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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2019 8:35 am 
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I've been at whistle for about a year, and making good progress, at least in terms of my own expectations. But from spending too much time here at C&F, and listening to the likes of Matt Malloy, Kevin Crawford, Grey Larsen, etc., I now want to give the flute a try, despite my trepidation over the concept of embouchure. (I'm afraid it might take me years just to pronounce it, let alone successfully do it.)

I've got absolutely zero experience with flutes of any sort. I only know I want to pick an instrument that I won't feel I've outgrown at any future point; that's well setup from the start; and that requires as little maintenance as is practical. (I've already got a surplus of high maintenance people, animals, and objects in my life, and my heat/humidity fluctuations are big.) Price is a factor, but not primary.

From reading up, mostly here, it sounds like a Copley keyless in delrin is just the think I'm looking for. I've had a WTB posted for a week or so in the instrument exchange, but no used offers have come my way, and I'm now ok with buying new.

So I have some questions about the options available on Copleys specifically, and new made-to-order flutes generally. I've already sent these by Dave C. and he got back to me quickly with informative answers, but mostly along the lines of, "either way will be fine." That's reassuring, of course, but still I've got to decide. Thus any additional input from the C&F cognoscenti will be welcome.

Among the following, which would you recommend to someone starting out and who is intending to stick with just one instrument even as they progress:

    Offset holes for more comfortable grip. This seems like a good choice, but is there any reason not go for it? Are inline holes only for those already used to them? Has anyone chosen this option and then regretted it because it constrained their technique on a more traditional flute? (I'm male, about 5' 10" with typical hands, so I'm not thinking I need to look at the closer hole spacing options.)

    Thumb hole for C natural. As a whistle player I know about the cross fingering and half hole options for C nat., and none of my whistles have a thumb hole. So I'm tempted to skip this. But on the other hand, even if I don't use it, it doesn't seem like it's a problem to keep my thumb planted, assuming my thumb wants to be where the maker thinks it should be! And even then a little black electrical tape on a plastic flute, doesn't seem out of bounds. What's the recommendation?

    Embouchure shape. Copley offers "elliptical" as the default and "square ellipse" as an option. (The latter used to be default on the delrin models, but that's no longer the case.) From Dave's description, the squared ellipse can make acquiring an effective embouchure easier, and thus it certainly seems like the right choice for a beginner like me. On the other hand, I've seen a number of different individuals here on the forum say they prefer the regular, elliptical option on their Copleys. My concern here is getting a good, Dark Irish Flute sound, and not a bright classical/band flute tone. But of course that means nothing if I give up in frustration of developing a working embouchure of any sort.

    Combined end cap and screw adjustable stopper. Unlike the above options which come at no cost, this one is $40, but that's not a budget breaker. I've read enough to know what these terms mean, but not yet being a flute player, I have no idea whether it's something I'd want. As a beginner, I'm sure the default fixed stopper setup would be fine. But I'd be buying this instrument (as opposed to one of the cheaper beginner instruments from some other manufacturer) with a view to the long term. Given the small cost, and assuming I stick with it and become proficient, is this a feature I might want to make use of down the road? Again, does anyone have buyer's remorse over not having an adjustable stopper?

    Silver rings. Last one. On the delrin flutes this is apparently only a matter of aesthetics--there's not a structural benefit. Cost is $80, which seems reasonable, but it's not insignificant. I do like the way they look. But I don't feel that strongly, and I'm tempted to skip to save the money. No big deal for me either way, but I'd still be interested in hearing other opinions.

While I'm obviously focused on Copley, I'd still appreciate perspectives on these options generally for a beginner's made-to-order instrument.

Thanks for any insights!


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2019 9:36 am 
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JackJ wrote:
Offset holes for more comfortable grip. I prefer inline holes if offset not necessary for reach (ie:someone with small hands), because almost every other flute you encounter will be inline, and it's easier to transition between them (should the opportunity occur).

Thumb hole for C natural. Don't like them. Sold whistles that had it.

Embouchure shape. Elliptical. I don't think any more frustrating.

