which golden 14k flute?

Flute History and Instrument Purchase

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JButky
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Post by JButky » Tue Aug 25, 2009 11:45 am

fluteguy18 wrote: Even the "low end" models they offer are completely handmade. Most flutes that are played by flutists around the world are generally machine made flutes, and are of a lower caliber than even the Muramatsu EX. A much lower quality in fact.
OK I've got to ask,

Define "Completely Handmade" vs "Machine Made" and what determines "Quality"
Why or how is one better than the other in terms of how you define quality?

I know I'm opening a big can of worms here, but the point has now been brought up and this really needs to be explained.

I know that flute players perceive this, but I'd like to hear an explanation, since I do know what goes on in factories at various levels..
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Post by fluteguy18 » Tue Aug 25, 2009 5:59 pm

Ok. Here's my take on things, and it isn't by any means a concrete ruler to measure anything against.

Handmade: an instrument that is either A: completely handcrafted top to bottom, or B: an instrument whose vital parts are handcrafted/finished/fitted. Ultimately in my book, in order to be considered handmade, it must have more parts that are handmade/hand fitted/assembled than parts that are machine made and assembled. Instruments that feature handcut headjoints, hand cast/fitted/swedged keys, hand soldered toneholes/hand drawn toneholes, padded with premium pads by hand to the highest tolerances, and the list goes on.

Machine Made: instruments that are predominantly made by machines, and see very little (IF ANY) hand fitting/assembly/finishing. Instruments that have machine drilled/produced headjoints with no handcutting, keys that are stamped out by the thousands by a machine, then assembled by a machine, flutes that are padded by a machine and are then subjected to hot water and pressure to make sure the pads seal correctly, etc.

Now, take into consideration that I do understand that there is a point to which machines do help things along (like tube extrusion, drawing of toneholes on drawn tonehole flutes, threading screws or the ends of steels, etc. etc.). There are also IMO situations where there is a combination of pure handcrafting and machine producing (when key cups are cast in mass numbers from an original mold that was made from a completely handcrafted key cup for example). So ultimately there are VERY few flutes that are COMPLETELY 1,000,000% handmade in every possible way.

To me, quality is a completely relative term. A cheap chinese knockoff flute is horrible quality in comparison to a Yamaha 200 series flute. The same flute (chinese knockoff) is great quality compared to that rusty pipe with holes drilled out sitting in someone's garage. The Yamaha 200 series is a low quality flute (in terms of playability) in comparison to a Muramatsu EX, or maybe a 14k gold Brannen. Quality can mean craftsmanship (durability) and it can mean playability. A Gemeinhardt or an Armstrong flute is most likely going to be a well made instrument in terms of durability and is a quality instrument in that regard, but a poor quality instrument in terms of advanced playing capabilities when compared to a Powell.

Many of these things are completely relative and my personal opinion.

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Post by pied_piper » Tue Aug 25, 2009 6:32 pm

For me, it's not a question of "machine made" vs. "hand made" because I believe that the term "hand made" is somewhat of a misnomer. I think a better discriminator is "machine finished" vs. "hand finished". I suspect that most of the major pro flute makers employ a lot of machine work in the construction process of individual parts. When they advertise a "hand made" flute, it really is "hand finished". The exception would be low volume flute makers like John Lunn or perhaps Nagahara. I imagine that those flutes are truly "hand made" with very few parts created by automated machines.

Assuming all equal quality materials used in the construction of flutes, the difference in my mind is not how the part is initially or roughly created, but rather, how much of the flute receives the attention of a craftsman in the final assembly process: key fitting, adjusting, regulating, final hand cutting of the embouchure, etc.
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JButky
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Post by JButky » Tue Aug 25, 2009 7:13 pm

fluteguy18 wrote:
Handmade: an instrument that is either A: completely handcrafted top to bottom, or B: an instrument whose vital parts are handcrafted/finished/fitted.
The only person I know that completely handcrafted modern flutes closest to your description of A was probably Albert Cooper(post 20th century). Regarding B, which parts do you consider to be "Vital"
Ultimately in my book, in order to be considered handmade, it must have more parts that are handmade/hand fitted/assembled than parts that are machine made and assembled.
Let me play Devil's advocate here. There are machining operations that are much more precise than a craftsman can do by unaided. Why therefore is the handmade considered better when the machine produced parts can achieve higher tolerance levels for precision?
Instruments that feature handcut headjoints, hand cast/fitted/swedged keys, hand soldered toneholes/hand drawn toneholes, padded with premium pads by hand to the highest tolerances, and the list goes on.
I find the "handcut" headjoint phenomenon intriguing since I witness what happens in a lot of pro flute makers shops. Also, I would take a part cast with modern casting equipment anyday over one that was "hand cast".

