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PostPosted: Tue Apr 24, 2018 11:39 pm 
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Agree with you Crickett on that last point - re the bling - and have been getting into some nice engine turned bling myself for my flutes because I can and I enjoy exploring that aspect.

I am making the point and sticking my head out that his flutes are hard to dial in because he gets much less practice in the tuning and voicing aspects. No question about it!

These might work for players who practice hard or who have dialed in their embouchures to fit the flutes. But for most of us with flabbier less-dialable embouchures and the sloth lifestyle that keeps us from practicing find that these flutes are just simply difficult. But there are other flute made by other makers that always work.

Practicing embouchure making is important. Its like reed making - actually it IS reed making in the sense that one is making the shapes that control the air reed. We are fortunate that we don't have to work with cane. Sticking to the reed making analogy, ask any Uilleann pipe maker about reeds and you will understand why David Quinn named his reed making book "The Piper's Despair". For every good reed there are several dozen that are crappy. I just cannot believe that one can tune and voice only a few flutes a year if that and claim that its voicing is superb. The data consisting of reports of people finding difficulty dialing-in these embouchures (including my own experience) supports this theory.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2018 12:07 am 
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Thanks for that honest reply. I just have a couple of questions to make sure I know what you are asserting (and what you aren't). Do you think that his flutes are inferior with respect to voicing and tuning (and perhaps embouchure) than your flutes?

And do you think it would be right to put this point by saying that he is simply not as good at (or is less practiced at) tuning and voicing and embouchure making than you are (since you make more flutes a year, or since your flutes are easier for beginners to pick up)? Or are you open to the idea that he makes choices about what will bring out the most in his flutes, as opposed to shooting for and failing at producing flutes beginners (or those unfamiliar with his flutes) find easier to pick up?


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2018 1:31 am 
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I find his flutes difficult to play.

I find my flutes easy to play - but of course, I am biased and have much more experience with the latter. I keep my embouchure weak intentionally as this forces my flute designing by iterative trial and error to find the best solution that works for my flutes. Most of my clients find my flutes very forgiving to play, regardless of experience. This ranges from beginners who have never played the flute to some of the top players on the planet including Matt Molloy, who regularly plays one of my Bb flutes at every Chieftains concert (his main D flute at these is his Olwell).

Some people prefer an easy to play embouchure such as Olwell's or mine that allow them to work harder on other aspects of the music. Some are content with zeroing in on a flute that requires precise embouchure control to master, and then thrive on, such as apparently on a Wilkes. I've seen a very skilled player get great tone on one of my flutes playing into the 9.5mm just drilled hole that is cut before the embouchure is hand shaped to its final dimensions. At that point I can barely emit a sound from them. .

I am simply claiming that to my chops, his flutes simply do not play as well as mine and seem stuffy and unresponsive. I perhaps could find that sweet spot through much practice but instead I've decided to make the flutes do the heavy lifting. This has only been possible by much trial and error over several hundreds of flutes. My clients appreciate that they don't have to work hard. I suppose this runs counter to the strict orthodoxy of how things are supposed top be done. I don't wonder who made such rules (Rockstro comes to mind as a 19th century example) but us Left Coast makers are famous for ignoring them.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2018 4:09 am 
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Well, a developed, strong, embouchure seems to be a very important factor in getting the best out of a Wilkes flute, or any flute for that matter. Perhaps this is the "knack".

Chris Wilkes makes very refined, high quality instruments. He doesn't make many flutes, but I'd say he certainly knows as much, if not more, about voicing and tuning, as any other flute maker. To deny this is rubbish. Chris knows how to voice and tune a flute, so it's irrelevant if he decides to make 4, or 40 flutes a year. However Chris can not fine tune, or voice the embouchures of those who own one of his flutes. They have to do that themselves.

When I got my Wilkes, my embouchure obviously wasn't developed enough to do the flute justice. I was also at that time unaware of the subtleties of cork positioning. I didn't practice flute playing much as trying to play the pipes was a priority. Now the flute is still the same as when I bought it in 2002, but I have a much better embouchure, and have positioned the cork so the the flute is in tune with itself in both octaves (I don't go up into the third octave) when I play. The flute sings now. I always suspected it was my own shortcomings, and not the flute's.

I haven't met many Wilkes owners. I've met Nuala Kennedy a couple of times in Sweden and Scotland. Nuala is a professional musician, a brilliant flute player. Her eight-keyed Wilkes sounds just grand. She spoke very highly of Chris Wilkes. I've also met Ciaran Somers who has a C Wilkes, and a young French man one year at Miltown who was very happy with his keyless Wilkes, and a young piper with a Bb keyless Wilkes. I believe Mick O'Brien has a Eb Wilkes


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2018 4:48 am 
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Casey Burns wrote:
...
I am simply claiming that to my chops, his flutes simply do not play as well as mine and seem stuffy and unresponsive. ...