Combined end cap and screw adjustable stopper. Unnecessary, and rarely used. I have it on some antique flutes, and I suppose it beats fiddling with a dowel to push the cork back & forth.

Silver rings. I prefer the traditional look also. Even more so with an actual tuning slide, though plenty of adjustment on those Delrin models.

While I'm obviously focused on Copley, I'd still appreciate perspectives on these options generally for a beginner's made-to-order instrument.

For only slightly more than the Copley base model, you could pick up a Delrin flute from Gary Somers with tuning slide & rings. http://www.somers-flutes.com/prices-contact

Copley is a good choice - I have a Delrin Eb & D in blackwood.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2019 10:20 am 
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My $.02 as someone on the path from beginner to intermediate flute (i.e. not an expert, but I can still remember the total beginner stage):

I wouldn't get the offset finger holes. If you later get a single middle piece flute like a Pratten-ish design, you'll have to adjust your hold a little. If you get a separate middle piece flute like a Rudall-ish design, you can go either way. For what it's worth, I started on a Pratten-ish flute, then got a Rudall-ish recently. Even though I have the option now to offset the two groups of finger holes, I keep them inline. With so many other things to deal with, like whether to slightly rotate the embouchure hole relative to the finger holes, and finding a comfortable flute hold in all other respects, I think it's just one less thing to fuss with as one is learning. It also means that if I ever buy another flute (possibly a Bb in the future), I won't have to care about whether the finger holes can be offset.

I wouldn't get the C thumb hole. If you get used to it, it may limit your options for buying another flute later on. Or else it will be a technique you'll have to ditch, so why invest the time learning it? If at some point you get a flute with a Cnat key, you'll be learning an entirely new way to play the note anyway, and have to figure out how much and whether to integrate that with your normal cross-fingered Cnat. It's just be one more distraction when there are other things you need to focus on.

I'm not familiar with the embouchure options, but I wouldn't obsess on it too much. Every new flute you buy from a different maker will probably require some minor (and sometimes major) adjustment, based on my limited experience.

I wouldn't get the adjustable stopper. I've fussed with the cork position on my two flutes, to small effect, but it's another distraction you don't need as a beginner. If it's a good entry-level flute you shouldn't need this.

If it were me, I would spring for the silver rings. Anything that helps you feel good about your flute and more likely to "bond" with it, is a plus in my view. And that can include aesthetics. You probably won't recover the cost if you sell it later on, but it could help move the flute more quickly as an added feature.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2019 10:22 am 
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JackJ wrote:

    Offset holes for more comfortable grip. This seems like a good choice, but is there any reason not go for it? Are inline holes only for those already used to them? Has anyone chosen this option and then regretted it because it constrained their technique on a more traditional flute? (I'm male, about 5' 10" with typical hands, so I'm not thinking I need to look at the closer hole spacing options.)


My first flute (WD Sweet Shannon) had offset holes. I actually tried to order it with inline holes, but something got mixed up in communication and it came with offset. Didn't think it was important enough to send it back. I've since gotten another flute with inline holes, and I can easily switch between the two. So offset holes certainly don't hinder your ability to play another flute later. But the flip side is that I honestly feel no difference one to the other, and don't see much of a benefit to offsetting the holes.

JackJ wrote:

Thumb hole for C natural. As a whistle player I know about the cross fingering and half hole options for C nat., and none of my whistles have a thumb hole. So I'm tempted to skip this. But on the other hand, even if I don't use it, it doesn't seem like it's a problem to keep my thumb planted, assuming my thumb wants to be where the maker thinks it should be! And even then a little black electrical tape on a plastic flute, doesn't seem out of bounds. What's the recommendation?


Don't bother. The cross-fingered C natural is more than usable on any good flute, and there's barely any benefit to having a thumb hole. If anything, it will make the flute a little harder to sell should you want to do that.

