Oppinions on Sterling Silver Flutes?

Flute History and Instrument Purchase

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pied_piper
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Post by pied_piper » Mon Oct 20, 2008 11:16 am

In my experience, the material that a flute is made from does influence the sound. I say influence because the player can alter the tonal quality. I believe that in a masterclass James Galway was demonstrating that by saying that a gold flute sounds like this and then played a very dark sound. He then said this is what a silver flute sounds like and played with a brighter sound. If I tried to quantify this I would say that the sound produced is about 50% the flute and 50% the player (for a very experienced player).

If we look at the flute itself and ignore what the player can do to change to sound, IMHO I think that for the sound a flute produces, 80% of that sound is attributable to the headjoint and 20% is attributable to the rest of the flute. Also, I believe that each can be further broken down as follows:

HEADJOINT
30% - Tube
20% - Embouchure plate
20% - Riser
10% - Cut

BODY & KEYS
19% - Body
1% - Keys

Please keep in mind that this is my personal opinion and it is not based upon any scientific study. It is simply my observations while trying different flutes and headjoints.

So, IMHO, the keys have very little (if any) influence on what a flute sounds like. Now, nickle silver plated keys are a bit harder to bend than silver keys. HOWEVER, from the player's perspective, it makes no difference. While a light touch is desirable when playing, how hard a player presses a key makes no difference from the flute's perspective. Any player that presses a silver key hard enough to bend it is using WAY too much pressure. Try this test: Pretend for a moment that your left hand is a flute. Place your right thumb in the center of your left palm and the right fingers on the back of the left hand sort of like when you are playing the flute. Now begin to press your fingers down as if you were playing. If you are pressing hard enough to make your hand hurt, then you are pressing too hard. It would take far more pressure than that to bend a key by pressing too hard while playing.
"Never give a flute player a screwdriver."
--anonymous--

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Phineas
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Post by Phineas » Mon Oct 20, 2008 11:49 am

pied_piper wrote:In my experience, the material that a flute is made from does influence the sound. I say influence because the player can alter the tonal quality. I believe that in a masterclass James Galway was demonstrating that by saying that a gold flute sounds like this and then played a very dark sound. He then said this is what a silver flute sounds like and played with a brighter sound. If I tried to quantify this I would say that the sound produced is about 50% the flute and 50% the player (for a very experienced player).
Ok, I can go for that. However I think you are giving the flute WAY too much credit. A good player will sound like a good player on ANY playable instrument, even a cheap one. Giving the flute 50% of the sound it produces would mean that a good player could not sound good on a cheap instrument. This is not true at all. I would say more 90%/10% in favor of the player. I would go as high as 98%, but you have to throw in a headjoint factor.
pied_piper wrote:If we look at the flute itself and ignore what the player can do to change to sound, IMHO I think that for the sound a flute produces, 80% of that sound is attributable to the headjoint and 20% is attributable to the rest of the flute. Also, I believe that each can be further broken down as follows:

HEADJOINT
30% - Tube
20% - Embouchure plate
20% - Riser
10% - Cut

BODY & KEYS
19% - Body
1% - Keys

Please keep in mind that this is my personal opinion and it is not based upon any scientific study. It is simply my observations while trying different flutes and headjoints.
I think you nailed it!
pied_piper wrote:So, IMHO, the keys have very little (if any) influence on what a flute sounds like. Now, nickle silver plated keys are a bit harder to bend than silver keys. HOWEVER, from the player's perspective, it makes no difference.
I think this mentality comes from the Saxophone realm. Saxophone pads are held to the keys with resonators. On a saxophone, the resonators effect the sound of the horn. I have found this to be true. I think this mentality has moved on the the flute realm. Go figure.

Phineas

fluteguy18
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Post by fluteguy18 » Mon Oct 20, 2008 4:24 pm

There is a lot of GREAT information on this thread.

Different metals do indeed feel different when you play them, but studies are inconclusive on whether the metal itself yields certain acoustic properties.

