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 Post subject: Pros/cons of foot joint
PostPosted: Tue Sep 25, 2007 6:02 pm 
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Looking at various polymer flutes (the good ones like Seery, Dixon 3-piece etc) I see that some have the traditional foot joint with two large holes and some don't (and some have them as an optional extra).

I'm under the impression that they're just a remnant of the old style flutes that came with keys and that, in a keyless modern flute, they serve no useful purpose (other than leaving open the option to have keys added in the future, I suppose).

Assuming that I'm not interested in adding keys, is there any benefit to having a flute with a foot joint, for example, does it improve tone?

I can see disadvantages, such as unnecessary extra weight, which, considering that some feel Seery/M&E polymer flutes are overly heavy, would be a factor.

So, are there any benefits?

Also and, this is just speculation on my part, but, in reading threads comparing Dixons 3-piece polymer to the Seery/M&E, it seems that there's often negativity towards the Dixon, despite the fact that a lesser number of players seem to rate it as being just as good as the other two.

It could be, of course, that it's cos it genuinely is less good in terms of tone/volume/tuning, or due to its lack of tuning slide- but I wonder if, to some extent, it's a bit of prejudice because, not having the old-style foot joint it doesn't look as 'authentic' as the Seery/M&E types?

(Actually, the Dixon 3-piece does have an optional lower foot joint as an extra, but the only place I've seen that mentioned is on Dixons own website and, even on there, the only photo is of the flute without the extra foot joint)

What do you think, do traditional flute players tend to rate a flute possessing the extra foot joint as being better than one that doesn't (all other factors being equal)?


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 25, 2007 6:10 pm 
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I think flutes that have the extended foot have better balance (for me, anyway), making them a bit easier to hold.

As to the acoustics of it all, I'm hoping somebody like Terry McGee will weigh in and offer their thoughts.

--James

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 25, 2007 7:36 pm 
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The two claims made for the extended foot are
better balance and (allegedly) a stronger bottom
to the bottom octave.

So John Skelton had Casey Burns make an extended
foot for John's CB Bb flute, I believe for
these reasons.

I doubt that the less positive view of the Dixon
flows from its having a short foot. I expressed
a less than positive review and I have a
short-footed CB boxwood C flute which
I simply love. And not 'in spite of' the foot!


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 25, 2007 7:49 pm 
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I had the Roving Ambassador Flute for a week back yonder when Terry McGee was passing it around.

In every way an excellent flute...I enjoyed the hell out of it...and it indirectly was the cause of Shannon ordering my Hamilton.

the only thing I really didn't care for at all on the RAF was the short foot...the balance of the flute felt off to me.

I like a long foot better for its balance.

I like my German 8-key's balance quite a bit with its slightly heavier foot because of the keys.

Best of all, my silver Boehm-system flute with its low B foot. That flute balances itself...it almost feels like it floats on air.

--James

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 25, 2007 8:11 pm 
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As far as I'm concerned, the fact that Patrick Olwell makes flutes only with C feet and Peter Noy makes (keyless and 6-key) flutes only with D feet, and Casey Burns makes D flutes with both D and C feet speaks volumes. That being that any advantage to one or the other is not significant.

I'll agree with James that, all other design features being equal, the C foot does make the balance of the flute better. But I've measured the balance points of several of my flutes, and other design aspects make more difference. Things such as slide vs. no slide, thickness of slide, lined vs unlined head, head thickness, etc., make more difference than the C or D foot.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 25, 2007 9:15 pm 
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As far as I'm concerned, the fact that Patrick Olwell makes flutes only with C feet and Peter Noy makes (keyless and 6-key) flutes only with D feet, and Casey Burns makes D flutes with both D and C feet speaks volumes. That being that any advantage to one or the other is not significant.

not sure i'm persuaded by this sort of argument. Probably
PO is doing it his way for a reason, as is PN. Mightn't one
of them be right and the other not right? Respect all these
people, but also a healthy respect for human fallibility.
Sometimes several makers of something differ about something
that does make a significant difference, surely.
Generally, for whatever the product, wouldn't
the argument need the premise that it is not
the case that one maker's product is better than
the other's?