JackJ wrote:

Embouchure shape. Copley offers "elliptical" as the default and "square ellipse" as an option. (The latter used to be default on the delrin models, but that's no longer the case.) From Dave's description, the squared ellipse can make acquiring an effective embouchure easier, and thus it certainly seems like the right choice for a beginner like me. On the other hand, I've seen a number of different individuals here on the forum say they prefer the regular, elliptical option on their Copleys. My concern here is getting a good, Dark Irish Flute sound, and not a bright classical/band flute tone. But of course that means nothing if I give up in frustration of developing a working embouchure of any sort.


I'd go with elliptical. Don't worry about things being "easier," you'll need to spend a lot of time to get the right tone anyway, regardless of the cut. Might as well get the one that will end up sounding better, even if it takes a little more work.

JackJ wrote:

Combined end cap and screw adjustable stopper. Unlike the above options which come at no cost, this one is $40, but that's not a budget breaker. I've read enough to know what these terms mean, but not yet being a flute player, I have no idea whether it's something I'd want. As a beginner, I'm sure the default fixed stopper setup would be fine. But I'd be buying this instrument (as opposed to one of the cheaper beginner instruments from some other manufacturer) with a view to the long term. Given the small cost, and assuming I stick with it and become proficient, is this a feature I might want to make use of down the road? Again, does anyone have buyer's remorse over not having an adjustable stopper?


The Shannon has an endcap/cork that is a single carved piece of delrin. It is not adjustable. I have never felt the need to adjust it. I'd probably be more wary if I could adjust it, because that means that I could screw things up.

JackJ wrote:

Silver rings. Last one. On the delrin flutes this is apparently only a matter of aesthetics--there's not a structural benefit. Cost is $80, which seems reasonable, but it's not insignificant. I do like the way they look. But I don't feel that strongly, and I'm tempted to skip to save the money. No big deal for me either way, but I'd still be interested in hearing other opinions.


For what it's worth, neither the Shannon nor the flute I play now (Lehart) have silver rings. It's entirely a cosmetic issue, so I can't help you much there. However, they both have tuning slides, and I do think that that would be a useful thing to have. Looking at Copleys, it's a big jump in price to add one. I would look at KKrell's suggestion of a Somers, and perhaps also at both the Shannon and Rob Forbes' flutes. If your heart is set on a Copley, I'm sure it will be a great instrument, but the tuning slide may be worth looking elsewhere for.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2019 10:24 am 
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I think the all black aesthetic of the bottom of the line Copley delrin is elegant. Looks at least as good as rings. The oval embouchure sounds more Irish to my ear than does the rounded rectangle, which tends to be less dark and more bright. If you want something you will always want to play, going oval is good. You'll get the hang of it and once you get it, it keeps getting better.

Dave C is very good at placing the thumb hole and will work with you to make sure it's well placed for you. This matter is idiosyncratic. The thing about the thumb hole is that you have to learn to use it, which is going to take weeks to a month, much as you would need to learn to use a C-natural key. It does become entirely second nature and it creates new options for ornamentation. My experience is that the result is a more agile, easy to play, and powerful instrument. It's hard to go back, which means you will want future flutes with a thumb hole or a key. This has the benefit of making it harder to buy lots of flutes. Options: you can buy a Copley without a thumb hole and have Dave put one in later. You can buy it with the thumbhole and cover the hole with a bit of tape until you want to learn to use it. Or you can get the thumb hole, learn to use it, and on you go. I'm pro- thumbhole, but of course there are plenty of sensible people who aren't. Ultimately the thumb-hole is about as useful as a key that would cost you a lot of money. Dave just put in a thumb hole for me on a used keyless flute by another maker, for 25 dollars. In passing the thumb hole is not particularly an impediment to using a key if you move one day to a keyed flute too. I play both without difficulty.


Last edited by jim stone on Thu Jan 17, 2019 12:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2019 10:56 am 
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My first keyless simple system flute was a Tony Dixon ABS one piece, the lowest hole on it was a big stretch & took quite a while to achieve.

This taught me that I wanted the holes on my (Damian Thompson) delrin flute to be closer together, so I opted for offset holes, much easier to cover when starting out, but not a hindrance once I got used to the bigger spacing of the inline holes on my Dixon, I just cover them with the lower part of my finger tip instead of the top part.