I personally play a Miyazawa with a Sterling head with a nickle plated body and foot. When I was trying out flutes, I couldn't tell a big difference between the flutes with different amounts of silver in them [and even after attending the NFA conference the only two flutes I liked better in the showroom were a 10k gold Nagahara and a 14k Rose Gold Brannen]. I picked what I thought was best out of the lineup of flutes I had available to me, and the Sterling/Nickle silver flute won out. I was honestly expecting a pricetag of about $10-12k for the flute [it has all the bells and whistles], and to see a price tag of only $4.5k was a huge relief.

My thoughts on keywork materials:

If your skin is not very acidic, then it should not really matter that much. I think keywork doesn't really affect the way the flute plays unless it is of a much heavier material [like gold or platinum], but even then the influences are minimal and hard to pinpoint. My only thoughts about getting solid precious metal keywork is about your personal skin chemistry.

If your skin is more acidic [like mine], your skin oils will slowly eat through the plating. Silver is more resistant to these acids than Nickle Silver. So, once the plating is gone, the N.S. will deteriorate much more quickly. With my Miyazawa, I had a defective key and the plating was much thinner than standard. After about 8 months, the plating wore off on the key, and the NS began to get a pitted and pock-marked texture because of my skin chemistry. Seeing as my flute was still under warranty [and still is until February], Miyazawa paid to have my flute shipped to Japan to have the key replaced.

But if you have low Ph levels, you should be fine. I however have decided to get sterling keywork whenever my flute needs replacing.

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pied_piper
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Post by pied_piper » Mon Oct 20, 2008 5:39 pm

Phineas wrote:Ok, I can go for that. However I think you are giving the flute WAY too much credit. A good player will sound like a good player on ANY playable instrument, even a cheap one. Giving the flute 50% of the sound it produces would mean that a good player could not sound good on a cheap instrument. This is not true at all. I would say more 90%/10% in favor of the player. I would go as high as 98%, but you have to throw in a headjoint factor.
Yeah, in retrospect 50/50 is probably weighted too heavy for the flute, but I don't think I would go as far as 90/10 for the player/flute. Maybe 70/30 or 80/20 would be closer to reality (for me anyway).

I can sound pretty good on a student or intermediate flute, but not near as good as on my sterling Muramatsu. Also, last year I visited JL Smith and tried out just about every headjoint they had in stock. I finally narrowed it down to 4 to take on trial. For my trial I chose these configurations: Sterling tube, sterling embouchure, 14K riser; Sterling tube, 14K embouchure, 14K riser; sterling tube, 14K embouchure, platinum riser; 14K tube, 14K embouchure, platinum riser.

While trying them, I also included my stock sterling headjoint in the mix. I had my wife listen from the next room as I randomly played them and asked her rank them from 1 to 5 for the best sound. I also tried them while blindfolded so that I didn't know what I was playing. In both cases when we compared our ranking, the 14K/14K/Platinum was ranked #1, the Sterling/Sterling/14K ranked #4, and my stock sterling Muramatsu ranked #5 (and I still think it sounds great, just different). For the #2 & #3 ranking, we differed on preference.

I bought the 14K/14K/Platinum...
"Never give a flute player a screwdriver."
--anonymous--

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sidekicker
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Post by sidekicker » Fri Oct 31, 2008 8:28 pm

fluteguy18 wrote:I personally play a Miyazawa with a Sterling head with a nickle plated body and foot. When I was trying out flutes, I couldn't tell a big difference between the flutes with different amounts of silver in them [and even after attending the NFA conference the only two flutes I liked better in the showroom were a 10k gold Nagahara and a 14k Rose Gold Brannen].
Just curious... Would that happen to have been the Brannen that I bought? :-)

SK

fluteguy18
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Post by fluteguy18 » Fri Oct 31, 2008 11:51 pm

No it was a different one.... I think.... Maybe. I dunno. It was actually a 14k Brannen with Sterling silver soldered tone holes, and a 10k rose gold headjoint with a platinum riser. I can't remember if the G mech was inline or offset. I just remember mostly that I loved it, and that it was one of the few flutes I tried that actually turned heads when I played it.

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sidekicker
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Post by sidekicker » Sat Nov 01, 2008 7:54 am

It was a different one then. Mine has gold (not silver) tone holes and rings. I didn't pay much attention to what head was on that flute because I already had my own gold head already that will be paired with it.

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