Machine Made: instruments that are predominantly made by machines, and see very little (IF ANY) hand fitting/assembly/finishing. Instruments that have machine drilled/produced headjoints with no handcutting, keys that are stamped out by the thousands by a machine, then assembled by a machine, flutes that are padded by a machine and are then subjected to hot water and pressure to make sure the pads seal correctly, etc.
I think you would be surprised to see how much hand work goes into even the cheapest flute. Why is handcutting a headjoint important? Does it matter if the craftsman uses a hand scraper, hand operated bit, or a machine? Shouldn't the skill of the craftsman take priority over the choice of tool chosen to accomplish a task?
A Gemeinhardt or an Armstrong flute is most likely going to be a well made instrument in terms of durability and is a quality instrument in that regard, but a poor quality instrument in terms of advanced playing capabilities when compared to a Powell.
Why? (playing Devil's advocate again). I understand what you mean about the differences, but what are the determining factors precisely. I can't abide by the key construction argument, there are many ways to make a good strong key, so what makes the difference between these two?
Many of these things are completely relative and my personal opinion.
Understood, but this is for lively discussion purposes...
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Post by JButky » Tue Aug 25, 2009 7:23 pm

pied_piper wrote: Assuming all equal quality materials used in the construction of flutes, the difference in my mind is not how the part is initially or roughly created, but rather, how much of the flute receives the attention of a craftsman in the final assembly process: key fitting, adjusting, regulating, final hand cutting of the embouchure, etc.
More devil's advocate.

If a maker has certain "Cuts", designs they produce, would not hand cutting produce inconsistent results? Indeed manufacturing is based on acceptable tolerance levels for reproducing things. Shouldn't each cut of the same type from a maker fall within an acceptable narrow tolerance? If they don't, you might as well call each headjoint unique for what it is.

Personally speaking, handcutting, as far as I'm concerned, is for customization for any given player.

So again, acknowledging these differences you mention, that certainly is not enough to call one thing quality and another without. So there's got to be more than just what we've considered to produce quality and high performance. (perhaps I've tipped my hand with this last statement)
Joe B

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Post by Tarandros » Tue Aug 25, 2009 7:56 pm

bj wrote:

Point taken however about being able to play the back-up, most people wouldn't know the difference, however the performance may take on a different character based on what you were using. That #8 is my favorite, and he's amazing on it.
Best
The one I liked the best by a margin as they all basically sounded the same to me, was I think number 3 or 4 - anyway, it was the Haynes with a Cooper headjoint (I think). I agree, the performance in my imagined concert would be different, as even if flutes probably sound much the same to the uninitiated, how the instrument feels to play can certainly have a big impact on the way it's performed on. Kind regards, T.

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Post by Tarandros » Tue Aug 25, 2009 8:25 pm

MissyHPhoenix wrote:I know this thread has basically been discussing gold and silver flutes and the differences in playing. Since I have absolutely no experience with gold flutes, I can only think of my real experiences -- which have been with silver flutes and the composite flute I have (Phineas has one, too). I know that in order to produce the same tone quality on the composite, I have to blow a LOT harder than on my silver flutes. Is this the headjoint or the material used to produce the flute? Since I have no idea of the answer .... anybody know???? :lol:
As I mentioned on another thread, I bought a vintage wooden (Boehm system) flute a few months ago. I'm playing on it most of the time now. I'd agree with what Phineas said about the embouchure cut making a difference but also, in the case of this instrument, it is thick walled cocus wood (almost 2mm), so there's also a lot more resistance from that. The embouchure hole is also oval, and rather shallower than a metal flute one, which also affects the way the instrument is played My embouchure for the low notes is about the same as on a metal flute, but it has to get progressively much tighter the higher up the register I go and requires a lot of abdominal support in the high notes. Top C is still virtually impossible on it (maybe I'll crack it one cay). A museum in Australia has the exact same model (Montague Bros, 'Class B') ini ts collection, and you can see it here, if you are interested:

http://www.powerhousemuseum.com/collect ... irn=364415

Kind regards, T.

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Post by fluteguy18 » Tue Aug 25, 2009 9:29 pm

Parts I consider vital are: the headjoint, and the entire mechanism. Precisely made things do not necessarily mean that they are "right." Something may be precisely duplicated, but human beings can sense things that machines can't. We can detect weaknesses in things that machines can't. Our touch is more delicate and discerning when it comes to things like adjusting spring tension and key height (or at least I assume having talked with several makers on this subject).

In terms of headjoints being handcut, this I think is the most important part. You can have headjoints perfectly created by machine. But if you do that, you have no variance, and this is where the handmade part becomes important. As players, we all have a different style, approach, and method of playing. If all headjoints were created to stock cuts/styles, and duplicated perfectly every time, you would have thousands of flutists that would be playing on headjoints that aren't a PERFECT match. We all have our playing imperfections. So as a result, we look for headjoints that are of different styles, but yet their unique contours allow players to find that one headjoint that matches us perfectly. We thrive on the uniqueness. Machine made headjoints are best suited for newer players that NEED the help of a restricting cut that can only be played a few ways. They need that guidance to make up for their lack of control.

