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|Earlham EFL120SE||Silver Plate. Split E mech. Covered action, offset G. Engraved ornament on lip-plate. (Taiwan)||£275.00|
|Roy Benson||Silver Plate. Open action, inline G. (China)||£240.00|
These comments are applicable to all metal flutes.
A Word or Two of ExplanationThe 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)