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why does oiling a flute improve its responsiveness?
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Author:  cac [ Tue May 15, 2018 12:01 pm ]
Post subject:  why does oiling a flute improve its responsiveness?

I've only owned 6 wooden flutes, but with each of these there was/is a marked improvement in ease of playing/responsiveness after oiling. This improvement was temporary and only lasted for the first playing session after the oiling. My practice is to oil the flute with almond oil and let it sit a day before playing it. I sometimes swab the oiled flute out before playing it and sometimes don't. Why should this oiling have the effect that it does? All of these flutes except one had/have a highly polished bore and I wouldn't think the surface would be smoother with a light sheen of oil (with possible imperfections).

Author:  plunk111 [ Tue May 15, 2018 4:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: why does oiling a flute improve its responsiveness?

My guess (and it's only a guess) is that the oil briefly seals the "micro leaks" that result from the joints (and maybe the pads if it is a keyed flute). It would be interesting if your "experiment" could be performed on a keyless, one-piece flute. I should mention that I haven't noticed this after I oil my flutes, btw, but I never thought to check.

Pat

Author:  psychodonald [ Tue May 15, 2018 8:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: why does oiling a flute improve its responsiveness?

I have had exactly the same experience with both a key less boxwood and a 6 keyed boxwood flute. It happens after every oiling and lasts for about one session. Like Pat, I've assumed that the oiling fills whatever micro cracks or imperfections that might be in the tube. Also oil the tenons and that may make a better seal and account for the difference, don't know. I protect the pads from any oil on the keyed flute, so I'm quite certain it isn't the pads. I've had this experience using different kinds of oils, I now use Bore Doctor Oil. My teacher has told me that she has also had the same experience with her black wood keyed flute; have no idea what kind of oil she uses?? Whatever the reason, it is kind of cool because I almost sound decent for a brief period of time. :D

Author:  Kade1301 [ Wed May 16, 2018 1:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: why does oiling a flute improve its responsiveness?

cac wrote:
... All of these flutes except one had/have a highly polished bore and I wouldn't think the surface would be smoother with a light sheen of oil (with possible imperfections).


I think it's about surface smoothness - my recorders sound best when sopping wet.

Author:  will marshall [ Wed May 16, 2018 1:25 am ]
Post subject:  Re: why does oiling a flute improve its responsiveness?

I wonder if there is a touch of psychology here...an expectation of a better sound from a newly oiled flute allied to a sense of virtue at having carried out the task. I say this because of a parallel experience as a player of sackbut (trombone). When it has had one of its twice-yearly polishes, I feel that my sound is smoother and richer for a time. The instrument is shinier and therefore I imagine that my sound is better.. and it can only be my imagination. I experience a similar illusion with a newly-oiled flute or recorder. The acid test would be whether or not an objective listener noticed a similar before-and-after effect.

Author:  thefolkie2018 [ Wed May 16, 2018 1:41 am ]
Post subject:  Re: why does oiling a flute improve its responsiveness?

It would depend on the woods used for the flute. boxwood has a different tonal and resonant quality to African blackwood, as it wood to ebony, so I'd guess that due to the "soak in point" and micro-fractures in the wood whilst it's being machined, scraped, etc, then sealed, then there'd be a difference in tonal responsiveness. it's like German Plum wood when sealed, it has a real character and presence to it, yet isn't as bright as blackwood, yet the soak in period and character given by oiling is negligible .

I hope it answers your question to a degree.

Author:  Conical bore [ Wed May 16, 2018 9:02 am ]
Post subject:  Re: why does oiling a flute improve its responsiveness?

It's not something I've noticed, but then I only oil my flute twice a year, and only have the one flute as an example. I do think my flute sounds better after it's been played-in and damp, but it's impossible to tell whether that's the flute sounding better due to a more slick bore, or just the player getting into the groove.

It's difficult to rule out subjective factors like that, when the human aural memory isn't exactly reliable. It's like players of mandolins (my other instrument), who insist that their mandolin sounds better after "breaking in" for a few minutes each practice session. Instrument or player? Impossible to tell, without some objective test, like a before and after recording under controlled conditions.

Maybe a careful recording of a flute before and after oiling would show a brief improvement, but I'm somewhat skeptical until that's demonstrated over a wide enough range of different flutes. If there was an acoustic benefit to a more "sealed" surface, then I think flute players would be using more Delrin, glass, or resin-impregnated wood flutes, and any bare wood bore would be unpopular. That doesn't seem to be the case.

Author:  jim stone [ Wed May 16, 2018 9:07 am ]
Post subject:  Re: why does oiling a flute improve its responsiveness?

Possibly a recently oiled flute sheds moisture, which runs off the oily surface,
which improves sound.

Author:  hpinson [ Wed May 16, 2018 2:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: why does oiling a flute improve its responsiveness?

If you oil the outside as well as inside, you get a better seal between fingers and tone-holes which seems to give a stronger tone. But it does not last more that a session or so.

Author:  cac [ Thu May 17, 2018 7:35 am ]
Post subject:  Re: why does oiling a flute improve its responsiveness?

Thank you all for sharing your experiences and ideas. I don't have a boxwood flute, but do have a cocobolo one which is relatively porus compared to blackwood. The others are/were blackwood, bloodwood and cocus (which is the only keyed one). All had the effect, which I was careful not to describe as an improvement in the sound. Rather an improvement in the responsiveness and ease of playing (e.g. crossing the break, playing large leaps, speaking, etc.). There is indeed some improvement in sound, but not a huge amount. I always oil the outside of the flute as well and will be try an experiment of oiling just the outside to see if the improved seal is a factor. I do notice that the moisture seems to sit in little 'balls' on top of the oiled surface rather than running along the bore, so there may be something to Jim's suggestion. I have a delrin flute as well and will try oiling the bore sometime. Thanks again for the replies. Chet

r

Author:  SteveB [ Sat May 19, 2018 4:47 am ]
Post subject:  Re: why does oiling a flute improve its responsiveness?

I suspect that a freshly oiled flute plays better for the same reason that a newly washed car runs better.

Author:  Blayne Chastain [ Sat May 19, 2018 3:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: why does oiling a flute improve its responsiveness?

SteveB wrote:
I suspect that a freshly oiled flute plays better for the same reason that a newly washed car runs better.

Steve - You beat me to it! :)

That said, Desi Seery used to oil his Delrin flutes for the same reason.

Author:  ancientfifer [ Sun May 20, 2018 7:24 am ]
Post subject:  Re: why does oiling a flute improve its responsiveness?

I do an oil “bath” and thorough cleaning a couple times a year. But I keep a slightly “oily” cloth in my flute case and occasionally give the flute a quick wipe down, inside and out, for all the same reasons above, before a particularly loud or high energy session when I want to hear myself, be heard and to play efficiently with a little extra flair.

Author:  Kirk B [ Sun May 20, 2018 8:50 am ]
Post subject:  Re: why does oiling a flute improve its responsiveness?

I’m siding with Will, Steve, and Blayne on this one. I’ve also noticed that my flute sounds better when I play it while sitting on the loo, but I think that has more to do with acoustics than psychology.

Author:  oleorezinator [ Sun May 20, 2018 11:19 am ]
Post subject:  Re: why does oiling a flute improve its responsiveness?

Oiling delrin? What do the almond futures look like?
Also I have a gorgeous bridge fer sale..........

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