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PostPosted: Wed Jan 22, 2020 6:12 pm 
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My journey with the Irish flute began about ’05. I was already a huge fan of the music, with a repertoire of two set’s worth of Celtic/Irish songs as well as a couple dozen fiddle tunes, learned mostly from Kevin Burke dvds. There had been some tinkering with the penny whistle which didn’t really take, maybe because I was playing it goofy-fingered. But somehow I just fell in love with the sound of the flute and acquired several nice ones, both blackwood and delrin.

Despite working on it for about four years, I just couldn’t seem to learn even the most basic tunes. Somehow my synapses and fingers couldn’t get it together. After much frustration, my three flutes were sold and that was it. Until about two years ago.

I had continued over the years to be haunted by the sound of the flute, and didn’t fully understand that I also missed holding the darn thing in my hands. So I bought a Somers delrin in D and just started playing again. This time it was different. I was more than a little shocked to realize that I actually had learned to play it years before.

Oh, I still to this day cannot play The Wise Maid, one of the simplest tunes going. Instead, I play along with movie soundtracks, tv shows and even commercials, which btw is somewhat challenging on a D flute. I’ve even pulled it out on stage to back up local musicians that I work with (mostly Americana), much to their surprise.

But since most of my practice hours are spent hunting and pecking in weird keys, it became obvious that I needed actual, physical keys. So I’ve recently ordered a four-key delrin from Dave Copley, (the usual four), as I’ve had a photo of one of his flutes on a pc desktop since way back. Well, I didn’t order it so much as put my name on his waiting list…which also gives me time to be absolutely certain of how it should be configured. And delrin is necessary because my current flute lives on the chair next to mine, assembled and ready to play.

It might be a $2k gamble on my part, as I don’t know if I’ll be able to make the transition. I do so much half-holing now that I’m almost afraid that that will be my default method, even with keys. I guess we’ll find out. But I’ve read just about every thread I could find at C&F regarding keys, and I haven’t yet found a discussion about one of my chief concerns.

As mentioned earlier, the tactile aspect of the flute is of great importance to me. Just holding it is like holding some kind of rare talisman. But aside from the “rolling off the table” element, I’m concerned how the keys will change (or disrupt?) the wonderful feel of the flute in my hands. The Eb, Ab, Bb, F options together are obviously the lowest profile for a completely chromatic flute. And I’m sure that one of Dave’s flutes will have several solid choices for a C note. But in reading all of those forum threads, many advocate at least six keys both for playing possibilities as well as long-term value.

So my concern is, just how much extra will a C key and especially a long F (if I were to splurge) interfere with the original “feel” of the flute. Or has that horse already left the barn with the initial four? And is there a preference for the mounts, either post or block, that again affects the actual ergonomics and feel of the flute. I would appreciate hearing some of your thoughts. Also any suggestions you might have on tutorials for the transition to keys.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 22, 2020 6:48 pm 
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The keys won't interfere with the normal feel of the flute. All your regular notes are there as usual.

A lot of it is personal, meaning you get used to what you're used to.

In the past, I never used the C key as I was happy with my regular C fingering OXO XXX . But, now I have a flute with a C# that is slightly flat. I need to lip it up a little, and the C-nat key opens the note up while marginally making the C# a little sharper. This is probably specific to each flute.

I never used the short F because the long F always worked for me. Recently, I came across a C-minor waltz (key of three flats), and now for the first time, I require for the short F for some passages. I guess some people swear by the short F. On my antique Firth Pond & Co, the short F is rotated slightly toward the ring finger and inset a little which makes it pretty ergonomic. I think if I worked at it, I could go both up and down the scale with that design.

So, my minimal 4-key flute would have Eb, long-F, G# and Bb.

One thing I did not realize initially was that tunes in Dminor and Gminor, regularly use the low C note. But, the C-foot is a pricey addition that few ITM musicians spring for.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 22, 2020 7:16 pm 
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First, a disclaimer that I'm relatively new to keys, and not an advanced player. Only been climbing this hill for about 5 years now, and only the last two with the kind of serious practice it takes. I started on a very good keyless blackwood flute and traded it for an 8-keyed flute a bit over a year ago, because I was getting frustrated with not having access to a few favorite tunes where keys would be a help. I had a good cross-fingered Cnat, and a passable half-hole Fnat and G#, but not good enough to play reels at full tempo that needed those notes. Also there were one or two tunes I enjoy like "Crested Hens" that really needed an Eb, and that's impossible to half-hole on most "Irish" flutes. So here's where I'm at now with my 8-keyed flute, after almost a year and a half of fooling with it. Take it with a grain of salt because I'm an "advancing" player and not an expert:

I don't use the Cnat key. I'm used to cross-fingering that note and can do it at reel speed, so it's just not something I need. If I ever get good enough to attempt an Irish air, I might use it for the purity of the note, but for the session tunes I play, the cross-fingered Cnats sound fine.

