which golden 14k flute?

Flute History and Instrument Purchase

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fluttiegurl
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Post by fluttiegurl » Tue Apr 07, 2009 7:47 am

I wonder if the level of craftsmanship sometimes goes up with the cost of the metal itself. This is just a theory, but I have noticed a difference with some flute manufacturers, but I don't think it is as much an acoustic difference as an overall quality difference. I think fluteguy18 has a point on this. If a person is going to spend $30,000 on a flute, it had better respond and feel like a $30,000 flute. Also keep in mind that the cut of the headjoint has a great deal to do with the sound a flute produces. To have a true comparison, two flutes would have to have the exact same cut of headjoint which is pretty much impossible.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I owned a gold flute for a short time. I loved the flute, but when I found my vintage Haynes, that love affair came to an abrupt halt. The difference for me was not the metal, it was the quality that the older silver flute vs. the tone quality of the gold Pearl. I have had many people ask why I chose the Haynes, but the people who heard me play (including my father who knows nothing about music) could easily see why I chose the Haynes. Why the difference? Keep in mind that I play on the same headjoint that I had on the Pearl toward the end. My Haynes was fully handmade at a time when companies were not concerned with quantity, the materials were top of the line, and a person waited several months, sometimes years, for a flute to be produced. The Pearl was just not of that quality. I am not saying it was not a quality flute, I would still be very happy had I not found the Haynes. It was just not of the same quality. And for me, it shows in the sound.

Just some food for thought.

kymarto
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Post by kymarto » Tue Apr 07, 2009 9:23 am

This is a reason often given (and probably true) for the difference in 'feel' between, say, a platinum or gold flute and one in silver or silver plate. If someone is paying $30K for a flute then the job of building it is given to the best craftsman in the house. One of my favorite stories, told to me by a purveyor of fine flutes, concerns Georges Barrère. My friend, at the time a young teenager, was in Baxter-Northrup in Los Angeles when Barrère was visiting the store. Old Mr. Baxter, pointing to a flute case on the counter, said "Hey Fred, ever seen a platinum flute before?"

Barrère opened the case, and there was the famous platinum Haynes, the first such flute ever made, for which Edgar Varèse had written Density 21.5. He put it together and handed it to Fred, who told me that it looked like aluminum but was extremely heavy. He handed it back to Barrère, saying "Wow Mr. Barrère, that must be a wonderful flute!"

Barrère leaned over and said to Fred, "Mais non, eet ees terrible! One of ze worst flutes I 'ave aver played! Eet ees completely dead, but I promise Haynes and now I must play eet."

Haynes, of course, had given the flute free to the Great Master for their own promotional purposes, and after Varèse and all the hype he was pretty much forced to play it, much to his chagrin.

It would be most interesting to put all those folks who think that the material somehow makes a difference in a dark room with a number of flutes in diverse metals suspended (weight is a dead giveaway) and see if they really could tell the difference between one metal and another.

Consider this: if you want to make waves with your hand in a container of water, is it better to have the vessel holding the water made of gold, silver, nickel or platinum? Do you think it really makes a difference? If you do, I have a bridge for sale you might be interested in ':wink:'

For those still doubtful, let me quote from Fletcher and Rossing's seminal text, "The Physics of Musical Instruments" (Fletcher, BTW is a fine flautist in his own right).

"When the solid material from which an instrument is made takes an active part in producing or radiating the sound, then it is abundantly clear that its mechanical properties will be important in determining the nature of the sound. The properties of concern will be the density, elastic moduli and damping coefficients. Assuming that the dimensions of the instrument are fixed, these material properties determine the frequencies and widths of its mechanical resonances, and the impedance presented to whatever is the primary driving element...

The tube walls influence the behavior of the vibrations of the air column because of the viscous and thermal losses across the boundary layer...these losses have quite significant effect on the Q-factors of the pipe resonances, and this on the behavior of the instrument, and vary somewhat depending on the smoothness of the surface. Wall materials all have thermal capacity so much greater than air, however, that there is virtually no difference between them on this score.[emphasis mine]...

While the mechanical virtues and aesthetic appeal of different materials are easily evaluated, the same is not true of their acoustical properties. Makers and players claim to detect clear and consistent tonal differences between otherwise similar instruments made from different materials, but physical analysis suggest that these claims may be illusory. This does not mean that wall material never has any effect, and indeed demonstrations by Miller (1909) long ago showed that the thin walls of metal pipes of square cross section can vibrate with appreciable amplitude and have a very large effect on the stability and timbre of the sound. The situation is, however, quite different for the relatively rigid walls of typical organ pipes and wind instruments.

