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PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2018 9:17 am 
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I thought it might be interesting to discuss the flutes made by these two top end modern makers. To my mind at least, they seem to remain closer to the original antique instruments than some other makers.
What do other members think?


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2018 4:57 am 
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I think that is true beyond doubt, Uni Flute. There may well be makers other than Mike and Chris who do the same, I probably wouldn't know. (We don't see all that many flutes by other makers down here!) The occasional Sam Murray flute, perhaps? His might fall into the same category?

What interests me is the reaction of different flute players to such flutes (or to the originals themselves). Some people just love them, and can do great stuff with them. Some people are less enthusiastic. Some people really struggle.

Now, it might be tempting to conclude that it's all about ability. The great players do great, the mediocre ones get by, the poor ones struggle. But it's definitely not that simple. Flute teachers would probably be able to comment, but we makers see it too.

I wouldn't be the first maker who has sold a flute to someone who previously owned the kind of flute we're talking about but who struggled mightily. And I wouldn't be the only maker much relieved when said new customer came back soon after, thanking him or her profusely for making a flute they can not only play, but really enjoy and play well. Whew, my work isn't wasted. This person can play flute. It was the flute holding them back. Whatever its merits, it didn't suit them, or they didn't suit it. Maybe even both?

So, what is the mystery missing ingredient if it isn't ability? Why do some old flutes (and new copies of old flutes) defy some players, yet engage others? (We could argue that the engaged were masochists, but that would be as facile an answer as "lack of ability" would be for the disappointed.) We have touched on this in these columns over the years, but I'm not convinced yet we have an answer. I'll try to move the conversation forward. Please help!

I reckon that tuning is the main technical issue that separates old flutes and their copies from newly designed/reworked flutes. (I'd be really happy to be corrected here, if others feel they can identify issues other than tuning.) Period flutes and close copies relate to a period when pitch was rising from the baroque (A= 410 or so) towards low pitch (A = 430). Consequently, the body scaling is significantly longer than that which suits A = 440, and so, if the top end of the flute is tuned for A = 440, the low notes are unacceptably flat (like 50 cents or so). Ghastly!

When confronted with (period) English flutes like that back in the 50's, 60's and 70's, Irish players found a solution. Push the low notes so hard that almost all of the energy went into the better-tuned second and higher harmonics, effectively bringing the pitch up to acceptable, while, at the same time, rendering the tone of the low notes (which, because of the poor harmonic relationship, was thin, waffly, burbly, unfocussed) dramatically more edgy and focused. I suspect that players of modern copies of such flutes are employing the same embouchure approach. The successful players certainly achieve the characteristic hard-edged low note tone.

And so, coming out of all of this, this is my thesis. People who get off on period flutes from first-half 19th century England or close copies thereof have a particular skill - they can successfully push energy in the low notes into the upper harmonics. That is not the same skill as playing the flute, it's an additional skill, and it seems only some players command it. Or enough of it.

Interestingly, a well-tuned flute doesn't prevent using the same approach to harden the tone of low notes, though it can be argued that a flute with slightly flat low notes encourages this hardening approach. But a badly-tuned flute demands it. And not everyone can do it.

It's a bold thesis isn't it. But, hey, come up with a better one that fits the known facts!


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2018 6:26 am 
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Firstly, I do not believe that Wilke's flute are that close to the originals, as for Grinter's flutes I have never tried one so I won't speak about them.

Chris had one of Andrew Kirby's box wood original Rudall, all the keys made with pewter plugs, a shark skin patch for the left thumb and, it was and it is to this day the best original Rudall I had ever tried (if any one reading this has it, lucky you!). So when I ordered a Rudall from Chris, I asked him for something that was like that Rudall, and when I got it, I played both, and they were a wee bit a like, but very very different in tuning and in many other ways, which I can not recall precisely. I think Chris's flutes in their making are as far from the originals as any other decent modern makers. It is even clearer when you mesure the bores and compare them to the original ones....

The closest to original Rudall I have played was a Cameron Rudall. Maybe people think Chris's work is close to the originals because of the craftmanship on the outside (keys etc.)

As far as hard to play, I have yet to meet some one who can play flute, who can not play my Rudall. So is it hard to play, absolutely not, if you know how to blow, if you don't, then I do not really see what there is to argue about...It is all about tight embouchure, you have it, you can play any flute, you do not have it, then you need to play a far more forgiving instrument. I have tried quite a few of those, and most of the ones I played are fine, they play easily right away, but, that (to me that is) is all they do, you do not get a really fabulous player, the kind that you try and feel sorry to return.

