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PostPosted: Sat Feb 09, 2019 2:32 pm 
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I've been playing the whistle for almost a year and am modestly capable. I've been playing the "irish" flute pretty intensely for a couple months now and am quite terrible. So I thought other beginners might enjoy a beginner's review of a few flutes.



So, top to bottom:


1. No name ebay Irish Flute of uncertain wood
2. Tony Dixon flute/low D whistle combo
3. M&E keyless
4. Walt Sweet "Shannon" flute

Note I tried to record some sound clips of these but really I'm too terrible. I can get the fingerings at speed, but breath is short. I get moments of an actual good sound--reedy, dark, focused--and then it's huff and puff and fail to blow the house down. Everyday I get a little more consistent, and with better phrasing, but the tone is just way too airy. Not there yet


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No name ebay flute of uncertain wood. Bought for my daughter, who plays sax, before a family trip to ireland. It's terrible--weak and quiet and unpleasant to play. It does sound like an "irish flute," that is, it has that reedy quality, or can be made to. It's an uphill battle though. Do not buy. NEXT!

Tony Dixon Flute/whistle combo. With the Flute head. It's very light. It has a very large embouchure hole. It's not very loud, and it's hard to get that reedy irish flute sound--it wants to sound more like a Boehm flute, or a whistle. It's surprisingly hard to finger the right hand notes, like closing the low D. Not a pleasure to play. Do not buy. NEXT!!

C. M&E keyless. Bought direct from M&E website for a very reasonable amount. OK here things get very interesting. This flute is delrin--I like the idea of delrin because I'm fairly careless with instruments and don't like to fuss much. The flute comes as five pieces, with a brass tuning slide and two vents in the foot. It has steel rings and there is some sort of coating on the flute, a glossy black lacquer of some sort, which is not very durable. I know it's a tinted finish because in a couple places it was on the steel rings. In a week of daily playing it's worn off around the embouchure hole as you can see in the photo, and it's come off in places on the body as well. As mentioned I'm not especially careful with it, but I kind of wonder why bother to put such a non-durable finish on it. It's long and relatively heavy. The finger holes have very sharp edges--not painfully sharp, just very defined. It has a brass-lined headjoint and a brass tuning slide.

It's really a pleasure to play. I would not say it's easy (see below) but it's very responsive to slight changes in embouchure and I felt like I improved substantially from playing it, if that makes sense. Also it feels good in the hands--it vibrates nicely. You can feel the air under your fingers. You can get a very "hard" sound, very direct and focused, although I tend to have a hard time keeping it because I'm a novice.

D. Walt Sweet Shannon. This was the flute I started seriously trying to learn on. It's interesting-it's a three piece Delrin flute with a tuning slide. No rings. Unlined headjoint. It's made out of a different grade of Delrin, or maybe a different material altogether, than the M&E. It's lighter and feels softer, like you could gouge it with a fingernail if you tried hard (I haven't tried). it's finished with a very subtle pattern of even lathe tool marks so it's very easy to hold. It looks great but not traditional. The finger holes have a much softer edge and as a result the feel is different--I get less of a sense of the air coming out and also I'm more likely to miss the hole. But the holes have clearly been individually modified, and it plays well in tune, better than the M&E.

It's very easy to play, with a loud sound and a honkin' loud low D. At first the loud low D bothered me, because the "E" was noticeably quieter. I've gotten used to it though. The C natural is much better on this than on the M&E, much less "veiled" sounding. It was very inexpensive.

So I like the M&E a little better, even though the Shannon is easier to play and more in tune. The M&E sounds a little more like the sound in my head. And the way it feels is maybe a little better: better feedback to the player? The harder material feels better and vibrates better. The Shannon has a "softer," broader sound, but very pleasing and still well in the ballpark of an irish flute

The M&E and the Shannon are both great--I don't feel like either one is holding me back in any way; neither one presents any problems that aren't my fault. The harder material of the M&E is interesting and I think gives it a better tactile response. It's going to take more work to keep it in tune, but it sounds more like what I want to sound like.

Hope some other beginner finds this useful!


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 09, 2019 6:37 pm 
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Nice little review of your experiences with some entry level flutes. I totally agree with you about the middle eastern manufactured flute, and that stretch on the DIxon is likely because it's a cylindrical body just like a classic low whistle so it's going ot be harder to cover.

Personally, I'd flip the Shannon and M&E positions...nothing wrong with the M&E, but the Shannon really is just the bomb as a beginners flute or an experienced player's travel flute. I prefer inline holes rather than offset, but a Shannon can really sing. So, too, can an M&E, but I think it takes a more experienced player to get that out of an M&E whereas the Shannon just is easy (and good).