It is easy to see why this is so. The physical quantity causing wall vibrations is the acoustic pressure in the standing wave of the air column. This can couple to a vibration mode of the pipe walls only if there is reasonably close agreement between the resonance frequency of the wall mode and one of the harmonics of the air-column vibration and if the symmetry of the wall mode is such that the coupling coefficient does not vanish. It is quite easy to satisfy these conditions for a pipe of rectangular cross section, for the local 'breathing' mode, in which the pipe cross section distorts successively from barrel to pincushion shape, can have a low frequency and very low impedance if the walls are thin.

The case of a pipe of circular cross section is entirely different, for the breathing mode involves an actual increase in the local radius of the tube, rather than a simple shape deformation, and therefore has a very high resonance frequency. This is true even for thin metal tubes, and the audible modes that can be excited by tapping the tube wall are in fact distortional modes in which the pipe cross section becomes elliptical...

The discussion can be quantified for the strictly circular part of the bore by considering the relative compliances associated with expansion of the bore under pressure and with compression of the air in the tube. The ratio is about 0.001 for even a quite thin-walled tube, so that the compliance of the walls has virtually no effect upon the internal air modes and direct radiation from wall vibrations is very small...Even rigid walls do, however, affect the damping of the air modes, and indeed this wall damping predominates over radiation damping except at very high frequencies. Details of wood grain and smoothness can affect the exact damping coefficient, but generally the difference between one material and another is small compared with the effects of sharp edges on finger holes, soft key pads, or even finger tips.

The outcome of this discussion is that we are led to the view that the choice of particular materials for the construction of wind instruments is governed not really by acoustics, but rather by considerations of ease of fabrication, stability, feel and appearance..."

If I can get you folks on board here, you can save a lot of money. It is also interesting to consider what a scam flutes in precious metal really are. Consider that a typical flute weighs in at about 400 grams, or roughly 15 oz. Gold is going for about 880 USD/oz., silver for 12 USD/oz

Considering 14K gold we have about 7500 USD in metal in a gold flute, and about 180 USD in silver. The price of a 14K Powell handmade is $24, 625--in silver the same flute is $9020. That is a difference of $15,605 dollars. Let's assume that gold is harder to work than silver (it isn't) and add a premium of $605 on the gold flute. So now let us say that purely by the difference in metal, the gold flute costs $15,000 more than the silver, but the metal only costs $7320 dollars more. What does the other $7680 go for?

Vanity, basically ':shock:'

Toby

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Phineas
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Post by Phineas » Tue Apr 07, 2009 11:29 am

kymarto wrote:If I can get you folks on board here, you can save a lot of money. It is also interesting to consider what a scam flutes in precious metal really are. Consider that a typical flute weighs in at about 400 grams, or roughly 15 oz. Gold is going for about 880 USD/oz., silver for 12 USD/oz

Considering 14K gold we have about 7500 USD in metal in a gold flute, and about 180 USD in silver. The price of a 14K Powell handmade is $24, 625--in silver the same flute is $9020. That is a difference of $15,605 dollars. Let's assume that gold is harder to work than silver (it isn't) and add a premium of $605 on the gold flute. So now let us say that purely by the difference in metal, the gold flute costs $15,000 more than the silver, but the metal only costs $7320 dollars more. What does the other $7680 go for?

Vanity, basically ':shock:'

Toby
Things are only worth what people are willing to pay for them. I do not think it is right to say that people who buy $25000 flutes are illogical, or being ripped off. My problem with with the science of the whole thing.

The flute(classical) industry is full of a lot of bologna! Masters of years past had far less technology to work with, but somehow they became masters. No one cared that much about the science fiction about the acoustics of flute making, or the resonate frequency of the material. Flute makers just experimented till they came up with a design that worked. After people like Haynes, Powell, etc... came of with their designs, people tried to justify why these makers made their flutes that way. That was the birth of what I will call "Flute Scifi". I have read studies on the acoustics of flutes and have found NOTHING conclusive. Just a bunch of theory. The only fact is if you want something that plays exactly like a Haynes(for example), you get your hands on one, get a micrometer, and copy it! If you are a chemist, you can break down the metalergical composition of the parts, and copy that also.

The Science of Flute = BULL! If you suck, the best material in the world will not help you to become a master flutist, so WHY on earth does it matter....who cares. If a bunch of science and formulas and materials could really produce the best flute, then everyone could make one. I will take experience or Flute Scifi any day of the week!

If a gold flute blows your silky hair in the wind, and keeps your toe nails polished, then get one. If the flute maker wants to make $10000 profit, this is what capitalism is all about. People can buy or sell what they want. I just have a gripe with using theories as tested fact, then bomarding people with it.