To answer your last question, I think Tarandros hit it on the head. It's the hand finishing that makes the difference. An Azumi, or Amadeus flute is hand finished with a handcut headjoint. Those flutes (and similar models like Sonare, and Avanti flutes) play more like handmade flutes than machine made flutes.

But ultimately, I can't define where the line is. I don't know enough about flute craftsmanship. I would like to know a lot more about it to be honest. But in the mean time, I just know that if you hand me several flutes in a row, and I play them blindfolded, I can tell you which ones are handmade, and which ones aren't. The only confusing ones are the "hybrid" flutes (handmade head with machine made body). It's just something about the way they feel and the way they play. They ARE different. And handmade flutes almost always play better.

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Post by JButky » Wed Aug 26, 2009 7:37 am

fluteguy18 wrote: To answer your last question, I think Tarandros hit it on the head. It's the hand finishing that makes the difference. An Azumi, or Amadeus flute is hand finished with a handcut headjoint. Those flutes (and similar models like Sonare, and Avanti flutes) play more like handmade flutes than machine made flutes.
Let me focus on this for a moment.. It seems that the vital component that most seem to be referencing regards the headjoint itself. Flutemakers know very well about the "headjoint effect" and it is the reason there is so much head shopping swapping going on out there.

I would also bet that most most people would be really surprised watching handmade heads being made. I'll have to post a picture later and ask the question, "Is this handmade or machine made?" But I have to sign up for a photo uploading account to share the picture.

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Post by pied_piper » Wed Aug 26, 2009 10:00 pm

JButky wrote:If a maker has certain "Cuts", designs they produce, would not hand cutting produce inconsistent results? Indeed manufacturing is based on acceptable tolerance levels for reproducing things. Shouldn't each cut of the same type from a maker fall within an acceptable narrow tolerance? If they don't, you might as well call each headjoint unique for what it is.

Personally speaking, handcutting, as far as I'm concerned, is for customization for any given player.
I don't think we're of radically differing opinions here. When I mentioned the final handcutting of the embouchure, what I was assuming was that the embouchure is created by machine and the craftsman perhaps makes minor "tweaks", but I would not necessarily consider that part essential with manufacturing quality control to tight tolerances. I fully realize that with today's CNC technology, a machine can certainly make a far more repeatable cut with greater accuracy than a human could do. With 3D scanning and accurate CNC milling, it would be possible to perfectly replicate any desired cut with extreme precision. So, with these technologies, "hand made" or "hand finishing" may become obsolete terminology except for the one-off flute makers like Lunn.

The question that I have to ask you, is how many of the major pro flute makers (Pearl, Muramatsu, Powell, Brannen, Miyazawa, etc.) currently employ such technologies but still market their flutes as "hand made"? Has the term "hand made" just become marketing "hype" because that's what most pro flutists expect and equate to quality?
"Never give a flute player a screwdriver."
--anonymous--

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Post by fluteguy18 » Wed Aug 26, 2009 10:14 pm

"The question that I have to ask you, is how many of the major pro flute makers (Pearl, Muramatsu, Powell, Brannen, Miyazawa, etc.) currently employ such technologies but still market their flutes as "hand made"? Has the term "hand made" just become marketing "hype" because that's what most pro flutists expect and equate to quality?"


Now THAT is a good question! I am interested in hearing replies to this one!

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Post by pied_piper » Mon Aug 31, 2009 1:51 pm

I think Joe's point is that precision machining can (and does) supplement and improve upon what can be accomplished solely by hand crafting a flute.

I just found an article that relates to my question about whether any top flute makers are using this technology. The answer is yes: Nagahara is now using a CNC controlled Prodigy GT-27 gang-tool lathe from SNK America to produce flute parts, including their Galway crown.

http://www.productionmachining.com/arti ... nship.aspx

I suspect they are not alone...
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Post by JButky » Mon Aug 31, 2009 6:27 pm

pied_piper wrote:I think Joe's point is that precision machining can (and does) supplement and improve upon what can be accomplished solely by hand crafting a flute.


I suspect they are not alone...
Yes, exactly...so what is "handmade"?
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Post by pied_piper » Mon Aug 31, 2009 8:16 pm

JButky wrote:Yes, exactly...so what is "handmade"?
Apparently somewhat of a misnomer. Marketing hype used to sell flutes.

Flute makers use it as a discriminator and flutists demand it because traditionally, handmade has signified quality. 20-30 years ago, this was probably accurate, but today it's just a vicious circle: Flutists believe a quality flute must be handmade because that's what their teacher told them. So, manufacturers continue to sell the belief, regardless of the percentage of actual handcrafting.
"Never give a flute player a screwdriver."
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