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Flute Balance point
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Author:  david_h [ Sat Sep 26, 2020 2:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Flute Balance point

In another discussion
Terry McGee wrote:
This probably reminds we makers that we should really be including information like flute weight and perhaps balance points in our descriptions. These things can matter to people. If we don't specify them, we are not helping them to make good decisions.
How important is balance? It is to me - I play my flute with the (cosmetic only) crown removed as that balances it how I like it. But I have been accused on this forum of having 'princess and pea syndrome'.

It doesn't get discussed much here whereas weight comes up all the time.

Author:  Sedi [ Sat Sep 26, 2020 2:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Flute Balance point

For me it's important. I balance my own flutes exactly at the point where you would support them with the Rockstro hold with your upper hand.

Author:  Terry McGee [ Sat Sep 26, 2020 6:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Flute Balance point

david_h wrote:
How important is balance? It is to me - I play my flute with the (cosmetic only) crown removed as that balances it how I like it. But I have been accused on this forum of having 'princess and pea syndrome'.

It's certainly important to me - I simply hate playing a flute that has negative balance - ie is "head heavy".

Quote:
It doesn't get discussed much here whereas weight comes up all the time.

It's not as easy a thing to measure as weight, and that perhaps presents us a challenge. On my 6-key (my Rudall Perfected model), balancing it on a cylindrical pen finds it at about 6.5mm (1/4") further down the flute from the centre of hole L1. But it's not an easy point to find; the flute wants to tip over so that the keys are on the bottom, but that then invites the L1 hole to want to find the pen!

Ah, here's a better approach. Tie a loose knot, or better yet a slip knot, around the flute near the L1 hole in a short length of string. Dangle the flute from the string, then shift the loop up or down the flute until it assumes the horizontal. Now measure from centre of L1 to centre of the string.

And shall we define that as L1 + 6.5mm? Had the balance point been 5mm above the L1 hole, it would be L1 - 5mm?

Now all of this should be done with the tuning slide extended to A440, or we could get very confused!

Interesting to try it with crown on and off, david_h, to see if our test can tell the difference. Removing the cap from my flute pushed the balance point from L1 + 6.5mm to L1 + 17mm, a startling difference of 10.5mm (just over 3/8"). That made the flute feel a bit foot-heavy to me, but then again, maybe that would only take a bit of getting used to.

I think that might counter the 'princess and pea syndrome' argument! That syndrome could however be said to apply when you move the cork back 1mm to strengthen the bottom octave, but then feel compelled to tape a single frozen pea to the foot to reset the balance...

Author:  david_h [ Sun Sep 27, 2020 4:43 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Flute Balance point

Terry McGee wrote:
It's certainly important to me - I simply hate playing a flute that has negative balance - ie is "head heavy"
Maybe I'm not as sensitive as I thought and not being head heavy is most important to me also.

My modern-maker 4-key without the crown is L1-15mm which balances exactly as I lift it to play. With the crown it's L1-35mm which I don't like. However, a 10-key Metzler Siccama balancing at L1+25mm is no problem, though I think slight upward pressure of the head is something I work with when adjusting my embouchure. (I suspect that 10mm or so may have been taken off the head of the Metzler. With that it would be less foot heavy.)

Author:  busterbill [ Sun Sep 27, 2020 5:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Flute Balance point

I had a head heavy flute that felt much better when I removed the silver encased crown. No shame there.

Author:  Terry McGee [ Sun Sep 27, 2020 6:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Flute Balance point

david_h wrote:
Terry McGee wrote:
My modern-maker 4-key without the crown is L1-15mm which balances exactly as I lift it to play. With the crown it's L1-35mm which I don't like. However, a 10-key Metzler Siccama balancing at L1+25mm is no problem, though I think slight upward pressure of the head is something I work with when adjusting my embouchure. (I suspect that 10mm or so may have been taken off the head of the Metzler. With that it would be less foot heavy.)

