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#1 Misterioso

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Posted 20 November 2019 - 18:07

I've always had a yen for one of these, and with Christmas coming up I thought I might ask some family members to contribute to a fund for it rather than giving me a present.

 

BUT

 

1 Roughly what price bracket would I need to look at (I'm a G6 player)?  

 

2 I'd be looking for one that had sufficient metal work on as my I have small hands (eg I can stretch an octave on piano, but struggle with the finger spacing on a treble recorder). Do they exist?

 

3 Do they require extra care?

 

4 Would the sound be sufficiently different to warrant one? Is the embouchure the same? Is the tuning as stable as with silver flutes?

 

Any help or advice appreciated.


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#2 Yet another muso

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Posted 22 November 2019 - 02:04

Are you interested in a modern wooden concert flute, a baroque flute, or a flute from a different culture? They are totally different beasts from each other.

 

The Modern Concert Flute:

It was in the early 20th century that metal flutes became the standard instead of wood due to the superior projection and tone colour offered by metal flutes compared to wooden flutes. In recent times though, advancements in instrumental technology have led to the development of modern wooden flutes that combine many of the finest qualities of metal flutes with qualities that can only be found in wooden instruments, and a small percentage of professional orchestral players choose wooden instruments now. The percentage is higher on the continent than in the UK, but at present metal is definitely the norm. 

 

I think Daniel Pailthorpe from the BBCSO is the highest profile UK player who plays a modern wooden flute. Here him here in this performance of the Poulenc Sextet: 

 

https://www.youtube....h?v=CGtDGYU9Dos

 

It is my feeling that wooden instruments have very clear advantages over metal especially for orchestral playing. The top register in particular has a more mellow quality but still with projection, that seems to make the flute a more natural member of the woodwind family. The effortless way the flute sits on top of the other instruments in this video shows that very well - it is exceptionally tough to achieve this to the same degree on a metal instrument, it takes a great deal of persuasion from the player!

 

I don't know what model Daniel plays but can only assume it would cost many, many thousands.

 

Here are two of the biggest names on the continent who play modern flutes:

https://www.youtube....h?v=Y4yc_PqxCN0

https://www.youtube....h?v=SbI8jGIwHh0

 

Sebastian Jacot is the most famous student of Jacques Zoon. I believe Jacques Zoon made his own flute, or at the very least was very involved in its production, and Sebastian plays a copy of it. As such their instruments are pretty unique. 

 

I must say I LOVE the sounds of these instruments, and sometimes feel tempted by a wooden flute, but it is an indulgence I cannot really think about right now. I have tried out one or two in flute shops, standard models like Powell, so less special than the likes of the instruments above, but even these were at least £6K. I remember appreciating the qualities I described above in terms of an instrument that would work well in an orchestral setting, but the trade off at least on the ones I tried was a slightly reduced projection in the low register. 

 

I have a suspicion that we are going to see them gradually become more commonplace in professional orchestras over the next decade or so. 

 

In relation to your other questions on them, I think in terms of keywork the feel is pretty much the same as a standard metal flute so small hands should not be a problem. In terms of care, I play a wooden piccolo, which needs to be oiled occasionally, and extreme cold conditions can be hazardous. It is best to keep wooden instruments played regularly - they take a bit of playing in again if neglected for too long! So I would imagine a wooden flute is similar - it needs to be treated with a bit more care but not a major issue. 

 

I have posted this info not just for the OP but for the general interest of anyone reading. If I speak really bluntly, I would suggest that at least for most grade 6 standard players, purchasing a modern wooden concert flute would be a very indulgent purchase. Obviously it is a major investment, and in my opinion such investments are best made when you have enough experience in pushing the boundaries of the instrument you already have to really know what you are looking for, which will likely change as you develop. 

 

Baroque flute

I have actually never played a baroque flute but in short, the period instrument revival has meant that there are now far more baroque flutes (copies of the instruments that were played at the time) than ever before, popular with professionals and amateurs alike. Although I haven't played one, I know they are very different to play. Crucially they don't have the modern keywork system, but a more simple system of holes for the fingers like a recorder. More complex fingerings therefore have to be employed so there are many new things to learn about playing one. Some notes in particular take more persuasion to play in tune. Many baroque flutes are tuned to a lower pitch so if playing with other instruments, you can only play with instruments tuned to that pitch. Some baroque flutes at modern pitch do exist though. 