But that's not all you are claiming - you have also attributed your dislike of Wilkes flute to Chris (supposedly) getting "less practice at the necessary craft of tuning and voicing the flute".


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2018 5:55 am 
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Casey Burns wrote:
I am making the point and sticking my head out that his flutes are hard to dial in because he gets much less practice in the tuning and voicing aspects. No question about it!

These might work for players who practice hard or who have dialed in their embouchures to fit the flutes. But for most of us with flabbier less-dialable embouchures and the sloth lifestyle that keeps us from practicing find that these flutes are just simply difficult. But there are other flute made by other makers that always work.
My wife has two guitars. One has a low action, and is a joy to play. The other has a higher action, and demands more of the player. You can get a high action because the guitar maker is inexperienced, and doesn't have the skill to make a consistently low action. In this case, though, it was a skilled maker who chose to make a higher action for skilled players who needed that high action to do things that they cannot do with a low action, no matter how finely crafted.

Back to the original question ... The consensus seems to be that not everyone can get the best out of a Wilkes flute right away. Is the "knack" required for a Wilkes flute simply having a powerful enough embouchure, is it getting to know what the flute needs, or is something else involved?

To this I would add ... Once you do get the knack, are there things you can do with a Wilkes flute that you cannot do with a more forgiving instrument?


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2018 6:30 am 
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Casey Burns wrote:
I am making the point and sticking my head out that his flutes are hard to dial in

I think you should have stopped right there.

Quote:
because he gets much less practice in the tuning and voicing aspects. No question about it!

Because this is contentious and does you no service as a fellow maker. There's no logical 'because' about your reasoning and every question about it. He cuts fewer embouchures than you do, but it doesn't follow that that's why you find yours easy/responsive to blow and his the opposite.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2018 6:34 am 
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I only play flutes by Chris Wilkes, a Prattens and a Rudal model. To play any flute, you need to know how to blow. I suppose different makers make embouchure that require different blowing. Chris's flute require a tight lip blowing, you do kind of a small smile and blow very very little air. That is even true on a Bflat flute. I suppose you make a flute based on your own blowing, and, for those of us who have seen Chris blow, well, we know he does not need any lessons on how to...

I find the debate on tuning etc ridiculous, the question is do you know how to blow or not in an embouchure that requires a tight lip. Once again it is not about power of the flow but about the "smallness" of the flow (in diameter sort of say).

In my experience playing antique flutes such as Rudals, Chris's flute come the closer to that than any other flute I have tried.

To the question "Once you do get the knack, are there things you can do with a Wilkes flute that you cannot do with a more forgiving instrument?" I would say play with very little effort, as loud as you wish with a nice sound.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2018 7:34 am 
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Regarding a tight or a loose embouchure, I think we are getting to the core essence here: the difference between a Flautist and a Flatulist. We all know who the great Flutists are such as Matt Molloy, Jean-Michel Viellon, Grey Larsen, Fintan Vallely, etc. The great Flatulists included Joseph Pujol who went by the pseudoname "La Pétomane" - kind of like how a certain David goes by the name "Julia Delaney" here, or so I have been told.

Pujol was well known for his great control of abdominal muscles.

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Last edited by Casey Burns on Wed Apr 25, 2018 7:39 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2018 7:37 am 
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"I find the debate on tuning etc ridiculous, the question is do you know how to blow or not in an embouchure that requires a tight lip. Once again it is not about power of the flow but about the "smallness" of the flow (in diameter sort of say).

In my experience playing antique flutes such as Rudals, Chris's flute come the closer to that than any other flute I have tried."
Nicolas86

Yes, I find this to true. A tight lip, focused stream. After playing a couple of Rudall & Rose flutes for a couple of years this definitely put me on the road to playing the Wilkes better. Probably works the other way round too. The Wilkes i have is based on a medium holed Rudall & Rose.

"To the question "Once you do get the knack, are there things you can do with a Wilkes flute that you cannot do with a more forgiving instrument?" I would say play with very little effort, as loud as you wish with a nice sound." Nicolas86

Agree, the Wilkes can be played with little effort and yet can be very loud if necessary. It is extremely responsive too.

I think Casey and Terry took the chance here to blow their own "trumpets". I was primarily interested in how best to play a Wilkes flute, and what other owners, or people familiar with Wilkes flutes thought about this. Not in comparing a Wilkes flute to other flutes


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2018 7:40 am 
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I don't play the trumpet.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2018 9:48 am 
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I think the current cork setting on my Wilkes flute ends up being around 18-19 mm. I find the internal tuning, balance and power is optimal for me at this setting. YMMV.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2018 10:16 am 
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Here we go.