I can certainly see why you are so aware of this issue, david_h, being the owner of two flutes with such dramatically different balance points. The difference between your 4-key with crown and your Metlzer Siccama comes in at 60mm, or 2 & 3/8 inches. That's vast!

I think I prefer slightly foot heavy over exactly balanced, as it presents no problems in support and helps keep the flute to the lip. I'm imagining that your 4-key has a short foot (ie no C or C# holes), but with a full length tuning slide in the head? I have a period German 4-key answering to that description that comes in at L1 - 30mm. It's not too bad to play until you try c#!

It would be good if we could determine either an optimum balance point or a satisfactory range. If anyone wishes to contribute their experiences, follow my instructions above (unless you've found a better way, david_h?), tell us your balance point, and your perceptions when holding and playing. Some keywords would include head heavy, balanced, foot heavy. Adapters could include a little, fairly, excessively, impossibly.

Author:  Conical bore [ Sun Sep 27, 2020 7:26 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Flute Balance point

Okay, in the interests of weird flute science (insert Oingo Boingo song), here's the measurements for my Thomas Aebi flute -- a Rudall 8-key copy in cocus wood. Note that it has a lined head, and this was with the tuning slide pulled out about 1/4" for A440. This is the flute in that Northwind case thread photo.

Flute weight: 457 grams
Balance point using the string loop method: LH1 (center) + 23mm

I had to sneak the string under the Cnat key hole about 2/3 of the way to get it balanced. Vintage flutes that need more tuning slide pull-out to reach A440 will obviously shift the balance point. That may screw up our ideas about an "ideal" balance point.

I don't have any problems holding this flute. It feels very comfortable, but after 5 years or so climbing the mountain, I think I'm probably past the point where the flute hold is an issue. I'm dealing with all the other things now in the learning curve.

I think it's likely that if you stick with one flute for long enough, balance and hold issues just become part of your muscle memory (and I know that's a misnomer). I played guitar for 30-odd years before picking up mandolin before my flute fascination, and that felt really weird... until I got used to it. Small differences in flute balance don't seem that significant to me, but that may be my multi-instrument background.

Author:  Dan A. [ Sun Sep 27, 2020 7:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Flute Balance point

Conical bore wrote:
Insert Oingo Boingo song...

That is now stuck in my head!

Returning to topic and seriousness, as someone who is thinking of taking up the flute, this topic is of interest to me. Using Terry's scale, I doubt I'd want "excessive" or "impossible." And I'd probably present an interesting case, being right-hand dominant but playing the flute left-handed. Probably the best way to determine one's preferred balance point is playing several different flutes, eh? And what effect do keys have on the balance?

Author:  Terry McGee [ Mon Sep 28, 2020 3:21 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Flute Balance point

Conical bore wrote:
Okay, in the interests of weird flute science (insert Oingo Boingo song), here's the measurements for my Thomas Aebi flute -- a Rudall 8-key copy in cocus wood. Note that it has a lined head, and this was with the tuning slide pulled out about 1/4" for A440. This is the flute in that Northwind case thread photo.

I had to look up the Oingo Boingo song. We are normally very protected down here....

Quote:
Flute weight: 457 grams
Balance point using the string loop method: LH1 (center) + 23mm

Very good. The weight of the two lowest keys so far down the flute would certainly help.

Quote:
I had to sneak the string under the Cnat key hole about 2/3 of the way to get it balanced. Vintage flutes that need more tuning slide pull-out to reach A440 will obviously shift the balance point. That may screw up our ideas about an "ideal" balance point.

Which is why I specified that we should tune first. Especially for those old English flutes that need to be pulled out nearly an inch to tune to 440.

Quote:
I think it's likely that if you stick with one flute for long enough, balance and hold issues just become part of your muscle memory (and I know that's a misnomer). I played guitar for 30-odd years before picking up mandolin before my flute fascination, and that felt really weird... until I got used to it. Small differences in flute balance don't seem that significant to me, but that may be my multi-instrument background.