I never touch the Bb key wth the Irish and Scottish tunes I play. I use the G# key a lot! So glad to have that one, so I don't need to half-hole it on faster tunes. I use only the short Fnat key, seldom the long one. There are a few tunes where it makes sense to use it on a descending line, but on this particular flute the lever sits so high that it's a pain to reach. It's easier to use the short Fnat. I probably need to practice this some more.

I use the Eb key only for "Crested Hens" and my lame attempt at playing the "J.B. Reel." There is an argument for using the Eb key to vent higher notes above D, which is the "correct" thing to do, but my current flute speaks strongly enough on the upper notes that I don't see it as an advantage. I have a C and C# key on this flute, but they're not reliable (typical pewter plug type, even if it's a recently made flute). I'm able to get an okay C# which is useful on the J.B. Reel at slow speed, but never a Cnat. Maybe it's me, maybe it's this flute. I dunno.

So that's my experience, and again this is only for playing Irish and Scottish trad tunes. If I wanted a flute that was fully chromatic and easy to play that way for for other music like Pop tunes, Jazz, or Blues, I'd play a silver Boehm flute. But this wooden Rudall & Rose copy fits the sound I'm looking for with this music. I love the feel of fingers on open holes.

More to your point, if I was ordering a newly-made flute today from a maker, I'd want just the G#, short and long Fnat, and Eb keys. That's if I wasn't considering having to sell the flute if I didn't like it. If that was a consideration, I'd get it with 6 keys for resale value.


Last edited by Conical bore on Wed Jan 22, 2020 7:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 22, 2020 7:17 pm 
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Tutorials for using keys.

Eb, G# and F-nat keys aren't that difficult. Eb helpfully vents the E note on many flutes, and I was already using that key before I really needed it in a tune. I recall that my Eb finger would get pretty tired when I started.

The Bb key will probably be a bear because you'll have to relearn how to hold the flute. Stick with it, as you will "eventually" get it. Your hands will thank you for the better ergonomics that you learn as a consequence of the Bb key.

Playing at session speed? That's a different matter

I have a couple of suggestions:

(1) Tunes with accidentals, that let you hit the keys occasionally.
(2) Tunes you REALLY like to get you through the hump of awkwardness as your fingers deal with the new situation
(3) Slow tunes, like O'Carolan, or Paddy Fahey played slowly like Martin Hayes.

Tunes I really like with the F-key:
"Maids of Mitchelstown" or "Porthole of the Kelp", "O'Carolan's Welcome", "Paddy Fahey's Reel # 1 in D-minor"

Tunes I really like with the Bb-key:
"Lad O'Beirnes" or "Eileen Curran" or "Annika's Butterfly"

Tunes I really like with the Eb-key:
"Brown Coffin" (When the tide Comes in), or "Good Natured Man" (edit: I guess not this one, but it's a nice set.)


Last edited by tstermitz on Wed Jan 22, 2020 7:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 22, 2020 7:31 pm 
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IMHO, keys are not disruptive to use or enjoyment of playing the flute. Depending on the maker, they do add a little weight to the design. If you're used to cross-fingering, then the long F & high C might not see much use except in certain rare & difficult passages. While not necessarily a waste of money, a 6-key might conceivably retain greater resale value, should that be a consideration. I buy keyless, 6-key & 8-key flutes, but have never considered flutes with other key configurations.

Having ANY keys can potentially reduce reliability of the instrument. You now have additional holes, springs & relatively fragile pad surfaces that can result in leakage, affecting performance.

