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Flat foot, A and B sharp in 19th century flutes question
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Author:  dres [ Thu Feb 21, 2019 10:05 am ]
Post subject:  Flat foot, A and B sharp in 19th century flutes question

I'm curious to know the reasons for flat foot syndrome and A and B sharps on 19th century flutes. I'm owner of a flute from the second half of the 19th century –high pitch although playable at 440. I use wax so that A and B are more in tune with the current tuning, and not adjust them with the embouchure. Doing so loses notes from the third octave - for example, the E with crossfingering 00X00X.

A example, the Galician bagpipes do not look for a just intonation. The notes of the chanter are tuned from the vibration with the drone that emits a note two octaves lower. Thus, in a bagpipe –for example in D– the distance of the tonic and other notes are very close to what is expected in an equal scale, but the third degree (F#) is 20 cents lower, and the Bb 26 cents lower so that they tune with the drone. I guess this explanation doesn't make sense on flutes when used to play in ensembles and orchestras.

Is it possible, that the flutes at that time, sacrifice the lower octave for a better intonation in the third octave? Maybe, for the melodies that were played, and probably, the flutes where the compensation between octaves is not thought of. Thus, for a better third octave, part of the first octave is lost. I know neither the repertoire of the time nor the making of the flutes.
This is something that happens in Galicia in the "requintas". They are third flutes in F or G that, to play with gaitas –in B or C–, modify the third octave -for a reason of greater volume, and are totally out of tune in the first octave.

Could be something similar?
Could anyone shed light on what the reasons might be for making 19th flutes "out of" tune in those notes?

Author:  paddler [ Fri Feb 22, 2019 3:47 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Flat foot, A and B sharp in 19th century flutes question

Mostly this occurs because the flute was not originally made to play in tune with itself at A=440 hz. Instead, the target pitch was something lower, such as A=435 or maybe as low as A=420. To make the flute play in tune with itself the tuning slide would have to be open (perhaps wide open). Extending the slide like this has a greater effect on the left hand notes (B and A) than on the right hand notes. When you take such a flute, close the slide some amount in order to make the the flute play some target note in tune at A=440 hz then you raise the pitch of these left hand notes more than the right hand notes. Hence, they end up being out of tune (sharp) at A=440 hz. If you close the slide only enough to make the A or B play in tune at A=440 hz, then the foot notes will be out of tune (flat). Basically, a tuning slide can never have the same degree of sharpening or flattening effect on all notes.

So, I don't think it is quite fair to the old flute makers to say that the flute is "out of tune". It's more a case of the flute being in tune at a different pitch standard than we use today.

A fuller explanation, with much more details than I have given above, takes into account the effects over generations of flutes of progressively shortening the head, expecting the tuning slide to work over a wider range of pitch standards than is practically reasonable, and progressively increasing the size of tone holes to increase loudness without taking into account the effect that has on tuning. All of this makes the problem you identified worse. Modern flutes address these problems by redesigning specifically for the A=440 hz pitch standard at a specified temperature and humidity. Some older antiques also targeted a pitch standard close enough to the modern A=440 hz standard to play well without a lot of embouchure gymnastics.

Author:  jemtheflute [ Thu Feb 28, 2019 3:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Flat foot, A and B sharp in 19th century flutes question

What paddler wrote.

I'll just add that I have never seen oox oox suggested as a fingering for 3rd 8ve E, mor dies it work for E on any of several flutes I just tried it on. That is in fact the normal fingering (with or without the Eb key vented) for 3rd 8ve G#! It's highly unlikely to work to produce an E. I have myself waxed sharp A, B and G tone-holes of C19th English flutes to bring them down more in line with the R hand and footjoint notes and have never "lost" any 3rd 8ve notes as a result. I wonder if you're using the appropriate fingerings? See the resource links in my signature below for fingering charts.

Author:  dres [ Sat Mar 02, 2019 1:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Flat foot, A and B sharp in 19th century flutes question

thank you for your comments.

About paddler comment. I didn't express myself very well. By out of tune I didn't mean that flutemakers weren't able to make tuned flutes. I understand that concert flutes are designed to play in tune. And my doubt is to know why they don't come close to the just tuning. And, for example, if that's because they used a tempered tuning.
As you say that they are replicating the structure and shortening the flute without modifications which would cause/intensify certain defects. Could those notes be corrected with the embouchure technique and were not really problematic at that time? And if it is necessary to alter the structure of the flute, was it not possible to also look for a solution to some notes? From a perspective in which the context of the interpretation is with other instruments that play in the just tuning. I know this is more of a personal and subjective reasoning than a fact. I don't know if this is a problem –a problem seen from today's perspective– located in some flutemarkers, or very widespread in the English flutes of the 19th century, and even if at that time it was seen as a problem.

On jemtheflute's commentary. I made a mistake with the fingering. I am not very familiar with the third octave yet. The times I have tried to play it I have used the fingering on Rockstro's publication that I had downloaded from some post of this forum. As you said 00X00X is for G#. In any case both the fingering OOXOOX and OOXXO the resulting note is approximately a D# on my flute. Maybe it has defects, or also my playing, or maybe I don't find the right fingering.

Author:  paddler [ Sat Mar 02, 2019 5:34 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Flat foot, A and B sharp in 19th century flutes question

The differences between equal temperament and just tuning are much smaller than the tuning anomalies exhibited by most 19th century flutes, so that is not the reason for the sharp B and A notes and the flat foot. The B and A are sharp and the foot flat simply because the flute was designed to be played at a pitch standard other than A=440 hz.

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