 

I don't know the costs, but I am pretty sure there is a wide range of prices out there, and it needn't cost the earth. For players with a particular interest in baroque repertoire, a baroque flute can be a worthwhile purchase. It certainly sounds very different to the modern concert flute arguably closer to the sound of the recorder - listen to recordings to decide if you like the difference (here is an example: https://www.youtube....h?v=2gSb7s75tbE).You just have to choose with care whether to go for one at A=415 (lower pitch) or A=440 (modern pitch) depending on what instruments you might get to play with the most. And you have to be ready to take time learning the new fingerings and getting used to the different style of playing and sound. At least a couple of lessons with an experienced baroque flute player would go a long way.

 

I'm afraid I don't know if a baroque flute would be problematic for small hands. Perhaps somebody else will have the experience for that question.

 

Other flutes:

Many other cultures have wooden flutes, such as Irish flutes, Chinese flutes etc. A friend of mine has probably over 100 wooden flutes that she plays a lot in shows, so I can only assume they don't each cost a fortune! So as a different experience with novelty factor, that is another thing to consider.


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#3 elemimele

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Posted 22 November 2019 - 14:00

[ caveat: I know absolutely nothing about this, so treat the following with extreme caution ]

The spacing of the finger-holes on a Baroque flute is about the same as that on a Treble recorder, with the exception that the key for the right-hand little finger is very close to the ring-finger hole. But of course it will feel different to the human hand, holding it sideways rather than in front.

The embouchure is just a hole, with no lip-plate, which I believe some flute players find makes it harder at first to find the correct position relative to their mouth.

Going somewhat off-topic, aulos currently make a couple of plastic Baroque flute copies, one in A=440 and one in A-415. As of 2019 they cost about £400 and £500. The cheaper, A=440, is similar in materials and design to their recorders (i.e. the plastic is of a good quality, nicely weighty, and well-made). As I'm not a flutist, I can't comment on how they compare to proper Baroque flutes, which I have seen no more closely than in a YouTube video.

There's clearly a lot of variation in how they can sound, and what they can do; one only has to contrast Francois Lazarevitch with Johanna Bartz, for example, both playing spectacularly beautifully but in completely different ways.


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#4 Arundodonuts

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Posted 22 November 2019 - 16:25

I have a number of recordings of Daniel Pailthorpe - largely because they include his oboist wife Emily who is fabulous. I'm sure I read somewhere his flute was made from an old chair leg! But you know how these stories are. Apparently he plays on a Rudall Carte with a custom made headjoint. 


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#5 Misterioso

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Posted 22 November 2019 - 17:49

Many thanks for the replies, and also to those who have replied by PM. It sounds as though I need an old chair leg and a collection of woodworking tools!  :lol:

 

Yet another muso, thank you for your very detailed reply and the links you sent. I would be looking at a modern(ish) wooden concert flute, with similar keywork to my C flute, and definitely not a baroque flute or one from another culture.Like yourself, I love the mellowness of the instrument, and and would love to experiment with one. It may have to wait until I go next go away, so that I can actually try some out. And yes, budget is a big consideration, so I'm pretty much restricted to a pre-owned one, although it's likely I would then need a service and possibly work done as some of them are "sold as seen".

 

At the moment I've got my eye on a pre-owned Louis & Co cocuswood instrument. It's not a make I'm familiar with, so if any other forumites know a bit more I would be most appreciative of any further info. The other thing to take into account, of course, is whether a less expensive, older flute would actually be less mellow than my C flute (which I will not be parting with, so no possibility of part exchange). Yes, I suppose it is an indulgent purchase, which is another reason why I need to stick to pre-owned. However, I have a "big" birthday coming up next year, so who knows?

 

I see I posted a similar thread two years ago. If I just take a leap of faith and do it now, the forum will be spared another repeat thread in another two years!

 

Edit: Or....or....or there is a pre-owned Rudall Carte (1867) in cocuswood available for not much more. There are some minor fingering changes, and again it would need some work. Might that be a better investment? - I know that Rudall Carte are well thought of. How does cocuswood compare with grenadilla? (Yes, the latter is just a pipe dream.)