But then again maybe I say that because I am used to one kind of embouchure. But please find me a player who sounds great on one of those "easy" flutes and can not play a "hard" flute....


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2018 7:57 am 
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Terry, that is a pretty good thesis to be starting with, and definitely worth further discussion. I would say you've done a lot to push the curtain in terms of development and a contemporary approach to flute making :) I think your analysis of the Irish style of flute playing being born out of sheer necessity, dealing with instruments with sometimes poor intonation quite revealing and astute. Consequently, it could be said that Irish flute playing could have sounded very different in terms of tone and style without them.
Nicolas86, thank you for sharing your experience and comparisons between an Original Rudall, and one of Chris' own flutes. It is the first time I have heard someone say anything to the contrary about the closeness of Chris' own flutes and the originals. I am not surprised to hear that Rod Cameron's Rudall copy is the closest you have found to an antique Rudall, bearing in mind that he primarily focuses on instruments for Early and Historically Informed Music, whose customers can feel that even shrinkage in the bore of a venerable Boxwood original should be faithfully replicated. Out of interest, do you know if Chris decided to base one of his production Rudall models on the Boxwood flute owned by the late Andrew Kirby, or was your request a one off specialist commission ?
I agree with you that a lot of professional level players can play just about anything put before them, but I myself have on a couple of occasions seen competent players of modern flutes try an antique, only to return it rather quickly and resume playing on their modern instrument. Perhaps some of those who have played exclusively on modern instruments may find antique flutes to be unnecessarily challenging?


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2018 11:10 am 
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I would like to second what Nicolas86 said, except I would say it about my Grinter flute and I have not played a Wilkes.

My Grinter has very good A=440 tuning, better than antiques I've played, and in line with A=440 tuning from other
top modern maker's. I find it easy to play and I would guess that even if Grinter started out copying an original, what I
have is likely the result of significant refinement towards a tuning target that several modern makers share.

I do agree with Terry though that the main difference between antique flutes (in general) and modern flutes is tuning, but
I would put my Grinter (and Murray) flute in the modern flutes category.

I think embouchure cut and bore profile have very significant impacts on the voice of a flute, and I think embouchure cut
in particular has the biggest impact on ease of play, especially for beginners. My best guess is that makers such as Wilkes
and Grinter and Murray, who all make beautiful sounding flutes, strive for a bore profile and embouchure cut that gives their
flutes a voice with a (desirable) traditional characteristic, but with A=440 tuning and lots of volume for modern session
playing.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2018 1:21 pm 
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Yes Terry, I am one who struggled with several different flutes until I got my 5 keyed 5088 with the semicircular embouchure from you 10 years ago. I really took to it and it has remained my primary flute to this day. It plays really easily, has the great tone some call reedy, and is in perfect tune. Thanks for that one! Over the ensuing years I bought two original Rudalls. No.s 3415 with an extra Wilkes head and No. 6530. They feel a little bit fatter and are harder to play although I can usually do pretty good on them now. But of all the flutes I have owned, including a Wilkes, I would say your 5088 model feels the most like an original Rudall. I know you make several models and I have played two others, but the 5088 is the one that really works for me.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2018 6:08 pm 
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Lots of interesting perspectives there, but I wonder if we should just check back with Uni Flute to make sure I haven't perpetrated a massive thread heist. Is this discussion more or less covering the kind of ground you had in mind, Uni Flute?

On a more physical matter (not that acoustics isn't physics!), can I invite owners of Grinter and Wilkes flutes (or flutes by other makers for that matter!) to pop a key off and report back what the tip of the key spring bears upon? I'm imagining you'll find one of three options:
- bare wood, probably with a shiny spot where the tip of the spring bears against it
- a metal slip plate set into or attached to the bottom of the slot, or
- a thin blued-steel spring screwed to the bottom of the slot as we see in this Rudall & Rose (No 519):

Image


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2018 8:17 pm 
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I can't speak to the Wilkes, though I did for awhile own a Grinter, but I want to say
that IMO, probably ignorant, Glenn Watson flutes and Bryan Byrne flutes
are quite Rudally, perhaps more so than the Grinter.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2018 8:36 pm 
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Terry McGee wrote:
...can I invite owners of Grinter and Wilkes flutes (or flutes by other makers for that matter!) to pop a key off and report back what the tip of the key spring bears upon?
Are you counting coil springs, like Hammy uses?

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2018 9:02 pm 
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Terry McGee wrote:
On a more physical matter (not that acoustics isn't physics!), can I invite owners of Grinter and Wilkes flutes (or flutes by other makers for that matter!) to pop a key off and report back what the tip of the key spring bears upon?