Just buy the d**n thing, and play the d**n thang. If you are good, and people like you playing your gold/silver/platinum/titanium/plastic/pot metal flute, maybe you can talk the flute maker into giving you a cut. After all, this is capitalism. Most people/listeners cant even hear the difference any.

Rant over :lol:

Phineas

dogster
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yes

Post by dogster » Tue Apr 07, 2009 2:28 pm

i love your response and its true as i have seen many accomplished musicians play a plastic recorder like you wouldn't believe . So it's the talent nd experience and not the materials !

Thanks for the info


Doug

fluteguy18
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Post by fluteguy18 » Tue Apr 07, 2009 4:31 pm

No offense, Kymarto, but most of your post flew right over my head. :wink: :lol:

My thoughts on material vs. impact on sound are inconclusive. Do they have a direct impact on sound? Maybe, but there is no way to be sure. I do believe that the materials transmit sound differently though. Most of my thoughts on that are from the theories behind the craft of harp makers/luthiers.

In harp making, the wood used makes a direct impact on the overall sound of the harp. It is possible to make two harps [of the same model] using wood from the same tree to make the sounding board, and the same types of strings [maker/gauge/material] and have two completely different sounding instruments if they have soundchambers made of two different species of wood. The more dense the wood [maple for example] the more bright the sound. The less dense [cherry for example], the warmer the sound. If you have two harps that are identical in every single way, they will sound almost identicle. The only variations will be in terms of clarity which is almost always a matter of the fine tuning of the instrument's craftmanship. This all comes down to the way the vibrations travel through the grain lines and blah blah blah. It's complicated, and unless you're also a harpist like I am, you don't care.

How does this relate to flute? I think that in terms of density, the metals do make a difference in playing qualities. Silver is the least dense [of silver/gold/platinum] and would transmit sound waves the fastest. Gold is more dense, and platinum would be most dense, and would take the most effort to get the sound waves to move. Do they sound different? I personally think so, but don't know so. I do think that thedifferent metals respond and transmit sound vibrations differently.

Is this fact? No, and I'm not an acoustical engineer, so I can't ever prove it. But I know that regardless of who makes it, I can tell if there is a gold/platinum riser on a headjoint [without looking] just by the way it feels when I play it. Can I be fooled? Yes, but most of the time I am correct.

c_otter
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Post by c_otter » Tue Apr 07, 2009 7:10 pm

I don't know about the differences in the acoustic properties different metals. However, I do think there are miniscule differences between flutes of different metals. These differences may be due to associated properties of different metals.

As gold is denser, gold flutes tend to be thinner. I don't know about the thickness of platinum flutes. I think the biggest factor may be the cutting of the headjoint. For example, is one metal easier to cut than another, does one type of metal hold a crisper edge, or do the flute makers tweak the headjoint cuts based on the material of the flute to get a certain sound? Another factor is how the metal conducts heat. I imagine that there is not much difference between gold and silver, but what is the effect of wall thickness in conducting heat. Titanium is much less conductive of heat than other metals.

In regards to trying flutes out blindly, I found that in comparing the same cut of headjoint, the ones with edgier sounds were usually made of platinum.

kymarto
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Post by kymarto » Tue Apr 07, 2009 8:23 pm

I've had my say. Take it or leave it. Just a few further points to fluteguy 18 and c_otter.

Harps and stringed instruments depend on the vibrations of the body to amplify the sound of the exciting mechanism (string in this case) and transmit it effectively to the air, so it is more than clear that the properties of the body affect the sound in a major way. In wind instruments, the body is ONLY there to create and contain an air column that vibrates. Only the air makes the sound; the minuscule vibrations of the body contribute nothing, or at least so little as to be imperceptible.

Gold and platinum flutes have the same wall thickness as silver flutes. Density has nuthin' to do with nuthin' in this case. Gold, in fact, is so ductile that it must be alloyed to be usable; the same goes for silver. Both are so much more dense than air that they present identically rigid walls for the air to "bounce against".

As far as trying out different headjoints go: same cut or no, you cannot make any judgment about the effect of materials until you have confirmed that the cut is identical to .01mm or so. The Joan Lynn White experiment I wrote about indicates that "identical" headjoints are never so, and in this case the difference in geometry far overshadows any difference the material might make. Read the Linortner experiment again.

Oh well, you can lead a horse to water....Believe what you want. I tried.

Toby

fluteguy18
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Post by fluteguy18 » Tue Apr 07, 2009 9:28 pm

Experiance always takes precedence over scientific experiment in my book. And density does matter. Trust me. You physically have to try harder to get a platinum flute to play than you do a silver flute. I have played my fair share of both. If density didn't matter, then you wouldn't require consistent airspeed to make the instrument respond.

