Hand made flutes

Hand Made Flutes by P.G. Bleazey UK
Hand made Flutes, by P.G. Bleazey

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Hand made Flutes
Hand made flutes is a term which applies to nearly all wooden flutes, the fact that they are made of wood is the choice of the maker, because it enables him to achieve a unique quality of sound through the tonal qualities of the wood and also allows him to carry out the high level of hand finishing which is essential to the production of these instruments. Having produced an item which looks like a wooden flute the maker then starts his work proper. His work is remarkably similar to that of the dentist and many of the tools employed are similar if not identical. To produce a quality instrument it is necessary to work on the inside of the instrument making tiny adjustments to sizes and position of the many critical areas which affect tone production and pitch. The embouchure hole, that is the one which the player blows across, (his lips form the shape known in French as the embouchure or "mouthing") has to have an internal shape which is impossible to produce other than by hand or using up to date (21st, Century) machinery the cost of operating which is to high to be considered in such a small market place. Besides, the means of measuring this temperamental little hole is not to use micrometers and measurements in thousandths of inches or millimetres but to judge its playability after each tiny adjustment till the maker is satisfied that the player will be pleased with the way in which the column of air responds to the vibrations generated by his splitting a tiny stream of air over the far edge of that little hole. The shaping of the hole and the way it intersects the bore of the instrument as well as the high degree of finish applied to the whole area are techniques learned over many years and are not always able to be described by the maker but are more of an intuitive response born of conditioning in much the same way as the musician develops muscle response in his fingers. Our lips work automatically to form the words when we speak but any attempt to describe the muscle movements involved will be clumsy and inadequate at best and so it is with the maker of hand made instruments.

The tuning of woodwind instruments and flutes in particular is a very abstract concept which the instrument maker controls with physical changes to the wood from which the instrument is constructed. The sound producing element of the stringed instrument, for example, is the string, a readily visible component which can be tensioned to produce the required pitch, the size and shape of the xylophone block is what regulates the rate at which it vibrates and therefore it's pitch. The flute on the other hand is a member of the aerophone family, the vibrating component being the column of air contained within the instrument. This invisible column of air being persuaded to perform in a particular way by the shaping of the "container". Tuning the flute is a matter of changing subtly the size and position of the tone holes, this is done by undercutting the holes on the inside working on the up and down sides of the individual tone holes, increases of hole size bringing about a rise in pitch and working on one side or the other affecting Ist. and 2nd. registers differently, thereby allowing the maker to balance the octaves.
Flute-type instruments have the simplest construction and produce the purest and simplest tone.

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The Old Furness Street Stables LANCASTER LA1 5QZ
Tel: 01524 849085 or 07955 607511     
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