I agree small differences in balance should not be significant, but I think if you struck a flute like david_h's 4 key (with crown) (balance at L1-35mm) you'd be surprised. We just don't expect a flute to drop away from our lips. It don't seem nacheral...

Author:  Terry McGee [ Mon Sep 28, 2020 3:28 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Flute Balance point

Dan A. wrote:
Probably the best way to determine one's preferred balance point is playing several different flutes, eh?

Always great to play as many flutes as possible before buying, but of course that's not always practical. And significantly less practical under current pandemic constraints.

Quote:
And what effect do keys have on the balance?

Keys help a lot, due to both their weight and the weight of blocks or pins. But we can and do make well-balanced keyless flutes, so, no excuses, makers. Find a way! (Sudden vision of a keyless flutes with a bundle of large washers dangling from some fishing line around the foot....)

Hopefully, this thread will help urge makers so to do.

Author:  david_h [ Mon Sep 28, 2020 5:43 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Flute Balance point

Terry McGee wrote:
... follow my instructions above (unless you've found a better way, david_h?)...
Your instructions, with the length of waxed thread that lives in the Metzler box to be wrapped round the cork to use the modern head. With the modern head with crown it's L1+0mm. Yes, the modern flute has a short foot.

Terry McGee wrote:
I think that might counter the 'princess and pea syndrome' argument! That syndrome could however be said to apply when you move the cork back 1mm to strengthen the bottom octave, but then feel compelled to tape a single frozen pea to the foot to reset the balance...


I guess if it was a widespread problem back in the day Rudall and Rose's patent for the head might have included a set of clip on foot rings numbered to match the graduations.

Author:  Terry McGee [ Mon Sep 28, 2020 6:23 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Flute Balance point

david_h wrote:
I guess if it was a widespread problem back in the day Rudall and Rose's patent for the head might have included a set of clip on foot rings numbered to match the graduations.

Ah, yes, the Rudall & Rose patent head. It was a heavy item (that screw-mechanism up near the crown), and did tend to unbalance the flute.

Author:  cac [ Mon Oct 05, 2020 8:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Flute Balance point

David_h wrote:
Quote:
I play my flute with the (cosmetic only) crown removed ...


This is off-topic, but it not true that crowns are cosmetic only. Crowns of different material have an effect on the sound. Rob Forbes, who makes excellent Pratten-style delrin flutes, has discovered that if the delrin crown on his flute is replaced with a moderately heavy metal one (I believe of aluminum) the resulting sound is noticeably brighter. I can attest to this myself as I have both types of stopper + crown assemblage and the difference is startling. In addition, although I am not familiar with the details, there is much concern in the world of silver flutes with the material a crown is made of and many good makers provide a variety to choose from. Back on topic: the heavier crown makes the delrin flute a bit top-heavy and I don't like it one bit even though i do like the sound that results from using it. Chet

Author:  Terry McGee [ Tue Oct 06, 2020 2:38 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Flute Balance point

I am aware that the topic has come up in the Boehm flute world, but it is hard to imagine a mechanism for it. (That is to say, an explanation that would satisfy a Physicist.)

If you simply leave the crown off, can you detect a further difference in sound, or does that situation seem to equate to one of the other two situations?

And if you play the flute (and hear the difference) do others in the room with you also report a different sound, or is it perchance a change in your perspective as listener? And if you record the flute with both crowns, being careful to use the same mic distance, etc, can you hear a difference in the playback?

Others who don't conveniently have two crowns could try the with and without crown test, to see if they can perceive a difference. Given human frailty, you'd need to try it both ways several times to counter the possibility you just assumed a better or worse embouchure position the second time.

Important in all this not to disturb the stopper position, as we know that can definitely make an audible difference!

Author:  david_h [ Tue Oct 06, 2020 3:18 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Flute Balance point

A blindfolded comparison using two crowns of different material but the same weight and centre of gravity would be interesting.

With crowns of different weight the feel on the lips would be different.

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