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PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2020 11:29 am 
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Location: Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Has anyone had any experience with Jay Ham's flutes? I was starting to think about ordering a keyed flute before, well, the gravity of everything happening really hit, and he was one of the makers I was thinking about. Obviously my tentative plan of ordering a keyed flute is almost certainly the least important thing this whole global pandemic situation has disrupted, and I have a bunch of more pressing things to handle, but I’m still kind of thinking about it for some time in the future.

I saw one recently on the Irish Flute Store and went to check out his website. The flutes look great and the sound samples left me with a really positive impression, but I haven’t heard much about them, and a search on the board didn’t turn up much more than a mention from just a few weeks ago.

I know they’re generally medium-ish-holed R&Rish flutes, but any other impressions would be appreciated. If you’ve tried any of his flutes, how would you compare them to other instruments? My frame of reference is somewhat limited— I’ve spent real time playing flutes by Copley, Doyle, and Lesouef, whose instruments I think are of the three the closest to Ham’s. Still curious though. Feel free to pm me.

Oh, and has anyone used that block-mounted Böhm-ish foot joint he does? I think I made a face the first time I saw it but the more I look at it the more I like it. Wondering if others have used it and how they enjoyed it.

Thanks for any help!


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PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2020 11:38 am 
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The C foot joint is what most impressed me about his eight key flutes. I prefer the look of block mounted keys and I have never been wild about the mixing of post and block mounted keys on the same flute, even though they are more trouble free for the standing keys. The design also seems to make the C#/C key an easier reach for us with short pinky fingers. It looks like the best of both worlds to me and I would love to see and play one in person.


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PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2020 2:46 pm 
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I trust Jay Ham. His flutes are beautifully made and were I in the market for a keyed flute, he'd certainly be considered. I doubt you'd go wrong.

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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2020 9:34 am 
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Location: Greensboro,NC
Jays Flutes look really nice.
I've never played one, but I'm sure they sound as nice as they look.
I do know Jay however having played Sessions numerous times with him
had no idea he was either making Flutes or thinking about making them :-? :) :o
Ben Shaffer
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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2020 10:56 pm 
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Location: Oregon
Hi, I recently bought Jay's keyless flute through irishflutestore.com. My impression after hearing Blayne's demo and playing it myself was "straight and true". Here's what I put in my notes...

This is neat...

When something or someone is "straight and true" it means it is perfectly made or a person is perfectly honest and upright. (online quote)

This flute is special. It's beauty without pretense. I see it in the workmanship -- I hear it in the tone -- I feel it resonate.

This is the instant connection I'm always looking for. The flute is very balanced and expressive. The time between thinking/feeling -- and expressing it on the flute is very short and smooth, which inspires me even more...

My compliments to Jay!


Demo of flute by Blayne Chastain

Flute description on irishflutestore.com

Jay's website


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PostPosted: Wed May 20, 2020 12:16 am 
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I'm not sure about the claim about being the first to use a Boehm-type foot utilizing wooden blocks. There have certainly been variations by others, including a couple by Terry McGee quite some time ago, shown on his web page here:

http://www.mcgee-flutes.com/c_foot.html

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PostPosted: Wed May 20, 2020 1:11 am 
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Terry is spot-on for me with:
'And that's what's so irksome about the traditional arrangement - if you rotate the foot to make the C and C# accessible, the Eb is really uncomfortable.'

Jay Ham's design wouldn't solve that for those of us who find this.

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PostPosted: Wed May 20, 2020 7:37 am 
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I was a little skeptical of the "first" as well-- I think he means integrating the rod system with block mounts? I'm not sure.

I've been thinking about getting a flute with a C foot for a while now, but I'm strongly inclined toward the Böhm style. I've never been all that comfortable with the traditional Eb key, although it could be lack of practice-- maybe if I started venting, or shifted all my D tunes up to Eb or E for a few weeks it would be completely natural by the end of it. But anyway, the traditional C foot never looked that appealing to me for that reason-- reaching up beyond a key I already disliked using, eh. I don't have any aesthetic objections to post-mounted keys or mixing block and post mounts, but I was curious about this alternative setup because the rest of the flute really appeals to me.

Peter-- I'm inclined to agree with you, however I could see how if the Ham foot joint was cranked in a little, with the Eb key a little closer to the center line of the flute, it could work for someone with a right-hand grip like mine-- the keys would create a little arc that seems like it's within my little finger's comfort zone. Still probably not preferable to the contemporary Böhm layout, but doable. But that being said, I really have no idea if it would actually be comfortable or not, and that's why I'm curious to hear from people who have used it; I don't want to spend some wild sum of money and realize only after the thing is in my hand that it just doesn't work for me. Of course, that might be an argument for trying it myself.

Thank you all for your input, I really appreciate it.