Embouchure is the one thing that you will have trouble with starting out - it comes, but will take time.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2019 12:10 pm 
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My recommendations and rationale would be pretty much identical to kkrell's.
Its better to go with a configuration that makes it easy for you to transition to
other flutes, including antiques, later. So, I would avoid the ergonomic tone holes,
thumb hole, square embouchure etc. A tuning slide is nice to have.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2019 12:35 pm 
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Just to second the idea of a tuning slide. Worth noting that an all delrin tuning slide, as in Dave's delrin flute, works fine. Delrin is hard and precise enough to serve.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2019 2:40 pm 
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Thanks for all this great input--glad to hear there's near consensus on most of these options.

Sounds like I may need to read up more on tuning slides. Before focusing on the Delrin Copley, I was considering the Casey Burns Folk Flute, which also doesn't have a tuning slide and has been highly recommended. And I've seen that Terry McGee also makes models without the slide, but using his Minimum Disruption Tenon to address possible issues.

And here's what the Copley website has to say on the matter:

Quote:
With our three-piece flutes the tuning is adjusted by pulling out the top tenon joint. This gives a more limited tuning range than a metal tuning slide but is perfectly adequate if you are playing at A440 pitch and do not naturally tend to blow very sharp or flat. This arrangement works particularly well with Delrin as the top tenon is made thinner and produces less disturbance of the bore profile when it is extended.


Of course I have no idea whether I might tend to naturally blow off pitch relative to others. But at least I don't anticipate needing to be anywhere other than A = 440.


Last edited by JackJ on Thu Jan 17, 2019 3:42 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2019 3:08 pm 
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Unless you have a major out of tune box player, you probably won't have to make many tuning changes. Typically, as you play and the flute warms, the head joint will have to be moved out a bit (1/8 or so). Generally that amount of tuning can be done on the tenon without a tuning slide. I've played and own(ed) several instruments without a tuning slide and have had no trouble matching tuning with others in a session setting. Further, I haven't noticed any changes in sound (other than the pitch) in moving the head in or out on the tenon.

A Copley without a slide will carry you far. And, given that this is a "first flute" you may find, over time, that you would like something different. At that point you may decide a tuning slide is critical, but to start with, not so much IMHO.

Not to confuse the issue, but there are some other makers that produce nice, entry-level-but-certainly-good-enough-to-grow-with instruments including Francois Baubet and Vincenzo Di Mauro. Both are in Ireland and are great to work with.

But if you are in the US, Copley is great to work with, makes great instruments for someone in the situation you describe for yourself, and, if the time comes that you want to sell, Copleys are easily moved.

Best wishes.

Steve

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2019 4:24 pm 
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JackJ wrote:
Sounds like I may need to read up more on tuning slides. Before focusing on the Delrin Copley, I was considering the Casey Burns Folk Flute, which also doesn't have a tuning slide and has been highly recommended. And I've seen that Terry McGee also makes models without the slide, but using his Minimum Disruption Tenon to address possible issues.

The Casey Burns Folk Flute can be adjusted within a small range by pulling out the tenon. It's a nice entry-level wooden flute. I know a local piper who plays one as a secondary instrument (I think it's the "ergonomic" version) and she likes it.

Quote:
Of course I have no idea whether I might tend to naturally blow off pitch relative to others. But at least I don't anticipate needing to be anywhere other than A = 440.

Personally, I think tuning slides (or adjustable-enough tenons) are a good idea. You never know if you'll be in a group tuning to a concertina, pipes, or even a piano as the local standard that isn't quite A440. If you play along with recordings, you might run into a few that are sharp or flat of A440 as well. You may hear advice that it isn't necessary because you can "lip" notes into tune, but this is one more case where I think a beginner needs to remove as many variables as possible. Flute is hard enough as it is.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2019 4:30 pm 
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I'm with most of the others here: no, no, elliptical, no, no...