And it has been proven time and time again that if the way the instrument vibrates is altered, the sound of the flute changes. Custom headjoint stoppers [Bigio, Delrin, etc.], custom made crowns, Foster extensions [the jury is still out whether the sound is changed, but the way the flute plays is certainly different], Valgon rings.... all of these are things that I have heard [in person] change the way the flute sounds and plays. Adding things can also dampen the vibrations: certain headjoint corks, key extensions, bobpep/finger saddles, thumbports, etc. etc. all dampen the vibrations of the instrument, and can on occasion be detrimental to the sound of the flute. Trust me on that one. My flute plays differently, and has a brighter sound when I take off my key extensions and my thumbport versus when they are actually on there.

So if these simple things change the way it plays, then obviously something as primary as tube material impacts the way the instrument physically plays. Does the sound change? Maybe, maybe not. But the instrument itself [across the board in my experiance] plays differently [regardless of headjoint cut] when it is made of a different material.
Last edited by fluteguy18 on Tue Apr 07, 2009 10:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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cflutist
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Post by cflutist » Tue Apr 07, 2009 10:07 pm

kymarto wrote: Gold and platinum flutes have the same wall thickness as silver flutes. Density has nuthin' to do with nuthin' in this case.

Oh well, you can lead a horse to water....Believe what you want. I tried.

Toby
Not true, at least for Wm S. Haynes flutes:
Handmade Silver
Coin Silver. Soldered toneholes available in .014”, .016” or .018” tubing thickness. Drawn toneholes available in .016” or .018” tubing.

Handmade Gold
Available in 10k Rose Gold, 14k Rose Gold, and 19.5k Rose Gold. The tubing thickness is .012” and it is available with soldered toneholes.

Handmade Platinum
Platinum with 14k Rose Gold Mechanism. The tubing thickness is .011” and it is available with soldered toneholes.

fluteguy18
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Post by fluteguy18 » Tue Apr 07, 2009 10:33 pm

"at least not true for Haynes"

EXACTLY!

And Brannen, Powell, Sankyo, Miyazawa, Muramatsu, Nagahara, Pearl, Parmenon, Altus, Tom Green, and Yamaha.... including many others.

The wall thickness changes because the metal has higher density. If the density was higher, yet the wall thickness remained the same, then very few people could get a gold [much less a platinum] flute to respond [i.e. VIBRATE], let alone play the thing.

kymarto
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Post by kymarto » Wed Apr 08, 2009 1:24 am

fluteguy18 wrote:"at least not true for Haynes"

EXACTLY!

And Brannen, Powell, Sankyo, Miyazawa, Muramatsu, Nagahara, Pearl, Parmenon, Altus, Tom Green, and Yamaha.... including many others.

The wall thickness changes because the metal has higher density. If the density was higher, yet the wall thickness remained the same, then very few people could get a gold [much less a platinum] flute to respond [i.e. VIBRATE], let alone play the thing.
I stand corrected on thickness, but it is a moot point since the tube does not vibrate. This is like trying to teach evolution to creationists. Best of luck.

Toby

fluteguy18
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Post by fluteguy18 » Wed Apr 08, 2009 6:41 am

It does vibrate. I play my flute often enough to know [ 6-8 hours a day any given day of the week]. I can physically feel the flute vibrating under my fingers. I would be happy to track down testimonials of players who have had their flutes serviced and afterwards commented on how much their instrument vibrates after it had been put into good repair. This is very common to hear when people get their flute padded with JS Gold pads, or Straubinger pads. Try playing a flute with the sole purpose of learning about the way it FEELS. It vibrates if it is in good repair/condition.

P.s.: Not meaning to breech a touchy subject, but there are some creationists who believe in evolution. But let's not talk about THAT one. :wink:

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Phineas
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Post by Phineas » Wed Apr 08, 2009 7:09 am

kymarto wrote:
fluteguy18 wrote:"at least not true for Haynes"

EXACTLY!

And Brannen, Powell, Sankyo, Miyazawa, Muramatsu, Nagahara, Pearl, Parmenon, Altus, Tom Green, and Yamaha.... including many others.

The wall thickness changes because the metal has higher density. If the density was higher, yet the wall thickness remained the same, then very few people could get a gold [much less a platinum] flute to respond [i.e. VIBRATE], let alone play the thing.
I stand corrected on thickness, but it is a moot point since the tube does not vibrate. This is like trying to teach evolution to creationists. Best of luck.

Toby
Everything vibrates, especially anything that makes a sound.

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Phineas
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Post by Phineas » Wed Apr 08, 2009 7:34 am

Erased Double post

fluteguy18
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Post by fluteguy18 » Wed Apr 08, 2009 9:35 am

::applause::

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