New Flutes

Earlham EFL120SE Silver Plate. Split E  mech. Covered action, offset G. Engraved ornament on lip-plate. Link to picture. (Taiwan) £275.00

Roy Benson Silver Plate. Open action, inline G. (China) £240.00

Flute Care.

These comments are applicable to all metal flutes.
  • Always handle with care.

  • If possible, wash your hands before playing. Perspiration and food residue are harmful, especially to silver plating.

  • Do not lift a flute from either end or wave it in the air, it may bend.

  • Do not apply pressure to the keys when assembling. Assemble the foot to the body first. Point your thumbs in the same direction so that you push, and slightly twist, straight. (It is permissible to place your thumb on the lowest key cups on the foot joint.) The mouth hole, and the rod of the foot joint should be in line with the centre line of most of the key cups on the body. Never touch the C# plate and C roller when assembling the flute.

  • Do not apply any lubricant to the joints, they must be kept absolutely clean. Wipe them, inside and out, at the end of every playing session. More info.

  • Clean the moisture from the inside of the flute with the rod and a soft silky cloth, and return the flute to its closed case after every playing session. Be sure to use the joint protectors where they are provided. The wet cloth must not be kept in the flute case. If possible, wipe over the outside of the flute with a soft duster.

  • Do not keep any piece of paper, scrap of wool, or a rubber band in the flute case. They give off vapours that tarnish silver.

  • The parts should go into the case with the G# lever away from the hinge and the lower end of the foot joint towards the end of the case.

  • Do not use any polish except an impregnated cloth. Keep any polishing well away from pads and springs.

  • The "crown", (the knob at the end of the head), is never fixed, it provides a means of adjustment. Do not idly twiddle it or tighten it up. The notch at the end of the cleaning rod is a guide for the position of the head stopper, which is connected to the crown. The notch should appear across the middle of the mouth hole when the end of the rod is against the end of the stopper. More info

  • Plating is not covered by warranty. If the advice above is followed the life of plating will be lengthened.

  • Periodically return the flute to the supplier for a check over and lubrication. It is normal for small adjustments to be necessary, particularly when a flute is new.

A Word or Two of Explanation

The flutes listed here are all very playable and in first class mechanical order. I have spent some time playing them all. Not all new flutes work 'straight out of the box'. The used instruments have been stripped down, thoroughly cleaned, re-padded as necessary, lubricated and adjusted. The range of prices does not reflect their playability. These are all viable purchases for new players. If you need a seriously good flute you should contact one of the specialist dealers. (I have very loose connections with John Packer in Taunton and Top Wind in London.) The quality of a flute is bound up in mechanical features, the metal used, the finish and general workmanship. Generally speaking, you get what you pay for. The best class of instrument is not plated but made of solid precious metal alloy. Silver, gold, or platinum. Silver is the most popular at the moment, though, like most things, it is subject to fashion. Indeed, after decades in the wilderness, wood is making a comeback! Silver plating is liable to wear and fail under the influence of aggressive perspiration. Nickel has a tendency to be slippery to the touch and discolour.

My preference is for silver, though I started with wood, but I do not advise buying a flute that has a solid silver head and tube, with plated keys. The plating will eventually fail and the value in the silver body and foot is irrecoverable. If you want to go 'up-market' go for all silver, or just the head of silver. Heads can move from flute to flute, very few professional players actually play on the head that came with their flute. A quality head alone will cost more than a better quality student flute and will work wonders with a basic instrument. I have a few words of warning though. Do not assume that any head will play well in tune with any body and foot. Do not fail to check the entire range, especially the important, but little used, lowest notes. It matters little how beautiful your tone is, if you are out of tune every note you play is wrong.

I am very favourably impressed by the new generation of flutes from China. They are generally well up to the standard needed for reliability and playability. If one looks very carefully, and you know about flutes, you can see where the quality cutting economies have been made, but, at their price, I don't think it is an important issue. I actually prefer their heavier build to the Taiwanese models, some of which I am forever repairing despite never having sold them. Some dealers disparagingly dub the Chinese models as 'disposable' and therefore a 'bad thing'. I'm not so sure, they work well and if you have good dealer support they can be an excellent 'entry level' purchase. In the past there were dreadful European models about that never ever played well. Not only were they 'entry level', they were, almost immediately, 'exit level'. Whatever you buy, you need support. Flutes are complicated and easily upset or damaged, particularly by children. An expensive flute is no more robust than a cheap one.

In case the somewhat technical descriptions confuse you I have prepared a page of illustrations and comments. There is now information on the flute head stopper, and there is more to come. Please email me if you have a specific query not answered on the page.

I am working on a booklet of guidance regarding the playing of old (pre-Boehm) flutes. Please click here if you would like to see its progress. Email me with comments or requests for more information.

John Everingham FTCL (flute)

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