I can say that I've owned 4 Copleys over the years - 1 blackwood and 3 delrin (currently have a delrin F) and can vouch for their playability and tone. I currently play a delrin Sommers as my backup D flute and it's great, but a little more demanding, embouchure-wise. I have also owned a folk flute (and played a few more of them over the years) and recommend the Copleys over them. Also, I haven't really seen it mentioned above, but, assuming you "take" to the flute, you WILL buy more of them! In that case, the delrin Copley, or whatever you decide on, can be a perfect backup/camping/travel/etc flute.

Good luck with your journey!

Pat

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2019 5:01 pm 
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Some criteria for a beginners flute to consider:

"ergonomic" vs. inline. If your hands span 8" or more or if you play with finger pads on other wind instruments, then in-line works just fine and for years has been the industry standard. However, if your hands are smaller and you play with fingertips you will find that offsetting the 3rd and 6th holes a few mm helps with comfort. I don't know about Copely's flutes but some chamfering on the outside really helps the fingers seal to the holes quite well. This is vitally important for ease of playing and making sure that the notes sound. Any tiny leak in the finger/hole interface and the note will sound incorrectly. On my flutes I go one step further and offset the 2nd hole towards the player by a mm or so. This brings the ring finger closer to the 3rd finger hole.

Thumb hole for C or Bb: Occasionally I get asked for this. The C is not necessary when cross fingerings such as 0X0 XXX or 0XX 000 work well. Bb is a little trickier. The tradeoff is that the thumb is stuck to sealing that hole although tape can also be used to seal it off permanently. For a beginning Irish flute I would recommend sticking to the industry standard arrangement of 6 holes and explore these alternatives after a few years at it. Many of my clients consider flutes with all the bells and whistles first but then start with the simple Folk Flute and find that this flute allows them to explore the music adequately if not superbly. Its best not to be distracted by such things.

Tuning slides and rings are a nice and sometimes useful luxury. A long tenon such as the 33mm that I use on my flutes (the common standard on old flutes is around 27mm) allows tuning flexibility. You can also roll in to flatten and roll out to sharpen to some degree. Rings even if not necessary are a nice artistic touch but the "legitimacy" they provide in a session will not make up for one's experience or lack of it. Put your money towards lessons with a good teach, Grey Larsen's Complete Guide to the Irish Flute and Tin Whistle, music camps where Grey or John Skelton or others teach. Your simple looking instrument is actually quite the powerful tool and this bling will not make it sound any better.

End Caps - Unlike modern flutes where cork placement is highly idiosyncratic for octave tuning, the plug on these conical bore flutes was moved primarily when going from one pitch standard (such as A-435) to another (such as A-437) at a time in which pitches were far from standardized. I have found it best to place the plug where the flute plays and feels best to the performer - on my flutes 24-25mm from the center of the embouchure, and leave it at that. Thus a screw cap and even and end cap is unnecessary. These are not included in the Folk Flute. Find the best position for the plug after you have spent some time on the flute enough to tell the difference, otherwise stick to where Dave or whoever placed it originally. The only danger of not having an end cap is that sometimes someone will come along and see the plug inside and push it out of position with their finger!

Embouchure Cut - I prefer oval/elliptical shape and this is the historic shape on most of the old 19th century London flutes that we base our modern flutes on. My criteria for an embouchure is that it should be forgivingly easy to produce a sound out of without any tightening of the lips or force of breath, but not break when forced by an experienced player. For modern flute players it should be able to produce whistle tones easily, as on a well-cut modern flute embouchure. I make a lot of flutes, as does Dave. For years I never went out and played much - preferring to play other instruments and leave the flute playing to my work hours. I suspect Dave does the same. The result of this is - with some irony - is that my chops are relatively weak. Yet I know well what I want to get out of my flutes playing-wise and volume-wise. I want the sound to come with minimal effort and roll off the flute like water off a duck and have a nice buzz to it when forced, along with a range of expression. I am able to get this without having to work with my weak embouchure by forcing the flute to do all the heavy lifting for me. I suspect Dave and other makers are working similarly, but perhaps not aware of this!