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#6 zwhe

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Posted 22 November 2019 - 19:58

Have you thought about getting a wooden headjoint for your current flute? It will give it a more 'mellow' sound without changing how you hold it or fingerings, and won't be so expensive.


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#7 Misterioso

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Posted 23 November 2019 - 11:42

Have you thought about getting a wooden headjoint for your current flute? It will give it a more 'mellow' sound without changing how you hold it or fingerings, and won't be so expensive.

 

 

Thank you zwhe - no, I hadn't thought of that, but it would definitely be something to think about.


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#8 elemimele

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Posted 23 November 2019 - 20:45

oh <bad-word> <bad-word> <bad-word>, I've been firmly denying the existence of all music after about 1750, and then this happens, Winnie Bugge Frandsen, playing Francesco Molino on a wooden flute (but I'm afraid apparently not with keys). Molino, wretched man, didn't have the decency to be born until 1768 and then had the cheek to write the most charming and beautiful music, here brought to perfection by the flutist (who's a genius), her period instrument, her thoroughly talented and tasteful accompanist, and the recording technician from heaven. I am going to have to admit that the world didn't stop after all.

I don't know how much of the sound is wood, and how much is design, but this is a flute with which it's hard to find fault.


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#9 Flossie

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Posted 23 November 2019 - 22:26

Have you thought about getting a wooden headjoint for your current flute? It will give it a more 'mellow' sound without changing how you hold it or fingerings, and won't be so expensive.



Thank you zwhe - no, I hadn't thought of that, but it would definitely be something to think about.
Most of the tone comes from the headjoint, rather than from the body of the flute. This option would give you the 'benefits' of the wooden tone you are wanting whilst still allowing you to use a metal headjoint when that is a better option for the music you are playing.

If you went down the route of buying a 'sold as seen' vintage flute (e.g. a Rudall Carte), you would need to get it serviced properly (and probably overhauled) by someone who specialises in such flutes e.g. Arthur Haswell. Just flutes do not specialise in such instruments, and do not claim to. There is a reasonable chance that you would want to get a modern wooden headjoint to use with the flute instead of using the original one. I have played vintage wooden flutes in Arthur's workshop (before he moved...) and the original headjoints lacked responsiveness. You can only really get the one tone colour. Therefore, unless you are going to be playing the specific repertoire that flute was designed for, you will need a different headjoint.

I seem to remember that you have a preference for baroque music and are not keen on the Romantic or twentieth century flute repertoire? If so, it might be worth getting a second hand plastic baroque flute (I have been told that most people start on the Aulos one and then upgrade to a wooden instrument if they want to learn it seriously). That would allow you to try baroque flute without a large financial outlay, and you could then make a more informed choice about what sort of wooden flute you wanted (baroque or modern).

I will say that, as a Diploma standard player, I am nowhere near good enough to do justice to a wooden flute; particularly one of the vintage instruments which tend to be more difficult to play. Even with modern headjoints, wood limits the tonal colours available. I personally think flutes with modern wooden headjoints are great for orchestral playing (and I would love to have one for that purpose - the top octave blends better with the orchestral sound) but I feel that they do not always suit the demands of the solo repertoire.
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#10 Misterioso

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Posted 25 November 2019 - 17:37

oh <bad-word> <bad-word> <bad-word>, I've been firmly denying the existence of all music after about 1750, and then this happens, Winnie Bugge Frandsen, playing Francesco Molino on a wooden flute (but I'm afraid apparently not with keys). Molino, wretched man, didn't have the decency to be born until 1768 and then had the cheek to write the most charming and beautiful music, here brought to perfection by the flutist (who's a genius), her period instrument, her thoroughly talented and tasteful accompanist, and the recording technician from heaven. I am going to have to admit that the world didn't stop after all.

I don't know how much of the sound is wood, and how much is design, but this is a flute with which it's hard to find fault.

 

Oh, wow, that is stunning! Like you, I prefer early-ish music, but there is some good stuff written after 1750!

 

I took the plunge today - and ordered a new Odyssey wooden flute!  :woot: Can't wait for it to arrive!