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PostPosted: Wed May 20, 2020 10:02 am 
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I met Jay after a concert I was playing in Asheville a few years ago; he'd been in touch earlier in the week inquiring if I'd be interested in trying out a couple of flutes he'd made. I gave them a play, and was immediately impressed by the character and balance of the instruments. It's exactly the kind of flute I like, based on the larger side of Rudall & Rose, with a lot of power and great response. They're very flexible flutes; they can be pushed hard, but also can be played very sweetly. I think Jay's got a great sense of traditional Irish flute music, and builds his flutes so that you can knock a lot of tone and character out of them. Of course, intonation is spot on and the overall quality of work is top notch. These days, I see him whenever I'm in Asheville, and everything he's making has continued to impress me.

I think Jay's flutes have something that can sometimes get lost in modern flute making. They play like the best antiques I've played, with all the richness and color of tone those instruments have. As a maker, he's got a great understanding of the different approaches that can be taken to playing the flute, which I expect will make him responsive to the needs of his individual customers as far as embouchure cut and voicing goes.

All in all, I expect that demand for Jay's flutes will be growing significantly over the next few years now that the secret is starting to get out. I'd rate his flutes alongside those from the top makers working today, and I expect they'll only be getting better!

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PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2020 4:50 am 
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Location: Central, slightly western NC.
I have one of Jay's first (6) keyed flutes. It's the one you can see on his website in Mopane and brass. I second every word that Will said. absolutely fantastic instrument that will do anything you tell it to do.

I was there kind of at the beginning. I've known Jay for a long time from various sessions. A few years ago he told me that he was getting into making flutes, and In all honesty I kind of thought to myself, "yeah sure have fun with that, why on earth would you do that to yourself" not because I didn't believe in him or anything, but it just seemed to be such a monumental undertaking.. but did that to himself he did, and over the next , idunno..amount of time, when I would show up to the session in Asheville, he'd have various new chunks of flute he'd made attached to the flute he'd been playing at the time. Then at Swannanoa a couple years ago he shows up with a full flute. Keyless with blocks. I played it, liked it a lot, and effectively put in the first order then and there. Things got tweaked here and there and eventually my keyless order turned into 6 keys and in February of last year I took delivery and have been totally in love with it since.

I agree with Will and would rate it with any of the top makers out there. I've played Olwells, Copleys, Windwards, Morvans, Casey Burns, Grinters...lots of flutes, and I'm proud to have a Jay Ham flute. Not just because he's my friend but because the product is genuinely fantastic. Having seen how far he's come in such a relatively short time frame, I can only imagine that in fairly short order as the secret continues to get out like Will said, demand is going to be up with those top makers as well.


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PostPosted: Tue May 26, 2020 9:57 am 
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Hey, thank you both for contributing your thoughts on the flute. Definitely leaning more towards ordering one of his flutes when the time comes, although now I'm nervous the wait list will be outrageous if "the word gets out". Oh well!

Oh, and Will-- picked up the Glory Reel on Bandcamp a few days ago, great stuff! I've really enjoyed it!


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PostPosted: Wed May 27, 2020 7:26 am 
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Will and Colin are both fantastic flute players, so if they say Jay's flutes have got "it", there is no doubt in my mind they do.

And Will, your album The Glory Reel is grand. I love your playing style. I also have really been enjoying your livestreams and the Phonograph Project snippets I've seen. Keep up the amazing work!


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PostPosted: Fri May 29, 2020 4:15 am 
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PlanxtyPipes wrote:
Will and Colin are both fantastic flute players, so if they say Jay's flutes have got "it", there is no doubt in my mind they do.

And Will, your album The Glory Reel is grand. I love your playing style. I also have really been enjoying your livestreams and the Phonograph Project snippets I've seen. Keep up the amazing work!


Thanks for pointing out The Glory Reel album! Very nice.

Will probably isn't from Belfast but listening to him play 'Lady Ramsay/ Doherty's Trim the Velvet' his playing is very reminiscent of the style here. Love it.


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PostPosted: Sun May 31, 2020 4:24 pm 
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Thanks all! No, I'm not from Belfast but I lived in Glasgow for a time and met and played with a bunch of Northern musicians living there and on my trips over to Belfast and Armagh, which certainly influenced my flute playing a good bit.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 02, 2020 9:45 am 
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I placed an order with Jay a number of months back for a keyless flute. My experience was joyous. Jay responded quickly and answered my questions. Very good communication and really a fantastic guy.

Even more impressive, in the months after I placed my order I emailed Jay a couple of times about other flute related questions. Jay responded the same day. Jay spent a Saturday morning communicating with me about an old antique flute I have--helping me through some tuning issues and consulting on the option to have the flute refurbished. Another day, Jay sent out an email to all of his customers giving them an update on his activities--super cool to hear from him and to learn a bit about his process.

I understand there are competing motivating factors that influence flute makers: craftsmen are not usually businessmen, creative juices are disrupted by the demands of business calls and emails; the stress created by order demand competes with getting work done in the shop, and life is not always completely predictable for men and women building instruments. So, I get that not all very busy makers can spend time emailing. But, I really appreciate Jay and the interactions I've had with him--He is very tuned in to customer service and a really enjoyable guy.


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