Good luck with your new flute and flute experiences. One last thing...

Beware of Flute Acquisition Disorder. You might eventually find that you wouldn't mind having a few flutes by different makers for different circumstances, or having a lovely even if nonfunctional antique flute to stick on your mantlepiece. Several here suffer from this malady for which there is no cure, except Major Global Financial Recessions.

Casey

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2019 5:43 pm 
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As others have suggested, I’d recommend inline holes and no C thimbhole.

The Delrin Copley’s standard top joint makes for a perfectly fine tuning slide that will serve you perfectly well, there’s no need for a metal slide, which can be bent/damaged or get too loose/tight, and requires more maintenance than the Delrin Copley configuration.

I’ve tried both Copley embouchre cuts and I went with the elliptical. I didn’t find one easier to play than the other, nor did I find a radical difference in tone. Go with the elliptical, Dave’s flutes are as easy to play as any I’ve ever owned or tried, and that’s a lot of flutes.

I’d want an adjustable stopper, but a beginner really shouldn’t be monkeying with that anyway, it can really screw you up (pun intended) to be fiddling with stopper position before you’ve learned to play in-tune on a well designed flute with the stopper set to the correct position. You can always have Dave make you a screw type adjustable stopper later, if you ever feel the need, but for now, it’s just one more complication and an unnecessary extra expense.

Rings are purely cosmetic on a Delrin flute. If you really like the look, go for it, but keep in mind that they do tarnish, they get scratched, they can be dented or even knocked off with a certain amount of abuse. Plus they cost more. Totally up to you.

Steve Bliven wrote:

Not to confuse the issue, but there are some other makers that produce nice, entry-level-but-certainly-good-enough-to-grow-with instruments including Francois Baubet and Vincenzo Di Mauro. Both are in Ireland and are great to work with.


Steve


I’m going to offer some counterpoint Steve’s recommendation here:

When I buy a flute, I want to deal with someone who has a record of consistency. Consistency with regards to the quality and performance of the flute, as well customer service. Now no offense to Vincenzo, but I don’t believe we’ve seen enough of his flutes around, or for long enough to really be able to assess his consistency on these instruments, or even his customer service. And Francois, well I can tell you for a fact, from personal experience that his flutes are inconsistent - I’ve had 3 that weren’t so great- and his attitude regarding customer service can be, well, less than professional. But hey, he will be the first to tell you that flute making is a hobby for him. Unfortunately he may tell you this after your flute is months overdue.....

The thing about Dave Copley is, you’ll get an excellent flute, and you’ll get it on time, and he’ll promptly answer your emails, and he’ll just generally act like a damn professional, which too many instrument makers seem to find burdensome. Anyway, point being that while there will always be people recommending this maker or that maker based on some limited personal experience or word of mouth, you’re usually better off going with a maker that has garnered a lot of praise and little to no negativity, over a long period of time.

No offense here to Steve, he’s offering options, which I can certainly appreciate, and I believe Steve and I have had a friendly (no sarcasm intended) conversation or two on similar subjects in the past.

Good luck with your flute journey,

Loren


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2019 6:12 pm 
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Loren wrote:
Anyway, point being that while there will always be people recommending this maker or that maker based on some limited personal experience or word of mouth, you’re usually better off going with a maker that has garnered a lot of praise and little to no negativity, over a long period of time.


1,000x this right here. Go through any thread asking about any maker whatsoever here, and someone will pipe in with their 2 cents about the instrument they bought and how great it is, etc. I'll admit that I've done it, too, many times. The thing is, none of us have played every flute out there. Some have more experience than others, but no one usually lists out every flute they've played before giving their recommendation.

There are possibly 100 or more people out there who can make a decent "Irish" flute. Notice I say "can," since consistency can vary wildly among them. They've probably all had their names mentioned here at one time or another. There are about 10-15 that I would actually consider buying from, given what I've played, what I've heard/seen others play, and what I've consistently seen recommended by knowledgable people here and elsewhere. Copley is one of them, for the very little that that's worth.


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