I do also play the trumpet and this is one of the things I have never understood about the traditional flute world. Trumpet players talk about build quality and the differences in design. Everyone has there favorites. There will be arguments about whether or not a certain maker is worth the price but never is a trumpet held up to high standard because it is difficult to play. Quite the opposite. If it doesn't free you up to express yourself musically it is not seen as a good instrument. It needs to fit a sound profile you have in your head. Of we have the option to change mouthpieces but there is quite a difference because a whole range of other factors such a bore size, wrap, weight, bracing etc. There may be attributes to Wilkes flutes but I would not say that being difficult to play should be one of them.

Over the many years I have played flutes I have owned and played several: Hamilton, Hernon (perhaps the best second octave I have ever had), an antique flute redone by Olwell ( I have never seen or played an Olwell) Grinter, Burns, Noy and Gallagher. I finally settled on a keyed Noy and a keyless Gallagher that seem to work the best for me. On most of them I needed to settle in on them but that was it. They are all top makers and if they make me work to express myself, with no return on responsiveness or tone, then they are not for me. I am not a beginner and if I need to radically change my approach to make it work then it is not the flute for me. For instance, if a person says I need to change to fit the flute I find it silly at this point unless there is something I do not like about my music. It is my tool not the other way around. I do not feel I need to live up to my instrument.

I have been hesitant to say anything for some time, years, for the reasons that I see here now and in the past. It is perhaps unfortunate that a maker would make a comment but if it was an artist people would pile on and perhaps the artist lose patrons just for saying that a certain makers flutes did not work for them. If it is amateur it would be said that they do not have enough experience or worse. To me what is the problem that there are certain makers that if you say the flute doesn't work for them people come unglued. It stops all reasoned discourse and I feel personally that it is a form of censorship by attack and shaming.

What I have been hesitant to say in the past is that not every makers flutes work well for everyone. There are so many variables even amongst the best players. I did come in contact with an eight key Wilkes once and it was not an enlightening experience. It had been bought by a very good flute player used, at a premium, that could not make it work. It had been taken to a very well known maker in town to see what the problem might be. To be fair it was used and I had no idea when it was made. The embouchure may have been modified by someone in the past. For all I know it was the first flute he ever made. What I can tell you is that there were no leaks since the maker had checked it out and he would not have gone farther on another makers flute. It was at my flute teachers house to have him play it for a while to see if it was a flute problem. He is a man that can pick up any flute and adapt immediately and is a professional musician. He has played since he was a child and is quite good. He handed it to me and asked me to try it. I could not get a bottom D and my teacher could get one but it was not strong and it was fleeting. No one could get what was wrong with it.

The point is that not all flutes are for all players. Not all flutes are good examples of that makers work and if you admire a maker very much buy a new one from them so you know it is not the flute but you with the problem. It takes away the possibility of someone doing something to it. The bigger point is that we should be free to express our opinions here about how a flute works for them without people piling on. Saying a maker makes crappy flutes is wrong but saying it does not work for them, and that opinion should be kept under your hat, just because of who made it is not right. It is an opinion.

You will notice I never said Wilkes are bad flutes but I would have not bought that one no matter what the price. I would never grade a makers work on one used example. I am sure some people will pile on now just for not paying homage to one of the few makers this board has held up as sacred. I have no idea what happened to it but the fact that it had his stamp on it is what sold it and I find that dangerous. It bothers me that certain makers are immune to any criticism whatsoever. Everyone has their favorite flute. I know, I have found mine. Criticize away. I am secure in my choice. I have found my flutes that play well for me effortlessly (almost).


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2018 10:46 am 
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kmag wrote:
To me what is the problem that there are certain makers that if you say the flute doesn't work for them people come unglued. It stops all reasoned discourse and I feel personally that it is a form of censorship by attack and shaming.

I don't think that's fair. Nobody's criticising Casey (for instance) for saying that he finds Wilkes flutes difficult, unresponsive or not for him. What is quite reasonably being questioned is what he's implying about cutting better embouchures etc. because he's getting/had more practice, and IMHO he deserves to be picked up on that. It's not attack or shaming; he's stuck his neck out, said contentious things, and people have disagreed.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2018 11:17 am 
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Well said Kmag!

Set-up can make or break how an instrument feels. For flutes that is the practice of tuning and voicing, which is done by the careful shaping of the bore, tone holes and embouchure holes. I contend that the reason why my flutes and Pat's flute are so approachable vs. the Wilkes flute being not so approachable for so many is simply that Pat and I have gotten much more practice at this due to the vast number of instruments we have made, compared with the smaller quantity by Wilkes.

Everything about Music requires practice - no matter how good you are at it.

It is said that the 83 year old cellist Pablo Casals was asked if he still practiced. His response was "I do, and feel like I am making daily progress."

Casey

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