My personal preference is for keys on block mounts, and primarily for visual appeal & traditional appearance. There is no stigma attached to use of pillar-mount keys, and you may find that the mechanism is more easily serviced by standard woodwind technicians. Wooden key blocks can split or bind (from gunk or wood shrinkage), but would not be an issue on a Delrin flute.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 22, 2020 7:35 pm 
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My sense of the keyed flute is that it feels like a different, more agile, more powerful instrument than the unkeyed. I love them both. As to the C natural key, we know we don't need it. However according to Terry M some years ago, his survey appears to show it is far and away the key most used on keyed flutes. I use the key, crossfingering too, and feel the key really facilitates fingering a good deal of the time for me. I've been at it about 18 years, fwiw.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 22, 2020 7:53 pm 
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Very helpful and enlightening thoughts. I am thus far much obliged.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 22, 2020 11:39 pm 
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roj wrote:

Oh, I still to this day cannot play The Wise Maid, one of the simplest tunes going.


No it isn't! The B part in particular is a bit of a labyrinth to get through, until you get the hang of it. So take it slow and don't sweat it.

No keys for me until I run out of tunes that don't need them, i.e. never.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 23, 2020 2:30 am 
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Conical bore wrote:
Also there were one or two tunes I enjoy like "Crested Hens" that really needed an Eb

If you play it as written by Gilles Chabenat in its original key of D minor (well, alternating Dorian and minor!), it doesn't. I play it on my four-key and only need the short F and Bb for the notes, although I do normally vent the Eb.

Personally, I wouldn't want a keyed flute without at least the basic standard four, which is to say Eb, short F, G# and Bb. If I could play a long F, I'd have at least a six key, but am happy with my C nat thumb hole in lieu of the C key. There are many times I'd like the low C and C#, but left them off because I didn't like the positions and feel of the old-style articulating keys. If I could have them on a Boehm-style footjoint, I would.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 23, 2020 3:20 am 
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Peter Duggan wrote:
There are many times I'd like the low C and C#, but left them off because I didn't like the positions and feel of the old-style articulating keys. If I could have them on a Boehm-style footjoint, I would.

Depending on the flute, you can. Maurice Reviol, of course, can provide a new footjoint (or retrofit a long one) with post-mounted keys. Some flute makers already offer the footjoint keys in a Boehm arrangement. There are even a couple of examples of block-mounted versions, also.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 23, 2020 5:52 am 
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Roj, first of all - if you are operatically inclined (or even not), go see EVEREST by Joby Talbot and Gene Scheer, production by Austin Opera. You probably can still get tickets for tonight's, Saturday Night's and Sunday's 2PM Matinee. I was actually supposed to be heading to Austin to catch it tonight and Sunday but for various reasons my travel plans fell through. I will be listening to the Sunday broadcast via KMFA's webstream. Joby Talbot did the movie music for Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. You can see what Everest sounds like by searching for "Everest Opera" on YouTube. The climber in the purple parka being helped by the one in the red parka is my friend and operatic mentor the great Baritone Craig Verm. The music evokes the beautiful treachery of that mountain and the story is based on the 1996 climbing disaster. Craig's character was from Seattle. The only climber who survives is from Texas.

You might consider a 19th century approach to the use of the keys, via Charles Nicholson's 19th century tutorial work available online for free at https://imslp.org/wiki/Preceptive_Lessons_for_the_Flute_(Nicholson%2C_Charles)

Anything musical will take practice and his lessons were aimed towards the simple system 8 keyed flute.

Congrats and good luck on your flute. Dave's are great! Let me know if you see Everest. Go to Austin Opera's website for tickets.

Casey

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 23, 2020 7:54 am 
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kkrell wrote:
Depending on the flute, you can. Maurice Reviol, of course, can provide a new footjoint (or retrofit a long one) with post-mounted keys. Some flute makers already offer the footjoint keys in a Boehm arrangement. There are even a couple of examples of block-mounted versions, also.

Thanks, Kevin, I'm already aware of the possibilities*, but...

My flute, as you probably know, is a customised Copley in an unusual wood. Since Dave doesn't do Boehm-style keys, I got the foot without. While my vent holes are in the acoustically correct places, I can't see myself letting anyone modify that foot, but haven't ruled out sometime commissioning an alternative new foot (even post-mounted in a non-matching wood) from someone who does these things. Not in any hurry to do so, however, because I still love the flute down to the D (my favourite of all my instruments for the thought we put into it and result we got!), and am essentially (and voluntarily) tied to it because it's no use to anyone else and I can't get what I need from any other.

*So my comment was more about the old-style foot keys not working for everyone. The biggest issue for me is not the articulated mechanism but the relative positions of the touches when the C and C# end up in the wrong place for me when the Eb's right.

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