YMMV,

Eric


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 09, 2019 6:50 pm 
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Yeah I think you could go either way. The Shannon is certainly easy-playing . The interesting thing for me is that the material matters, not so much because if the sound, because that's probably due, I suspect, to the embouchure cuts and the finger holes and the bore, but the "feel." The M&E is definitely made of a different material, maybe a different grade of delrin


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 09, 2019 6:58 pm 
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M&Es are made from either a special food grade solid PVC rod Michael reams out or ebonite...last I heard he had never used delrin.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 09, 2019 7:27 pm 
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Website just says "polymer." But delrin is itself a polymer as I understand it. I'm not a chemist though. Also the Dixon does have a conical bore.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 09, 2019 8:11 pm 
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Tony must have changed his design on that model since I last played one.

Michael though definitely used a special grade of PVC. He used to have a website that explained it and he and I have exchanged a bunch of messages about 15 or so years ago. I have owned 2 of his polymer flutes and 2 ebonite. The material for his polymer flute has stayed the same all these years.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 09, 2019 11:45 pm 
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I believe that the Dixon shown is a cylindrical bore. He does make a conical, but I don't think this is it.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 10, 2019 12:00 am 
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I have, of the four shown, I have the Dixon, the Shannon and the M&E. The Shannon is my current go to. Primarily because the dog and my M&E headjoint had a bit of a run in. So, now I am in search of a new headjoint or a new M&E.

Both are great flutes. But, they are different. To compare them would be an apples and oranges thing, I think.

The Dixon was my first flute and rarely gets played these days.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 10, 2019 4:09 am 
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As another beginner, (of maybe 6 months, but mainly spent on whistles), I concur that the hole spacing on a Tony Dixon one piece ABS low D flute is awkward to begin with, but once used to it, it plays quite well, & has quite a good sound. Would make a great flute to tie a bit of string on & throw over your shoulder when going for a hike. ;)

I also have a Damian Thompson beginner delrin low D flute, with offset holes, (after my initial experience with the Dixon), again a very nice sounding flute, but feels very different to play.

Then I have my just purchased M&E flute in the key of F - this is said to be made of medical grade polymer, (so not actually delrin). Finger spacing is much easier, owing to the key being F rather than D. This is a heavy flute, no two ways about that, but quite managable, even for a beginner like myself.

I seem to have gravitated to the key of F as my favourite key, for both whistle & flute, but I like all three flutes, & will be playing them all as I get up to speed with my embouchure & technique on flute. :)

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 10, 2019 6:13 am 
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jiminos wrote:
I believe that the Dixon shown is a cylindrical bore. He does make a conical, but I don't think this is it.



The thing that convinces me it's a conical bore is the fact that it is significantly wider at the mouthpiece end than it is at the foot, and it measures as 3/4 at the foot and 7/8s at the mouthpiece end


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 10, 2019 6:17 am 
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"Delrin" and "polymer" seem to be thrown around interchangeably--at TheIrishFluteStore, for example, the Shannon is described as a "polymer" flute.

I'm just reporting that they seem to be different material. The M&E is a lot heavier.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 10, 2019 6:38 am 
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Delrin is a polymer, but not all polymers are Delrin. Like silver is a metal, but not all metals are silver.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 10, 2019 9:00 am 
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They do make food grade Delrin

http://www.dupont.com/products-and-services/plastics-polymers-resins/thermoplastics/articles/grades-of-delrin.html

"Delrin" is just a trademark for a form of polymer developed by DuPont. Wikipedia tells me it's "Polyoxymethylene" and there are other brands.

The difference between the two flutes has been really interesting to observe. There are obvious construction differences besides the material difference. I've never tried a good wooden flute, but both the shannon and the M&E seem like very capable musical instruments I could go a long way on either one. Interested in trying an ebonite flute.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 10, 2019 9:45 am 
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All I know about M&E's polymer, which he definitely told me was a food grade PVC solid rod stock (and he sent me photos from the factory that made the stuff). Plus, I have owned 5 delrin flutes and Michael's material is 100% NOT delrin or the generic version of delrin... it's different stuff.

Unless he has switched materials, which no one has heard from Michael to be the case... it's truly food grade PVC rod stock.

I got the info from the man himself... shouldn't that be sufficient?

Eric


Last edited by Jayhawk on Sun Feb 10, 2019 1:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 10, 2019 9:54 am 
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Have you tried an Ellis? I liked the couple I have tried. Would be interested in your perspective putting up against the other 4 you reviewed.

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