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PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2018 6:56 pm 
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Hi All,

I'm a relative beginner with Irish flute - I've been playing around with whistles and an old rosewood flute for years, but have started to try to learn more seriously. I'm in the process of choosing a better quality flute to buy.

I want to purchase an instrument that I will be able to play comfortably outside the key of D. Do you recommend a keyed flute, or a combination of keyless flutes in multiple keys?

Thank you!
Yan


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2018 10:10 pm 
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You probably don't want to go down the path of buying multiple flutes. Expense is one thing, but the real problem is that you would need to become skilled at the embouchure for each one. Someday, that might be possible, but not in the short term.

6 key flutes are frequently available used. New keyed flutes might have a six to 18 month order time, but that goes into the years from certain, high-demand makers.

4-keyed flutes are often useful, depending on what key signatures you are seeking, but you might as well go for 6 keys. 8 keys is necessary only if you really need the low C note. I have one tune that uses low C, but that is unusual; low B and A are more common given the range of the fiddle, and you probably don't want to chase that rabbit.

Check the Buy-Sell forums or the Irish Flute Store for present availability.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2018 7:44 am 
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Thanks for the reply! That's helpful feedback - I especially hear your point around the embouchure. I have seen that some makers advertise flutes that use one headjoint and different middle/foot joints to enable multiple keys. I've been leaning in that direction.

A good keyed flute would be a dream. I will check the forum here, and it does seem like there are some options worth looking into at IrishFluteStore. Thanks for the tip!

I'm also apprehensive around the maintenance of a keyed flute. Is their a big learning curve around removing and returning keys well without causing the flute to be more "leaky"?

Yan


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2018 9:44 am 
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A different view. I'm busking a fair amount, and also playing in ensembles which
sometimes play in various keys that it's hard to be fluent in on a keyless D.
I bring along a D flute (often keyed), a G flute/fife (which has an C tonic),
an A flute/fife (which has a d tonic), and sometimes a Bb fife. These are not
terribly expensive (the G flute is a Sweetheart), the A flute is an Olwell bamboo,
the Bb fife a billy miller. I think the bamboo Billy Miller fifes are very good and
also quite inexpensive (all of them below 100 dollars, several of them 45). These higher pitched flutes
are helpful partly because I can play fluently in many keys by using standard
fingering. Also they have a very different voice from the D flute, a very beautiful and useful voice for different sorts of tunes.
The embouchures are more demanding, but quite manageable
(I think one can be up an running in a few weeks or less)and have the added benefit of improving my embouchure on the D flute. I very much like a keyed D flute, too, but truth is
I'm much more fluent in C, say, on a G flute, and it often sounds better, carries better, suits the particular tune better. It's often better for performing. YMMV.
I guess a lot of it depends on where you are
going to play and with whom. Again, as the expense for flutes in keys like G, A, Bb...is low
and the flutes good to play, it's hard to regret having them however one ends up playing.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2018 9:54 am 
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P.S. I also play in venues where I won't take a keyed flute. Everything played
on the street gets dropped on the sidewalk, sooner or later. In some of the pubs
they may get stepped on, too crowded, too many drunk people.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2018 10:14 am 
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Nice - That's really helpful. I have small children who are really, really good at finding precious things, so your insight feels particularly relevant. Having a good keyless as a base and some more affordable options for other keys sounds like a reasonable option for now. Thank you!


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2018 11:44 am 
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I think the natural way to approach this, is to consider the repertoire you're playing now, or plan to learn in the near future. A keyless flute in D will cover a heck of a lot, but there may be some favorite tunes where you'd really want a G# or Fnat key.

I can half-hole those notes reasonably well on my keyless D flute if they come at a slow enough pace, but not when they're in the middle of a fast sequence of notes. So there are certain tunes I'd like to play, but avoid until I get a keyed flute at some point in the future. That said, I can still play the vast majority of Irish and Scottish trad that I want to, on this keyless flute.

One thing I did consider recently was picking up a second keyless flute in a different tonal center, to expand the range. But I decided (as mentioned above in the thread) that it wasn't a good idea to mix embouchure requirements. Especially at my stage of learning. A more advanced flute player might be able to deal with multiple flutes more easily.