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 25, 2007 11:26 pm 
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I kind of like the back pressue produced with the long foot. I have a couple of antiques with a short foot, they are strong players, but do tend to be head heavy.
My new Firth and Hall one keys boxwood flute is well balanced, so I guess if the head was unlined, and keyless, that might help balance the flute.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2007 3:03 am 
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peeplj wrote:
As to the acoustics of it all, I'm hoping somebody like Terry McGee will weigh in and offer their thoughts.

I am fairly sure that I heard Terry say that it affects the way the flute is made. He makes adjustments to the other holes in the flute depending on whether it has a "short foot" or a "long foot".

My impression was that once the "adjustments" were made to the flute for the appropriate foot, there are no real acoustic differences.

...john

P.S. Kavals (Bulgarian) do *not* have keys, but do have 4 sound holes below the "bell" note, two in-line and two on the "sides" a little further down (as if you drilled a hole sideways through both sides of the flute). The Kaval is often played with heavy-heavy overtones in the low-octave. I might speculate that the extra "gremlin" holes as they call them may help with generating some of the overtones.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2007 4:56 am 
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Might be different from maker to maker, but I played both long and short foot Reviol flutes and didn't notice any tonal diferences. I prefer the long foot for stability reasons. It' even better with the low C#/C keys.

I once tried a CB low Bb flute and the only thing that really annoyed me was the unbalanced feeling when holding the flute. Fine instrument otherwise.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2007 8:48 am 
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Next week, I will receive a McGee Rudall Perfected with a long D foot. It is my understanding that the long foot provides a stronger lower range and better balance. I don't recall where I got that impression. Terry does mention on his site that he recommends a D foot for Irish music.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2007 9:46 am 
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chas wrote:
...the fact that...Peter Noy makes (keyless and 6-key) flutes only with D feet...


I trust you refer only to those flutes of his without the low C#/Cnat keying (keys which I have) (edit: well, duh. You DID say 6-key, didn't you. Never mind :oops: ), so understandably I never asked him about foot options and consequently can't verify that and will have to trust you on it.

Come to think of it, though, a local woman plays a Noy with a short foot, and she says she can't recall having seen any other type from him. I have prevailed upon her to give him call as he's doing more work for her at present, and so logically the contact responsibility on this matter falls to her. I love delegating. :wink:

Return call expected within the day. :)

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2007 1:46 pm 
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Check out Phil Bleazey's comments on this issue on his website. Not commenting technically myself as don't feel qualified (anyway, I'm a confirmed 8-key guy really - I like my foot plus keys), but I happened to come across Bleazey's bit today after reading this thread, so.........
FWIW, just aesthetically, I see no point in a dummy foot if one isn't going to have keys, but the proportions look better at full length. I've played flutes with and without and differences in balance don't much bother me (I'm used to an R&R patent head), and I can't say that I've noticed a huge difference in effect on low tone production either way.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 12:26 am 
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jemtheflute wrote:
Check out Phil Bleazey's comments on this issue...
"After many years of making these flutes I have yet to find one which is improved by this redundant joint."

FWIW, just aesthetically, I see no point in a dummy foot if one isn't going to have keys, but the proportions look better at full length.

Bleazey does not seem to suggest that the "redundant joint" sounds worse, only that it is redundant.

As for aesthetics, if the "full length" looks better to some people (like jem), that seems like a perfectly good "point" in and of itself.

I think it is great that the modern makers have diverse offerings.

...john


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 6:43 am 
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peeplj wrote:
As to the acoustics of it all, I'm hoping somebody like Terry McGee will weigh in and offer their thoughts.--James


Urk! Better late than never, I suppose!

The foot, it seems to me, has a lot in common with the embouchure. It's at one end of the flute, is poorly understood, and seems to affect people differently.

Historically, we started with the baroque style flute, terminating in D. What I'd call the Short D foot.

In the late 18th century, English makers added C# and C, making what I assume we'd all call a C foot. They scored a lot of flak from people like Quantz and Tromlitz, as these authorities argued that the extension down to C weakened the D note substantially. To get down to C, the bore has to continue to taper narrower and narrower, far smaller than that of a Short D flute.

(There were some flutes that only had the C# - the nautical explorer Mathew Flinders played a beautiful boxwood flute by Richard Potter that only went down to C#. German and Austrian makers also made feet going down to B, Bb, A and even G!)

