Thoughts on the Olwell small holed flute?

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Squeeky Elf
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Thoughts on the Olwell small holed flute?

Post by Squeeky Elf »

As relating to the other models, or to other small holed flutes? Volume in a session? Anything, really. There is not a lot of talk about this model that I’ve been able to find.
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Re: Thoughts on the Olwell small holed flute?

Post by cac »

I have an Olwell small-holed (Rudall-Rose) flute and a medium-holed (Nicholson) flute and play each of them on alternating days. The Nicholson is louder and has more dynamic range (perhaps because of this). It also takes considerably more wind than the small-holed model. The small-holed model, in addition to having smaller tone-holes, also has slightly closer hole spacing and would better suit someone with small hands. On the other hand, my hands are long and I don't find playing it awkward. In sessions I notice the volume difference although other musicians tell me they can hear me without trouble when I'm playing the small-holed model. I enjoy both flutes equally, but if you are young (i.e. have good wind) and don't have small hands, I would recommend the Nicholson model.
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Re: Thoughts on the Olwell small holed flute?

Post by tstermitz »

@CAC Does the smaller hole Rudall version come into its own in the second and third registers?

I have no experience with Pratten flutes, but they are particularly famous for their powerful lower notes. My Medium-large R&R is very strong in second & third, but I do have to work hard to get a strong low-D. That has becomes easier and better as I have improved over the past year.

Also, Pat Olwell is known for his great head joints. I assume your two flutes have similar heads and similar embouchures. Can you swap them between the two flutes?
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Re: Thoughts on the Olwell small holed flute?

Post by cac »

Both flutes are equally good in the 2nd and 3rd registers, in intonation, in sweetness, and in ease of production (although I've only ever tried to play up to the 3rd octave A). The bottom Ds on both flutes are strong. The bottom e (often weak on simple system flutes) is also strong on both models. The headjoints are not the same -- one is unlined and the other is fully-lined. They both work equally well in both flutes and I often interchange them.
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Re: Thoughts on the Olwell small holed flute?

Post by Loren »

I’ve currently got Olwell small hole and medium hole “Nicholson” flutes, both in Boxwood, and both with unlined heads. I also have the Eb sections to convert the small hole D flute to Eb (Sweet!) For reference: I’ve also owned Olwell large hole “Prattens” in Cocus and Dogwood, and I’ve played the medium and large hole Olwells in Blackwood.

My take: The small hole Olwell flute is a wonderful little gem - moderate volume, very responsive, sweet tone, quite comfortable in the hand.

The head joint of my small hole Olwell is slightly shorter than my Nicholson, which makes the weight and balance a little different, and I like it.

To my ear the Nicholson is definitely the louder flute. Will the smaller hole flute be loud enough in a session? Depends on the size of the session (4 or 40?), how many pipers (are you sandwiched between 2?) and the player, of course. I think if your embouchure and breath support are on point you’ll be heard in most sessions. Will you hear yourself as well as you’d like? Can’t say.

Regarding sweetness of tone, I give the edge to the small hole Olwell throughout its range.

The Nicholson wins hands down for power on the bottom end, but the small hole flute is still quite good on the low notes, it is an Olwell after all.

I find both flutes equally responsive, though a faster/better player might have a different take.

I don’t notice any difference in the amount wind it takes to drive either flute, unlike the Pratten which definitely makes you work a little harder, or get way more efficient at the lip.

To sum up, I think the small hole Olwell is a fantastic medium volume flute that is extremely comfortable to hold and play, very responsive, and which sounds really lovely for playing solo/duo/trio, but will also work for a decent player in small and medium size sessions.

That said, I’d agree with CAC that if you’re ordering an Olwell, the Nicholson model is the way to go for majority of people as it’s the most balanced of the Olwell line. Experienced players wanting more power/projection should choose the Prattens.
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Re: Thoughts on the Olwell small holed flute?

Post by Squeeky Elf »

Thanks for the info! My heart is saying small holes, and my head is saying medium.
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Re: Thoughts on the Olwell small holed flute?

Post by cac »

It's not either-or. You can order one now and another later (or even now). If I had to leave one out, I honestly don't know which one I would choose. There is also the same problem with unlined and lined head-joints. They are different and I enjoy them both. Chet
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Re: Thoughts on the Olwell small holed flute?

Post by chas »

I am the former owner of Loren's current small-holed boxwood flute(s), and currently own an all-wood Nicholson in rosewood and also a keyed Nicholson in box. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend either, and it depends on what you're looking for. The all-wood Nicholson is the "pry it out of my cold, dead hands" flute. As someone else pointed out, it just has incredible dynamics. Loud, quiet, harsh, sweet, it does it all.

That said, I loved the Rudall-style flute. The only reason I sold it was that my number was up for the six-key. I ordered the six-key as a Nicholson so that I could play it with the rosewood body. I concur with everything Loren said. The Rudall is one sweet flute. It is very expressive. It's not well suited to a fat sound, but it's plenty loud and capable of great dynamics. What it lacks in volume it makes up for in clarity.
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Tell us something.: I have played flutes since the late 1960s. Although I have played the silver Boehm flute and the baroque flute in the past, for the last six years or so I have concentrated on wooden flutes, keyed and keyless (for ITM).
Location: Ontario, Canada

Re: Thoughts on the Olwell small holed flute?

Post by cac »

This is off-topic, but I post it because I stumbled on it on youtube shortly after my last post. It's only relevant in the sense that Squeaky Elf, you're not in the position of the singer -- you can't go wrong choosing either model. The singer is the great flamenco singer La Niña de los Peines (Pastora Pavón) and this is the verse she sang (starting at 1:14 in the video).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oluYY5aXwiM

en dos veredas iguales 'at two like paths'
yo me paro en la mejor 'I stop at the better one'
si cojo la de mi gusto 'if I take the one I like'
ha de ser mi perdición 'it has to be my ruin'
(lines 1&2 are repeated, as are lines 3&4)
In the unlikely event that anyone is curious, the form is the soleá (pl. soleares), and the style is the first of some six credited to the late 19th century singer, Mercedes la Serneta, from Jerez and Utrera. This particular recording dates from 1948, but she (Pastora Pavón) first recorded it in 1910.
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Re: Thoughts on the Olwell small holed flute?

Post by Loren »

Chet, thank goodness making a flute choice isn’t likely to be the ruin of someone :lol: Although choosing the wrong Flamenco guitar absolutely could be :twisted: My father played Flamenco, wish I’d learned.

Charlie! Thanks again, still very grateful to have ended up with your “old” Olwell Rudall, such a wonderful flute :)

Squeaky Elf, both of the Olwell models in question are fantastic, hard to go wrong either way really. Arguments could be made for both, and in my view, it’s difficult to make much of an argument against either one. And really (WARNING: MASSIVELY SUBJECTIVE STATEMENT TO FOLLOW) they aren’t THAT much different from one another.

If you remain undecided you can always post a bit more about what your wants/needs/priorities in a flute are, and perhaps we can be of further assistance.
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Re: Thoughts on the Olwell small holed flute?

Post by an seanduine »

What a great Soleá!. Thank you Chet.
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Re: Thoughts on the Olwell small holed flute?

Post by BKWeid »

So many wonderful flutes...so little time.
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