dynamic play with a sweet, full and rich tone.
I'm shure you'll have fun with the precious!
Beo
rudallcarte
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Re: Abel Siccama - Very Interesting Tone

Post by rudallcarte »

Getting my Siccama back from the repairer tomorrow and really looking forward to it. Been my regular flute for about 15 years now and I love it. The tone is loud and rich but also very sweet and responsive. I'll post again when I've got it and might even try to attach an audio file.
augurforever
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Re: Abel Siccama - Very Interesting Tone

Post by augurforever »

Here's a short part of a present project with my Siccama, enjoy!
https://www.dropbox.com/s/05it0s860na96 ... g.mp3?dl=0
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