I do want a keyed flute at some point, and I'm a bit sorry that I didn't make the leap from the start. It was mostly a question of finances though. I could afford either a very nice keyless flute in blackwood (which I wanted for purely aesthetic reasons), or a lesser keyed flute with a possible compromise in synthetic materials. In the end, I decided I wanted a flute where I'd have no excuses for not being able to play it well, and could be inspired by the look and feel. Once I make enough progress on this flute, I'll somehow find the resources for a keyed model of equivalent quality.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2018 4:03 pm 
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Permit to express my opinion that one of the ways you become
advanced on the D flute is to play a higher pitched flute too, e.g.
an A or a G or a Bb. These indeed make demands on your embouchure,
much in the way that overtone exercises do. And, like overtone exercises,
they strengthen your embouchure on the D flute--with the helpful addition that, instead
of playing a few notes you play whole tunes, so you play them more and
they are a lot more fun.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2018 10:27 pm 
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I can agree with Jim that playing higher notes improves your embouchure.

And, there is no question that you can cover 90% or more of the Irish repertoire on a keyless D flute.

I started on keyless flute, and then changed to a keyed one, not so much for playing in other keys, although A tunes come up frequently enough in the sessions around here. Mainly I wanted keys in order to hit accidentals.

If I could give advice to myself when I started, it would be to buy a flute with at least the G# and Eb keys. G# because it makes the key of A quite easy, and the Eb because it is just about impossible to hit that note by half-holing. Fnat key was not really on my "needs" list when I only had my keyless, but now that I have a flute with Fnat, I find it pretty useful, and I feel encouraged to learn C-tunes.

To summarize, I would have advised my newby-self to choose a 4 key flute (G#, Eb, Fnat), or else go fully keyed 6 key. (4-keys would be sufficient because Cnat works quite well for me cross-fingered, and Bb works reasonably well - easier than Fnat, anyway).

That is all fine and good, but I guess I have a restless personality: I hear a really great tune (Lad O'Beirnes), and I absolutely HAVE to learn it, even though it is in the key of F. Now, I'm unlearning my vice-grip thumb hold so that I can play Bb and Fnat. (Yeah, I should have learned a better grip when I started).


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2018 10:39 pm 
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Of all the tunes I play that have accidentals, I would say that G# is more common than all other accidentals combined.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 28, 2018 7:55 am 
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As it has been pointed out, you can do a great deal without any keys, so getting 6 or 8 keys for those few tunes that need it is a question of taste. I play fully keyed flutes and I do use the keys, especially the lower D# C# and C. I would just play the upper notes (not the D#) if I did not have the keys and it would not change that much either. I do find it a bit strange to have an 8 or a 6 keyed flute and to change to a C flute in a set, it makes me wonder why get keys in the first place (a but like people having an 8 keyed flute and turning the foot away so as to never use the 3 last keys...) But to each their own...


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 28, 2018 10:28 pm 
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Are you talking about playing in keys that are not common to Irish Trad like e flat? If so you definitely need keys. But to play Irish Trad you will be able to play a lot without keys. You can half hole almost anything you need. I have heard a lot of great players with big repertories play on keyless flutes. On the other hand I really like having keys. The keys I use the most are the long C natural and long F natural, along with the G sharp. If you are tempted to buy a flute with two bodies you will find it unnecessary for playing in Irish sessions.

As for the removal of keys to oil a flute-- that isn't as hard as it sounds. You mostly need your fingernails to pull the pin from its block, (though on one flute I needed a jewelers pliers, small with no teeth). I put each key in a ziplock bag with its pin and set them aside. It is impossible to put the wrong key on the wrong block, but it is possible to mix up the pins and have one too long and another not long enough. When I put it back together I'll seat the pad where it naturally wants to lie, then gently push the rest of the key into the block. Looking through the pin hole you will begin to see light when you are in the right place and gently push the pin in.

One of my flutes is pin mounted. (meaning the keys are not put in blocks, but rather set up like a clarinet with lots of screws and such) I never take the keys off that one. I take saran wrap and cover the key and its pad and just swab and wipe that flute with a oily bit of rag, using a slightly oiled paintbrush to get into small spots. I'll oil the seat sparingly and blot it with a dry lint free cloth, like a bit of silk or a well washed handkerchief and a dry paintbrush. The brushes I use are good quality artist's brushes with really soft bristles. I'll give it some hours for the wood to completely absorb into the wood before I take off the plastic wrap.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2018 6:07 pm 
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Thanks, everyone. Your replies have been incredibly helpful. I'm astounded by the experience of the members of this forum. Cheers to all of you, and thank you!
Yan


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