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#11 Misterioso

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Posted 25 November 2019 - 17:46

 

 

Have you thought about getting a wooden headjoint for your current flute? It will give it a more 'mellow' sound without changing how you hold it or fingerings, and won't be so expensive.



Thank you zwhe - no, I hadn't thought of that, but it would definitely be something to think about.
Most of the tone comes from the headjoint, rather than from the body of the flute. This option would give you the 'benefits' of the wooden tone you are wanting whilst still allowing you to use a metal headjoint when that is a better option for the music you are playing.

If you went down the route of buying a 'sold as seen' vintage flute (e.g. a Rudall Carte), you would need to get it serviced properly (and probably overhauled) by someone who specialises in such flutes e.g. Arthur Haswell. Just flutes do not specialise in such instruments, and do not claim to. There is a reasonable chance that you would want to get a modern wooden headjoint to use with the flute instead of using the original one. I have played vintage wooden flutes in Arthur's workshop (before he moved...) and the original headjoints lacked responsiveness. You can only really get the one tone colour. Therefore, unless you are going to be playing the specific repertoire that flute was designed for, you will need a different headjoint.

I seem to remember that you have a preference for baroque music and are not keen on the Romantic or twentieth century flute repertoire? If so, it might be worth getting a second hand plastic baroque flute (I have been told that most people start on the Aulos one and then upgrade to a wooden instrument if they want to learn it seriously). That would allow you to try baroque flute without a large financial outlay, and you could then make a more informed choice about what sort of wooden flute you wanted (baroque or modern).

I will say that, as a Diploma standard player, I am nowhere near good enough to do justice to a wooden flute; particularly one of the vintage instruments which tend to be more difficult to play. Even with modern headjoints, wood limits the tonal colours available. I personally think flutes with modern wooden headjoints are great for orchestral playing (and I would love to have one for that purpose - the top octave blends better with the orchestral sound) but I feel that they do not always suit the demands of the solo repertoire.

 

 

Thanks for your reply, Flossie. You have a very good memory!

 

I couldn't find much in the way of wooden headjoints on line, and that is my only method of buying one at present. And I agree about servicing and overhaul of a pre-owned instrument, which is why I didn't choose this route. Before buying it, there is no way of telling how much I might have to outlay in terms of potential repairs / cracks / leaks / new pads etc, until it was looked at by a specialist.

 

And yes, I also agree about probably not being able to do it justice - yet - but I hope to further my flute-playing. There is probably little chance in this neck of the woods of doing anything much in the way of orchestral playing, but there are a few of us who get together to play flute trios, and it will be interesting to hear the different combination of tone colours. 


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#12 vron

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Posted 25 November 2019 - 17:58

ooh lovely Misterioso.

Cant wait for you to report back on it. It is something I too would like (along with an alto flute) but really can justify the expenditure for either.
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#13 thara96

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Posted 26 November 2019 - 08:44

Ooh sounds nice!

 

You will have to update us when it comes. 


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#14 Misterioso

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Posted 03 December 2019 - 15:41

IT'S ARRIVED! :wub: 

 

I'm so excited. It has a beautiful mellow tone, which is exactly what I was looking for, although I haven't tried it out properly yet as I have a student arriving imminently. It came really well packaged too, and it looks gorgeous.

 

About cleaning: I've always used those fluffy brush things for cleaning my metal flute, and think they actually do the job more thoroughly than the pull-throughs (but I could be wrong) and never leave fluffy bits on or in the flute. With this one being wood, is it okay to carry on using my brushes? Will they dry out the inside thoroughly enough? Any other care tips for looking after a wooden flute? I'd expected a sheet of care tips, but there isn't one.

 

There is nothing quite like getting a brand new musical instrument. :wub:


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#15 dorfmouse

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Posted 03 December 2019 - 20:37

Congratulations Misterioso!

Here is a fascinating site from flutemaker Terry McGee about wooden flutes and there is advice on oiling and playing-in new wooden flutes:
http://www.mcgee-flutes.com/

I am eagerly awaiting a present to myself of a keyless wooden flute, from another maker, to learn to play in traditional Irish style. He particularly recommends almond oil.
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