I have a modern 8-key Rudall-type by Tom Aebi. A recent secondhand purchase, maybe 10 or 15 years old. That key in the photo above on this flute has a visible screw head and metal strip under the lever. I suspect it's a spring, but I didn't want to remove the key while I'm still doing other fine-tuning and getting used to the flute.

There is one area where I wish this weren't such a close 19th Century copy, and that's the pewter plugs on the C# and C foot keys. Maybe that made sense at one time in the past, but in hindsight I'd rather have a better modern cup and pad than something this fussy to get sealing well.

FWIW, the "McGee C# to Eb" measurement is 150.8mm, so based on the scale info on your web site, it's been tweaked for A440 compared to the original Rudall this was probably modeled on. Good intonation in both octaves, just a wee bit flat on the low D but not that hard to blow it up.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2018 10:35 pm 
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kkrell wrote:
Terry McGee wrote:
...can I invite owners of Grinter and Wilkes flutes (or flutes by other makers for that matter!) to pop a key off and report back what the tip of the key spring bears upon?
Are you counting coil springs, like Hammy uses?


I wasn't planning too, but yeah, let's make it a wider survey of springing approaches. (Woah, I might regret this!)

Indeed, I'll add another I've recently come across. So now we're up to:

1. a single-leaf spring attached under keytouch, with its tip bearing on:
1.a) - bare wood, probably with a shiny spot where the tip of the spring bears against it
1.b) - a metal slip plate set into or attached to the bottom of the slot,
1.c) - a thin blued-steel spring screwed to the bottom of the slot, or
1.d) - something else?

2. a single-leaf spring screwed to the bottom of the pad end of the key shaft and bearing on wood under the touch end, or

3. coil springs,

4. needle springs (post mounted keys), or

5. some other form of springing?


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 01, 2018 2:37 am 
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Although Grinter and Wilkes were the makers that first came to mind, adding other makers into the mix could prove very interesting.

So for closeness to the original antique Rudalls, the following names have also been mentioned; Cameron, Byrne and Watson.

As a side note, Hammy Hamilton may not be the first maker to utilise coiled springs on his keywork, check out the flutes of Frederick Godfroy.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 01, 2018 3:05 am 
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Paddler

I'm interested that you find your Grinter has "very good A 440 tuning", as I've recently had one down here for repair and found it had very wild tuning indeed. Low D more than 60 cents flat of low B. Indeed, the owner was whimpering that he keeps getting told off by fiddle players and concertina players for playing out of tune!

Now, there could be a myriad reasons why we have had such dramatically differing experiences.

Perhaps this particular flute is an early one (I don't know if that's likely. I'm not even sure when Michael started making.). I don't believe Michael puts serial numbers on his flutes, does he? If so where, and I'll get the owner to look. Is yours early or more recent?

Perhaps Michael switched designs at some point? What do you get as your c#-Eb length? The flute I was looking at was dramatically longer than mine, 256mm compared with 245mm. More like the 19th century originals.

Perhaps you are really good at the "special mouth trick" for pushing energy into the upper (and often better-tuned) octaves? I'm pretty good at it, and use it routinely to harden my tone, but I'm probably not as skilled as one who needs to use it routinely to correct tuning. It would be interesting to test the intonation using a more "naïve" embouchure (e.g. blowing less firmly and directly at the "edge"), or having someone else test it to see if you are applying special skills.

On the particular flute I was fixing, I found the response didn't let me do the "special mouth trick" until I pulled the stopper out a long way (circa 23mm). I suspect that this brought the upper partials down closer to the fundamental. The owner was delighted with the improvement from this partial workaround, although he's still wondering what he should do in the long term.

The "special mouth trick" I'm referring to is offsetting the jet back from the "edge" by a mm or two, by blowing a finely focused jet downwards towards the bottom of the embouchure hole, rather than aiming it at the edge. The offset disadvantages the efficiency of the fundamental, and pushes its energy into the upper harmonics. If the fundamental is the only flat partial, it means that the pitch is now determined (at least mostly) by the tuning of the harmonics.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 01, 2018 4:03 am 
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I haven't taken the key off but the Bb key on my 1990 Wilkes cocus wood 8 key has 1.b) - a metal slip plate (with a screw) set into the bottom of the slot.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 01, 2018 6:33 am 
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Ooh, tricky, Gromit.

If it has the screw, it could either be the slip plate (1.b) or the double-springing (1.c). Can we convince you to pull the pin?


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