When it came time to invent the keyless Irish flute in or around the 1970's, several approaches appear to have been taken. Some makers went with the 8-key's C foot, just leaving off the C# and C keys, but preserving the C foot length and bore. I (and maybe others, I just don't know) created what I now call the integral foot - a foot terminating at D like the Short D foot, but integrated onto the RH section. No point in having a separate foot if there are no keys on it. And no point having the length and bore of the C foot if (as Quantz, etc had maintained) it screwed up the all-important low D note.

But some players wanted the full length of the old 8-key flute, so I (and maybe others, again, I really don't know) investigated what could be done to retain the C-foot length, but avoid Quantz's alleged weakening of the D. I call the result a Long D foot. Not just a C foot without keys, but a reworking of the bore to give a D note as full as that on a Short D flute.

So that gives us these feet options:
- Short D, as per the baroque and early keyed flutes
- C foot, with C and C# key
- the less common C#, B, Bb, A and G feet of history
- C foot, but with the C and C# keys not present
- Integral foot, as per Short D but integrated with the RH section, and
- Long D - a foot optimised for D, but with the length of a C foot.
(the two last being inventions of mine, but perhaps also of others)

There may be more options; I'd be keen to hear.

So having summed up the history and the resulting options, let's return to the topic - what are the pros and cons of the various approaches?

Acoustically, I'd say the Short D, Integral foot and Long D approaches are best (assuming you only want to go down to D. Obviously if you want to go down to C, then you have no choice but to adopt the C foot). I agree with Quantz et al, a C foot, with or without the C and C# keys, noticeably weakens the D. The science backs it up, and the difference to me is quite night and day.

But that's when I have to bring something quite bizarre to your attention. Not everyone agrees! I've met plenty of players who don't seem to notice the difference. (I don't think I've met anyone who actually thinks the D is enhanced by that extra baggage, but they may well be out there.) And I have no reason to think that they are having me on - to my ears they can produce as good a D on a C foot as on a foot optimised for D. But there are more who can't, and so that brings me to the conclusion that, like embouchures, feet are a matter of personal taste. And therefore quite an important matter to find out which team you are in.

As Fats Waller put it so sensitively:

Oh, your feet's too big
Don't want ya 'cause your feet's too big!
Mad at ya 'cause your feet's too big
I hate ya 'cause your feet's too big
You know your pedal extremities really are obnoxious.

But there are also matters other than acoustics. The Short D/Integral foot flute is considerably shorter than a flute with the C foot, C foot without keys or a Long D foot. This can be seen as a pro or a con, depending on a number of issues. The longer flute is probably more visually attractive, but many customers have said to me that the session in their pub is so cramped a short flute is essential. A short flute is lighter, but may not be so well balanced as a long flute. A "head heavy" flute is a liability, but short footed flutes don't have to be head heavy - it depends on issues like whether the head is lined, how much stuff is above the embouchure and whether weight has been redistributed into the lower parts of the flute. Argghhh! Am I answering questions or posing them?

Summarising all of this, I'd say that many players will do much better with a foot optimised for D (whether short or long), and so if you are having difficulty getting the kind of low D you want, you may want to check out a flute with a D-optimised foot. Just like if you are not happy with your flute playing overall (after putting in enough work!) you might want to check out the results you get from a more modern embouchure cut.

The question of visual aesthetic remains a personal taste issue. The question of fitting in a cramped session environment is a practical issue.

If you decide you need or would prefer a short flute, make sure it's well balanced. It shouldn't drop away from your lip when you take your fingers off. You shouldn't have to keep it there by pinching it with your left hand or holding it down with R4. A short flute should play like a storm!

Terry


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 7:28 am 
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Terry McGee wrote:
that brings me to the conclusion that, like embouchures, feet are a matter of personal taste. Terry


Ahhh. Another case of Foot and Mouth Disease? They've got that again in S.E. England just now. I wonder if it affects flute players and makers as well as other ruminants? (Don't anyone try to tell me they never ruminate whilst fluting!)

Seriously, brill post, Terry, just what was needed.

Terry McGee wrote:
I (and maybe others, I just don't know) created what I now call the integral foot - a foot terminating at D like the Short D foot, but integrated onto the RH section. No point in having a separate foot if there are no keys on it.


Just an afterthought here - have a look at the 1-key German flute on my FOR SALE thread - who invented what when? :twisted: And of course it was fairly normal on F band flutes which rarely had an extended foot but usually had two body joints, regardless of how many keys they had.

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