The Flute Maker

The final job is to correct the key rise by fitting cork or felt bumpers under the key tails. I use mostly hard felt because it makes for a quieter action and is also more slippery than cork, which should never be used wherever there is sliding contact (but often is). I like keys to open as far as possible consistent with correct intonation and comfortable playing.

So how do my flutes compare with others? They certainly look different owing to the black keys; they are also much lighter. Do they sound or play differently? As I don’t play nearly well enough to have a personal view I can only rely on what others tell me. Having sent well over one hundred into the world I hear the same comments again and again: the main characteristic is high responsiveness, which is a measure of the willingness of the flute to do what it asked of it, instantly; in other words it must speak quickly and clearly at all dynamic levels and do it in tune. These flutes allow plenty of tonal variation, yet never force their own personality too strongly upon the player. The scale, devised by Wibb, is now probably as good as it can ever be on a wind instrument and has been much praised. I am told that the flutes play better than most from new and are highly consistent from one to the next.

Of course you can never please everybody and any musical instrument maker who departs from conventional practice as I have takes an enormous risk. You have to tread carefully. Too many changes all at once and your precious work ends up in a museum. Professional players are looking for something comfortable and familiar with which they can build an easy relationship, not a fashion accessory. The changes I have introduced both in materials and workshop practice have all been for pre-eminently musical, not cosmetic, reasons. I have never been interested in either new fingering systems or tampering with the overall shape and layout of the flute just for the sake of more “logical” engineering. Compared to the other woodwinds the flute is already a masterpiece of simplicity and beauty. Long may it remain so.

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Photo of whole flute vert web

These flutes allow plenty of tonal variation, yet never force their own personality too strongly upon the player.